Alex Barrows has climbed his first 8C, ticking The Wheel of Life at Hollow Mountain Area bouldering in the Grampians, Australia. The problem is world-famous for its length of ~70 moves and was first climbed by Dai Koyamada in 2004 and originally graded 8C+.
The Wheel links Extreme Cool (7B+) into Sleepy Hollow (8A) into Cave Man (7C) into Dead Can't Dance (8A).
Describing the problem, Alex told UKC:
"It's ~70 moves all told, so a long way removed from normal bouldering, but not quite route climbing either. It's long enough to make Pilgrimage at Parisella's look almost like a boulder problem though!"
Last April, Alex climbed his first 9a - Era Vella - at Margalef in Spain. As a climber with preferences for long, endurance-heavy routes with knee-bars, how did he think Era Vella compared to Wheel of Life?
"In terms of grade I think the concensus nowadays is 9a as a route grade, or 8B+ as a boulder grade; a bit harder if you don't use kneepads, but I sure as hell did! I thought it was probably lower end 9a, not that I'm particularly qualified to give an opinion compared to some of the previous ascentionists. The climbing is probably harder than that on Era Vella, but then it's a million times easier to work so it should be physically harder to earn a similar grade for the overall challenge. Anyway, it's not really about the grade with this thing, it's about it being The Wheel of Life and about it being awesome fun!"
Writing in his blog, Alex summed up his achievement as follows:
"The deep down contentment of doing a problem which I'd heard of for a decade but never dreamed I could ever climb until the last few years, and never expected to climb until the last few days, seems likely to stay around a little while... at least until I find the next project anyway!"
Having finished his PhD, Alex is now away on a long trip with girlfriend Ella until November - visiting Australia, South Africa and America.
Read more about The Wheel on Alex's blog.