Jack Palmieri on climbing 200 8s in a year

© Sam Pratt

At the end of 2022, we published an interview with Jack about his having climbed over a hundred 8th grade boulders in the space of a single year.

Sideliner 8A at Crookrise  © Sam Pratt
Sideliner 8A at Crookrise
© Sam Pratt

At the end of the interview, he told us that he was thankful when the rain came in and ended his 'foolish' effort to bag an additional twenty 8s for an average of ten per month, and that he was thankful for some 'much needed' rest.

It came as a bit of a surprise, then, when we saw that Jack had gone on to double his 2022 tally in 2023. Intrigued as to how he went about doubling what was already a ridiculous tally, we got in touch to find out more.

Congratulations on 200 8s in a year! In 2022, after climbing 100 8s, you said it was something you never really set out to do. I'm assuming that going for 200 was slightly different - was it a deliberate effort right from the off this time around?

No it definitely wasn't planned from the off, and I'd have probably downplayed any suggestion of even 100 8s in a year being possible for me again at the start of 2023 to be honest.

I guess I both underestimate myself and just how much climbing there is to do in the UK, (somewhere around 1700 8th grade boulders here on UKC, and I'd guess the true total is probably even a little larger than that, what with the dark horse developers we have and other factors).

Bringing Manchester Dogs 8A back to life. It hadn't been climbed for probably a decade due to major hold loss until I checked it out this summer and found it was still possible &copy Jack Palmieri  © Jack Palmieri
Bringing Manchester Dogs 8A back to life. It hadn't been climbed for probably a decade due to major hold loss until I checked it out this summer and found it was still possible © Jack Palmieri

Anyway, come summer time I was approaching my 100th 8th grade of the year, and decided I could maybe just push on from there to see how many I could get done. I quietly mooted 183 to friends, as that would be basically one every other day, and downplayed any chance to anyone who asked about getting to 200, I think partly because I thought it would be too big of an ask, but also to stop any daft pressure creeping in when it's all just playing outside on little boulders.

By late Autumn I was hooked and really wanted to try and get 200 done (what is it about round numbers?). A fear of not getting it done led me abroad to Sweden for a short trip and a decent haul of climbs added to the total. This left me on the cusp of getting it done, and I felt this would leave me satisfied, but it was the repeats on home soil that I really wanted, so it was back to work.

I really took it to the wire, doing my 200th UK 8 on new years eve at Beef Buttress with my son Jim. There was no way I'd have got it done without his support that day, I'd been to war with a boulder the day before and finished second.

How did you stay motivated throughout the year, and were there any moments where you considered stopping early?

Motivation to go outside to nice places and try to figure out how to climb new boulders is something I never struggle for. I love turning up at something new and unlocking it's secrets. Even if I got injured or something and wouldn't have been able to climb boulders that were as hard, I would have just gone on the gritstone and climbed easier things this winter.

So no, no temptation to stop early, although at some points (mainly as things got tight) I did find myself questioning why I'd brought this numerical factor into play and was stressing about getting to the top of something every day. 

Aside from the 200th boulder, what were some of the highlights of the year?

In the UK my friend Jamie has been with me for a decent number of the days out and we've had a great laugh. We've been to such a mixed bag of boulders too, great tall things on the grit, tiny roofs in the mountains, some fantastic coastal stuff, a Pete Robins limestone boulder which deserves a big E-grade (big potential to roll down a steep hillside land on the road that goes around the Great Orme). 

The little trip I had to Sweden was great too, the quality of the climbs and simplicity of a climbing day out there is fantastic. 

Golden Path SDS 8A, Vastervik  © Jack Palmieri
Golden Path SDS 8A, Vastervik
© Jack Palmieri

Do you know how many sessions it took you in total, and how many 8s you averaged per session?

I don't keep a diary nowadays, well not in the conventional sense anyway. My logbook on here says I had 136 days outside, I'd imagine you could add another 30 days on top of that where I didn't log anything as I didn't actually get up anything.

How quick I got up stuff varied massively, new areas are just so much easier to get stuff done than at the crags you've already frequented etc. I had little trips to South Wales and a family holiday to Devon where I probably managed 3 8s a day on average. In Vastervik I managed 20 8th grade boulders in 4 days climbing, but in the peak or the lakes I'm more than happy with one a session.

What did an average week look like for you in terms of climbing and recovery?

It varied so much, the early part of the year for me is typically spent getting out of shape waiting for dry days on the grit, so even though it'll be erratic it'll probably average out at like 2 sessions a week. I know I should do some training but the thought of getting out climbing always trumps that so I just typically wait for the dry days. 

Once spring arrives I find I can get outside a bit more, the gritstone is still in condition if you go to the right places, and the mountain crags are often in good nick. 

On top of that, some of the limestone crags were starting to dry out early last year (Will did Aidan's hard problem at the Boardwalk, and that wasn't dry again all year). This meant I had tonnes of choice and could climb more often.

By mid summer I was climbing outside most days between school runs etc. In July and August I'd guess I climbed outside on average five days a week, maybe even a little more. Again I was on a daft challenge, trying to do 31 8s in the 31 days of each month, nearly all of them links at limestone crags!

Summer bouldering at Squirrel Buttress  © Jack Palmieri
Summer bouldering at Squirrel Buttress
© Jack Palmieri

Then as Autumn comes round the cycle starts again in reverse, the crags start to get wetter and before you know it I'm pinning all my hopes on a dry Tuesday that's ten days away.

What was the balance in terms of new boulders vs boulders you'd already done, repeats vs first ascents?

Ooh good question. Well they were all new to me, I likely did repeat some climbs but I didn't and wouldn't consider them part of the total.

As for the ratio or repeats to FA's I'd say it'd be two thirds repeats to a third FA's, if you can class linking two existing limestone problems together as doing an FA anyway!

How did the boulders break down in terms of location?

In the UK I went all over, but most of the stuff I did was close to home and just done in a day trip. I counted up in autumn and I think I'd visited about 60 different crags.

When climbing such a huge quantity of boulders, I imagine that you can't be too picky about quality! Did you try to seek out the better lines where possible, or did it have to be a case of 'any 8 will do'?

I mean it would be lovely if everything was a pristine gritstone arete that was also a decent physical challenge, but if you want to climb outside in the UK year round and try hard on something in reasonable condition it just doesn't work like that.

In summer I hid under limestone roofs for a couple of months straight. To me, if I can just try hard on something for a couple of hours and the location is decent I'm pretty happy. 

What were your favourite boulders of the 200?

Probably a rubbish limestone link up I did amongst friends, but in terms of quality:

Eagle Huntress (f8B) - an absolute beauty from Dan up in the Lakes.

Sole Fusion (f8A) - a proud and high one with great moves put up by Dave Sutcliffe at Crookrise, I had a fab solo day out doing this one.

Jim Pope using some slightly alternative beta on Sole Fusion.  © sammpratt
Jim Pope using some slightly alternative beta on Sole Fusion.
© sammpratt

Earthworm Jim (f8A+) - another classy one from Dan at Sour Milk Ghyll

Gritty Shaker Sit Start (f8A) - not sure how it doesn't get more attention

Hare Today Gone Tomorrow (f8A+) - a good boulder but a great day out

Underworld (f8A) - mega roof at Fedw Fawr from Pete Robins

El Matador (f8A+) - a nice one to grab the FA on, again just a good boulder but a great day out

Kobe (f8A) - a beaut from Ned 

Jim Pope on Kobe, 8A  © Sam Pratt
Jim Pope on Kobe, 8A
© Sam Pratt

Did you notice changes or improvements in any areas of your climbing over the year?

Not really improvements technically I don't think, although I do think I'm getting less useless on the grit, albeit slowly! 

An area I would say I've improved is pulling something out of the bag, so many boulders I did last year that I had little right to do that day, whether it be through perfect execution or just pigheadedness, I just found ways on the day.

Banana Republic 8A, Caley  © Jack Palmieri
Banana Republic 8A, Caley
© Jack Palmieri

You said last year that 'it would be nice to get back in that shape [of five years ago] and see if I can get something a little harder done'. Have you spent any time projecting harder lines this time around? If not, any plans to next year?

I didn't really do any of what I said I would. Again, something to work on this year. I have actually tried some harder boulders already this year, so it's a decent start.

What are your goals for 2024?

The year started out with the same plan as any other, go climbing, have fun.

There is still so much I'm keen to try, and some of it will require being in better shape, so I really need to try to pull my finger out and try something hard. Aside from that I'm definitely keen to go on a couple of trips.

And I swore I was done chasing numbers etc, but that didn't last long. I'm quite taken on the challenge of doing 10 8s every month, which seemed sensible as it could allow me to go inside and try to get stronger on the months I've comfortably got the target in the bag, but I will just see how it goes. 120 8s is a hell of a lot.

Check out the video below for a selection of Jack's grit 8's from across the year - you can watch more of his 2023 ascents on his YouTube channel.

Jack Palmieri is one of the UK's strongest boulderers, with ascents up to 8B+. Jack has climbed nearly all of the existing logical lines in Parisella's Cave, North Wales. He is also a GB Climbing Team Coach.

Jack's Athlete Page 5 posts 1 video

17 Mar

Mega impressive and very inspiring. Makes me wonder if I could do that in the 7th grade?!?!

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