The Great Crack | E3 Trad climb at Curbar Edge

Also known as Right Eliminate.

Strangely, the guidebook author changed the name to 'Right Eliminate' despite Joe Brown naming it The Great Crack and the former name stuck for a long time.

There has been some controversy about the use of chockstones on the route, with various chockstones making an appearance through the routes lifetime. [1]


[1] Letter in On The Edge Issue 141, October 2004

Dear OTE,

I'm writing this letter to alert the off-line climbing community to a debate which has raged on-line on UKClimbing for the last 10 days, (nearly 900 postings on the subject to date). Passions have been inflamed, emails exchanged, friends divided, enemies created - all because I took a stone out of a crack.

In preparation for a forthcoming trip to Yosemite, I led Right Eliminate, an off-width crack at Curbar Edge , for the first time. A chock- stone at two-thirds height in the route doubled as an (almost!) unavoidable hold and a runner. It also hid the best (natural) hold on the route. Afterwards I reflected on how the chockstone detracted from, and compromised, one of the best offwitdth cracks in the country.

On the UKClimbing forum, I suggested removing the chockstone. It was quickly clear that there was both support and opposition for such an action. Being unconvinced by the arguments against, I removed the chockstone on a trial basis. Re-leading the route a few days later confirmed its greatly improved quality and only slightly greater difficulty.

Graded E3, Right Eliminate is one of the few pure offwidth cracks in the country and is visible from some distance. First led in 1951 by Joe Brown, the route was only protectable with chockstones, whereas nowadays it can be well protected with a couple of large cams. The chockstone was presumably placed on abseil by Joe or one of his mates [ed. this is not the case.]. However, its additional use as a hold meant that Right Eliminate was effectively climbed with a point of aid. Nevertheless, it was an outstanding achievement for the time. Latterly Right Eliminate's status as an iconic route was ensured by its inclusion in Extreme Rock and with such guidebook descriptions as 'the energy expended on each ascent could light Sheffield for a week' and 'striking terror into the hearts of stick insects everywhere'.

In the 1980s Paul Mitchell removed some lower chockstones and re-led the route, managing to somehow contort his way past the key chockstone, without using it for aid. However, this intriguing piece of climbing history was not common knowledge or recorded in the 1985 or 1991 guidebook and the purist style of Paul's ascent has not been widely imitated, if at all.

Reporting my trial removal of the chock- stone on UKClimbing has resulted in intense debate (both pro and anti). Sadly this debate has sometimes spilled over into personal abuse with the UKClimbing moderators having to step in to remove some particularly objection-able posts. The main schism appears to be ethics/aesthetics, versus history/tradition. I've climbed on grit for 20 years, including new routes, and am mindful of tradition and history. Yet, I am convinced that a strikingly pure, challenging and compelling crack of rare quality should not be cluttered and obstructed with a piece of rubble however historically interesting.

Anyone who has done the route will have grappled with the chockstone as it swivelled on its axis when pulled on. Not only was this trashing the crack each time a climber hung and threaded it, but its potential to pop out or crumble as a hold or runner increased as well. Admittedly it may have popped tomorrow or in 50 years time but the ease with which I lifted it out suggested that if Right Eliminate had received the traffic of more popular routes in the vicinity the chockstone would have disappeared in a dangerous way years ago.

Finally, I would once again emphasise that my removal of the chockstone was always on a trial basis. It can be returned to its wrongful(?) place if the majority opinion is that this is the right thing to do. Or there may be other solutions... I would encourage off-line readers to respond to OTE as the online community has had our fair say. I would encourage readers even more to go out and climb this now flawless line. I don't know how this story is going to end but it has certainly challenged a lot of people, including myself, to re-examine our priorities and opinions.

Simon Lee, Sheffield

Contributors: remus

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Graham Hoey
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Added at 06:10 on 19 October 2021


2 recorded ascents.

Climber Style Ascent Date Suggested Grade
Joe Brown Lead | onsight 1951
First ascent.
Graham Hoey Lead | onsight