SAFT WALL, TURNING POINT

Posted on: December 1, 2003


Aide Jebb, with Rob Mirfin on belay duty, tackles the A3 pitch on Pitch 9 of the 1996 Croatian/Slovenian route Ujarak. The pitch was “headpointed” at E7 6b (5.12c R), and the team made the first free ascent of the route, which they renamed Waiting for the Sun (V E7 6c [5.13a], 830m). In all, the British expedition freed three lines on the 1000-meter Saft Wall, climbing from the ground up in good style. [Photo] Nick Boden

Opting for a fast-and-light approach, Simon Moore and I made a quick repetition of the twenty-three-pitch route A Wonderful Life (V E4 6a A2, 1000m). The line, which tackles the right-hand side of the main wall, was first climbed by visiting Brits Dave Lucas and Max Dutson in August 2001. We climbed the first nine pitches (up to E2 [5.10+]) in continuous light rain before reaching the only bivy ledge on the route, where we had a cramped but comfortable kip. We then began a long and grueling day at 7 a.m. in improved weather. Climbing every pitch onsight, Si and I made good progress and managed to free several previously-aided pitches, including Pitch 13, a bold and technical slab of E4 5c (5.11 R), and the immaculate corner crack of Pitch 15 at E6 6b (5.12).

By 9 p.m., having completed the nineteenth pitch and with only four more to go—three being E2 maximum—we thought we were home and dry. However, the dirty, wet crack of Pitch 20, which had previously gone at A2, looked grim enough to aid, let alone free climb. After much deliberation, I set off up an intimidating, roof-capped corner to the left, semiresigned to resorting to aid if necessary. After onsighting two new pitches of E6 (5.12) and one E5 in the fading light (dark!) I managed to rejoin easy ground before racing to the summit at 2 a.m. We named the now-free, twenty-four-pitch route with the new finish Turning Point (V E6 6b [5.12+ R], 1000m). In terms of personal satisfaction and sense of achievement, onsight-new routing E6 in the middle of the night made most of my hard, bold ascents on gritstone pale into relative insignificance.

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Editor's Note: In the United Kingdom, it is controversial to rename an aid route once it has been free climbed. The British climbers who freed the two above-mentioned routes chose to give the free versions new names.

— Ben Heason, Sheffield, United Kingdom

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