Dorys E9 tour de force repeated

02 September, 2011
Nick Bullock at the top of the groove on the second ascent of Melody HXS/E9, Craig Dorys, Lleyn Peninsula. © Ray Wood

To say Nick Bullock was relieved to pull over on to the top of Craig Dorys having made the second ascent of Melody would be an understatement. This powerful and direct line from 2004 by Dorys stalwart Stevie Haston and Laurence Goualt, climbs the friable and decomposing Stigmata Buttress between Rust Never Sleeps and The Gross Clinic.

Although initially simply given the grade of HXS, it appears as E9 in a Stevie time-line on UKC. Nick said: "It's a fantastic route. The bottom wall is very steep and very dangerous F7a+ climbing, while the F7b/+ headwall has a move literally just below the top that's as hard as any on the route, but with good gear."

He added: "It'd be soul destroying to fall off this move with all the harrowing climbing behind you; especially knowing you'd have it all to do again."

Nick chose to headpoint the route and believes: "It'd be hard to imagine someone turning up with a full-rack and on-sighting Melody because of the nature of the rock and the likely consequences of falling off above the top peg before getting to the base of the groove."

In his mind Nick broke the climb into four sections. "Firstly, from the top of a 20 ft pillar go up the solidified mud wall past the pegs pretending that none of the holds could snap, to the base of the groove. Here, you can get a reasonable but strenuous-to-place purple Dragon Cam. The next section involved making a powerful move into the shortish groove which has some cams, to reach a commodious recovery ledge."

"Should one decide to continue, step right into the centre of the wall, hand place a short peg and HB Quadcam 00 to protect tricky moves to crozzled holds, where you can fiddle in a small tri-cam and a skyhook. From here more pumpy climbing follows to reach a good break and welcome cams."

"Finally, having shaken out it's only the hard direct finishing move between you and sanctuary. Setting up for the move by underclinging a solid boss, pop to a positive three finger flattie."

Nick had previously tried to lead Melody last year having backed-up Stevie's three pegs with his own and was fortunate to get away with only a fifty-footer fall - the scream could be heard in Abersoch - when a hold ripped just below the good break on the headwall. This time Nick chose to lead it on the original pegs with only one of his additions, by the first peg that you clip from just off the pillar.

Stevie initially attempted the route ground up with only one peg in place. He refers to the second peg, placed on abseil, in his original description from the Pete's Eats New Routes Book, saying "I lowered off-it but wouldn't fall on it." In an On The Edge (141) article called, Falling in Love with Doris, he describes the top peg he placed about twenty feet above the pillar after an attempt at the route, as: "Another weird poor peg." From here it's about a further twenty feet to the bottom of the groove and any fall getting there is likely to have serious consequences at best.

Nick is no stranger to the demands of Dorys having made the third ascent (onsight) of the notorious Bobok E5 6a, onsighted The Gross Clinic E6 6a and left his own mark there last year with Blood Meridian E6 6a. Nick said: "I've always been attracted to the style of climbing where you have to do battle with your head."