This is the second episode in the Stone Kingdom series from Nick Brown of Outcrop films, where he followed some of the country's top climbers around the UK. In this episode, Nick captures Dan Varian making the first ascent of The Rail, 8B+, at Bowden Doors, Northumberland.
Nick Brown talks about this episode:
"The forecast had looked good all week, so we drove over to Bowden the night before. We woke up in the morning and it had rained for hours already. The Rail is hugely conditions dependant, so we thought there was no chance that it would be climbable. Dan was furiously checking the weather and thought there was a chance that the wind was blowing in exactly the right direction. We walked in past wet rock to find The Rail was one of the only dry climbs at the whole crag.
Dan had been trying it for about two years, but was constantly hindered by warm and wet weather. I got the feeling Dan wanted the climb out of the way so he could focus on new projects. He’d almost climbed the rail in his first year of trying it, but had broke a hold in the process and had to work an entirely new sequence. He spent the next two years being spat off at various points, whilst using different shoe configurations, climbing through most seasons and not leaving the country.
The day Dan climbed it; he warmed up slowly and had a couple of attempts where he fell quite low down. He seemed confident however, and on his third attempt of the day got through the crux. You could see in his face that he was nervous and it’s possible to see in the film that his entire body tenses as he holds the cut loose. I can’t begin to imagine what it would feel like to top out a project that I had tried for over two years. Most climbers rarely experience a long term project, but the ultimate sense of satisfaction and accomplishment must feel incredible. The rail stands proudly in the middle of Bowden Doors, a beautiful feature of wavy sandstone, with just enough holds to make it possible. Dan sums it up nicely on his blog:
“If it’s the best climb I ever do I’ll retire a happy man, if it’s the hardest, likewise. All I know is that it was a joy seeing through the process. This to me is why I boulder, for the difficulty and intricacy that can only be felt without distractions, to climb up lines like this.”