The Soft Parade

Although a lot of people don’t know it, my main passion in climbing is “new routing.” Everyone assumes that it’s crack climbing, but in fact, the joy that I get from climbing a new route (no matter how bad they are are sometimes!) far outweighs most other climbing experiences. I’m especially lucky to have a climbing partner in Pete who also seems to hold these values highly. I remember when he was still at school, I’d pick him up every Wednesday afternoon and we’d try and get a new route in each week without fail. Some of the quality that emerged from those trips, was utterly horrendous! I think even Grimer was disappointed in Pete’s standards…

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Pete and I after another day of new routing. Whacked!

There is one combination of climbing experience that trumps everything; a new route that’s also a crack. The backs of my hands tingle even thinking about it. Unfortunately, it’s really hard to find routes of this type in the UK as they form many of the most obvious lines and hence were climbed years ago.

Last week however, I struck gold and found a lovely unclimbed ultra-thin crack at Hallmoor Quarry, where I’d previously done Speak The Truth. After a session of cleaning and working out where to place the multiple RPs I gave Pete a call to tell him about the line. Once I’d explained that the crux involved a move just like the one on the mono undercut on Cobra Crack in Squamish, he was sold!!

Didier showing the way on the mono-undercut. Inspiring…

Returning a few days later we found that the route was a little wet, but I knew Pete wouldn’t even entertain the thought of doing something else, so we started off on the route as a warm up. My God………. I was so pumped! Everything had seemed pretty straight forward trying the moves on abseil, but now linking everything together in the damp seemed a different kettle of fish. Topping out with arms like lead balloons, I somewhat dreaded watching Pete make it look easy. Fortunately he saved my shame and did me the gracious favour of pulling out a “Full Gurn” and I silently chuckled away on belay below.

FA of Soft Parade, E6 6b. (Photo, Mike Hutton)

The next week I then came across the polar opposite to a new crack route – a prow! I’d been hunting around Gardoms Edge for a few hours and came across a fairly obscure prow tucked away in the trees that starts from half way up the crag. I’m certain it would be an easy highball if it were at ground level, but as it is, if you fluff the final tricky move you’re going a loooooong way. It was great to have a local lad Kyle Rance along to make the second ascent  – big grin on his face after sketching that final move… I decided to let my 20 month old daughter name the route, so “Porride Egg” E6 6a, it is!

I gave both routes E6, but as I’ve been reminded by my own rantings about grades last week; grades can be so far out on each end of the spectrum. Soft Parade you’re not going to get up unless you’re sport climbing at least 7b+ and good on RPs, and Porride Egg you could climb as a V3 boulderer with balls. What a nightmare. I think I’ve become lost in my own mind.

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