James Pearson (age 21) of Matlock, Derbyshire is one of the best technical and boldest climbers in the UK. He started climbing five and half years ago in 2001/02. He quickly established himself as one of the finest gritstone climbers with repeats of The Zone E9 6C and Knocking on Heavens Door E9 6C and then in 2005 with the third ascent of Equilibrium E10 7a, the UK's first E10 established by Neil Bentley.
In January this year he added his own grit testpiece that he thinks is harder than Equilibrium with, The Promise E10 7a at Burbage North (read an account of this first ascent at the Wild Country website and in a UKClimbing.com news report)
His bouldering ascents are just as impressive with multiple Font 8b ascents, not just in the UK but globally, with repeats of some of the hardest problems around the world from Bishop, California to Switzerland. He turned heads recently on a trip to Rocky Mountain State Park, Colorado with a flash of Secret Splendor a problem that was originally graded Font 8b (V13) by first ascensionist Tyler Landman and subsequent ascenionist, Daniel Woods, but was strangely downgraded to 8a+. This would have been the first ever flash (success on the first try or attempt) of a Font 8b boulder problem.
But now, he has established what is no-doubt a world first at Ticino, Switzerland, an area that Ben Moon describes as "the best granite bouldering in Europe" and home to Fred Nicole's Dreamtime the world's first Font 8b+. First off James made the third ascent of Vecchia Lione Font 8b/+ (V13/14) of which he said, "the best and hardest problem I have ever done".
Then he made bouldering history with the first flash of a Font 8b (V13).
"On the last day I decided that I needed to try something really crimpy because the tops of my fingertips were the only parts of my hand that were not cut. We headed to Brione for my friend Seko to try Frogger and I decided that I would try The Ganymede Takeover which is just to the right. It was originally climbed by Dave Graham from a low start at 8b+ and repeated by a few people including Zangerl. Being on a beach, the level of the sand changes and often buries the starting holds meaning you can only climb half the problem (missing out a hard move). Other people have suggested that the problem may only be 8a+/b but it is likely that they only climbed the upper half. The grade now seems to have settled at 8b. I was fortunate enough to have the beach low enough to start from the original low start.
I warmed up slowly and pulled on for a flash attempt. Since Colorado, I now always try to flash problems regardless of how hard they are because strange things can happen. I managed the first hard move and then climbed to the big hold and arranged my hands and feet for the next moves. The rock is steep (around 65degrees) and the crimps are very very small but quite positive and you have a good heel hook. The next few moves felt ok and I arrived at the crux. A brief pause to get the distance right and I fired for the next crimp with my left (see photo). I stuck it and let my body move to its natural position before making the balancy match. My fingers were a little numb, but I knew the next hold was a bucket and in one motion, released my heel and fired out my right arm. The jug felt great, as did the swing and I topped out into the morning sun. A fantastic way to end an amazing trip.
I hope to return in March for some unfinished business..."
James is sponsored by The North Face, Five Ten and Wild Country.