Tuesday, 24 June 2008

Rhapsody Extension

The first E12?

For some reason this one managed to slip by the investigative reporting of the world's climbing media. 

After climbing Rhapsody for a second time Mr Trotter was on the look out for something harder. The addition of a rather tricky sit-start coupled with the ultimate extension: - continuation from the finishing sloper of Rhapsody into a very airy 1-5-9 on the Hot Aches filming ladder. 

Effectively this adds both a V8 start, and then a tough V11 finish to the route that already features french 8b leading into a V11 crux. The fall from the top of the ladder is at least 80ft and would certainly result in hitting the ledge below.  5.15a and E12? Surely.

But pictures don't lie. Sonnie can clearly be seen chickening out and grabbing rung number two on his way up. So maybe a route for future generations? 

Tuesday, 17 June 2008

Rhapsody - E11? McClure speaks about the grade


The nut that held over 40 falls, 50 footers mainly.

Now that Rhapsody has been repeated by two climbers, what is the consensus on the grade? The route that took Dave MacLeod over 70 days to climb, on which he hurt himself badly on several falls including a 70 footer and also falling upside down with his leg wrapped round the rope; a fall that prompted him to wear a helmet on subsequent attempts...

Check out the next edition of Climb Magazine for an in-depth article with the views of Sonnie, Steve and Dave MacLeod. But now, for a quick overview, some thoughts from the climbers:

Sonnie climbed the route on his 24th redpoint on a reasonably cool and windy day. Most of his redpoints were in unfavourable conditions. He took 22 falls from the technical crux, roughly 6-8 moves from the top. All the falls were taken fine.

Steve climbed the route on his 3rd redpoint. Redpoint 2 was aborted early with a fumbled clip that he 'touched' and then declared 'that can't count now'. Conditions were similar to both of Sonnies ascents.

Sonnie has written about his view on the difficulty 'Rhapsody is basically a 5.13c/d into a V10/V11, and a cheeky one at that'. This translates into an overall 5.14b/c R or french 8c/8c+.
He doesn't have enough experience of our 'E' grades to have a view.

Dan, Keith, Steve. Reviewing the photos taken during the ascent.

I interviewed Steve after his ascent and he has now briefly published his views on Climb's website.

On the grade. A lot of people want the route downgraded for whatever reason, typical Brits! Firstly I'm hardly qualified having only climbed E9. The climbing is at least hard F8c, it felt like F8c+ compared to other sport routes I've done quickly, but perhaps fear added a notch. That makes E9 for effort straight away. Originally I assumed it may be E10, going straight for the lead after just a few hours looking at the route, taking a massive whipper and barely feeling a thing. The fall was safe. But I underestimated the route. There is a lot more climbing above where I fell, and on my lead I had to dig deeper than I have for a long time. The last move was as close as it gets. Perhaps if I'd fallen I'd have known for sure.... What I will say is that Dave did not overgrade the route. Not from what he experienced. The climbing is super hard, and the falls are big. Dave was hurting himself repeatedly during the falls. He didn't know if one of them could turn out really nasty. The first ascencionist can only propose a grade. This is how it works."

Sunday, 15 June 2008

Steve McClure climbs Rhapsody & Sonnie Trotter climbs it again

Steve McClure makes the third ascent of Rhapsody

I'm exhausted. 5 weeks of jumaring up the headwall at Dumbarton. But it is finally over.

Some more news:

On Friday Sonnie re-climbed Rhapsody. Yes, re-climbed it. This time he succeeded in his original objective of climbing the route in a single push whilst placing all the gear on the lead.

Today Steve McClure became the third person to climb the route. A climber in fantastic form succeeded on a super-fast ascent. 4 days spread over 2 visits. Success on the third redpoint. But only just. Most climbers will recognise the thoughts behind that facial expression on the last photo in this sequence.

More info to follow, and I'm sure a great deal of interest from the climbing community.

Tuesday, 10 June 2008

Filming Rhapsody

We've sobered up, so some more thoughts to share:

To film climbing is all about getting your camera into the right position. Well, no, there is a lot more to it than that. But getting the right camera angle is hugely important.

On the gritstone of England there is often a convenient vantage point that you can stroll to. On steep overhanging limestone it is usually easy to get out in space anchored off bolts. But our challenge at Dumbarton is as tough as it gets. Ideally we would get a helicopter hovering 20 metres above and out from the crag, with a gyro stabilised HD camera. But then we realised that the airflow from the rotors might be a bit distracting for Mr Trotter. We also realised that £3,500 per day would have presented a quite significant bill at the end of the 4 weeks we have spent on this shoot.

In previous years we have used a camera on a 5 metre boom, with remote pan and tilt. We get some good shots, but as soon as the wind picks up it is like trying to control a rabid bitch on heat.
So we got our heads together. An A-Frame works well, but at Dumbarton we need to get up, as well as out.

Cory came up with the idea of a ladder. Yeah right. So I did a bit of engineering. And then the Hot Aches crash test dummy (aka Mr Diffley) had the balls to walk out on it.

On day one of 'ladder cam' it all went quite well. The technique is to shuffle out there delicately, then stick you head through the top rungs of the ladder, camera underneath, and look through the view finder.

On Friday afternoon Diff had to leave early for a TV shoot in Fort William. So it was down to me to walk the ladder and have faith in my own engineering. I have honestly never been so frightened in my life.

Sonnie went first. I was out there at 40 degrees, shaking like an idiot. The ladder would creak. I'm meant to concentrate on filming, but all I can think about is which point of attachment will fail first, and how I will plummet off the top of Dumbarton, wiping out Sonnie on what would have certainly this time been his successfull attempt.

Sonnie fell, and I didn't. So I sat on the top, promising myself that I wouldn't go out on the ladder again. But then it was Cory's turn. How could I not go out on the ladder? It would have been a message that I didn't think his project was as important as Sonnie's. And it is.

So I dug deep and went out there again. Cory fell, and so it was Sonnie's turn once more. No bloody choice. So out again. Controling my breathing, too deep and the ladder would creak. Then 3 creaks in a quick succession!

Back at the crag and fortunately Diff is back with us. The wind is wild, roughly 25mph, gusting to 40. Diff is 15 metres above me, and I scream through the wind that there is no way he can go out on the ladder. He looks at me but my voice is lost in the wind. He climbs out there, right to the end. I reckon it is at least E8 to get to that point. But Diff shuffles along slowly with the swagger of either a true professional or a complete idiot.

Funilly enough we do a lot of film work for TV where someone is employed to look after health and safety. So we have learned to work with safety ropes and all sort of back ups. But if this was for TV we would have been shut down immediately. Shoot cancelled. End of story.

Another fall, then Cory falls too, and at 4pm Diff heads back out there. I keep quiet, shoot my section of the climb, and hope that Diff doesn't die, and if he does die, hope that he doesn't take out all of the climbing talent on his way down.


So what else can I say. Everyone lived. The footage is superb. We hope you enjoy it when the DVD comes out this autumn.

Dave B

Rhapsody Repeated

Sonnie Trotter makes the second ascent of Rhapsody

Sonnie Trotter on the final moves of Rhapsody, Dumbarton Rock. Scotland. Photo copyright Hot Aches Productions

I woke this morning hung over and had to think hard. Did I dream all that about yesterday? But no. As you will see on Sonnie Trotters blog, Rhapsody put up a considerable fight, but it has, at last, been repeated.

A month of effort. A month of hoping for good conditions each day as we drove to the crag. 23 huge falls. Yesterday was warm, but after a long wait we finally had some wind. In fact it was a gale blowing against the headwall and up there it felt freezing.

Filming positions of the headwall at Dumbarton

On abseil my stabilising ropes were lashed so tight I thought they might snap. On 'ladder cam' at the top Diff had probably the scariest filming position in the world. Even on the ground Lynwen was battling with the wind.

There is a good story to be told about the ascent. Almost a fall from the finishing sloper. But Sonnie can tell the story better, and I'm sure he will.

In position waiting to film the ascent of Rhapsody.

Thanks to all the people who have helped us on this shoot. Garth, for the daily on the spot morning weather reports, Tony, Guy, Emma and Caroline for shooting additional camera for us, and to all the locals who have had to put up with us hogging the headwall for a month.

We are not quite finished yet at Dumbarton. Cory reached a new high point on Requiem yesterday. Every session he gets higher and one or two more sessions might be enough for success. So we'll be back this week.