The UK’s three best sport routes, on the UK’s three best sport cliffs. All 8a+. Quite a challenge. I guess I earned my crown a while back, but when I heard Andy Mitchel had climbed all three in a day, moving between them under his own steam (he ran!), I began to think this was the ‘real’ triple crown.

Urgent Action, Kilnsey. Supercool, Goredale. The Groove, Malham. It’s doesn’t get much better than that! Having climbed all 3 routes already, with UA and SC flashed, it had to be attempted in a day. Theoretically I figured if I worked them to death, rested up, chose the right day, used a belay bunny, and had someone drive me from Sheffield it would be OK, but I didn’t want it to be OK, I wanted it to be hard! And also I couldn’t be bothered with a lot of effort. That’s the beauty of climbing, we can pick our own challenge. I aimed for just a day of prep and then to go for it. This seemed like the bare minimum I’d get away with! And I opted for a cycle transport, as a foot injury meant running wasn’t possible. You make your own rules in this funny game after all, but since Andy had ran, I had to follow suit, kind of; and a bike seemed fair enough. Ironically, it turns out Andy didn’t do it after all! So that’s interesting, would I have even considered to cycle without the rumour? Would I have even considered the challenge? It’s funny how rumours spread. Climbing is such an honesty based sport. In the past it was all about honesty. We never questioned anything. Maybe the odd porkie was told! But a rumour may spread without the climber in question even knowing about their apparent achievement! Many people ‘knew’ of Andy’s effort, from somewhere, unknown. Only now after my effort has Andy actually been asked, and for him to confirm that he never did it, try it, or claim it!

17 8 tripple crown

Image - finalcruxfilms - who filmed my struggle for BMCTV, due out soon


But thank goodness for rumours! Since Rainman I’ve pondered a lot on why we climb and what we choose as a challenge. As a sport climbing seems really quite incredible, to have so many options. And regardless of ability we can all play the same game. Take this challenge, the Triple, there is a 7c, a 7c+, and an 8a version of equal quality. I can probably make up an 8b version too. Or how about the triple triple, which could be 3 x 7c, 3 x 8a 3 x 8a+ in a day. Or in fact any other combination. There is a lifetimes worth of things to do, regardless of what level you are at.

So I’d just poured half a lifetime it seemed into one route. How about half a week into these three routes? Day 1 was so much fun, as my ‘prep’ day turned into a ‘go for it day’ with everything against me! Super scorching, missing holds on UA, getting lost and sunstroked on the bikeride, falling off SC, then climbing it in the full sun. And ending up at a blistering Malham exhausted but still giving it everything only to fall right at the top. Failure? No, an incredible day out which would have been only very slightly better if I’d managed a few more moves.

Back Thursday. Honestly? I didn’t fancy my chances. Aching, wobbly legs, skin trashed. One rest day was not enough. Normally it would have been, but to have dug so deep into reserves takes a bit of climbing out of! What a fight, somehow the first two went, with a leg destroying ride in between!

And back to Malham. And I knew without doubt it was a one shot effort. I didn’t even have enough energy to work the moves, just had to hope I could remember them all. And again, the half-height rest, that place where everyone recovers, I was barely hanging on: leg intensive my legs were shot! Prematurely I was setting off, sprinting as the pump poured in; basically my tank didn’t have enough fuel … But this time conditions were just that bit better, I could feel texture and bite. The crux went with little to spare, but the last 15 moves of pumpy climbing was a scrap to the limit, wobbling and shuddering my way up as planned sequences collapsed. Body sagging, holds out of reach, improvising and slapping with an out of time clock chiming the end. Somehow the belay came. What a buzz.

For some reason it didn’t seem to matter if I failed or succeeded, if indeed I could have had failed, as I’d succeeded in having a two truly incredible days out at three great crags with great friends, plus fantastic bike rides. Looking back it feels like I’ve been on a holiday, with so much packed in. This will be one of my years highlights for sure, but not because I ‘succeeded’ but because I had so much fun. We pick our own challenge after all. I could have picked 3 8a’s to make it easier, 3 8b’s to make it harder, could have carried a bag of rocks on my bike, or just gone in the car. I could have prepped it properly, worked it into submission, but it was more fun to push it. If you want to play to the limit, sometimes it will be out of reach. The harder you play the more fun you’ll have!

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