Francis Haden established his first new route aged 14; Jurassic Lark, F6b in the Avon Gorge, Bristol, UK.
Standing beneath Jurassic Lark 23 years later during the Avon Gorge Climbing Festival
Leading Bristol area developers Martin Crocker and Gordon Jenkin saw the potential in Francis for new routing and so began a 6 year period of new routing in the Avon region. Francis established traditionally protected first ascents at E6, made repeat on-sights of existing traditionally protected E6 routes, head-points of E7’s, whilst also red-pointing sport climbs to F7c+ whilst aged 16 to 17. During this time he achieved a top rope ascent of his hardest project at F8b.
All Guns Blazing F7c+, Cheddar Gorge – the first ascent
Cheddar, the highest limestone gorge in the UK, proved to be a highly productive area for the Crocker / Haden team with the establishment of area test pieces at E7 and sport F7c+, often climbed during the notoriously cold winter months. New sport routes were also climbed in Portland, South Wales and North Wales during these formative years.
El Chorro, Spain with its easy access and warmer climate soon became a regular travel destination and a European location of new routing. Over a number of years, Francis bolted and established first ascents within El Chorro and regional outlying crags often in conjunction with Refugio Finca La Campana.
Walk The Plank F7a+, Crazy Horse, Chiang Mai – the first ascent
Asia called in 2001 with an invitation from Josh Morris, Manager of The Peak in Chiang Mai, to develop a new sport climbing region in Northern Thailand. Francis provided training to the staff of The Peak (www.thepeakadventure.com) in Single Rope Technique (SRT), new routing and bolting practices. In 2002 Chiang Mai Rock Climbing Adventures (www.thailandclimbing.com) opened and the ‘bolt rush’ from 2001 gathered pace as numerous quality routes were added over the next 10 years. During this time, Francis produced climbing topos for the area and used his professional rope access experience to contribute to CMRCA’s operational capability by installing the zipline and vertical caving bolts within the Anxiety State Crisis Cave.
Petzl Batinox anchor installation for CMRCA’s cave zipline, Chiang Mai, Thailand
Francis was also active in Australia establishing first ascents on traditional gear in the state of Victoria.
In 2010 Francis moved to Hong Kong and in no time seized the opportunity to take advantage of the relatively short air travel times to begin intense regional climbing development throughout Asia. Francis returned to his Northern Thailand roots in the Anxiety State Crisis Cave to add classic multi pitch sports routes such as Spaceman and Sunseeker.
Spaceman F6c, 7b+, 6c – the first ascent
During Easter 2012, Francis was invited by Vietclimb (www.vietclimb.com) to develop a significant climbing area North of Hanoi in Huu Long. Presented with an unclimbed, 150m wall of rock, 5 minutes from a road is an opportunity typical of Asian climbing destinations and Francis, together with Jean Verly, established 15 routes up to F7b+ in only a week. ‘Good Morning Vietnam’ was the longest climb in Vietnam (circa 80m) at the time.
Drilling resin bolt placements in North Vietnam (Huu Long) – day and night
In Hong Kong, Francis has added new routes to existing cliffs and developed new areas with Cape Collinson a significant addition to Hong Kong climbing (http://hongkongclimbing.com/guide/cape-collinson/).
Special Ops F7b+, Cape Collinson, Hong Kong – the first ascent
In 2012 Francis established the Hong Kong Bolt Fund https://www.facebook.com/groups/330574013634318/ to provide a source of information on fixed protection and voluntarily support local climbing issues regarding old fixed protection in the locality. The forum provides an educational service on bolting to local climbers, informs the community when a climb has been re-bolted and features videos of bolt pull tests conducted by Francis.
When not establishing new routes, Francis is often found on Hong Kong cliffs re-bolting existing climbs with resin bolts, as funded by the donations of Hong Kong climbers.
Bolt Pull testing in Hong Kong using a custom built testing rig
During Easter 2013, Francis returned to Vietnam and the Huu Long valley to resume development of the existing cliff and establish a longer multi pitch climb on an adjacent, taller wall. The resulting 5 pitch climb: Chuc Suc Khoe (F6a+, F6c, F6b+, F7a+, 6c+) is currently the longest multi pitch climb in Vietnam at 110m high. Together with Gordon Jenkin, the entire climb was drilled and 77 resin bolts glued-in during a single day.
By 2014, Francis had added 120 first ascents in Hong Kong (the most new routes added by a single climber in Hong Kong’s history).
During October 2014, together with long term friend Gordon Jenkin, Francis established the longest route (Eterna) in the world on the island of Tolendos, Kalymnos, Greece that is entirely equipped with titanium resin bolts. Eterna is also the first route in Greece to use this form of advanced fixing to combat corrosion and sets a benchmark by which corrosion rates for other metal types will be compared to. The 275m high route took 4 days of cleaning, drilling and glueing with an additional day to fix static down the line.
Francis returned to Kalymnos in 2015 to open a new sector on Tolendos, again equipped with titanium resin bolts, with multi-pitch routes up to F7b.
Early in 2016 Francis travelled to Laos and became the first equipper to bolt new routes and make the first ascents of resin bolted routes in the country, at Green Climbers.
Not long after and in time for Easter, Francis released the guide to the largest climbing area in Hong Kong (by total number of routes) featuring 112 routes equipped entirely with titanium resin bolts. This also raised his contribution to the region past 300 first ascents.
Francis’s profile in the South East Asia region sees him contributing to bolt issues in Taiwan, Thailand and mainland China with coverage in print, digital and media:
- Rock & Ice Magazine
- Epic Adventures TV
- Action Asia
- Climber Magazine
- Vertical Life
- twice interviewed by the South China Morning Post
His re-bolting work has directly prevented climbing accidents from occurring in Hong Kong whilst raising the awareness of fixed anchor safety amongst local climbers. In 2016 he became a supporting member of the UIAA Safecom Anchor Working Group, contributing failed bolt samples for systematic analysis by Tomas Prosek in Prague on behalf of the UIAA and conducting field analysis throughout the East Asia region.
As rock climbing becomes increasingly popular throughout Asia, Francis is ideally positioned to make long lasting contributions to the region.