Trad First Ascents - UK
Airdrawndagger E8 6c Pembroke, UK, 06.04
Whilst foraging around the cliffs of Pembroke in the summer of 2004 with Charlie Woodburn, I spotted an unclimbed line on the back wall of Box Zawn through the middle of the roof and up the capping headwall. It was clearly going to be at the upper limit of difficulty for me, so I abseiled down to check the gear options, place a couple of pegs and practice the moves. However, greasy conditions thwarted my initial advances and frustration started to set in. When the good day came I was so eager that I leapt on it without warming-up and took a 50 foot fall from the finishing jug! I only just managed to get it second try, just as the tide came in to submerge Tim Emmett's belay platform.
Gravediggers E8 6c Gravestones, Llanberis. 06.97
My ascent of Gravediggers turned into a tale of friendship of rivalry. Having spotted a great looking line on the Gravestones in the LLanberis Pass in the summer of 1997, I was somewhat put out to hear that a young climber called Leo Houlding who was emerging on the scene was keen to step on my toes. I had mentioned to Leo that I'd been trying the route but he didn't seem too interested in respecting 'the code'. In the end, Leo ended up leading the route one evening, unaware that I had snatched an ascent at lunchtime on the same day. He returned jubilantly to record his ascent in the new routes book in Pete's Eats in Llanberis, only to realise that he'd been pipped at the post. We shook hands over the affair and became great friends subsequently. I conceded that this would be the first and last time that I would ever have the upper hand over someone who went on to become one of Britain's most prolific and accomplished climbers.
More selected trad FAs from Neil in the UK
Fearless E9 6c, Dove Crag, Lake District, 06.2018
Dangermouse & Penfro E7 6c, Barafundle Bay, Pembroke. 05.04
The Wickerman E7 6c, The Parthenon, Lundy Island. 08.05