FRANCO COOKSON: 14 Lives, 13 Souls

Montane Ambassador Franco Cookson finds peace amongst technical Cornish granite despite the sadness of its past.

There’s nothing quite like that feeling of waking up to the bright summer sun as it starts to make its way through the tent canvass: I half want to go back to sleep, but I’m getting excited at what the day will bring. Eventually, the lure of a nice cup of tea outweighs the desire to stay languishing in piles of soft blankets. It’s early and despite the Cornish sun making me feel quite a lot like a mole, there’s a distinct chill in the air.  Eventually, Tea at the ready, I start to scan the guidebook for today’s destination. I spy the crags we’ve already visited this week and spot some places we’re yet to go to. I love being in a place where everything is new, with absolutely no idea what the granite will feel like when you’re there if you can even find a way down.

We decide on Union Star Cove, a quiet little bay for us today, it was the scene of a catastrophic rescue attempt in the December of 1988, when the Mousehole lifeboat tried and failed to rescue the liner The Union Star. As we duck through the incredible cut path, with bushes forming a tunnel all the way down to the rocks and the warm August sun finally starting to warm this coastline up, it’s hard to imagine a winter’s gale that brought 60 foot-high waves. There’s certainly an aura to the cove, but it’s not entirely a sad place.

Franco Cookson Spider Hoodie and Terra Stretch Pants | Montane

Our choice of climb for today makes reference to this disaster: 14 Lives, 13 Souls (E7 6c). It’s a suitably noble wall of grand orange rock, which has never been repeated, despite being the obvious feature of the cliff. We swing a rope down and have a quick look at the holds and gear. After finishing off a Cornish pasty, we tie in and get to work leading this immaculate wall. Granite is great at this easy-angle: technical moves and fabulously complex.

Some slightly dubious protection is placed for the hardest moves and then I burst onto the headwall. On climbs like this, you start to feel like a bird of prey, really zooming in with a total focus on every foothold and every hand position. Before I know it, I’m topping out on this fabulous climb, with the warm morning sun back in my face. It’s still early, but it’s getting so warm we decided to head for the pub and then beach – perfection!

Montane Brand ambassador Franco Cookson spider hoodie | Montane

Franco is talking about sketchy moments on UK and Alpine trad during a film and competition night at The Valley Boulder Centre, Newcastle upon Tyne on 24th August at 19:30.

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