There is a great little 8a high above the road in Avon Gorge called Academic. Its has a brilliant boulder problem crux which is reached by a few moves up a blocky arete and a sketchy traverse. This route is a must for anyone operating around this level in the Bristol area.
The direct start was an oft talked about and occasionally tried project which climbs straight to the mid hight jug via some very hard climbing.
I tried the direct a few years ago, when I was up belaying Mike Goldthorpe on the original, despite not being able to do all of the moves I was fairly confident that it would be possible although I was still a long way off. After my initial attempt I didn’t return to the route for some time although I often thought about giving it more attention.
A couple of weeks ago after coaching on the UpGrade Junior coaching day Ben West and I popped up there to give it another bash. The direct start revolves around three hand moves and eight foot moves. You start with your right hand on a good pinch, left hand to a poor intermediate before taking a half pad undercut. You then move your feet several times to get a heel behind the pinch. The heel stabilises you on the undercut so you can take a small quarter pad side pull with your right hand. The crux is stepping out of the heel hook onto a spike, bumping your left foot to a smear before putting your heel back behind the pinch. You then do a big move to reach the mid hight “jug” before climbing the crux of the original route.
I think the lower crux would probably get Font 7C+ as a boulder problem and the top crux is about Font 7B.
After a few hours of trying the moves it started to come together. I could do everything but the big move to the “jug”. A few minor body position tweaks and I latched the move. If felt like it would take some time to refine the whole sequence in order to link it, non the less I thought I should have a redpoint. To my astonishment everything fell into place on the first go and I found myself with just the crux of the original route above me. Almost fluffing this I pulled my self over the top with the first ascent of Academic Direct 8b in the bag.
Although the route isn’t the most inspiring line it is good to have a route of this difficulty in town and it has got to have some of the hardest moves in the gorge on it. I look forward to others repeating it.
I have since returned and placed two glue in bolts to give the start a more independent feel. Get on it people.
Fore anyone interested here is a video of the classic Swimming through a shark attack 8a+ in El Chorro which I climbed a few month back