Friday, 8 February 2008


The other day I got a text from a friend about a slide show happening on Wednesday night at a local pub - I’d been feeling the lack of anything resembling a social life for a while now so jumped at the opportunity! We arrived late to the back of a darkened and packed function room with half the people standing, staring at the slides on show - the speaker? John Dunne.

I like his style - his talk and show was nicely pitched and didn't sound like a string of ego-massaging stories and he seemed all-to quick to put his achievements in place but he came across as just very, very sound and down to earth! With pictures from everywhere from Grit, Mournes, North Wales, Pembroke, France, Spain, all over the States, China, Himalayas - John recapped on a career full of climbing. He loves to make a joke of the controversy surrounding his hard trad leads - my favourite line running something like this...
"well it was definitely hard, and I’d spent longer on this than on anything else I’d ever climbed so once it was done I had to give it a cool name and a grade.... well I have never struggled with the name part but the grade, well lets just say that the 1st assentionist can never exactly get the grade right because you've always got the fact looming over you that this has never been done before, once you've done it others KNOW it's possible... so I could have given it 8c+ or 9a... no competition then really is there?!" he quipped with a laugh "That'll get there tongues flappin'!".
He took that stance with all of his new routes, why not encourage interest and repeats by putting the highest grade on a route and have the grade settle after a few repeats? Surprisingly he estimated only around 100 new routes - and his perspective on his reasons and motivation for new routing was refreshing. He had climbed all the existing lines at his local crag and there were beautiful features and definite lines just waiting to be lead. He established new routes out of necessity! Although he never made any real effort to defend any of his route grades, he made no bones about his belief in the high quality of all his routes (except Deitrius, E8, 6c choss pile on the little Orme, Llandudno). He talked openly about the recent repeats and subsequent downgrading of some of his lines like Divided Years and Breathless by Birkett and MacLeod and seemed more pleased that all climbers involved remarked on the exceptional quality of the lines and felt the grade a secondary issue.
His pictures and stories covered all types of climbing - bouldering, sport, trad, big wall, alpine.... but it was interesting to hear his opinions of how his focus has shifted between the different aspects throughout the years. Initially he began on Grit but soon focused on Yorkshire Limestone - This he attributes all of his hard trad climbing to. If you can climb 8b or higher on limestone you can prepare for and lead a necky 8a (referring to Parthian shot, E9 7a). now he is finding himself wanting to push his sport climbing again and with a property in France he finished with a slide of Ceuse - he never mentioned the name but he just said to the audience that he was at a point where he wanted to push his physical limits safely and when you have crags like this in France with a lifetime of climbing on them why look further.... indeed

Anyway - it was a brilliant show and another valuable top up in motivation (as if I need any more!).

Have a look at some of the pictures at the link below....

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