Ian Vickers, usually best known as a fantastic on-sighter of precarious routes requiring steady nerves and masses of controlled technique, has repeated Chris Sharma's bouldering amazeathon, The Mandala in Buttermilks, California. How hard did he find it? Not as hard as Font 8b+, according to our sources. Which means in effect that he's downgrading it a bit.
This is not the second ascent of this problem, but it is an amazing feat to repeat it at all. It's a huge, apparently smooth and hugely overhanging boulderin which featured in Rockfax's pages not so long back - we'll try to get a photo presently. Sharma himself described it thus: "The problem itself is significant because it is the hardest, most inspiring piece of rock to me in the Buttermilks. It has powerful moves on very thin, polished rock with widely spaced holds. The way the problem faces the mountains reminds me of how perfection arises in things so incredibly big and so relatively small."
Vickers, who has retired officially from "competition" climbing and is now better known as a setter of comp routes, clearly hasn't lost the hang of the game. So now we're waiting for Chris Sharma to come and onsight The Bells, The Bells (E7 6b if anyone's counting) as Vickers did a few years ago.