Day 2 – PLANETFEAR 2008 British Lead Climbing ChampionshipsFull Report and Photography by Dave PickfordOn Sunday, the isobaric Atlantic chart was scored with lines as a cyclonic system approaching from the south west tightened its grip on England. A unique aspect of the Blackpool Towers PlanetFear BLCC is the fact that the event is as affected by the weather as a day out sport climbing on nearby Yorkshire limestone. As the Senior competitors warmed up, the morning took on an incongruously Alpine (!) flavour, as top-ropes were whipped out and twisted by the wind and climbers huddled in down jackets, talking quietly and seriously amongst themselves. Andy Long Fending off the WindchillBut the increasing gale did nothing to deter Britain?s top Senior competition climbers. In the next few hours, they would have to set their skill and nerve against climbs designed by two of the country?s elite route setters – Ian Vickers and Andy Long (supported by Rob Lamey and Jamie Cassidy) – to test them to the absolute limit. Five of the total nine Senior women competitors topped out on the steep first qualifier: Audrey Seguy, Hannah Beresford, Michaela Tracy, Katy Whittaker and Charlie Kelly all climbed the line in equally excellent yet contrasting style, and this would set the scene for the final. Drew Haigh Qualifying as Ian Vickers Lowers OffThe second qualifier was an even steeper affair on which no-one topped out (although Michaela Tracy, Audrey Seguy and Katy Whittaker got very close) following the tufas on the right hand side of the most overhanging wall of the tripod. Although Eleanor Howard also climbed extremely well on this line, the strict scoring process meant that only the five women who topped out on the first route would now go through to compete in the final. The women?s final fired up a somewhat shorter, but intense and very powerful line on the steepest wall just to the right of the men?s final route. Charlie Kelly, Michaela Tracy and Katy Whittaker climbed with great style and effort, and all three fell on the same ?stopper? move. Hannah Beresford pulled through it spectacularly, reaching a high point on the line that no-one would gain until Audrey Seguy, who was the last to climb, matched it with a superb display of cool technique and efficiency. Because Audrey had climbed so well in the second qualifier, her superb performance in the final meant she just beat the other four women to pole position and became the 2008 British Senior Female Lead Climbing Champion. Audrey Seguy Winning the Women´s Final The first Senior Male qualifier was – like the first Junior Male qualifier – a vertical and extremely thin test of technique and move-reading ability. Gaz Parry, Tony Musselbrook and Mark Croxall all managed to solve the severe final crux move, a kind of half-rockover half-mantleshelf, and topped out. Dave Barrans, Drew Haigh, Alan Cassidy, Adam Watson and Rob Haigh all touched the last hold, but didn?t quite latch it, proving that this all-or-nothing move had been set to perfection. Rob Sutton Starting Up the Men´s Second Qualifier Adrian Baxter on the Men´s Second QualifierThe men?s second qualifier was, by contrast, a powerful affair on the second-steepest inner wall of the tripod. Rob Sutton, Gaz Parry, Drew Haigh and Dave Barrans all climbed extremely well on this line, but it was Adrian Baxter who stole the show: pulling through the desperate move that Gaz, Drew and Dave had fallen on, he climbed with machine-like precision past Rob?s high point to great cheers from the crowd, eventually falling just short of the finish and achieving by far the best result on this fearsome qualifier. Tom Morgan on the Men´s Second Qualifier Enter the 2008 PlanetFear BLCC Senior Male finalists: Gaz Parry, Drew Haigh, Dave Barrans, Adrian Baxter, Alan Cassidy, Tony Musselbrook, Mark Croxall and Rob Sutton. And what a challenge they faced: an international competition-standard line, weaving a complex and outrageously sustained path up the steepest wall of the tripod. All the men climbed with exceptional skill, each of them reaching a high point beyond the shake-out at the end of the initial tufa section. The crowd stood mostly in silence, watching the breathtaking display on the wall as massive gusts of wind swept around the Towers. The atmosphere was charged with powerful tension, and the results were literally neck-and-neck between the top men: Alan Cassidy, Adrian Baxter, Dave Barrans, Drew Haigh and Gaz Parry all fell from effectively the same move, an utterly desperate cross-through just below the penultimate clip at twenty-two metres. Adrian Baxter on the Men´s Final Alan Cassidy Clipping on the Men´s FinalAfter this duel of breathtaking and equally-matched firepower, it was due to his success on that ultra-technical final move of the first qualifier, and his stern effort in the second, that Gaz Parry just tipped the scales on points to gain pole position among the men: the 2007 Senior Male British Lead Climbing Champion had held his title in what was perhaps the most closely matched contest of his competition climbing career. Gaz Parry Qualifying for the Men´s Final The extraordinary drama of the final moments of the PlanetFear 2008 BLCC clearly demonstrated that Britain has some major and upcoming talent in the arena of international competition climbing. PlanetFear would like to congratulate all of the event?s competitors on their superb performance. We would also like to thank the BMC (www.thebmc.co.uk) and the Climbing Team of Great Britain for organising it.