Interview – Jake Bresnehan on White Ladder

You recently got the third ascent of White Ladder (34) at Nowra and did the FA of the extension. For a short route it’s quite complicated, being comprised of Attack Mode, the White Ladder extension and now your new extension to White Ladder, can you break the route down for us?
Oh it is a goodie. It’s a power-endurance classic and should be on everyone’s fridge list. It’s about 35 moves with a little procrastination rest before the final boulder.

Rob LeBreton climbed Attack Mode in 1994. Chris Webb Parsons finished Rob’s vision in 2004, giving Australia its first 34, White Ladder.

In 2010 Ben Cossey bolted an extension to the climb, adding a final boulder problem above the original anchor, taking the climb to its logical conclusion – a ledge.

I managed to climb Ben’s vision. It isn’t really that much harder. Just a bit more bang for ya buck.

People may be a little confused about the name. Ben bolted it. He was then super kind to let me climb his project. He wanted it to keep that same name, so it’s called White Ladder too. Merci beaucoup Ben!

Jake with his best try-hard face on White Ladder (33/34), PC, Nowra. Image by Brecon Littleford/Rumblr

Jake with his best try-hard face on White Ladder (34), PC, Nowra. Image by Brecon Littleford/

You used new kneebar beta for White Ladder, can you tell us how that beta came to be found?
I remember having a conversation with Stu Simons in the Grampians and he mentioned that in an old movie called The Australia Project, Matt Segal is featured on Attack Mode wearing a knee pad. A few months passed and Lee Cossey mentioned that Tom Farrell had been trying White Ladder using a new sequence. That sequence was eventually what we both used but once a knee pad was used, it became a hell of a lot nicer.

It’s actually pretty funny. ‘Knee-scum’ would probably be more appropriate. 😉 Just because you use your knee it doesn’t mean it’s jugs. Your calf feels like it’s going to explode. You have to work for it. I actually think some people will still find it pretty tricky. Maybe all the trips to Hollow Mountain has helped me get a little more skilful with the knees.

Oh ,and if you really want to know, Attack Mode can be climbed with four knee-bars. Oh isn’t that dirty! I think in this day and age, being skillful with your knees is a no-brainer. The hardest routes in the world use them.

How much time did you put into it?
I think in total it was around nine days. I hadn’t planned to spend that much time in Nowra this year. I just wanted to have a play on it, see where I was at and then train for it.

On day one I did Attack Mode. I then realised I could do the end with a few more days rather than specifically training for it. So I just needed to capitalise. Thankfully I was super consistent getting down to Nowra and the weather was kind.

What do you think about the grade of White Ladder and now your extension?
For me Attack Mode feels super soggy for the grade. Maybe it is one of the easiest 32s around, or it just suits me. Who knows? Attack Mode took me a day. The little boulder at the end of Attack Mode (original White Ladder) isn’t crazy, but if you don’t have the power-endurance it feels hard. I think it took me about five or six days to do the original White Ladder, so it is a little bit harder. Then a couple more days to finish the full extension version. I think I ended up doing the original White Ladder five times. That last boulder to the ledge is about V6, a punchy one. So really, just more bang for your buck.

So it is harder than 32, maybe hard 33 or soggy 34. Who knows. Grades are funny. I was just psyched to take the climb to the top.

Jake on the new finish to White Ladder (33/34), PC, Nowra. Image by Brecon Littleford/

Jake on the new finish to White Ladder (33/34), PC, Nowra. Image by Brecon Littleford/

Did you do any specific training for the route?
Nothing specific. The route is pretty friendly so I just made sure that everyday I was trying it I would have as many goes as possible. Something that is hard to do in the Blue Mountains due to the aggressive nature of the rock. During the week I’d actually do the opposite and lay-off the power endurance because I was getting my money’s worth on the weekends. Having six to seven burns a day on a hardish route becomes pretty good training. 😉

It seemed there were a lot of strong people working Attack Mode and/or White Ladder this season, how was that?
I’ll take the credit for getting the ball rolling. During the summer I had been super keen to try Attack Mode and have a play on the end. I think Luke Hansen and I were the first to head down for the season, and my ability to talk it up so I could get a belayer, worked a treat!

All in all, it was awesome. One weekend I think seven people were trying different variations of Attack Mode. Having that many people share the psyche and beta was truly something special. I don’t think I have ever experienced that before trying a route.

You are coming off a rich vein of form, including sending the Wheel of Life, what do you put that down to?
I have managed to put a few things in place to keep life pretty simple which has enabled me to be consistent with training and trying hard.

Jake deeply engaged on the Wheel of Life (V15), Hollow Mountain Cave, the Grampians. Image by Brecon Littleford/Rumblr

Jake deeply engaged on the Wheel of Life (V15), Hollow Mountain Cave, the Grampians. Image by Brecon Littleford/

What is the one thing that you have done in your training or preparation that has made the biggest difference?
Consistency and always analysing how I can improve.

Self-belief can be a tricky thing to maintain, has anything changed in the way that you think about what you can do?
Nothing comes to mind (no pun intended!). I tend to think that if I put in the hard work and the logical steps towards my chosen goal, it will come. I just have to be patient, which is the crux for me. 🙄

What are you turning your attention to next?
The list on my fridge, which will keep me busy for a few years.

In the short-term, I’m heading to Spain (Bielsa) in October to rip some tufas off the wall and go A MUERTE!

Also, lots more bouldering. It’s a major weakness and hard to prioritise when you live in a world class route-climbing location.

You had quite a long time away from climbing at one point, why did you mostly stop and why have you more recently come back to it again?
Well, I went to uni and got brainwashed into following that corporate ladder bullshit. I moved to Sydney, got a job at a good tech company and got immersed in experiencing life in a big city. I tried to keep up my climbing but just got super frustrated as I couldn’t get on the rock that often. Once I realised that it was annoying me and not that fun in the circumstances, I decided to explore other sports like sky-diving, wing-suiting and running.

Once I moved out of the city and up to the Blue Mountains it wasn’t that easy to get back into climbing as I was way out the back. I kept trying to juggle trail running and climbing, until I realised climbing was my true passion and I couldn’t do both well. But now I’m more hooked than ever. Addicted.

Who have been the climbers that you think have had the most influence on your climbing (and why)?
Garry (‘Gazza’) Phillips is 110% psyched and always up for a mission. He lives and breathes climbing. I wouldn’t be the climber I am today without Gazza. A true legend of Australian climbing.

Sam Edwards passed on all his knowledge about training and climbing hard routes. He was also pretty good at keeping things in perspective. Still to this day, I’m flabbergasted by what he did on the hangboard.

Rupi Messner is another one. I first meet Rupi in the Grampians when I was 17. Rupi coached a lot of the young strong Austrians, so he was like a hero to me. He passed on his mindset and attitude to climbing hard, which I still utilise today.

You climbed pretty hard when you were living down in Tassie, do you think though that moving somewhere like the Mountains was important for your progression?
It certainly hasn’t been a bad thing. Saying that, I don’t think you need to live in the Blue Mountains to progress. Being isolated has its benefits.

I think the best thing about being in the Mountains is you can always test yourself on hard climbs. Having that feedback instantly, then incorporating that into your training, is gold.

Having known you were when you were 18 or 19 you’re one of the most enthusiastic climbers we’ve come across, who have you climbed with that you’d describe as even more of a frother than yourself?
I’ll give you one guess?!

We’re going to say Garry ‘Frother’ Phillips.

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