Climbing is like any sport in that there are certain names synonymous with its growth, their histories intertwined with that of the sport. Joe Brown, John Sherman and Pierre Allain to name a few are renowned today for the pioneering work they did for outdoor climbing.
But then rock climbing is somewhat unique too, in that routes and problems can develop as much character as the people who climbed them. Some climbs become famous over time because of the sheer joy they can evoke, while others develop reputations as fearsome trials that can test even the most iron-willed climbers.
One of my favourite climbs, Black & Tans, fits somewhat into both categories. It was one of my main targets when I began lead climbing because of its reputation as a classic, but it took a few weeks of leading much smaller routes before I felt comfortable tackling such a famous route. In that time I had heard a lot from friends and various guidebooks about the bold second pitch, and it had started to play on my mind. The fear was only compounded on the day when I looked up at the series of exposed shelves near the top of the route. In retrospect, it wasn’t the smartest of moves for Andy to take the first pitch and for me to lead those shelves myself!
But after an hour or so of careful deliberation and panicked swearing, we conquered the second pitch and could finally relax. The knowledge that we had just climbed a classic climb that is almost a century old definitely enhanced the experience for me, although I certainly wouldn’t have been as intimidated to begin with if I hadn’t heard so much about it. Its reputation can really be a double-edged sword in that respect! – Rob