Top UK boulderers Dan Varian and Ned Feehally have recently been putting up hard new boulder problems in the font 8 grade in a number of different locations, with Ned climbing a new 8A+ in North Wales and Dan repeating and putting up boulders across the country between 8A and 8B, despite the heatwave experienced this summer in the UK.
First up, Ned Feehally climbed an overhanging arete on the Sea View Walls on the Great Orme, it is found next to the classic 7B+, Flashpoint, Ned graded the problem 8A+ and named it Enemy Anemone. Talking to UKC, Ned commented on the quality of the problem:
"Enemy Anemone is a [Parisella's] cave style power endurance, with really unique climbing in a nice loacation that doesn't smell of goat poo, winner!"
There is also potential to extend the problem, Ned described the difficulty of the extension:
"The problem finishes at an obvious point, but not at the end of the Prow. It would be possible to extend it all the way along the prow to finish up the arete at the end. I did the moves on this section and think it will be 8a ish on its own - so it should be quite a hard link. Especially as one of the very last moves is a bit of a deadpoint into a slot. Not what you want after a 20 moves in a roof!
If I lived closer I would spend a bit of time on it as it is a great project, but it's too far to drive, conditions are fickle (tidal) and it's too hard for me. Hopefully a local will get keen and finish it off - maybe when diamond season ends!"
Here is a video of Ned on the First Ascent:
Over the summer, Dan Varian has been ticking off many hard classics around the country in quick time, including some first ascents of problems up to 8B. His list of grade 8 boulder ascents this summer includes: Colonel Haithi 8A+ FA, Cruachan Arete, 8A+, Lanny Bassham, 8A+ 2nd Ascent. Marratime Stand, 8A+ FA, Stronghold, 8A FA, Iron LungI, 8A, FA, Bourgeoisie, 8A+, FA, A Bigger Berry SS, 8A+ FA and Dark Edges, 8B, FA.
In the Lake District, Dan made a significant first ascent at the Bowderstone with Dark Edges, which he graded 8B from a standing start, after finally doing the crux move after 4 years of dabling on it. Thanks to the recent change to cooler temperatures, Dan managed to get the problem done, though there is room for a much beefier sit start which should make a very hard problem.
At Swarthbeck Ghyll, after a tip off from friend Pete Gunn about a new bouldering area local to Dan. Dan made the first ascent of Colonel Haithi on the way back from a stag do, grading it 8A+, cleaning and climbing it in a single session. Talking on his Blog, Dan commented:
"After waking up from Katie’s brothers stag do, I made my way home and with time getting on I thought it’d be a nice day to check out Swarthbeck Ghyll, a new local spot Pete Gunn had found last year... 60˚ overhangs tend to be hard no matter what holds turn up on them. Luckily, as it’s often not the case, this one had a decent amount of holds and the ones which broke off left solid ones behind... It was a perfect session really, I guessed a sequence fast and after one tiny microbeta tweak I huffed and puffed through from the start, winding up through all the gears as the last bits of energy got sucked into the squeezer.
It was an awesome feeling to put up such a fun boulder in such a fashion. A perfect day really, go to a new line, clean it, work it out and only just climb it with one all out attempt. One attempt is all you need though when things go your way. Colonel Hathi is a great boulder. Really fun and its got the only true clock move i’ve ever done outside."
Dan has also been heading North of the Border in recent months, managing a quick ascent of Cruachan Arete Sit Start, 8A+, at Carrick. Dan commented on his blog:
"I managed to get the Cruachan Arete at Carrick from a sit start, once again winding up through the gears as the boulder pump set in, its about 15 moves of super sustained squeezing. I managed it quite early on so i decided to work the full traverse a bit more before we left, but that is very much a harder prospect in June, one for October."
Impressively, Dan made the 2nd ascent of Ben Bransby's Rylstone highball testpiece, Lanny Bassham, which weighing in at 8A+ on grit makes an impressive summertime ascent. Dan had already fallen from the top a couple of times just after Ben made the 1st ascent, this time Dan got a rope out, in order that he could clean and work the top moves. Commenting on the his motivation to climb Lanny Bassham, Dan said:
"There are a few lines in my time climbing where upon seeing them i have been left totally open jawed. For me the extremes of these almost Stendhal moments have been Superbloc, The Young and Lanny Bassham. My own developments can’t count as it is a different process. Upon seeing someone else’s climb you know it can be done as it has been, and in the case of the 3 above I knew the history around them and i wanted to climb them more than any others."
Commenting on his decision to get the rope out Dan explained:
"I went up twice when it was freezing and got to the top sloper match ground-up but the cold and wind shut the ground-up team of Me, Ned, Katzy and Ryan down. As the years have past since and my life has changed I found myself becoming aware that action is required rather than distant hopes of serendipity. The chances of me finding myself up at Rylstone again with the top clean were diminishing (moorland rock is often scrittly). Basically I talked myself out of the ethical stand point in favour of actually climbing it and having fun on a clean boulder. The decision was made in my mind that it was time to take on the meaty, blobby, bassy Bassham again."
Dan also described the day of the ascent on his blog:
"After abbing and cleaning the scrittly top slopers as well as sussing the top (all the other rock is quite bomber) i dropped the top match (the crux for me as being bigger than Ben my ass hangs out on the slopers) The wind was frustratingly missing the boulder and i was sweating, I rarely sweat a lot in my hands but I was asking for it in those conditions. 40 minutes of battle against my mind and the newly arrived sunshine lead to crunch time, I was going backwards and had only got back up there once.
I implored the Bassham performance subconscious to do its work and somehow I managed to just squeeze up it despite feeling the gop on move 3... at the top of Lanny I was ecstatic, what a brilliant coup, I’d got in there whilst it was hibernating. Why try it now and not Autumn or spring? Well, my projects whiteboard is full of things where I have to have perfect conditions to stand a chance of doing them and this year it is looking quite full. So planning ahead I thought Lanny was worth a punt in June. Varian 3, June conditions 2."
Commenting on the quality of the boulder, Dan said:
"It is such a fantastic boulder, every move is interesting and relatively hard, there's not a crimp in sight just pockets slopers and clamping. It is also a hard test piece. Ben usually climbs hard boulders most winters in a casual, just out for 30mins with Klem before picking May up, manner, never mind when he’s got a raging psyche on and has lost half of his one stone body weight. It was a brilliant effort putting this line up out the blue in a protracted flash of inspiration when he did. Lanny seems to require a raging psyche to do it I think. It’s an hour’s slog up Barden Moor and it's so high that you normally need loads of pads to be able to be sure of walking out again."
Here is a video of Dan climbing Lanny Bassham:
Haeding back up to Scotland, Dan decided to check out an infamously unclimbed project that had been tried before by Dave Macleod and possibly Malc Smith in the Arrochar Alps. Arriving to find old tick-marks Dan wasn't sure whether it would go or not but after working out a technical solution to the powerful climbing, Dan climbed the route on his third session, from a standing start, naming it Marratime and grading it 8A+. Dan said the following about the problem:
"After years of climbing with Ned his bonkers beta has rubbed off on me over the years, i've had so many basic power sequences heeled and drop knee'd into submission that it becomes obvious that if there is a way of getting the feet to do the work then let them do it, save the arms for when feet aren't there to help... I did all the moves on my first session with this cloud cuckoo land beta. Next session saw me drop the very last move from a logical stand halfway along the boulder... I was disgusted to drop it there, especially when i found easier beta at the end. I had tried so hard i felt like a heavy horse seriously in need of a watering hole, it was well past 9pm and my last go just confirmed that my bolt was shot.
Tuesday saw me back up with Nick Brown who is keen to film some development of areas. Luckily i've been feeling quite good of late on the rocks and i did the stand at the end of my warm up with the new last move beta. I don't know how hard it is exactly as the beta is so bonkers, to me it felt like an 8A/+ but who knows, it's so steep it doesn't compare to many blocks except for the bowderstone and some stuff at Dumby/Glen Nevis... The sit adds some truly whacky and powerful moves into the stand up and it'll be a formidable challenge once done. I managed a pretty good link from sit though so if I can get my fitness up then I'll be keen. But for now feel free to make the effort and take a look if you fancy a massive power endurance 8B+ish boulder."
In Glen Coe, Dan headed to Turbinal Nose for the first time and after warming up on some classics Dan found a brilliant looking unclimbed highball line up a 25 degree overhanging wall of Schist. Dan tried the line ground up for over an hour but after some rain and hail showers passed through, and with his finger-skin getting thin, he got the rope out to abseil inspect, clean and work the top section. Soon after, Dan crimped his way to the top, naming it Stronghold and giving it a grade of 8A.
"It's a fantastic problem, crimping up some 25 degree overhanging schist on off kilter edges and really dicky feet. you could possibly add a sit into it from the precious start too which would make it harder. Sit starts to highballs aren't something i usually go for but it looks like it could be a good one. Its start holds are on a leftwards trending rail which would also make a brilliant problem.
I'd like to call it Stronghold as its on the hideaway boulder and i think its soft 8Aish? its a good bit harder than Precious anyhow. Many thanks to Alex Gorham for doing the majority of cleaning on the line, its inspiring to see the glens getting some attention."
In Northumberland, Dan put up three new problems, Iron Lung, at 8A was the easiest of the three, and at an undeveloped area called Callaly Moor, talking to UKC, Dan commented further:
"It is under 10 minutes from the road, so not too far out the way and there is a bit more bouldering nearby. The line takes a direct line up an impressive pock marked shield of sandstone via some lovely holds. The boulder has been used for target practice in the past as there are many bullets lodged in it including one in the crux dish of this problem"
Next up Dan climbed a sit start to an existing 7B+ called A Bigger Berry. The sit start adds one really hard extra move, commenting on the difficulty, Dan said:
"The sitter has one really hard move, so doing it in August was probably a bad idea with regards to getting a good feel for the true difficulty but at least the rock was super solid from months of rainless days. It involves slapping a big chunky momma blob of a sloper and compressing super hard whilst jumping the right hand between slots."
Finally, Dan climbed a new problem at Bowden, naming it Bourgeoisie, and grading it 8A+, it involves accurate, fingery climbing, typical of many Bowden testpieces:
"Bourgeoisie is not one to break the trend, super fingery 4mm ish crimps, but positive and some really accurate hand moves mean it is probably an acquired taste but I really enjoyed it, it tops out once it joins 'toffs' at its finishing jug which is nice too as there is a cheeky move up there to gain the very top break. It is a nice companion to working class for people wishing to move up in their social standing..."