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Pete Robins on gritstone season

Interviewed by Tomasz Mazur for the Góry Magazine #180(May 2009)

Firstly, I'd like asking you about Renegade Master... You missed a crashpad, then climbed it next go... It's almost unbelief for me that after around 8 meters falling you found motivation for next time!

Well, I tried it once before at Christmas and also fell from the top, it was freezing and the ground was frozen rock-hard. Luckily I hit the mat but landed on a slight twist and sprained my ankle. This time it was warmer and the ground was soft, I missed the mat but my footprints went 6 inches into the earth and I was fine. This proves that crashpads don’t necessarily make a landing better! The fall did not scare me in the slightest and I was right back on it like a dog as soon as I felt fresh!

Someone from Team USA said that grit is exciting and bold, but no more so than plenty of other trad climbing venues... But you (and many others) climb there instead of spend time for e.g. in sunny Spain :) What is special in grit for you?

The unique thing about grit is the friction; nowhere else can a chap stay attached to so little rock. This means that it has a completely unique climbing style and requires skills, which one can only learn ‘on the job’ and not through strength gained in the gym. This is why the grit is so special. Yes, there are many areas around the world where you can get scarred stupid, such as the Czech towers or the sea cliffs of Scotland, and each area has a local bunch of ‘loons’ who can pull the stops out. In that respect, the Yanks are right and the grit is only like any other trad venue (it must be stated that the grit is predominantly full of easier, well-protected routes and its not all ankle-snapping territory!)

The thing about going to Spain sport climbing is that I’m shit at it, we don’t have many big cliffs in the UK so most of the harder stuff is of a more powerful nature, and therefore, so are we Brits. I occasionally have a fun holiday getting spanked on foreign limestone though!

List of the last great problems on gritstone is every year shorter... How do you look at the future of climbing in grit? Highballing or doing routes in better style?

In the last year or so, it seems physical standards have jumped to a new level, I think standards will jump again and so, the list of last great problems will increase where lines previously thought of as unclimbable will be opened up. However, grit is a subtle rock-form and hand holds can’t get much more slopey or smaller, and there isn’t that much steep stuff around, so one day we will run out of new routes. The future in terms of difficulty may be on Limestone or Granite cliffs and boulders. So when the projects have been ticked, the quest will move onto the smoothest on-sight ascents, then onto eliminates, link-ups, chalkless ascents, solos and on and on. One thing is for sure; there is always a new challenge!

I read your opinion about grading system on UKClimbing, but what about ethic? Especially in the very traditional climbing in gritstone? James Pearson is "crying" that it's not fair to use crashpads, but I found that all trad is full of other "tricks" (e.g. side runners, etc.)...

To me, Gritstone ethics is very simple. The best approach is from the ground (without pre-inspection) and first goes. Whatever you can use to make your lead safer is fine by me. The issue is only clouded when grades are taken into account because your way of ascent may not fit the objective-danger grade fitted in the guidebook (because there are often many unquantifiable factors to consider). Therefore, for gritstone, wouldn’t it be better if just a physical grade was assigned (sport or bouldering grade) and that was that? Then, all the hype and glory some famous routes have attained would not exist, the routes would be less popular and therefore the rock preserved for longer. I’m not saying don’t top-rope, I still do it, just that toproping reduces the challenge significantly and damages the rock much more (by means of making the route accessible to a wider audience).

And at the end - a bit personal question. I heard about your "problem" with... sandwiches ;) If it's not a secret - what kind of sandwich is the best for climbing in gritstone? :)

Most grit crags are within minutes of big UK cities and so, with all the culinary choice that is on offer, no expense should be spared on the great ‘grit-batty’. However, I recommend local Yorkshire fillings such as Grouse, followed by a sweet Bakewell Tart, yum-yum!
See also
Katy Whittaker on gritstone
 News/Last added
Sonnie Trotter - New 5.14 Trad Route
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