The Poor Man’s Yorkshire Triple Crown

High up on the Crucifixion, at about the point I decided to let go several times... Photo: Mark Rankine
High up on the Crucifixion, at about the point I decided to let go several times…
Photo: Mark Rankine

Over the past month I’ve decided to stick with the sport climbing theme.

To begin with, I managed to climb my second 8a – The Crucifixion – at Raven Tor. This 40m stamina test-piece took more sessions than I would have liked (or expected), but was worth every bit of effort. It left me fitter than ever and hatched a bit of an idea in the back of my mind…

One of the benefits of skipping the last two clips is that the fall is arguably one of the finest you could take in the whole of the Peak District
One of the benefits of skipping the last two clips is that the fall is arguably one of the finest you could take in the whole of the Peak District

The Yorkshire Triple Crown consists of the three best 8a+s on the three best crags in Yorkshire (and therefore the world): Urgent Action at Kilnsey, The Groove at Malham and Supercool at Gordale.

Clearly I wasn’t going to do this, at least not this year…

No, an alternative of equal quality could easily be found for a climber operating in the high 7s (i.e. me): Dominatrix at Kilnsey, New Dawn at Malham and Pierrepoint at Gordale. The more observant amongst you will no doubt have noticed that these all feature in the good book too.

Whilst living in Wales these routes had always seemed too far to travel when success seemed so unlikely – I simply wasn’t good enough – and the amount of time it would have required to do them was unjustifiable. Fast forward to present day and things have changed a little. Not only would it be possible to do them, but it should be possible to do them all by the time I leave for Australia on 4th October.

Ambitious, but something inspiring enough to really work towards.

Maddy Cope on the irrepressibly steep Dominatrix at Kilnsey Photo: Katy Whittaker
Maddy Cope on the irrepressibly steep Dominatrix at Kilnsey
Photo: Katy Whittaker

First up came Dominatrix, which I climbed in a single session. Taking so little time on the route meant that I’ve invariably got a bit less to say about it.

This isn’t to say that Dominatrix was uninteresting – it’s one of the best 7cs I’ve done – but more that when you do something quickly there is less of a relationship with the route. I felt exactly the same way when I did the Regular NW Face of Half Dome in a Day, in comparison to spending 5 days on The Shield on El Cap the experience seemed rather rushed/hollow. I suppose I prefer the experiences I have on routes more than the routes themselves.

Toby Dunn on one of the actual Yorkshire Triple Crown Routes - The Groove at Malham Cove
Toby Dunn on one of the actual Yorkshire Triple Crown Routes – The Groove at Malham Cove

Next was New Dawn. This one didn’t go quite so easily, not by a long shot, and as a result I have a rather vivid memory of the route.

Having climbed The Prow, Crucifixion etc.. at Raven Tor my stamina/endurance was at an all time high, but Malham (if you are to attribute thoughts to a crag) doesn’t care about that sort of thing. In fact, I’m not sure Malham cares for much less than absolute perfection of movement. That’s not too much to ask for is it? Kilnsey is so two-dimensional in comparison: pull, pull and pull harder. If the two crags were to be in a relationship then Kilnsey would be the bullish alpha male, but Malham would without doubt be the one really in charge.

Anyhow, one session was spent working the moves.

And there really are so many moves!

So many moves, so little progress. The handholds are alright, but the footholds are – in all honesty – not actually footholds, just blackened smears that when the body is twisted in such a way, between exact parameters (no deviation) will allow you to place your feet upon them. This, in my opinion is different from a  foothold. One step wrong, or decide to breathe mid-sequence, and you’re off. Malham is so mightily unforgiving.

Next session I was on for the red-point. First go I miscalculated one of the 1001 foot swaps at the end of the mid-height traverse, getting muddled, pumped and before long airborne. Second go: a food popped off one of those imaginary footholds. Third go: I had my hands on the ledge at 2/3rds height (yes…the ledge) with no beans left in the bag to surmount it. Fourth go it all seemed a bit unlikely: I was tired from previous effort, but somehow it all went to plan. How and why I do not know…

Such is Malham, such is the relationship you have with a route when projecting, and such is the nature of the final, perfect redpoint – sometimes it can occur at the most unlikely of moments.

Climbing Pierrepoint (7c+) at Gordale Scar, yet another 40m route that I fell of at around 39.5m
Climbing Pierrepoint (7c+) at Gordale Scar, yet another 40m route that I fell of at around 39.5m

Finally, Pierrepoint…

Gordale is a crag with a very unique character: gothic, dark and intimidating. Yet contrary to this moodiness is the fact that it is usually filled with tourists, walkers and danger picnic-ers waiting to catch the occasional mobile hold that comes flying from above. It’s also the only place that you’re likely to get a standing ovation simply for failing to red-point your route.

Pierrepoint suited most of my strengths, yet for some reason took the greatest number of sessions of all the routes in my Poor Man’s Triple Crown.

Was it, as a result, the best?

Maybe, maybe not – they’re all good. What I will say is that those moves up to the first roof are some that I could envisage before going to bed at night, I really enjoyed them. In a strange way I find them quite a comforting mantra. To know something so intimately, what a special thing.

It is unlikely that I’ll be re-engaging in any further projecting before I leave for Australia, but it has been a real pleasure in morphing into a sport climber over the past few months. The routes, the people and the places have all been fantastic.

Let’s do it again sometime…

Grrr...dark...Gordale Scar...oh actually I'm nice...come look at me...I've got two lovely waterfalls...
Grrr…dark…Gordale Scar…oh actually I’m nice…come look at me…I’ve got two lovely waterfalls…
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Sport Climbing

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