Salvation came with the highly respected Swanage activist, Tim Dunsby, who took him into Boulder Ruckle and nurtured a burgeoning talent. E4 quickly arrived, not just on Swanage but on grit also. As an 18 year old, in 1984, he met the Moon/Moffatt generation dossing in Parisella’s Cave. In a week, E4 became E5 6c, and two 7bs were onsighted. On trips to Pembroke, when he was cruising the big E4s and E5s, such as Tangerine Dream and fellow members of the local climbing club were sieging VSs, Pete and his mates were blatantly ostracised, sitting at a separate table in the pub, most times. Prophetically, his first proper new route was at Portland, with Tim Dunsby. Unsurprisingly, it was entitled, Two Fingers.
A close friendship with the late Brian Tilley, “passionate about traditional climbing,” brought increased dosage of the full-on Ruckle experience, new routes and otherwise. Like Moon and Moffatt, Pete was living the ‘rock athlete’ dream, torturing his body with training, including the merciless dead hanging with weights, which led to knackered ring fingers. Trips to the Peak brought success on the crimpy, polished horrors of Piranha, White Bait, Tribes and those other, then top-rated, Rubicon routes. On an early repeat of All Systems Go, at Stoney, he was watched by Fawcett, the instinctive nod of approval a sign he’d arrived.
By then, school was over, university and career cast aside to make way for full-time climbing. In 1985, at 19, his new routes, Punks in Power and Surge Control, both E5 6b, matched Martin Crocker’s best efforts at Swanage. Wallkraft, Pete’s climbing holds company, was more serious and has lasted longer than (any of?) the other Enterprise Allowance climbing subsidies. While his parents were supportive, others criticised. Undeterred, he moved around, getting good results in competitions while on-sighting classic grit E5’s, such as London Wall, Milky Way, White Wand, Ulysses or Bust and many others. Fawcett’s masterpiece, Strawberries, was almost a world-class on-sight, the second attempt a mere formality. Pete bagged second or third ascents of stuff like Cider Soak, La Creme and Avenged at Ansteys. At Avon and Cheddar, “as soon as Martin (Crocker) did it, I’d repeat it!” He was redpointing 8a+ at Buoux and on-sighting E6 at Pembroke. These were big numbers, on both sport and trad, at a time when many leading climbers were specialising in one discipline only.
These years, in the mid-1980s, were the forging of Pete’s soul. Martin Crocker, “a fantastic bloke,” showed him the way, climbing from dawn to dusk, expecting others to do the same, relentlessly driving himself until failure. Like Crocker, Pete pushed body, mind and gear to their limits. Hundreds of thousands of feet of steep rock were shunted in mammoth training sessions on Lean Machine and many other E5’s at Swanage. Twice harnesses snapped, due to over-use, in outrageous situations. Utterly alone, swinging around, on 9mm rope, cleaning massive roofs, he’d get light-headed and end up talking to himself. Once, in thick, ghostly fog, on a gargantuan cleaning session of the futuristic Laughing Arthur at Blackers Hole, a fallen cow sprawled on the rocks below, helplessly waiting to die, eyeballing him, for hour after eerie hour. Another time, in the middle of January, diving into the sea at Blackers to retrieve a dropped sac, he was viciously spewed back onto the rocks. He fought his way ashore, massively bruised, shivering uncontrollably, cowering in a cave, cut off by the tide. Half an hour later, his mate lowered a rope and harness, allowing him to prussik out, stark naked!