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Sport first ascents UK

'The sport climbing in the UK is frequently dismissed on the global stage, yet crags like Malham and Kilnsey in Yorkshire are surely not to be underestimated. It was always a goal of mine to put up a decent new route on one of our showcase sport cliffs before all the best or hardest lines were taken and so I decided to launch a campaign in 2015 and 2016.' NG 

 
 
 Entering the crux of Sabotage 8c+  Photo: Ian Parnell

Entering the crux of Sabotage 8c+

Photo: Ian Parnell

Sabotage 8c+ Malham Cove, UK, 23.10.16  

 

Climb Magazine Issue 136 – Jan/Feb 17 - ‘Hot Lines’

‘The 250ft sweep of pale limestone at Malham Cove, Yorkshire forms a natural ampitheatre and has been the core venue for some of the most significant ascents in British climbing over the last four decades. Home to more concentrated hard climbing than anywhere else in the UK, it might come as a surprise to many, but the cove still holds new lines of the highest quality and difficulty. One such challenge was the bulge and blank headwall above and to the right of the power-endurance classic Predator (8b). Evergreen Neil Gresham took up the challenge, and over a year fine-tuned his sequence, training and crucially his diet. He was significantly lighter and stronger by autumn 2016, but the Font 7b+ crux still required over 30 days of attempts to link through the poor, constricted rest at the top of Predator. Sabotage (8c+) is Neil’s hardest ever route and a reward for ‘keeping an open mind’ about the potential routes still available on England’s greatest crags.’ 

 
 Sabotage 8c+, Malham Cove, UK.  Photo: Ian Parnell

Sabotage 8c+, Malham Cove, UK.

Photo: Ian Parnell

Facebook well wishes after completing Sabotage: 24.10.17

 

‘Really well done. After I have downed these beers I will start my comeback!’ Mark Leach

‘Well done. Hard work pays and so does the help of nice friends.’ Stevie Haston

‘Yes – congratulations - well deserved mate!!’ Said Belhaj

‘Brilliant. Well done!’ Mina Leslie Wujastyk

‘Woop.’  Alex Barrows

‘A textbook display from the professor of climbing.’ Grant Farquhar

 
 Straight Jacket 8a+/b, Malham Cove, UK.   Photo: Copyright Lukasz Warzecha

Straight Jacket 8a+/b, Malham Cove, UK. 

Photo: Copyright Lukasz Warzecha

Straight Jacket 8a+/b Malham Cove, UK. 04.15

A full height extension to Straightened, with the new crux coming at the top bulge and headwall.

 Setting up for the 'crucifix' crux of Freakshow 8c.  Photo: Copyright Lukasz Warzecha 

Setting up for the 'crucifix' crux of Freakshow 8c.

Photo: Copyright Lukasz Warzecha 

Freakshow 8c Kilnsey, UK. 04.08.15

Climb Magazine - October 15 – ‘Hot Lines’

‘The brooding limestone scarp of Kilnsey in North Yorkshire is recognized as one of the UK’s most impressive crags, particularly the severely overhanging South buttress capped by its enormous roof. This feature was first aid climbed in the 50s, but shot to prominence in 1988 when it was freed by Mark Leach to give Mandela – so named as ‘they said it would never go free’. This summer, Neil Gresham added his own take on Kilnsey Main overhang but at a much higher grade with his route Freakshow. 8c in difficulty, Freakshow is very different to your typical British sport route – almost 40m in length and with 18 clips, the route climbs like the ultra endurance routes currently defining modern sport climbing. 

 
 Freakshow 8c, Kilnsey, UK. The crucifix crux move.   Photo: Copyright Lukasz Warzecha

Freakshow 8c, Kilnsey, UK. The crucifix crux move.

 Photo: Copyright Lukasz Warzecha

The line follows the classic 7a+ Hardy Annual to a good rest, then quickly ratchets up the difficulty as Neil describes: ‘It turns mean fairly quickly. The rock tilts over at an ever-steepening angle and there’s a crux sequence which is about V7/8 in difficulty and which involves a crucifix move. This move takes you to a horizontal break that leads from left to right through the middle of the roof. It’s covered in jugs but there aren’t many footholds so you get pumped. There’s a poor ‘bat hang’ rest, hanging from a toe-hook at the end of the break and then it gets hard again. You launch out into some crazy horizontal terrain, making big moves between pockets and slots, with poor footholds, and you have to skip all the bolts there in order to avoid rope drag. You join Mandela (8a+) in the middle of the crux cross-through move, at which point you’re looking at taking a 40 foot pendulum, so this certainly focuses your attention.’

 
 Falling from the final moves of Freakshow 8c, Kilnsey, UK. Photo: Copyright Lukasz Warzecha

Falling from the final moves of Freakshow 8c, Kilnsey, UK. Photo: Copyright Lukasz Warzecha

Neil says that the finishing moves of Mandela aren’t really that hard but they proved tough enough after all that had gone on before. ‘I vowed never to fall off there, although this proved to be famous last words.’ Says Neil, ‘I actually dropped it twice there before eventually hauling myself round the lip. I think this was probably caused by summit fever more than anything else.’ Success for Neil came after 14 days of effort but was built on an extensive platform of winter training. ‘I literally trained harder for this route than any other and this was the main reason I contacted Stevie Haston for advice. With Stevie watching my back I felt sufficiently confident to ramp things up to the next level. When someone as mean as him is watching your back there’s no way you dare shirk out!’

 

Freakshow was repeated by Alex Barrows and Aidan Roberts in the continued dry-spell of August 2015.

 Post match celebration after making the FA of Freakshow 8c.

Post match celebration after making the FA of Freakshow 8c.

Facebook well wishes after completing Freakshow: 03.08.15

 

Great effort Neil. That’s a big crag with greasy, poor holds as I remember. Johnny Dawes

Well done Neil. I looked at various lines in that area in the 80s, however, it took the very talented you to accomplish my dreams. Congratulations.

Mark Leach

Persistence pays. Leo Houlding

‪Nice one Neil : ) Emma Twyford

Boss. Gaz Parry

 Woo hoo. Good skills Mr. Gresham. Can’t wait to get back on it. Tim Emmett

More where that came from fella. Well psyched for you. Charlie Woodburn

Cool. Looked absolutely brilliant when I saw you on it. True sport! Rich Heap

Is there no stopping him! Paul Gresham

 

 
 First ascent of Premonition 8b+, Kilnsey, UK.  Photo: Paul Bennett

First ascent of Premonition 8b+, Kilnsey, UK.

Photo: Paul Bennett

Premonition 8b+ Kilnsey ,UK, 09.15 

It had always struck me that Kilnsey’s imposing Main Overhang had the potential to offer sport routes that would be as close as the UK is likely to get to the steep European super-crags such as Rodellar or Santa Linya. Yet other than Mark Leach’s classic Mandella 8a+ and Gaz Parry’s direct version, Guns in the Sky 8b+, the central part of the roof had been left to gather dust. Whilst attempting to make the FA of Freakshow in the summer of 2015, I spotted an old aid-line of rusty bolts coming directly up through the roof above the Extreme Rock Classic Déjà Vu. Straight after sending Freakshow I set to work drilling new bolts and clearing away some loose rock and was amazed to find relatively promising holds. From the rest ledge at the top of Deja, a fierce boulder crux leads to a junction with Freakshow, which eventually links through Guns and into the final moves of Mandella, thus essentially becoming a fully free version of Déjà Vu. Pete Gomersall and Ron Fawcett were childhood heroes of mine and it was an honour to join them in the first ascent history of this celebrated climb.