Joe Heeley adds Eyes Wide Shut â€“ a new E9 to Dovedale
- Sunday 9th August 2020 at 2.56pm
Sept 21st; 2016
Joe Heeley has swopped his bouldering pads for a trad rack to add Eyes Wide Shut (E9 6c/7a) on The Watchtower, Dovedale.
Joe Heeley on Eyes Wide Shut. Video grab from Ace Film and Photography
Decades ago, Ron Fawcett blasted Dovedale into the spotlight with Eye of the Tiger (E7 6c) on the pristine rock of Ilam Rock. Despite this however Dovedale has never really been in the thick of the action and is generally considered the sleepy backwater of the Peak District. However, maybe - just maybe - this is set to change given Heeley’s Eyes Wide Shut comes less than a year since Tom Randall added Final Round (HXS, F8a+/8b) on the same wall as Fawcett’s EOTT.
Relatively new onto the peak scene, Joe Heeley is usually found hanging off some of the harder of the Peak’s boulder problems. Heeley is an avid trainer – following no less than two training programmes. CLIMBER have been in touch with Joe for the low-down…
Great effort on the new E9; not many of those on Peak Lime egh - yours and perhaps Tom Randall’s Final Round. It sounds quite a find, you must be pretty chuffed?
Thanks very much. Yeah, don't think there’s many around. And I think Tom ended up giving his route HXS..! Although the climbing is more sustained and harder on his route. I’m really chuffed to be honest!! Its nice having originally thought the line might not be possible, to work it all the way through to being able to finish it. And on top of that for it to be a strong line, with some really world class moves, especially at the top!
So how did you get switched onto that line?
I grew up only a few villages away from Dovedale so have always known the area like the back of my hand. Since being introduced to new route climbing a few years ago I’ve always thought that there was option for development down in the Dale. I’ve actually known about the project for probably two years now but just
never had the time to go and look at it. My focus has been on bouldering for several years now so to go and look at a trad route which definitely gets into the realms of sport climbing fitness as meant bouldering has been put to the back of my mind.
Can you describe where the route goes relative to the existing routes on that wall - where it starts and if it crosses other routes etc.
So the line goes directly through the obvious scoop between the start of Adjudicator Wall and Wall of Straws. After the scoop and bulge you arrive at the jugs in the middle of the traverse on Adjudicator. From the jugs and a good rest you forge on up in a straight line through another scoop to a final bouldery bulge section on strange Euro-style limestone. After this section you arrive at jugs and a nice wander up an easy slab to safety at the top.
E9 6c/7a is a pretty big number set. Can you break it down into the different sections and tell us about the climbing and the gear please
Haha, yeah, it is a pretty big number! So firstly I’ll talk about the climbing and then a bit about the grading process. The route is split very definitively into two parts. The lower section is the hardest climbing but in relative terms is the safer of the two sections. You begin on an incredibly thin, technical slab, with atrocious feet and poor undercuts for your hands. The crux movement rightwards brings you to a series of shallow pockets and substantially more powerful climbing, still with atrocious feet. The crux is safe-ish as I found out after dropping it quite a number of times before finally leading the route but I was glad to have a spotter who took a lot of the impact out of the falls. After the crux you are in a position where falling isn’t really an option. The first piece of gear comes about 7 or 8 meters. The placement is amazing but placing it is not the easiest as it’s very pumpy. After this you make relatively big and powerful moves through a bulge before a final lunge to the juggy rest on Adjudicator. Its French 8a+ to this point.
At the jugs, you can get some good gear and pretty much fully recover. Saying that when I was on lead I definitely wasn't able to recover as much as in practice! The wall above has some lovely techy (but easy) moves protected by two small RP’s. You eventually arrive at a large sidepull, which was actually wet on the ascent, and here you prepare yourself for the second crux above. After placing a final small brass offset you set off through a powerful series of undercuts and awful slopers leading to a final delicate set up of really high feet leading to an explosive dyno to a jug. It’s worth noting that I only caught the top move about 50% of the time when working the route.
Whilst on the lead I discovered that the gear wasn't as good as I thought. After seating the crucial high piece of gear and setting my feet for the last move my gear fell out and it dropped to the ledge far below. I did my best to ignore it and threw for the jug, fortunately catching it and pulling over to the relative safety of the slab. It was only once I was on the slab, that I had a rush of emotions and consciousness, realising just what a situation I had got through. Retrospectively I’m fairly certain that the next closest piece of gear would not have held due to the fragile nature of the rock meaning that a ground fall from 23-ish metres was almost guaranteed. If not at the very least it would have been seriously close! After stopping shaking and calming myself I put a sling on a final small tree and continued to the safety of the top. From the rest to the top is somewhere between 7c and 8a although it definitely felt closer to 8a on the lead….!
Regarding the grading, I’ve found it incredibly difficult to summarise the experience with a number. I am more than happy to admit that I have not lead E9 before and therefore to grade a route as such is difficult. I have tried hard and bold routes but for me just repeating a route often does not justify the commitment and the potential danger, where as a first ascent I am more likely to feel the commitment is justified. I ended up grading the route based on conversations with others and from my understanding of the climbing and
protection on other confirmed routes. I would like to say that I would love to see and hear of people going and trying the route and if anyone has other suggestions towards the route I will happily take them, as I am sure there are far more qualified people to give a better opinion on the grading.
In terms of the tech grade, I have tried and done both English 6c and 7a moves and feel that it really sits in the funny grey area between the grades. Hopefully people will take it as hard 6c / soft 7a. I think that is fair.
There were some old bolts on that wall which Zippy (Mark Pretty) had placed. Tell us about them please and how you came to remove them?
Yes, the bolt dilemma was a difficult one. When I first inspected the route I was in two minds whether to try and add a bolt for the top section and have a strange hybrid route. In the end I decided that this wouldn't be appropriate as the position where the bolt would need to be, was such that it could potentially be clipped from a diversion on Adjudicator Wall and this would spoil a true classic! After speaking to more people I managed to find out that it was Zippy who bolted it. We had a conversation and it was decided that if the route could be done as a pure trad line then the bolts should be removed. This decision was not made lightly and lots of time was put into coming to this conclusion.
With two hard routes in successive seasons do you think there's more to do down in Dovedale on the trad front?
I’m certain there is more to be done! There are even crags with no routes on them. The real question is whether there is anything of worth..! Given my experience of new routing you’d be surprised the amount of gaps you can find even in the most packed crags. The vast majority of people don't notice the gaps in guidebooks, so if you've got the drive and the vision there are always routes to be done.
Have you had a look into the Dove Holes at the roofs there?
Yes. There is definitely potential although the issue with Dove Holes is the condensation. It’s almost always wet and even in dry conditions it’s often pretty dire. If it ever dries properly I’d love to have a play on quite a few of the old aid lines and see if they'll go free!
You've spent quite a bit of your time bouldering in the past so this seems quite a change in climbing style. How come?
Until recently I’ve spent my time bouldering due to a bad experience when I was younger causing me not to trust ropes - or more specifically belayers. However, when I first started climbing it was doing trad and it’s always been something I love. I’m finally starting to get over my head game and have begun to lead again, but find myself climbing at either end of my ability; i.e. climbs where I know I won’t fall or climbs where I know I can’t fall!
I think bouldering for a long period of time has set me up well for converting back to trad, especially on grit! I’m looking forward to seeing what I’m capable of!
You've very keen on your training - tell us a little about what you're typically doing and how it's helped?
Yeah, my training has been playing a massive part of my life at the moment. I’ve been working both with Lattice Training and Peak Pro Fitness in order to work towards some of my future big goals. With Lattice, after my assessment it was clear that my finger strength was good but my fitness was pretty poor, even for
a boulderer, so I’ve been working hard to try and even things out. But my sessions change every week so it’s hard to really pinpoint what I do. Basically get really pumped for long periods. And Tim from Peak Pro Fitness has been fixing all of my injuries and making sure I can perform at the best level I can which involves doing lots of physio, stretching and massaging! I know that I wouldn't have been able to recover on Eyes Wide Shut a few months ago, and after a string of injuries at the start of the year I wouldn't have been able to train or climb without my physio work.
What was the hardest route you'd done before this and do you think you see yourself doing more hard trad now?
To date the hardest route I had done was the second ascent of a now confirmed E7 at Birchen called The Kraken. I’d certainly like to be able to put my strengths to good use on some more hard trad, I still find it hard with motivation to put myself in risky situation when just repeating routes but there are a couple I’ve got my eye on and potentially some more new stuff on the horizon so watch this space!
Thanks to both Joe for sharing his thoughts and to Ace Film and Photography for the video grab. Stay tuned for the short film.