End of Year Article 2009: Bouldering

© Bruno Axhausen
So the noughties are ending, and how things have changed. In 1999 the lofty grade of 8B+  was dominated by the likes of Fred Nicole and Klem Loskot. Many of these old test pieces have now become “must do classics” aside from a concerted effort by the Frankenjura parvenu Marcus Bock; with Crowbar (1998), which has still seen only 1 repeat in the last decade. Nevertheless it is safe to say that the mean of feats has certainly risen throughout the noughties.  

Bouldering in Blighty

So let's have a little look at where we are now in 09 time. It's probably worth starting with a very significant repeat of Kaizen (8B+, FA 2001) This test piece has seen a bit of attention from a few of the UK's most accomplished boulderers over the years. fortunately for the problem most of these were fleeting visits after long drives, and Gaskin's problems command much more respect than that. In the end it took walking megalith Sam Davenhall to break down its defences over a number of sessions. This is a very impressive repeat and one which commands a wealth of respect.

  • You can read the full details of Sam's ascent in this UKC News Item.

John Gaskins repeating Kaizen (Font 8B+) shortly after his first ascent.  © Mark Glaister
John Gaskins repeating Kaizen (Font 8B+) shortly after his first ascent.
© Mark Glaister

Whilst we're in Blighty we may as well see what else has been repeated this year. Pete 'I can do anything I put my mind to' Robins repeated Silk Cut (8B+), Neil Dyer's incredibly difficult method of escaping from Parisella's Cave in North Wales by climbing out of all of it.

Keen Roof (8B) at Raven Tor in the Peak District saw 3 repeats in the same month (Nacho Sanchez, Pierre Bollinger, Dave Noden) and then got an extension slapped on for good measure (FA Nacho Sanchez) which adds a Font 7A+ish sequence into it via the start of Ben's Roof. Nacho also repeated many other >8A boulders in the UK this year, proving that not all Spaniards are 70m drainpipe pumping, bolt clipping monsters. His charm spread around much of Sheffield as did his feats of strength. In fact Nacho was so polite he chose to avoid dirtying indoor climbing holds; thus he was forced to campus everything instead.

Whilst we're at 'the Tor' and on the subject of Foreigners. It is worth mentioning that short term UK resident Sharik Walker, proud Australian and failed AFL player turned his hand to a spot of rock climbing and repeated the link-up of Stamina Band into Pump up the Power, whilst most regard this as an F8c+ route these days, it is still in essence a boulder problem (8B+). Nonetheless it currently vies with Keen Roof Extension as the hardest boulder climbed by a johnny foreigner on British soil.

VIDEO: Pete Robins climbing Silk Cut

The High and Mighty:

Aside from well 'ard numbers a few ruddy big lines went down, and it would be a travesty not to mention Lanny Bassham. Ben Bransby's 8A+ moorland masterpiece up at Rylstone.

Ben Bransby on his highball at Rylstone, Yorkshire  © Adam Long - No reproduction without permission of photographer
Ben Bransby on his highball at Rylstone, Yorkshire
© Adam Long - No reproduction without permission of photographer

Nalle Hukkataival - Sunseeker - Font 8B  © Jon Cardwell / Nalle Hukkataival
Nalle Hukkataival - Sunseeker - Font 8B
© Jon Cardwell / Nalle Hukkataival
These days it is de rigueur to see boulderers carrying Sherpa like loads to remote crags, where as a few years ago long walk ins were dominated by trad devotees with their 8mms slung across their backs. This cartilage-grinding shift towards pushing the ever increasing heights at which we can get spat off hard moves has come on leaps and bounds in 09.

Ascents such as Ambrosia (pictured below) shunted the already lofty highballs in the Buttermilks into line and behind it's considerable shadow (FA Kevin Jorgeson). Then there are hard and high things such as Sunseeker up at Mt Evans in Colorado (8B Nalle Hukkataival) which although slightly snow level dependent, certainly highlights that today's boulderers have moved on from the sit start somewhat. But America wasn't the only hive of hard/ highball activity this year...

Rocklands, South Africa:

With lines like Airstar (8B) by Kilian Fischhuber and Livin' Large (8C) by Nalle Hukkataival, as well as more notable highballs being put up by Kevin Jorgeson this summer, Rocklands became more than just a stately home for a ridiculous amount of quality hard boulders. And whilst both these lines were top-roped prior to their ascents; rapid descents also occurred from the final few moves of both problems, so that'd be well worth checking the moves out then! Otherwise they might still be projects.

Kevin Jorgeson on Ambrosia - screen shot from BigUp Productions
© BigUp Productions

Rocklands was so popular this year that it even drew the comp climbers, sport super pumpers and big-wall aficionados off their preferred mediums. Adam Ondra thought he'd have a punt at a few 8Bs to see what the crack was with hard blocs and proceeded to flash 2 8Bs in 15 minutes (The Vice and Armed Response). Best stick to your routes then Adam as you don't want to get shown up like that again! He even found a spare hour to climb Daniel Woods's 8B+ Derailed, but seeing as though he was on holiday he thought he'd top up his tan whilst he was at it (it was in the sun).

A few pasty English people heard of this “sun” rumour and actually managed to escape the country, head to Rocklands and crank out some notable repeats.  Andy Earl, Liam Desroy, Micky Page, Tom Newman and Martin Smith all grabbed the finishing holds of assorted world class 8Bs. Liam also repeated Moistie Meisie and Madiba (both 8B+), not bad considering he went out there with a knackered shoulder!  

Font (the prefix to all grades), France

Looks like 8B/+ is becoming a bit old hat if even us Brits can get up them! what we need is another level...

Queue Tyler Landman in Font:

Font comes before all our grades for a reason, in the same way that Christians say Amen after prayer. It is our Mecca and Tyler's ascents of all styles of problem, in Font, highlight how the cutting edge of world bouldering is incessantly nicking away at the sutures of possibility.

Tyler Landman destroying Font - from the DVD Between The Trees © Keith Bradbury  © Keith Bradbury
Tyler Landman destroying Font - from the DVD Between The Trees © Keith Bradbury

8C, ouch!

For a cutting edge grade this sure got bounced around a fair bit this year. Although it is likely that the UK won't be seeing many new ones for a while due to the relative disappearance of Gaskins, the projects are there from Dumbarton to Dorset. However The rest of the world waits for no man.

First off Bernd Zangerl repeated Entlinge (8C) at the start of the year, as did Franz Widmer  just 2 days afterwards.

Bernd then moved onto Dave Graham's unrepeated 8C (FA 2005 Ticino) From Dirt Grows the Flowers and the result is this highly entertaining video:

VIDEO: From the Dirt Grows the Flowers - Bernd Zangerl

Bernhard Schwaiger continued his theme of not getting out of bed for anything less than an 8B FA, and established Dust Devil (8C/+) and Hurricane (8C) As well as making the 2nd ascent of Anam Cara. This was also repeated by Kornelius Obleitner this year and his video certainly wins on style over the Schwaigers, the suave chap even has a celebratory cigarette afterwards and it's at altitude!

  • Check his video here

Jade (8C RMNP) saw 2 fast repeats from Phil Schaal and Nalle Hukkataival, both had their media team (probably just a tripod) nearby to capture the moments. Which just goes to show that when the project title goes, then often the aura of invincibility leaves too these days. Dai Koyamada also established Epitaf and Karumu (both 8C) in Japan this year. 

One problem that has stood the test of time is Gossip 8C (or heuwende to locals) first climbed by Markus Bock in 2002, it had seen only 1 repeat in its 7 years of existence, despite attention from the likes of Koyamada and Graham. This repeat was from John Gaskins via a ridiculously tensiony and powerful sequence (sounds like the usual Gaskins to me!). That was until stealth-king Marcus Windisch got it finished off with a sequence similar to Marcus's original aside from a hand move at the start. Marcus has established a ridiculous amount of hard boulders around the place over the years and seems to stay true to his ideals of bouldering. Respect to that. 

Font 8C+ for Toni Lamprecht
© Bruno Axhausen
The Old Guard:

You don't have too look far in Germany to find strong climbers mind, and earlier in the year Tony 'antonator' Lamprecht thought it'd be a laugh to snap some holds off some of his 8C boulders and straighten them out by linking them together into the super prow of Assasin monkey Man-bokassas fridge 8C+!!! not bad for a man who has been at the top of the game for a decade. In fact 09 has been a good year for golden oldies. The breathing historical monument that is Fred Nicole, repeated Fanz Widmer's 8C Kryptos (Switzerland) which was only established earlier this year. Now there's a man whom deserves a lifetime achievement award! 

There aren't many people around whom can make Fred look a bit weedy and if they are they seem to be called Sam (see first paragraph). Some excellent news this year is that the bigger Sam (Edwards) is dabbling in bouldering again. And in the words of a friend

“I heard a rumour that Sam Edwards has done his long time project at Lower Taipan Wall, Grampians, called it Zeus, and has under graded it at V13.”

(for reference Sam repeated The Island (8C) in quick time in July last year!)

Christian Core another evergreen beast made the FA of Toky 8B+, Liguria, Italy. His competitors license is No 122 for world cups and they are now past 9000! 

Other notable ascents

  • Leandro Pardal put up O Dia Santo, a contender for the first 8B+ on Latin American soil, at São Bento, a couple of hours drive from São Paolo, Brazil.
  • Hukkataival: The Globalist, 8B+, Helsinki, Finland
  • Big worm 8B+, Graham, Schulte, Robinson
  • Kheops assis (8B+) also saw repeats from Chris “big red” Schulte, Michel Caminati and German man-mountain Thomas Willemberg.
  • Schaal: 8B+ Book of Bitter Aspects 2nd ascent after donkeys years!
  • Meer is doch noch 8B+ Willemberg, 2009
  • Daniel Woods: multiple 8B+ FAs and repeats worldwide, (American Gangster, The Beach etc)
  • Tom Peckitt 8B/+ Bulbhaul Almscliff UK (UKC News

This article is dedicated to the old version of Dreamtime, rest in pieces LH stand start hold, our thoughts are with you.

Addendum: After this article was written, Adam Ondra visited the Swiss bouldering paradise of Creciano and, well, did what you would expect him to. His flash of Confessions, an 8B+ problem, plus ticking loads of other hard boulders was a suitable end to a very prolific year for World bouldering. Full details on the UKC News Page.

Adam Ondra proving he's a world class boulderer by flashing Confessions (Font 8B/+) in Switzerland  © Vojtech Vrzba /
Adam Ondra proving he's a world class boulderer by flashing Confessions (Font 8B/+) in Switzerland
© Vojtech Vrzba /

UKC Articles and Gear Reviews by Dan Varian

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15 Jan, 2010
Good articel, liked it, but no mention of Stewart Watson.
15 Jan, 2010
Or Mick dark horse Adams. Andy F
16 Jan, 2010
anyone know what tyler is up to now and why there's been nothing out of him for ages??
18 Jan, 2010
Nice one, look forward to the trad and sport articles now
1 Feb, 2010
Great article, nice one Dan.
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