John Arran has finally succeeded in headpointing his long standing super grit project up the wall left of Slab and Crack, on Avalanche Wall at Curbar. The route, Doctor Dolittle, starts as for Johnny Dawes´ E7, Slab and Crack, then makes a tenuous and unprotected traverse left to join the crux of One Step Beyond (E6), it then takes a direct line up the wall past a slight overlap. The final 7a sequence took over 2 years of effort to resolve into a reliable sequence that involves desperate undercutting and palming moves with poor footholds, and no positive handholds whatsoever. This sequence, indeed the entire route, is protected by two hand placed pegs and an HB anchor number 1 micro wire, in test falls (using an abseil rope as a backup) the wire and one of the pegs always ripped, but ensured that the better of the two pegs stayed in. All this gear was placed on lead at full stretch just before the crux sequence. John had been ready to make the first ascent last year, but the foot and mouth restrictions added another year waiting for the perfect cold conditions. Last saturday, on a deserted cold damp Curbar, being filmed by Mark Turnbull, and with two photographers present, John tied onto the pathetically supported rope jammed his feet into his credit-card re-enforced climbing shoes and set off. Shane Ohly, who belayed later told that he had a bad feeling about that attempt, John climbed with uncharacteristic nervousness, but committed to the route nevertheless. We all watched as he palmed his way to the last move of the crux sequence, almost into safe territory when something went, and he took the worst fall you could ever want to take, the rock spat out most of the gear, leaving just one hand placed peg, over 10 meters off the deck holding his weight. Trembling slightly, John untied. Not wanting to give too much encouragement the support team waited, and watched the weather turn from bad to worse, the cue most climbers would take to pack it in and go home, but not today. After no more than half an hour, John, recomposed, abseiled down the line and replaced the gear that had ripped. The abseil rope was pulled up and we watched John have a second go, it was actually starting to drizzle before he set off, but John climbed with increased confidence and cruised to the top, much to everyone´s relief. John has refused to offer an ´E´ grade for the route, instead providing the more appropriate ´H´ grade for what is a headpoint ascent. H9 rates as hard as just about anything graded E9 on grit at the moment.
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