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Rich Purnell Ups the Ante with Latest Mixed Testpiece Disco

 Rich Purnell Ups the Ante with Latest Mixed Testpiece Disco

by Editor

March 12, 2003

Throughout this winter, like any other winter, Rich Purnell has been busy making sure Vail, Colorado remains one of the world's top destinations for elite mixed climbers. Over the past few years he has established many "off the chart" mixed climbs including: Pitch Black(M9), Somnambulist(M10), Svengali(M9), Misery(M9-), Inferno(M10) and Lucky(M11). This year Rich has managed to dish up his latest testpiece which he dubbed Disco located in an undisclosed area nicknamed "The Club" located somewhere around Vail.

Rich says, "I noticed the line back in the winter of 2001 when I had redpointed my route Inferno(M10). (Editor's note - Which, by the way, still has not seen a repeat even though many people have been working on it.) So, in my race to keep Vail up to the standards of mixed climbing with the rest of the world, I had to go back and put this route up. Disco is probably the shortest most intense route anyone will ever do. After bolting the route, I could not even do one move on it, and I wondered why I even bothered putting it up.

Do I really need another full year project like Lucky(M11)?


The route consists of about 25 feet of pure horizontal climbing on (most likely) the steepest and longest roof in Colorado. You make only 3 moves in 20 feet of climbing, and the holds are about the worst you could imagine hanging on upside down. The movement on this route is exactly the way I like them (i.e. very weird). I was heel hooking my tool and making long powerfully dynamic lunges to small holds all in a very short span - short enough to get really worked but not long enough to get bored. I remember being really scared to pull off one of the moves in the initial part of the route. The move consists of a 10 foot lunge to a very small and bad hold. Once I made the move, my body was so stretched out that when I released my heel hook I swung violently. The only way to stop the swinging was to kick my feet against the ceiling 5 times (above my head) to get a tool heel hook. Disco finally ends on a 30 foot pillar of Grade 5 ice which compliments the route because more and more routes are being put up that have no ice on them at all. It seems that the future of mixed climbing will be the short super powerfull climbs with little or no holds."

C4 - OK, I noticed that you didn't even bother giving Disco a grade. Is it as hard as Gadd's Musashi, Mario Bubu Bole's Mission Impossible which he initially rated "M Bubu", or Lucky(M11) that you established last year?

Rich - "To compare it to Musashi would be kind of silly since Musashi is so long and so featured and Disco sort of represents a powerful V11 and/or a hard A5+ aid climb."

C4 - You mentioned that to correctly rate it, you would have to reinvent the current grading scale. Can you explain?

Rich - "My reason in saying that I would have to reinvent the grading system isn't a lame excuse for saying it is M14. I am only saying that the present grading system isn't working anymore considering the increasing population of new (high-end) lines. So, I, along with others, have chosen not to rate mixed climbs anymore - check out Ryan Nelson's website Mixed Dreams - he proposes a whole new concept.

Anyway Disco is a horrendously powerful, reachy, no feet, scary, route that resembles a nightmare A5+ aid climb with powerfull V11 bouldery moves all the while being only 10 feet off the ground. Leading this route clipping all the bolts is part of the crux. Because, if you blow any of the clips, you will hit the deck. It is like comparing a 10 move V11 to a 3 move V11 boulder problem. There are going to be people who could do the longer route, and not many who can pull off the shorter route. Its so different than routes like Reptile, Sven Krebs Goldline or Mushasi where there are so many juggy holds that anyone could climb them. Instead they will be somewhat simailar to Lucky where all the holds are small, bad and few and far inbetween. I'm thinking that in the future this is going to be the "next wave" of hard mixed climbs routes that are on the short side with small bad holds that are 15' apart."

C4 - Rich you are a sick, sick man!

When Rich and his crew are not busy establishing some of the world's hardest routes they can usually be found making films about establishing the world's hardest mixed climbs. To see more about his latest film, check out the Camp4 review of MX: Leashless Mixed Ice Climbing or visit M9Ice.

Accompanying photos taken by Tim Aex of Aex Photography from Summit County, Colorado.

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Live To Climb