Dave Birkett Fails On A Severe and a Tale of Two Daves

by Mick Ryan Whilst Dave MacLeod was busy repeating If 6 Was 9 in the Lakes Dave Birkett was playing away from home enjoying a long weekend with his wife Mary Jenner in Pembroke. It was sunglasses and shorts weather, which contrasted with his experience today where he wore thermals, waterproofs, and experienced sleet and snow! After Pembroke it was home to Little Langdale then straight up to Scotland with his friend Simon Banks-Cooper. I just got off the phone (8:46pm) with Dave Birkett who was having dinner in some Scottish pub. Just before I talked to him he had been on the blower to Dave Macleod and they were comparing notes on If 6 Was 9. Dave B was offering his congratulations to Dave M on a fine repeat, and Dave M was congratulating Dave B on a fine first ascent. Dave Birkett said about Dave Macleod´s repeat “it´s bloody fine effort, if you fuck up on that top move you are going to die, it´s a serious undertaking there´s no two ways about it. You´ve got to be a focussed individual. Brilliant effort.” But Birkett has a mix of emotions running through him. If 6 Was 9 was climbed 15 years a go and at the time he really didn´t get any recognition for this ascent. He tentatively gave it E9 as he was climbing 8a+/b´s at Malham back in 1992 and he knew that If 6 Was 9 was of a similar difficulty as the Malham routes but without the option of sagging onto a bolt if you got gripped or pumped. Birkett believes, and he is not one to blow his own trumpet, that If 6 Was 9 was the hardest trad route in the UK in 1992. But at that time the climbing media was focussed on the accessible Peak grit achievements,and was hoodwinked with inflated grades given by some individuals for publicity reasons to further their own careers and bank balances. Those in the know, knew at that time, the significance of Dave´s achievement, but the climbing media in 1992 was a bit of a “closed shop.” It´s not what you´ve done, or claimed you have done, but who you know. Nepotism and cronyism are not exclusively the disease of politics and big business. Maybe it is time for more Dave Birkett routes to get attention? Dave did mention young James MacHaffie as a shinning light who would be capable of flashing some of his E9´s, and Leo Houlding is contemplating a temporary move back to to the Lakes. But yes, Birkett did fail on a Severe today or more correctly retreated. Yesterday Dave and his partner, Simon Banks-Cooper, succeeded on Curved Ridge on Buchaille Etive Mor in a snowstorm, but today winter conditions on Ardverikie Wall, a Severe on Binnein Shaus defeated the intrepid duo. Later this week we are running an exclusive UKClimbing.com interview with Dave Birkett conducted by Alaister Lee of Posing Productions (posingproductions.com) where Dave Birkett gives his view on grades including his thoughts that the leader must not fall anywhere on routes given E10 or above.