Baron Greenback 2nd ascent

25 March, 2014
Ben Bransby on his successful ascent of Baron Greenback (E9) [Vid screenshot]
Ben Bransby has made the 2nd ascent of Pete Whittaker's impressive Baron Greenback at Wimberry Rocks. Ben said: "It's really superb climbing and a great line. Both the routes I have done on this buttress (Baron and Appointment With Fear E7) are amongst the best I have ever done on grit - the final arete is such an exposed place. Respect to Pete for doing the Baron."

Ben added: "Although I needed the cold for good conditions on the day, it was tricky keeping warm while needing the rest in-between my couple of go's on a top rope, as it's a very physical route."

The north facing Peak edge of Wimberry, set high-up on the moor, appears silhouetted like a lower jaw of jagged teeth as you approach it. In the central part of the crag, one of gritstone's great features stands proud, the Wimberry Prow. Viewed from below it arcs out over your head and the line taken by the Baron up the flying arete seems improbable; until you see the holds chalked.

However, the route is quirky in that it is protected by three very old - probably from the 60's - aid bolts, quite close together on the steepest section at around half-height. How good the centimetre-long bolts are is a matter of conjecture, although Pete Whittaker did test them with a lead fall just prior to his successful ascent last May.

Ben added to the quirkiness by using a nine-foot wooden fencing post to protect the lower E7 section; crossing the gully wall and up to where the bolts are clipped. From a good hold, Ben, like Pete on the first ascent, also used a bamboo cane to clip the awkward out-of-reach third bolt before reversing back to the ground for a rest.

When Ben went for his headpoint attempt he made smooth and fast work of getting through the difficult climbing to the much easier but bold finish. Ben said: "When you set off you can't think that the bolts might fail if you fall-off."

Pete Whittaker was at the crag and witnessed Ben repeat his route
And the protection is what makes grading this route difficult. Ben said: "I think the grade would probably be E9 6c but it is pretty dependent on whether 50+ year-old aid bolts stay in! If they are bomber it would be more like E8 and if they ripped it would be E10, so E9 seems like a good compromise. Hard F8a+ is probably accurate for the climbing."

"The little bamboo cane to 'stick clip' the 3rd bolt whilst on the route, the three old bolts and the 9ft fence pole I used are all slightly 'dodgy' in terms of grit ethics but I think the bamboo is a fun solution to clipping the out of reach 3rd bolt."

"I know old bolts are not ideal on grit - I have bypassed a fair few in my time but Dougie Hall used a fishing rod to clip the same bolts - and create a 'baby bounce' - when he first did the first free ascent of Appointment with Fear [right of the Baron] in 1986 and if it is good enough for Dougie it's good enough for me. It would be pretty suicidal to miss the bolts - I don't know what will happen to the route (or climber involved) if the bolts pull out... The fence pole was a fun, novel, and naughty way to protect the start…"

Ben Bransby with his 'naughty' protection in the gully at the start of Baron Greenback
Ben Bransby just below the old bolts on Baron Greenback [Vid still]. © Ray Wood and James France