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Pearson Ticks Last Great Grit

James Pearson climbing above the second crux during the first ascent of The Groove (E10 7b [5.14c/d X]) at Cratcliffe, Derbyshire, England, on February 2, 2008. The route had been attempted by climbers for the past twenty years. [Photo] David Simmonite

On February 2, James Pearson made the first ascent of The Groove (E10 7b [5.14c/d X]), a gritstone climb with a twenty-year history at Cratcliffe, Derbyshire, England. Located inaccessibly, an inordinate number of climbers had attempted, unsuccessfully, to link the moves of the “stunning” climb, as Pearson described it in his blog, on lead. Some have considered it “one of the last great problems on gritstone,” and it ranks among the United Kingdom’s most difficult and committing.

Pearson, 22, had worked The Groove intermittently over the past four years. On January 5, 2008, he felt strong enough after a successful year of hard bouldering and returned for another try. Pearson linked sections that he hadn’t been able to before, nearly sending the entire route on toprope, falling three times at the final dynamic move.

After his January attempts Pearson wrote in his blog: “Although I didn’t actually climb the route clean, I know it is possible for me, and in better conditions (i.e. daylight) I know I can do it… To lead any hard grit route, lots of factors need to fall into place, but to lead something like The Groove, everything must be perfect, and lady luck must be smiling down.”

James Pearson practicing the second crux sequence on toprope before his headpoint attempt. [Photo] David Simmonite

The climb itself is very technical with bold moves featuring tiny crimps, slopers and a likely ground fall from the final move of the first crux. Pearson’s strict climbing ethics dictate no use of bouldering pads at the base of trad routes, despite possible nasty ground falls. On February 2 he sent the route on his first headpoint attempt, so he didn’t have to test his belayer.

The Groove marks Pearson’s third E10. He made the third ascent of Equilibrium (E10 7a) in 2005 at age 19 and the first ascent of The Promise (E10 7a), which previously he called “the hardest route on gritstone.” Also in 2007 Pearson made history by becoming the first to flash V13, on two separate French 8B boulder problems. Pearson’s other main project for the season is The Wall Left of The New Statesman in Ilkley, Yorkshire, which is a similarly styled crimpy, dynamic climb eyed by top Brits for the past decade.

Sources: James Pearson’s blog, Climb Magazine,