Gaia - First ascent, Johnny Dawes, 1986.
This was the real reason behind the choice of Black Rocks as the location for Mark's next trip out of the house. He wanted to examine Gaia!
This route is noted amongst serious climbers, who treat it with a huge amount of respect, and rightly so, as it is categorised E8; a significantly difficult grade, achievable only by the forerunners of the climbing community.
The route begins very gently with a straightforward traverse, but then starts to present some serious problems; the difficult sequence onto the vertical groove, 'handholds' which are little more than friction curves in the otherwise flat surface of the rock face, a delicate sideways stretch, requiring perfect balance and finally, a nerve jangling heel hook to pull the climber safely over the arete. Add to this, the fact that the last available placement for safety equipment is just below half way up, creating the potential for a massive fall, and it becomes clear why this route is only attempted by a very few elite practitioners at the top of the climbing fraternity.
Climb Gaia and everyone immediately knows that you are one of the best of the best!
Unfortunately, it doesn't always go right, but when it does...