Dave Pickford Responds to Dave Birkett

by Mick Ryan This morning we premiered a short video from Posingproductions.com, featuring Dave Birkett making comments about the grade of Dave Pickford´s new route at St Govan?s Head in Pembroke, The Brothers Karamazov E9 6c, that Birkett repeated on Tuesday 5th June. Dave said, “It´s a tough one……..routes at Pembroke are easier than in other places and I don´t think…….?” and continued saying that he had done E7 in Pembroke, but not E8, so he found it difficult to comment on the grade of The Brothers Karamazov You can view the video atwww.posingproductions.com/ Dave Pickford, the first ascensionist of The Brothers Karamazov kindly sent us his comments on Dave´s repeat, giving us further insight into the difficulty of assigning a number to the difficulty of a rock climb, especially bold ones. Here´s what Dave Pickford said, “Great to hear that Dave Birkett has recently repeated ?The Brothers Karamazov? ? another swift and stylish ascent by the unstoppable Mr Birkett! This is one of the best new routes I have ever done in terms of the quality of the climbing, and from what Dave said shortly afterwards it sounds like he enjoyed it too.A lot of nonsense gets thrown around the climbing community about grades these days, in which the grade seems to take on more importance than the climb itself, which seems bizarre and illogical. Jim Perrin wrote powerfully about ?number?s power over the flux? in an essay published in Climber magazine many years ago, and this process seems to have gained rather than diminished in its influence in recent years.Steve McClure wisely and accurately illustrates the subjective nature of any grading system in his comments on the first ascent of ?Overshadow?, the UK?s hardest sport route. Steve?s point is as applicable to hard trad routes as it is to cutting-edge sport routes: the grade suggested by the first ascensionist is simply a reflection of how difficult the climb felt for that individual, and should not be treated as anything more than a rough guide to the nature of the climbing.Dave Birkett is right to say that grades in Pembroke are often a bit easier than in other parts of the UK: the combination of good rock and solid gear mean that many climbers end up ?pushing their grade? up a notch on those fantastic cliffs. Having climbed a significant number of Pembroke?s harder routes over the past decade – many of them onsight – I gave ?The Brothers Karamazov? a grade that reflects how challenging I found it to be, both in comparison to the harder routes in Pembroke and to other difficult routes in the UK I have climbed. As Milan Kundera has observed in his recent essay ?The Curtain?, ?we can only understand when we compare?.It remains however for other climbers to decide if this is an accurate guide to how difficult the route would be for an onsight ascent. This, after all, is what our excellent UK grading system was designed for in the first place.”