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James Pearson Sends Bold E9 Harder, Faster

It's only the third ascent of Harder, Faster in England in 20 years

James Pearson has climbed a bold gritstone testpiece called Harder, Faster at Black Rocks in England. He’s only the third climber to send the E9 7a. It’s considered one of the most dangrous climbs in the U.K.

Harder, Faster climbs a direct line next to the classic Gaia, which was first climbed by Johnny Dawes in 1986. It’s a run-out climb on technical slopers. A fall could be deadly.

The first ascent was by Charlie Woodburn in November 2000, belayed by Tim Emmett, and was repeated only once, back in 2003 by Lucky Chance. Australian climber Chance died in 2015 in a rope-swing accident.

After his send, Woodburn said: As I flow through the sequence of moves, I am only partially aware of what I am doing. My thoughts are hazy, in a self-induced state of obedience. The body leads and the mind follows, always one step behind, always in a state of humble acknowledgement, registering the present as it flows, unaware of future or past, free from the savage responsibility of thought.

Fear and thought are synonymous and consequently the most frightening part of the ascent coincides with the only moment of dominance my mind has: the decision to go. Concentration is of the essence, the act of forcibly stupefying the senses and allowing myself to follow the drift of my own body. As I climb, I feel as though I am leaving myself behind, and by giving myself up to the movement of the rock, by concentrating myself into the subtle tensions the moves require, I am able to escape the obligation to think, and this, more than anything else, brings me a measure of peace.”

Watch Mike Weeks attempt Harder, Faster below in 2001 below.

Harder, Faster Attempt