It happened the other day pretty fast and I guess that’s the way I would’ve wanted it. Charlie Barrett had spoken to me about this historical route months ago. He claimed it was impossible to rally partners, it was his life-goal-route, and was simply amazing. I digested all of this and figured some more crack climbing for my artillery wouldn’t hurt, so we went out for a session the other week. Charlie, throughout the day educated me on the history of Grand Illusion. I leanred it was done by Tony Yaniro back in 1978 with pre-place gear and then done free in 1988 by Hidetaka Suzuki. The route has been called the first 5.13 in the world and I would say this is arguable, but it sure sounds cool!
Charlie comes from a pretty all around background but kills it in bouldering. He is very comfortable on granite and leading hard trad is not a big deal to him. Following his leads (not literally) at the cliff those couple of day at Sugarloaf was awesome. He was encouraging, never took it too seriously, but surely had a great emotional tie with Grand Illusion. He has put in random days of attempts over the past few years and believes this to be one of the most important sends he could make. His tries that day were close. He fell off the ending twice and all I could think about (my selfish ass) was how difficult it would be to rally a partner back up there so I could send it too! HA! Anyway… We failed that first day and left exhausted. It was mind-boggling to me to factor in the gear placements, the moves, and the total difficulty of the route. PLUS the rich history that I always take note of on a line like G.I.
Two days ago we finally met up again to try. I figured Charlie would dispatch the bastard right quick so I brought my A-game too as I figured that day was the day to make it happen, or at least get really close. The rig feels like mid-5.13 but there are all of the other elements you need to factor in. The gear is weird as it all uneven and wobbly looking. The lobes on the cams sit all uneven and that bugs me out so I needed to find my perfect spots which gave me confidence to blast through the next section. My warm-up go was devoted to sorting out my gear placements, positions, racking on my harness and even making some links. I found my tiny check-points, and then made one big link like you do in sport climbing. I was feeling confident after that.
Charlie’s first try was a flash-pump freakshow, as we only warmed up on 5.11’s. For 5.13 go-for-it-routes you need to be warmed up. After the third section into the route he opened up his cuts from our last session 10 days prior. FU*K! He pretty much called it after that and claimed that taping his fat-ass fingers wouldn’t work. I rested about 20 minutes and figured I would just go for it. I blasted through the hand-jam part that I CANNOT do so I lay it back, then got my hip-flexors in effect and paced my way up the V feature for about 5 minutes total. There was a few spots I felt like I coulda fallen, but I held it together with a sport-climber’s mentality of GO-FOR-IT and made it to the top. I was FU**IN psyched! A historical route, a BAD-ASS route, and I finally climbed something (as I have been injured and chilling a lot)!!!!!!!!!! I LOVE ROCK CLIMBING!!!!!!!!!!
This route is special and will be a moment in my life that I will not forget. It represents change, allowing things to happen, respecting the past, learning from other people, and always remembering to keep an open mind.
Thanks for the support and the good days up there Charlie… you’re my boy.