Dan Varian has added what is likely Northumberland's hardest route with his first ascent of Empty the Bones of You at Back Bowden Doors.
This sandstone route / highball is around Font 8A+ in difficulty and is very high. It takes a line between the existing routes The Darkside (E9) and Mordreth (E6). Dan initially tried to lead the route (the upper section is much higher than most people would consider bouldering) but on the actual day of the first ascent Dan had accidentally "cleverly stashed my harness and micro gear safely behind my sofa at home," which he explained meant "my trad project was going to have to be a boulder problem if i wanted to try it.."
Quickfire Questions - Dan Varian:
What is it? An overhanging rock climb
Where is it? Back Bowden
Why should we go and do it? I don't think it'll be everyone's cup of tea
What's the view from the crag like? Crap
What did you have for your tea on the day you did it? I ate a lot of gummi bears on the day
Dan Varian is one of a group of climbers pushing the limits of highball climbing in the UK. Dan features in the recent film 'Life on Hold', which concentrates on this style of climbing, and he is no stranger to taking huge falls on to bouldering mats. This highball falling is a skill like any other in climbing and takes practice, physical conditioning and technique.
The route, Empty the Bones of You, took Dan four sessions before he managed to climb it successfully. After climbing ground-up to about halfway, Dan opted to clean and inspect the rest of the line.
On the same day as his ascent of Empty the Bones of You, Dan also climbed the first ascent of a Font 8B boulder problem, now named Potty Mouth. This is a righthand finish to the existing hard problem The Bitch.
Dan Varian on his new 8B problem Potty Mouth
UKC News, Apr 2012
© Mark Savage
"How does it compare to The Dark Side E9 7b? Dan had quite a few sessions on the new route, and many attempts to lead it. He also left it alone for a while as he got frustrated at the difficulty. If you've read my previous blog post, you'll know Dan did The Dark Side in about 15 minutes, which really puts things in perspective."
He told UKC:
"The holds are a lot smaller than on The Dark Side. Inspiring is an understatement."
Commenting on the Beastmaker Blog, Dan described his ascent:
"I felt rather good warming up and despite it being in the sun it seemed like a good time to have a bash at the biggy. I hadn't tried it since January so a quick brush on abseil and check of the top was needed for reassurance seeing as though I'd be soloing up there now. On my first go i felt a lot better than in January and. Next go I'd stuck the crux launch to the pocket off the tiny 3 finger crimp and it was time to man up, after a†brief†pause to turn my brain off I promptly got up the rest of the problem/solo†forthwith. The crux on this is lower than the last droppable move on Darkside but is a trifle more momentum stopping so font 8A+ (H) is likely its best expression. It's the only grade I can stomach giving it anyway, it felt nice to be free of the rope too and in my natural environment of deckout failure, although I was a little apprehensive on getting the top slopers."
Dan Varian likes hanging off Beastmakers in the hope it'll make him stronger.