The North Face (R) Global Athlete James Pearson has made a remarkable on-sight ascent of Point Blank, a fantastic E8 6c in the imposing zawn of Stennis Ford in Pembroke, South Wales.
Photography © David Simmonite, 2011. All rights reserved.
This incredible area of sea cliffs is one of the best climbing venues in the UK and has many hard, classic routes. This dramatic wall, with very sustained climbing (F8a) and long run-outs, was first climbed by David Pickford and after on-sighting the nearby classics of Ghost Train (E6 6b) and From a Distance (E7 6b) the previous day, James set out to tackle Point Blank head on.
After climbing the crux of From a Distance the route takes a line breaking out left from a peg and up the steep impending wall. After the peg the protection is reasonable in the form of a small Friend and a couple of wires on the crucial section but it has big fall potential:
“I surveyed the line of holds leading diagonally left and began to assess my options. When the rock on this cliff is free from chalk, it’s exceptionally difficult to see even a few holds ahead of you, and so on-sighting comes down to staying calm, thinking quickly, and a good helping of luck.”
After climbing through the first section quickly to the bomber size 0 Friend, a brief rest allowed James to survey the long run-out ahead and try to work out the moves:
“All I could see were the double barrel pockets 6m above, and as my only other option involved staying where I was for an indefinite period of time, I decided on pushing upwards, a little blind but full of hope. After a lot of feeling around and a few awkward moments, I found enough small edges and slopers to reach the twin pockets. Whilst good enough to relax a little, they were not jugs, nor did they take any easy gear and so I pressed on until the sanctuary of the top break finally came – perhaps 10m from the last Friend.”
Following his success on this rarely achieved feat in the UK James commented:
“When I viewed life wearing the blinkers of a UK trad climber, on-sighting E8 was something I considered as almost Godly, but now I realise it is far, far away from what is possible even at this current time, let alone in the future. Sure, there are many E8s that I wouldn’t dream of attempting in this manner, climbs that whilst perhaps technically easy, are so insecure and in a deadly place, that I personally can’t justify the attempt. However, there are just as many E8s and above that are well-protected but physically hard, that become possible once one’s physical level surpasses a certain point. You just have to be able to hold on…”