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Rich Purnell Gets Lucky

 Rich Purnell Gets Lucky

by Editor

April 30, 2002

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

During some late season action, Rich Purnell ups the ante with Lucky (M11/10+), Vail's newest and hardest mixed climb. The redpoint for the "original" Lucky went on April 2, however Rich climbed the Lucky "extension" - an additional three bolts- on April 10. Camp4 chats with Rich about climbing, his new route, and the future of mixed climbing.

C4- Rich, please describe the route Lucky for C4 readers. (See accompanying photos throughout this article.)

Rich- The route Lucky begins at the small roof at the top of The Little Thang ( behind the Fang). It Consists of hard pulls through a small steep section that gains a twenty-five foot blank featureless roof of long and technically difficult moves to reach the last thirty feet of the Fang. I spent over 20 days this winter working the route and falling off the same hold over and over until, thank goodness, it broke and reveled a better popcorn-sized hold. The moves required to gain the ice are strenuous and few and far in-between. The difficult moves include sidepulling on small nuggets, long reaches to small ledges (that break most of the time), and heelhooking above your head (upside down all the way). It is definitely the strangest route I've done, but it is no different than the other five roof routes (Pitch Black (M9), Somnambulist (M10), Svengali (M9), Misery (M9-), and Inferno (M10)) I have put up in the Vail area.

Rich Purnell on Lucky (M11/10+) The original Lucky started off of the 7th Tentacle. But after I sent the route "leashless" in early spring, I took a small vacation (thinking the season was over) and contemplated the route. I came up with adding 3 more bolts to connect the start from the 7th Tentacle to the Little Thang and walaa you have the hardest route in Vail coming in at m11/10+.

C4- We have noticed you are involved with M9Films. What is this? Is it your project?

Rich- M9Films ( is my project, and it was started because I could not believe there were not any mixed ice climbing videos on the market. Plus, I wanted to make films. I also believed that there were too many unknown talented climbers who need exposure and releasing videos would help in propelling the sport to the next level. We are set to release a "leashless" video this summer/fall, MX Where Ice Meets West.

C4- Most climbers we know are still using leashes. What is the appeal for top climbers to be climbing routes "leashless" these days? Is it much harder than climbing with leashes? If it is all about style, do you see it as the way other climbers should be doing new routes? Last season we talked to Will Gadd and he thought leashless climbing was great for competitions and dry tooling. What's your take?

Rich Purnell on Lucky (M11/10+) Rich- As for leashless climbing, I tried it a few years ago and was not impressed at all, but this year I got a hold of the new fangled ergonomically correct scuds from Simond. Now I will not go back to leashes at all- not even for (pure) ice routes. The new tools allow you to enable a style that not only looks "cool", but it is so much more efficient . When you start out climbing leashless it is harder in a few ways- the pump and strength factor and the thought of not knowing whether or not you can actually hang on to the tools upside down, etc. When you are fatigued, this was and still is my weakness with leashless climbing, it is hard to hold on. I'm totally hooked on the leashless style of climbing, and I bet that it is the direction the sport will go. It has now gotten to the point where a sport climbing background will help tremendously. I'm psyhed that its a new game and keeps getting reinvented.

Check out M9Ice for more information on Rich's project M9Films.

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