E6 headpoint for 12 year-old Archie Ball

01 September, 2014

Archie Ball on Life Assurance
If you were at Burbage South last Friday you may have been surprised to find a young lad swearing excitedly at the top of Life Assurance.

It makes more sense when you learn that the 12 year-old had just headpointed the E6 6b route: an ambition of the north Wales based climber, Archie Ball, ever since watching an online video of 13 year-old Jim Pope's 2012 headpoint ascent of that route. "Can I try and headpoint an E6?" isn't a question a parent would necessarily be pleased to hear from their young offspring.

Archie said: "Watching Jim do it really inspired me and it looked so cool. I thought it'd suit me because it wasn't reachy and just looked technical."

Life Assurance starts up the HVS Charlie's Crack where you place the kit before moving out right and precariously up a short-lived but steepening slab. Archie said: "It's so slippy it's ridiculous. You feel like you could fall off any of the holds."

Which is exactly what Archie did on a lead attempt the previous day, from near the top of the route. But it didn't deter plucky Archie. "I was a bit in shock after the fall but I think it helped because I then knew I'd be alright if I fell so I wasn't so scared anymore. Part of the reason I fell off was because I was a bit tense with fear and wasn't concentrating enough," explained Archie.

Archie said: "Not stopping and sitting down at the ledge before moving right was key. I just paused to clean my boots. I'm glad I hadn't dared look at the UKC logbook comments before doing the route because they weren't very positive."

"My climbing indoors hasn't gone so well this year so I really wanted to do it. I'm enjoying my trad and bouldering more than sport climbing at the moment."

His father, Fraser Ball, who in his day on-sighted E5's and belayed Archie, said: "It was a long but safe fall and seeing him come away from it unscathed settled my nerves."

He added: "I knew he wouldn't have hit the ground if he fell off and it's a pretty clean fall. On a previous visit we had done a drop test with virtually an Archie weight loaded rucsac from the near the top. The idea to do the route was all down to him. When Archie came up with the idea I suggested we went and top roped it to see what he thought and take it from there."

"So we did that last year and he was definitely struggling to start with and I thought he'd give up on the idea. But he kept talking about wanting to lead it. He's grown quite a bit since then so that's probably helped. Watching him do it and seeing his excitement when he topped out made the 'journey' worthwhile. I think he shocked himself."

"To be fair it's probably a bottom-end E6 or a hard E5 but it'll be a relief to get back to bouldering for a bit."

Archie wasn't long back from a trip to Font where he'd been doing a lot of slab problems as training. Although he has climbed Font 7A problems in the UK, he said: "The grades in 'the forest' just depress you and seem a lot harder than here. I'd gone there thinking I'd climb a 7A but in the end just gave up looking at the guidebook and climbed problems that looked good instead of paying attention to grades. I was pleased with the famous 6A, Marie Rose, because two years ago I'd tried it about fifty times with no success."

Archie Ball on and off Life Assurance (E6 6b), Burbage South. © Jon Proctor