Highballing in Northumberland
The Young – E8 7A - Callaly
Dan had said this was both amazing and really hard. He was right! The wall is incredible, one of the best walls in the country I reckon – 8m of just off vertical, totally solid sandstone covered in weird flattened chicken heads (spatchcocks).
(photos: Video stills from Nick Brown @ outcrop films)
After a brief go ground up we sacked that idea off and abbed it to work the moves. Eventually a sequence came together that finished with a pretty full on font 7b sequence right at the top (where you really don’t want to be falling). This felt too risky to commit to so I opted for shuffling off leftwards along a line of chicken heads after the crux rather than pushing on straight up the wall. It didn’t feel like it was worth risking the 40 min walk out with broken legs especially considering it was hard enough getting there with both legs working. It would have been nice to do Andy’s original version but it was also nice to leave having done a quality bit of climbing and not got hurt.
The prow - HXS 7a (a brilliantly ambiguous grade) - Kyloe
Apparently the County’s most serious route. Font ~8a climbing at a point where you really don’t want to fall off, even with a pile of 10 mats and some very big guns spotting. It took me 15 mins on a rope just to find the holds and another 2 hours of working from various strong technical types until we had a sequence, a lovely set of moves on little pockets with rubbish footholds in the wrong places. My first go started well but soon came to an end when a foothold crumbled and I took the ride. After finding out the fall was manageable, if a little big, we started committing properly. Dan did it soon after, then eventually after taking a few more biggies I stuck the crux again panted my way to the (damp) top.
I can’t imagine how scary it must have felt to Andy Earl when he did the first ascent back in 2003, when pads were not a whole lot more than a beer towel. Today’s highball approach has meant that routes of this style (really hard but also really scary) are no longer the domain of bold trad heros, now us punters can have a crack without doing ourselves some serious damage. Great.
Good effort Andy, get well soon.