Tuesday, 26 April 2011

Coming up: Steve Dean on the legendary John Syrett.

John Syrett leading Cloggy classic- Shrike(E1-5b:US 5.10a)
Photo Gordon Stainforth©

"John was developing into an exceptional rock climber, and in the summer of 1970 spent several weeks climbing in North Wales with the Stainforth brothers and Tim James.  He set about repeating a large number of hard classics gaining considerable confidence.  That autumn, back at Leeds, he set about the local gritstone extensively, his standard rapidly rising.  At that time the absolute bench mark on gritstone was Allan Austin's Wall of Horrors at Almscliff.  Rumoured to be unrepeated since the first ascent in 1961, and combining the top technical difficulty of the time with no protection, the climb had an awesome reputation, not least because of some big falls Austin had taken on it before making his ascent.  Wall of Horrors gradually became an obsession for John, who continued to train hard on the climbing wall determined to make his breakthrough.  One late autumn day, John abseiled down the route, and found a possible point for nut protection beneath the crux.  The following day he made the first ascent of the Brutaliser at Brimham, and then the next day returned to Almscliff with John Stainforth and Chas McGuirie.  It was a raw, windy November day, but John was determined to make his attempt at repeating Wall of Horrors.  Despite the poor conditions, he quickly disposed of the very technical starting moves, and then spent ten minutes fixing two small nuts beneath the crux moves.  He then cruised the crux, and climbed steadily to the top with increasingly cold hands.  Repeating this famous climb was a marvellous achievement, for the reputation of Austin's masterpiece had grown with the passing years.  John's own quote in Extreme Rock is revealing:

Yes - I'm up - I've done Wall of Horrors - it will never be like this again (and it wasn't)."

This Friday; Steve Dean's revealing in-depth study into the life and times of the late,great John Syrett.