20th January 2016

The fine line of failure and success: Heading the Shot 7a+

falling off rock climbing slate wales

Heading the Shot is a route that I’ve wanted to do for a couple of years, the trouble is it’s hard! It gets given two grades, E5 6b if you don’t pre-place the quickdraws and 7a+ if you do, as although it’s bolted there’s a couple of bits you’d deck out from – they’re pretty spaced. I’d long ago decided that if I was to ever get on the lead, I’d pre-place the ‘draws.

Over the last two years I’ve gone up there three times and worked the moves on a fixed line and every time I felt like I was so far off the mark. The holds are mega thin and the hard moves are sustained – they keep on coming! Although I’ve been training down the wall a lot over the last few months the strength gains don’t really help on a route like this, there’s no big holds to crank on, it’s all about delicate rock overs and balancy climbing on very small holds. What does translate though is the confidence and head game, I’m happy falling off and super confident that my belayer will be concentrating which helps massively. Having never climbed 7a+ before it was always going to be a big challenge.

So yesterday we went up to Serengeti where Heading the Shot is to have a play on a top rope. I abbed down the route placing ‘draws to keep the rope in the right place so we didn’t swing around too much when falling or resting, the holds looked as small as ever! Michelle went first and although she rested a few times got all the moves done. My turn, this is hard, shit. I got all the moves but lowered off pretty despondent about it and with toes in agony from them being crammed into tight Five Ten Whites, pushing onto tiny edge after tiny edge.

Michelle went for the lead getting up to and past the first bolt, there’s a tricky move to get in to a position where you can clip the bolt and her head wasn’t in the right gear so she took a small fall and lowered off. Now I had decided there was no point at all in having a go that day, but had a quick change of heart sensing maybe, just maybe I could do something Michelle couldn’t! Past the first bolt, all steady, up to the second bolt, still good. The next moves make up the crux sequence and I just couldn’t commit, I lowered down, happy to have got on it but still not sure I had it in me.


We made the decision to go back the next day.

Now one advantage I do sometimes have (apart from being lanky!) is if I really want a route I can switch my leading head on enabling me to concentrate and climb far better than when I’m practising on a top rope, and I really wanted this route and knew I could try harder.

Walking back up this morning with Michelle and Oreo, the weather was amazing with wall to wall blue skies and when we got there the slate was warm to the touch. Days like this put all the rain we’ve had to the back of your mind.

Michelle was up first, top roping it one last time before the lead, she got it clean which was great, this meant no more excuses for her about not getting on the lead. I’d decided not to top rope it, there wasn’t any point, I knew the moves and all I needed to do was try harder so after a quick warm up of jogging on the spot and swinging my arms around, I went for it.

Go number one (that tells you what’s coming up!), the climbing was just as hard but I was progressing move after move feeling confident on every one of the small holds. First bolt, second bolt, boom – crux done, clip the third bolt and I’m on to the big holds of the traverse. Arghhh! My foot popped when I really wasn’t expecting it and I was off. I was super pleased to have cruised the crux but so frustrated to have failed after the hard part of the climbing.

Michelle’s go, she has to do the crux differently to me and she peeled off the route coming up to the third bolt making what seems like a really hard move.

Go number two for me, psyched up off I go, second bolt clipped, noooo, foot popped before the crux and I’m dangling again.

Mid fall screen grab!

Michelle’s go number two and she fell off the tenuous move she has to do again after looking super solid up to that point.

Go number three for me. I didn’t want to have to get on this again after this effort so I was ready to give it my absolute all. Up to the crux fairly easily, this is it, awesome I’ve made it on to the good holds of the traverse. DO NOT FALL OFF NOW! I crimped hard and made sure I wasn’t going come off here again, this time I made it in to the finishing groove which still isn’t a push over and was standing on great holds – the kind it’s hard to leave. The fourth bolt was clipped, a fall would be perfectly safe, I just did not want to ruin this attempt so I took my time, stayed calm and stupidly proceeded to climb the top section via a completely different sequence, which luckily worked…

I was super stoked to get this route ticked, it had taken time and effort, afterwards I definitely felt a sense of achievement and a healthy dose of relief to have got it.

Michelle still hasn’t got it, but 100% will next time!

To put it all in to perspective for me, someone came along just after and on-sighted it with relative ease!


Heading the Shot is an awesome route on a great looking slab in the Slate quarries of Llanberis. There’s a brilliant guidebook for the slate by Ground Up and more importantly there’s great cafes nearby.

Check out the Facebook page for more shots etc. of what we’ve been up to lately.


  1. Leave a Reply

    Paul Phillips, UKClimbing
    23rd January 2016

    Nice one Jez!

  2. Leave a Reply

    Jez Brown
    23rd January 2016

    Cheers! Kubla Khan next hopefully 🙂

  3. Leave a Reply

    4th September 2016

    Glad you liked it, it’s a grand little sequence! Originally the bolts (homemade) were fitted with ex army steel karabiners. These just fitted the hangers, making it possible to clip “on site”. They quickly disappeared, and I had no desire to fund someone else’s rack!

  4. Leave a Reply

    Jez Brown
    5th September 2016

    Cheers for your efforts back then Nick, quality route!

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