Charlie Woodburn says his first ascent of Something's Burning E9 7a on the West Wall of Stennis Ford is "physically way harder than any of the other E9's I've done and somewhere in the middle for boldness." It takes the obvious wall and gap in the guidebook between Mercia Wall (E8) and Internationale (E7).
Charlie first spied the Pembroke line in spring of last year but was busy with other projects and work. Checking it out properly in October when he was a bit stronger from a spell of sport climbing, he still couldn't do the crux moves but knew it would go and was hooked.
Describing where he went from there, Charlie says: "It's such an amazing piece of climbing. I started training and focusing specifically on it and went over to Pembroke every fortnight to work it. I'd top roped it cleanly by mid-November and the weather was still good so I thought it would happen before the year was over, but then I had a couple of cold and damp visits. The only weekends when I wasn't working from then on was when the tides were wrong so I left it until this year."
"While trying it last year I was doing some finger boarding, as it has got some small crimps on it plus I was also doing some pretty dull specific under-cut work down at the Academy climbing wall. Paul Twomey, was kind enough to let me build the two crux moves at the wall as well which helped."
"However, after I stopped trying the route for the winter, my circumstances changed dramatically and for personal reasons I stopped climbing and training completely until March. Since then I kinda had to start from scratch and I'd been doing loads of finger boarding and pull-ups, nothing exactly ground breaking but amazingly effective."
Nobody was more surprised than Charlie to complete the route on his first visit back to try it.
"I knew I was stronger than normal, but that doesn't necessarily make you better at climbing. But in a way all the rain has been good for stopping me getting distracted by other routes and the sustained period of highly boring training really worked well."
"I was totally expecting the route to be wet, as although it doesn't seep it does get badly affected by the damp sea air and isn't steep enough to stay dry when it's chucking it down. Bizarrely, the conditions were mint."
Describing the kit on the route, he says: "There is guaranteed bullet proof gear about four or five metres below the overlaps at the first crux, so if you fell off there you'd take a whipper but be fine. Above there is an HB3, which sits in a satisfying way, but in reality would almost certainly rip if lobbed on."
"Then there is the second crux dead-point to an o.k. crimp from which you can place a rattly Peenut that twists in like a key. That would hold fine, as long as it didn't twist back, in which case it would just fall out. That's by your feet when you dyno left to join the E5, Deutschland Nicht Über Alles."
"The worst case scenario where both the Peenut and the HB3 failed would be bad I think. You're probably 40 feet out from the good gear and would most likely hit the deck. By far the best option is to not find out if that really is the case."
This is Charlie's fifth E9 and his second first ascent at that grade. The others are Harder Faster and Meshuga at Black Rocks, which he describes as "easy climbing comparatively but very dangerous", and The Walk of Life and Once Upon a Time in the Southwest "which are long draining technical affairs with an element of boldness but basically pretty safe."
Charlie has posted a video (below) on Vimeo he says is "not the best, but at least it's a record of the ascent."