The imposing prow of Parthian Shot at Burbage South is one of grit's great routes. In 2011, Will Stanhope took a ground fall when his gear ripped out from behind the crucial flake at around half-height. In the process he snapped off part of the flake that was also a good juggy hand-hold.
A number of top climbers including Ben Bransby thought that Parthian, graded E9 at the time, was now probably unclimbable. Fast Forward to 19th November on a Baltic cold day in the Peak around sun-set and Ben Bransby proved that theory wrong.
James 'Caff' McHaffie holding Ben's ropes, said: "It was one of the most impressive leads I've seen and the first time belaying I've had to check which way to run if things didn't go to plan."
We put a couple of questions to Ben about the route and his ascent.
How long have you had your eye on Parthian Shot?
"Pete Robins and I started looking at it back in 2008, just before Kevin Jorgeson and the other Americans came over. We were trying it ground up. It was a pretty scary scene – climbing up to the flake, fiddling gear in, trying to assess how good the gear was and eventually going for it. Neither me or Pete managed the route, but a couple of weeks later Kevin did."
"After the flake snapped on Will Stanhope, I (along with most other people) thought it was probably unclimbable. About a month ago Caff came over keen to go and look at Dynamics of Change, Pete Whittaker’s route just to the left. Dynamics was wet so we abseiled down Parthian, and after it dried out a bit we managed to do the move past the broken flake. Caff came over again last week and we had another day on it. I had one go where I top roped it clean, so we arranged to give it another go today."
And how did it feel today?
"Cold and scary! We had a quick top rope, then I went for a lead first. I climbed up and placed the gear, by which point I was feeling quite tired and had really numb fingers. Expecting to fall off the hard move just past the broken flake (where the questionable gear was), I somehow found myself five or six moves higher on the final crux, and fell off. The gear held, although the fall wasn’t pleasant, and after Caff had a go I went for another headpoint."
"I managed to climb the two hardest bits pretty well, but by the easier top section my fingers and toes were numb and I was quite tense. The rope got in the way on a 'foot share' on the slab. I think Caff found it quite a harrowing belay – it was probably fairly obvious that things weren’t going particularly well at that point, and if I came off he would have to have taken in a fair bit of rope…"
How much harder do you think the route is with the broken flake?
A bit of the flake is still left. Some of the gear is the same as it used to be, but the top piece (along with the big juggy handhold) has gone. It is now much pumpier, both climbing and placing the gear, and where there used to be a good rest and then a relatively easy move, there is now a new crux section at least as hard as the top crux. This probably pushes the route from F8a+ to F8b, and with the gear also being a bit worse, could well make it E10. I’m not really in a position to say since I haven’t really done any scary grit headpointing in the last 10 years!
Thanks Ben and congratulations.