Whittaker (16) climbs Braille Trail E7 6c

Last weekend Pete Whittaker (16) made an impressive ascent of Johnny Dawes´ classic testpiece Braille Trail E7 6c at Burbage South. We asked Pete to tell us about his ascent and he´s sent us this great report… On the 22nd of April I was pretty psyched to get out climbing on the grit again, to get away from all my GCSE revision. I had been to Burbage South a couple of weeks previous and after seeing the line of poor pockets, slopers, and smears of Braille Trail I couldn?t resist going back and have a further look at the route. I was out with my mum and Ben (Cossey), and after the previous week of me and Ben trying to set up a top rope at Stanage I decided to get my mum to give me a hand on setting one up. (Don?t worry I know how to do one now!) I managed to do all the moves in two sections, but I started to feel a bit tried and my fingers were peeling, plus we didn?t have the right gear for the lead. I knew that it definitely wasn?t for today. I had never really tried a route like this before so I didn?t really know how I was going to feel on the lead if I went back. I decided that I wanted to do a little bit more before I went back and tried it again and after going to Millstone and soloing Edge Lane I don?t think that I could get anymore scared in my whole life. So 13 days later when I had a gap in my revision, I set off on a mission for the gear. Ben had the right gear so he was kind enough to lend it to me for the day, and after this was sorted I was back out to Burbage South with my mum (for the belay) and Dad, Dave and Julia (for the support.) As soon as I got there I was keen to test out the first bit of gear in the first hole which you reach from the starting ledge. I?m still not entirely sure what it was, but it was some kind of metal hook wedged in with some alum keys squashed down the side for support, it seemed pretty bomb proof, but it?s just a shame it had to be 5 foot above the starting ledge. Anyway after this I was really excited and decided to help set up a top rope this time, (but thinking about the route so much in the morning I had managed to forget the static rope, I didn?t worry too much because mum was there to sort things out.

I chalked and brushed all the holds again and got used to all the moves and placing the gear. After the first piece of gear, there is another slot where you can place a thin spanner for your second piece, it is then quite hard to hold the slot because the gear takes up most of it, but then you reach down to a sloper, with your feet on poor smears and quickly place probably the smallest tri cam you?ve ever seen. After this there is the first crux where you hold a shallow pocket and come quickly across onto a pebble mono, from this you can reach the arete where you can recover. (I think if you fall off from here the tri cam would certainly hold.) Next is the second crux, where you have to make a high step onto a smear and reach high above for a gaston with your right hand, from here you hope your foot doesn?t pop and start pushing on it and pulling hard with your right hand, when you are stood high enough you can make a little pop for the good crack. (I?m not too sure whether the tri camp would hold if you fell from here, this is why I used double ropes with some gear clipped into the lower break, then if it did pop with a concentrating belayer you would probably land about a foot from the ground.) After this the climbing becomes easier. I managed to do the whole route on top rope twice placing all the gear on the way without falling off, I felt pretty confident. After working the moves again I decided to chill out for the rest of the day, until I suddenly realised when I looked at my watch later that I was meant to be working at the local pub in two and a half hours and I had to go for it. When you?re standing on the starting ledge you can only place the metal hook because if you put the alum keys next to it you can?t mono the hole to get off the ground. So you have to climb past this first pocket then shove the alum keys in after. When I had fully placed the first bit of gear on the lead I decided that I couldn?t be bothered to place the spanner because it was just going to make it harder to do the next move, so from the second pocket I reached down and placed the tri camp into its slot. (how I placed the gear on the lead was exactly the opposite of what I had done on top rope!)

I reached down to the sloper and quickly moved past it to the first crux, which felt a lot easier, and I gained the arete fairly comfortably. I reached the arete realising that I still had the spanner on my harness and knowing that it would make no difference, threw it off for weight loss! As I went for the second crux stepping high and reaching over for the gaston it didn?t feel as secure as on the top rope, because of the weight of the ropes over my leg, and thought it might get better as I pushed higher. Starting to push up I could feel my foot going a little bit and made more of a lunge and latched onto the crack. I was so relieved to get it on my first time on the lead I barely thought about the top bit and before I knew it I was standing on top with Dave patting me on the back and mum, dad and Julia relieved that I?d made it and congratulating me.