Trip Report
“Rock Athlete" and the First Free Ascent of “Carnage” at Malham Cove, UK
Sunday February 3, 2013 8:27pm
Received in the mail Ron Fawcett’s biography from Chessler recently and it’s quite entertaining, especially for those of us who climbed in the 70’s and 80’s. There are lots of observations about the Yosemite scene and the interactions between the British and American climbers during those times, from the point of view of one of the best British climbers. It includes this nice appreciation of John Long:

John was a brilliant bloke, full of humour and very friendly to me. This was one of the best things about going to California at such a young age. In Yorkshire, I felt people thought I was bit strange, even allowing for how shy I was. Here, I felt I could relax and be accepted. John played a big part in that.

John and Ron did an ascent of the Nose together and Fawcett’s description of his jog up El Cap with Largo is great fun. Strong team, that.

Also interesting to read of the influence John Bachar had on Fawcett and the other top Brits: in short, they were as blown away as the rest of us.

One item of personal interest made me sit up in my easy chair. In the back is a list of Fawcett’s significant ascents and included is the first free ascent in 1979 of “Carnage,” one of the classic climbs included in Ken Wilson’s compilation of the best routes in Britain, Hard Rock. Carnage is located in Malham Cove, a beautiful limestone amphitheater in the north of England. Here is an article describing the area and the climbing:

Stevie Haston reviewed Fawcett’s book on his blog and it includes the list I am referring to:

Well, it so happens that Gib Lewis and I eliminated the aid from that route on our trip to Europe in the summer of 1977, two years earlier. Hard Rock had just become available and we sought out Carnage primarily because of a dramatic black and white photo in the book of an airy mantle near the top of the route. The narrative mentioned some points of aid, so we intended all along to see if it would go free.

It wasn’t extremely hard, even by the standards of 35 years ago (now 6a, E2 or about 5.10d ), and I recall that neither of us fell on it. It is certainly one of the easiest climbs on Fawcett’s impressive life list. We weren’t sure it was the first free ascent, and Gib recalls that we told Al Manson and T.I.M Lewis (working then for Mountain Magazine) about it. But it didn’t get reported at the time, and over the years I forgot all about it.

So, I don’t expect Fawcett will mind giving up the credit on this one, since he and Livesey snatched a number of fine firsts over here in those years, such as the FFA of Crack-a-Go-Go. Only fair play and good blokery, what?

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Rick A
About the Author
Rick A is a climber from Boulder, Colorado.


Trad climber
The state of confusion
  Feb 3, 2013 - 09:01pm PT

Well done, Rick. But they say it's for mortals. . .
prolly knot back then!
Peter Haan

Trad climber
  Feb 3, 2013 - 09:36pm PT
Thanks Ricky for pointing all this out. I really liked Fawcett. It is true he was really quite young back then, his first trip out, and benefited greatly by being in tow with the loquacious and expansive Pete Livesey. Pete was one of the funniest climbers I have ever met and the two of them did awfully well back then. I will always miss Pete.

And Crack-a-go-go was one of the first really new wave routes in the Valley, too. They were so proud to bag it, albeit to Roger Breedlove's immense irritation at the time. Roger had been cleaning it out and hoping to give it a go, so to speak. Several of us immediately did the subsequent free ascents, all within weeks of Pete and Ron's really impressive achievement. It was around this time that Livesey coined the term, "Japanese film maker's grass". It was in his informal Climbs in Yosemite guide (loose ring bound) (title may not be exact here), I think where he describes the Moratorium FFA.
Rick A

Boulder, Colorado
Author's Reply  Feb 5, 2013 - 03:01pm PT
I'm hoping to find a picture of Malham Cove somewhere, but no luck so far.

Peter-Any idea when Bachar first soloed CAGG? It is probably correct to say that his on sight solo of the Moratorium was a response to the stiff competition from overseas and I wonder if the same is true of his solo of CAGG?


  Feb 6, 2013 - 12:19pm PT
I'm hoping to find a picture of Malham Cove somewhere, but no luck so far.

There you go !

Trad climber
Sierra Vista
  Feb 6, 2013 - 01:20pm PT
I did it free in about 77/78 and assumed that that was normal then. It gets E2 6B nowadays, which is probably about right, being (As I recall)a very stiff pull just off a ledge

I still haven't got around to Ron's book, or any of the other recent biographies other than the Perrin's one on Whillans.



Rick A

Boulder, Colorado
Author's Reply  Feb 6, 2013 - 04:52pm PT
Steve- Here’s what we do: Gib and I will claim the FFA in the appendixes of our respective autobiographies (yet to be written) and you can do the same in yours!

I recall that the overhang was crux, but I don’t remember much else. Was the ledge you mention below the overhang?

Andy-thanks. I was thinking that I had some photos from 1977, but can’t find them yet.

Trad climber
Sierra Vista
  Feb 6, 2013 - 06:41pm PT

Rick, I recall an 'overhung ledge' which was where you belayed

Here's a photo from Flickr

The peg was on the lip, a very fingery pull led to some easier campussing up to better holds.

I'd guess that prior to that the peg would have been used as a hand hold and with a sling for a foot?