Two Dark Horses Matt Birch of Otley, West Yorkshire (England) is no stranger to the bouldering areas around Bishop, California, being a frequent visitor from back in the day; as much for the "beautiful landscape," he says, as for the world class bouldering. One of his greatest achievements on the quartz-monzonite orbs of the Buttermilk Country was his first ascent of The Swarm a confirmed 8b+ or V14 at the Secrets of the Beehive Area.
Matt has now further consolidated his Font 8b+ credentials with a repeat of the sit start to the Mandala. Matt repeated the Mandala soon after Chris Sharma's first ascent in 2000 along with that other Yorkshire dark horse, Tim Clifford (see photo of Tim and Matt with this news report). Then, in 2002, the French bouldering god, Tony Lamiche added a sit-down start to Sharma's masterpiece, that was originally given Font 8b or V13, but is now considered to be Font 8b+ or V14 (see video below). Matt, on a five month climbing trip to the USA, had been trying the Mandala sit-start the past few weeks but, "I was hampered by poor skin. Each time I tried it skin on my fingers split and I got a blister on one of my fingers," he told UKClimbing.com from a wet Bishop, thawing after a weekend of heavy snow.
On the day of his ascent Matt felt strong and his skin good. He despatched the problem in good style (his energy is up and down after years suffering from Chronic Fatigue Syndrome). Matt is no stranger to this difficulty, establishing Somewhere in Time a V13/14 .. Font 8b/+ last year at the Tramway above Palm Springs in California, and making repeats of Slashface V13/14 .. Font 8b/+ (which he thought to be V12 or Font 8a+) and Nagual V13 .. Font 8b at Hueco Tanks.
Tony Lamiche on the first ascent of the Mandala sit start (that this news reporter actually witnessed).
Matt Birch is sponsored by Evolv Rock Shoes, Prana and Metolius