Onsight Without Sight: Blind Climber Sends Extreme ‘Forked Lightning’ Crack

This stunning, zig-zagging crack feature is right up this climber’s alley.

Jesse Dufton, a blind paraclimber, has put up first ascents in the Arctic, ice climbed in Norway, and was the first blind person to climb Scotland’s Old Man of Hoy. He also holds several medals from national indoor climbing comps in the U.K.

This time, Dufton isn’t going for the tallest route or most pitches — he’s climbing to push his grade. Dufton, along with his wife and climbing partner Molly Dufton, are at Yorkshire Grit at Heptonstall Quarry in the U.K. to tackle a 5.10c, his hardest route yet.

The Forked Lightning Crack is an E2 5c (5.10c)-graded single-pitch, 24m trad route. It’s tough, but a classic. “Is this perhaps the best grit crack in the UK?” the British Mountaineering Council teases in the film comments.

drone angle looking down as Jesse Dufton climbs Man of Hoy rock cliff
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Before climbing, his wife describes the route to him. But climbing is mostly physical — shifting your weight, reading the rock, finding the holds, knowing when to conserve strength. On the wall, it’s all up to him.

Aside from pointing out which number cam Dufton’s holding, Molly Dufton is cool and calm on the ground, occasionally giving out words of encouragement, like any other climbing partner. Like any other climber, Dufton uses hand jams and layback techniques, along with a few techniques of his own.

“What an amazing route,” Dufton celebrated at the top.

Filmmaker Alastair Lee produced this featured video.

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Mary Murphy

Mary is the Managing Editor of GearJunkie and is based in GearJunkie's Denver, Colo. office. She has a degree in English and journalism, and has a background in both newspaper and magazine writing. Her outdoor interests span from running to sport climbing, from landscape photography to skiing to pack-paddleboarding. If she's not writing, you can most likely find her at the top of a fourteener, or in a local bakery.

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