When the belayer asks to have their own spotter… you can tell the route is somewhat serious.
Last Great Problems on
The route that we went to film on Friday is listed under the ‘Bold and Technical’ category:
“Braille Trail Direct. Burbage South Some one will do it! Straight up the arete to the horizontal break (small Friends) then some hideously difficult climbing to gain the 'rest' on the arete of Braille Trail. Take in the rock-over crux of this but without those pegs!”
The climber we went to film was the youngest from the Whittaker clan. So young in fact, that he had to get permission to leave school early that day in order to have enough time for the climb before it got dark.
We met Pete at the crag at . Two hours of daylight remained.
Pete Whittaker final top rope, cutting loose, on Dynamics of Change. E9 7a. Hot Aches Images.
He swiftly got to work brushing holds and practicing the moves. His entourage arrived, mother and father on belay duty, and sister Katy to watch nervously and support.
Pete Whittaker final top rope, the crux of Brail Trail - at t he end of Dynamics of Change. E9 7a. Hot Aches Images.
As Pete tried the moves, this was the first time I had seen anyone on the line. As I watched, my jaw dropped. I could hardly believe what I was seeing. After the initial arête, the wall becomes steep. Here Pete dynos to a small hold (the point at which the arête joined Brail Trail) cutting loose, legs flying.
Effort. E9 7a. Hot Aches Images.
From here, miles above his gear, he then swings a heel up between his hands, and gradually rocks over on it. Rocks over on it. How? But somehow he was managing to. What remains ahead from this point is the final crux section of Brail Trail, but without any of the gear. Effectively soloing from this point. You might remember that this is the point at which Dave Jones falls on Brail Trail in Hard Grit.
It was . Pete decided he would go for the lead. He hadn't even managed to link the moves from the dyno to the top, but he decided that he was ready. The atmostphere at the crag was tense. His family usually seem pretty blase, certainty that Pete will succeed. Today everybody was clearly concerned.
As Pete climbed higher I was shaking. The other camera people were shaking. His family were shaking. And as he reached the crux Pete was shaking. Everybody was willing him not to fall off. The rock over move took an age, inch by inch he fought and grimaced and slapped and pulled. "On top-rope, on top rope" was the mantra he kept repeating as he tried to gain composure for the final crux. We could hardly watch.
Pete did the final moves and pulled over the top. Relief and emotion was everywhere. Some spectators had crept up unnoticed to watch, and there was a spontanious round of applause. Pete was now dizzy and had to lie down on the top.
Another last great problem has fallen. A stunning line. An audacious ascent.
As for the grade. It would be hard for Pete to give a bigger grade to a route with so little experience under his belt.
John Arran (quoted on UKC had this to say about the route)
"That's a fantastic effort by Pete. I threw a rope on it last year to look at the possibility of a Braille Trail direct start and it seemed like it may be possible for someone, but it was way too hard for me that day. It's technically at least 2 grades harder than BT and unless you're able to reach left into the BT slot for gear you'd be looking at doing the crux of BT with a possible ground fall, which would make it definitely E9 and maybe harder. Even with the BT gear it's still cutting-edge stuff." [Note that Pete wasn't able to use the gear on Brail Trail].