Not only has Alexis Perry made a historical 3rd ascent of Mark Edwards’ Question Mark ~E9, he has also completed the first ascent of Exclamation Mark – now also given E9! This obvious direct start straightens out the parent route and involves hard climbing straight to the skyhooks and crux moves. Alexis sent in some information – here it is:
“I first got interested in Question Mark years ago, but then surely most climbers in the SW have got a least a passing interest in that pair of amazing overhanging aretes. Top roped it back in the day and couldn’t do it; got on it in 2013 and got a sequence but couldn’t link it; got on it this January and could do it reliably. Given that winter is too short and form is temporary, I got proper psyched up – had one abortive visit where it was too cold and windy but then did it on Feb 3rd. Headpoint was smooth as silk in perfect conditions.
“The lower arete is obvious and although the parent route is great, is does feel a bit odd coming in at half height. Sorted out the sequence for Exclamation Mark the same day as the lead on Question Mark, went back soon after and top roped it a few times. Then there was a month of frustration with conditions. Found that hard, was so psyched every weekend, willing to get on lead, then it would rain, or be warm or whatever. Anyhow, went down there on 5th March, got on it, was going to lead it…then it rained all afternoon. Had impromptu overnight stay (I don’t think I was coming back to Exeter until I’d lead it!), and did Exclamation Mark on 6th March. Split tip on final TR warm up, but was so psyched I did it anyway!
“Reason I wanted to do Question Mark is basically this: I wanted to know how it would feel, clinging to that mental bit of rock above that skyhook. I wanted to know if I could function under that pressure, if I could still pull off those moves despite the consequences, if I could still maintain control. I wanted to know if I could even give myself permission to try it. The mental aspects of climbing are too often underrated – the glossy, physical side is so cheaply seductive – but for me this is why climbing is so riveting and compulsive.
“Having said all that, really, as a headpoint, it isn’t so bad. The holds are fairly positive and the skyhook takes bodyweight at least. You’re only exposed to danger for a very brief period – you don’t get time to worry about it too much; just keep yarding on them crimps! Exclamation Mark is a bit harder, in that you climb an extra 5 m of overhanging arete, so you’re more tired when you reach the dangerous bit of Question Mark. Also, downclimbing the lower arete after placing the hook is fairly entertaining.
“As a true onsight – terrifying! Steep, sequency, powerful, blind holds…and risky consequences. ”