Recently I’ve wanted to try something hard and something that isn’t at Anstey’s for a change. I’d heard that Tom Newberry had repeated Chris Savages route called The Death Star at Cheddar Gorge which is given 8c and I thought this might be the perfect route to get stuck into over the Autumn and Winter.
I had planned to head up to Cheddar with Charlotte to try the route a few weeks ago to try this route, so I got some beta from Tom and jumped on the route feeling psyched but wasn’t expecting much from the first session. My aim was to get most of the moves sorted and just get used to the rock as I haven’t done much at Cheddar before. The session went pretty well, on my first go up it I got all of the moves except two. Next go up and I got these two moves sorted. I only got two goes up it that session but was left pleasantly surprised about getting all of the moves and really psyched to return as soon as possible to give it a go.
I asked Charlotte to come back with me the following week and as always she was keen to help so we planned to head back and camp near the gorge so that I could have two sessions on the route. On the first day there I warmed up by doing The Empire Strikes Back which is a popular 8a+ which is basically an indirect version of The Death Star. I had a couple of goes up the route sorting some more efficient beta and then felt ready to have a redpoint attempt. After a long rest I had my first redpoint go and fell half way through the final boulder problem. I did feel pretty tired from doing the 8a+ and lapping the top boulder of The Death Star many times… However I decided to have one more go that day and fell in a similar place. I was done but again remained optimistic and knew that it might go before the winter arrives.
The following day I warmed up by onsighting a cool E6 6b called Try to Remember and soon got on the route. On my first redpoint I got one move further than my last. Then on my second go I fell one move further which is the final hard move of the boulder, I hadn’t found this move hard before but it felt really hard when doing it from the ground! On my third go of the day I fell on the same move but was feeling very tired from the past couple of days climbing. I knew that if I returned after having a rest day that I’d be able to do it.
I returned a week later after some intense power endurance training sessions at The Quay to get my body used to some hard power endurance climbing after not doing any for a while. I warmed up by onsighting Star Wars: The Triology (E7 6C). I lead the first and third pitches (the 6C pitches) which felt around 7c+ (maybe 8a) as a sport route and definitely felt like my hardest onsight in the UK. This was first proper experience of trad where I had to place a lot of gear between the few bolts on the route, I only bought a set of nuts yesterday! I then went up the route to put the draws in and do some of the moves again. It didn’t feel great as it was pretty warm so was worried that today wasn’t going to be the best day to try it. I decided to persevere anyway. I had a 40 minute rest, where we went to Costa to kill some time, before I was ready to have my first redpoint of the day. I felt a little rusty on the first boulder problem as I hadn’t done it today but pulled through it anyway, I got through the middle section well and by this point I felt completely focussed on the climbing and pretty fresh still too. I moved into the top boulder problem and everything felt right, I knew it was on, I just had to keep that focus for a few more moves before I got onto the easy headwall to finish it off! I pulled through and was soon at the juggy block to finish… I’d done it!
My third 8c was done which felt pretty strange as just under a year ago I was clipping the chains to my third 8b. It’s great to see progress and it was great to do the route much quicker than I had expected! The route turned out to be much better than I first thought and also much harder than when I first tried it. Thanks to Tom for the beta and a big thanks to Charlotte Warner for all the belays on it! I didn’t manage to get any photos of me on the route but I’ll hopefully be heading back soon so I can get some photos then.