Climbing a Classic in Wintour’s Leap: King Kong

Climbing a Classic in Wintour’s Leap: King Kong

King Kong is a route that has been in my mind for some time.  It is an intimidating and striking line that follows a grove and corner crack to the top of the Go Wall in Wintour’s Leap.  Since the first ascent in 1965 there has been 2 substantial rock falls, resulting in the collapse of the initial overhang but it remains an excellent line full of a wide variety of strenuous, exciting, and committing climbing. 

The route is split into 3 pitches, but the real climbing is in the first 2: Pitch 1 – E1 5a 40m, Pitch 2 – E1 5b 40m and Pitch 3 – ungraded 10m.  I researched this route for some time, pouring over pictures and reading accounts of climber’s epics and successes on the route.  It was going to be a battle, but I felt confident as I have been climbing well on both sport and traditional routes.

The weather during the previous weeks had been varied and unsettled.  A couple times when we were ready to pounce, the weather had had other ideas.  However, the Friday afternoon looked ideal and the week had been relatively dry.  Ian and I booked off the Friday afternoon so we could arrive in good time to make sure we could top out before it got dark (at around 18.00). 

As we descended through Woodcroft quarry, I felt anxiously excited on the approach towards the bottom of the Go Wall.  I have climbed several E2 single pitches, but this was to be the hardest multipitch to date.  Walking quickly through the woods, swinging my arms to get the blood flowing, I spotted a helmet through the leaves.  A pair of climbers had beaten us to the start, disaster!!  The leader was well up on the first pitch and we chatted to the belayer who asked what we wanted to climb, “King Kong” I replied. 

Never mind, after a quick discussion and a check of the clock; 15.00.  We decided that if we were not on the wall by 16.00, we would bail as to avoid getting stuck on the wall in the dark.  I watched the pair climb, standing well back as to not distract them.  The time ticked away as I anxiously watched, trying to keep myself warm by walking around the woods.  As the second started on the wall, I grabbed my gear, jumped in my harness, and started getting ready.  15.45, it is go time!

The first moves off the ground are desperately polished, I pulled out to the left of the bulge on a big hold that I was grateful to find.  Pulling up on to the main crack I was pleased to have reached the in situ chockstone thread. 

Looking up at from the ground at the moves into the corner

The crack provided some brilliant hand jams but the difficult angle of the wall and the polish feet made the moves feel hard and precarious.  I pulled to the next overhang where I came away from the main grove and into a small recess on the right, where there was a good tat anchor using 2 pitons and a small tree.  I backed this up with a bomber cam, choosing to break the first pitch in 2 as to retrieve some gear before taking on the second half.  I belay Ian up to the awkward stance, retrieved my gear and continued. 

Over the next few meters, the rock was precariously loose in places which does detract from the grandeur of the route, however, I moved above this onto the next section of climbing.  This follows up a small groove until nearing the top.  I placed a bomber cam and then stepped airily right onto an arete and then up a small slab.  After an easy runout I was reached a small piton.  The next moves were disconcertingly polished but none the less, the moves were fantastic.  Bridging athletically between the 2 cracks, placing a few solid nuts until face to face with the crux.  I found a 3-finger slot which I wedged my right-hand fingers into, then a high left foot layback on a polished triangular feature to a left hand pull and popping up to a solid ledge.  Airy and exciting, feeling gripped and aware of my protection now being below my feet I pulled through and continued up the easy ledges to the giant belay ledge.  I quickly set up an anchor, pulled on my coat and belayed Ian up to the stance. 

An autumnal view from the great belay stance after the first pitch

The next pitch is home to the infamous overhang.  It looms above at the end of a fantastic clean corner crack. 

The looming overhang can be above

When Ian arrived, the sun was hanging low in the sky, time was certainly running out. He opted to second this pitches as it was getting dark I am the stronger leader.

We changed over the gear and I shook my arms trying to warm them again.  The moves up the corner were an absolute joy, well protected and brilliant climbing.  Lots of bridging moves, followed by careful side pulls and laybacks right up to the menacing overhang.  Upon arriving at the overhang, I was feeling done in, my forearms were pumped and my legs shaky.  The route so far had been a constant body fight all the way. Placing good gear in the corner and the overhang, I gentle stepped to the far left of the overhang.  I was pleased to find that I could wedge my right shoulder in between the wall and the edge of the overhang for a no hands rest. 

I held here for a while, gentle shaking my arms, looking out for the features to help overcome the crux.  There it was, a small ledge at the bottom of the break which I had failed to spot before. Left foot in the break, left hand in a good hold on the wall and then a big bridge out to a small right foot placement on the overhang.  Poised with my body bridged across empty space, no back out now, I found a successive number of side pulls and using almost everything I had left, I pulled out of the overhang.  From here I followed the strenuous (but would have been easy at the beginning) crack until I reached a mucky and loose top out.  Having taken a monster whip from Cheddar a couple weeks back on a mucky top out, I very cautiously moved up and into the final chimney where I found an in situ thread which I used to belay Ian up. 

The sun was setting in the sky by this point, Ian climbed quickly and efficiently (with a couple of shouts on the crux) until he was stood next to me in the dark. 

The sun setting from the top of the 2nd pitch

Glad to have remembered our head torched, I headed up the final chimney.  This felt much harder than “ungraded” as the guide had recommended but this could well have been due to climbing in the dark and being thoroughly exhausted.

Tree runner in the dark

We topped out at about 18.30 well and truly knackered but beaming from ear to ear.  I solid high 5 and a few celebratory “whoops” later, we sorted the ropes and left the top of Wintour’s Leap. 

Exhausted but elated climbing duo at the top of King Kong

I have never climbed such a sustained and exhausting trad route.  The pitches were massive and had big, powerful moves throughout.  What an awesome route and definitely earnt its name as the king of the jungle!!

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