The chockstone referred to above (which doubled as an, almost! unavoidable hold and runner and hid the best natural hold on the route) was removed by myself in September 2004 initially on a trial basis on the grounds that it cluttered and obstructed the crack detracting from a great climb that nowadays is well protected by large cams. This caused controversy, which was mainly argued out on UKClimbing.com but also some interesting historical facts emerged.
The original chockstone was placed by Rock & Ice/Joe Brown apparently by dropping stones in from the top until one jammed. In the 1960’s this original chockstone was absent for a period during which time the route was led in its chock-free state by Al Evans, Mark Vallance Jim Campbell and maybe others. For reasons, and by persons, unknown a chockstone (possibly more) were placed/replaced which means that the stone I removed is almost certainly not the original and therefore without intrinsic historical/romantic value. In the 1980s Paul Mitchell removed some lower chockstones and re-led the route, managing to somehow contort his way past the key chock, without using it for aid. This was not common knowledge and the purist style of Paul’s ascent has not been widely imitated, if at all.
To my knowledge another stone has not been reinstated though a number of people have declared an intention to do so. The route without the chockstone is more sustained but the crux is still lower down as before. To put it into context it is still easier, in my opinion, than the top section of Mid Term in Yosemite graded 5.9!
Simon Lee - 13/Oct/04
Did this the other week; removal of the chock has altered the climbing very little, but it is £150 more expensive to protect.
adam long - 13/Oct/04
Chockstone has been replaced courtesy of John Cox, Paul Mitchell and Simon Cox and placed in a position further back in the crack which looks as if it wont get in the way of the climbing. Friend 5 protection still advisable to protect getting to the chockstone.
Simon Lee - 18/Nov/04
if we still need a friend5 to protect up to the chockstone, what the hell was the point in putting it back in?
I see the ego parade has marched through the peak once more.
Mike Roe - 18/Nov/04
It does save on using the friend 6 higher up!
Simon Lee - 19/Nov/04
Nice one for putting the stone back in. Haven't done it since it was replaced, but it's been there for years, why someone felt the need to change it I do not know
Matt - 18/May/05
Any crack is much nicer without tat in it. An inserted chockstone is tat and gets in the way of pleasant crack climbing, if pleasant is the right word for this brute.
More to the point what is the easiest way of getting round the overhang? is there a neat technique, or just brute strength and ignorance.
Did Joe B climb it onsight or with top rope practise? If onsight how many chockstones? In any case remarkable lead, but phenomenal if unpractised with only 2 chockstones.
Oliver Hill - 12/Aug/05
In answer to Olivers question -
I corresponded and spoke to Joe Brown at the beginning of the year to clear this up and documented it in a letter to OTE earlier this year.
Joe confirmed that the key chockstone was not used on the first ascent and was onsight - prior top-roping was, he said, very rare then . The only chockstones (if indeed there were any)were low down before the crux overhang off the ledge i.e. the ones that Paul Mitchell removed in the 80’s.
So Joe’s ascent involved running it out from pro before the overhang, past the point where the later chockstone appeared. So anyone seeking to emulate Joe’s ascent should place a hex 11 or friend 4 well below the overhang, then run it out to the top of the crag.
The chockstone was added by persons unknown in the 60’s and somehow remained and became legitimised to the extent that most people assumed it had been placed by Joe Brown when clearly it had not.
As you rightly say it was a remarkable lead but he was the crack master - check out the off-width roof he did by Lightening Crack at the Roaches Lower tier.
Regarding getting past the overhang my solution involved armbarring with my right arm - laybacking is missing the point IMO.
Simon Lee - 23/Aug/05