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Young Brits on Form in Magic Wood

Recently a group of young British climbers descended on Averstal (Magic Wood). Among them, young talent such as Billy Ridal, Orrin Coley, Molly Thompson-Smith, Alex Waterhouse, Jonny White and Aidan Roberts. Most of them predominantly indoor and competition climbers, the group took a two week trip to the woods to test themselves against some some real rock.

Billy Ridal on Platte, 7b+  © Pete Wilkinson
Billy Ridal on Platte, 7b+
© Pete Wilkinson

Over the course of the trip, many of them succeeded in completing their hardest problems yet. GB Junior and Senior Team member Billy Ridal sent his first 8B, The Riverbed.

'It's a super classic that I thought would suit my style, so it seemed like an obvious choice to push myself on.

I had the climb in mind before the trip, but having only climbed 8A previously, thought it was overly optimistic. On my first session I only planned to work the moves but ended up doing a link through to the last move. I waited until after a rest day, got up early for good conditions and got it done 3rd go of the second session.

'The trip represents the progression I have made since last year and that is undoubtedly what I am proudest of. This year I ticked through all of the problems I'd left unfinished last year very quickly, the main one being Voigas, 8A+. Last year I couldn't do any of the moves; this year I did it in around half an hour. Often I find it difficult to see evidence of progress in my climbing, so having objective proof like this is very satisfying.

'I didn't have a specific objective, I just went out with an optimistic tick list and the idea that I would like to try and push my grade. The physical style and abundance of beta makes Magic Wood the perfect place to push yourself. I worked through my list ticking things quickly until I found something I felt really pushed me to my limit. This was Steppenwolf, 8B. I didn't manage to finish it, however, my best link felt like one of the hardest bits of climbing I had ever done. That for me is as satisfying as any of the climbs I completed. Plus at some point I get to go back and finish it off.'

Billy trying Steppenwolf, 8B

GB Junior Team Captain and Senior Team member, Alex Waterhouse, also climbed his first 8B, One Summer in Paradise, which he lost no time in following up with his second 8B Steppenwolf.

'I had looked at Steppenwolf on the first day of the trip and it looked absolutely impossible. Every single move felt impossible and I almost gave up in the first few minutes. However, I worked out the last few moves and the top-out pretty quickly, which kept me inspired to try the first two, and hardest moves.

'After finding some short-man beta with a high foot, I made it though the first move, then the second and then all the way to the final sloper...just one move away from the last hold. The game was on!

Two days later, I woke up early and spotted Billy on his ascent of The Riverbed and set back to work on Steppenwolf again. But it was too hot so I spent the entire day resting, waiting for the shade of the evening. Fortunately, the conditions were good and I sent the problem! I am most proud of this because it really felt so impossible in the beginning. To go from there to actually sending the thing feels like a really big step forward in my climbing and my perception of what is possible.'

Alex and the 'send-shirt' on Piranja, 7C+

Orrin grabbing a night time ascent of Voigas, 8a+  © Pete Wilkinson
Orrin grabbing a night time ascent of Voigas, 8a+
© Pete Wilkinson

Orrin Coley, fresh from the British Bouldeirng Championships podium was on form too: 'Although none of the problems were my hardest, for me it was the fact that I could clearly see my training over the last year has been paying off. There where climbs that felt impossible for me last year such as Octopussy, 8A, which this time I did pretty much after I warmed up. Also the Right Hand of Darkness, 8A, and Left Hand of Darkness, 8A+, which share the same first 3 or 4 moves - I couldn't even pull on them a year ago. This time I basically did Left Hand first go, having never tried the end moves before.

The hardest problem I felt I did was Voigas, 8A+. It wasn't a personal best and if anything is probably soft for 8A+ but the style just didn't suit me and I really had to push myself just to even do the moves, let alone the whole problem. I'm pleased I managed it in the end and the moves themselves are super cool and wild, even if the line isn't the most inspiring.

I set out with the intention of wanting to consolidate 8A+. Which I feel like I might be on the way to achieving now.'

Orrin climbed four 8A+'s: Jack's Broken Heart in a session, Left Hand of Darkness and Voigas in a day. 'And then on one of the last days I managed Riders of the Storm in a session too.'

Orrin pulling hard on Jack's Broken Heart, 8a+

For GB Junior Team Captain, and Senior Team member, Molly Thompson-Smith, the trip was about testing her level outdoors and 'getting more comfortable with climbing on rock!' Molly explained: 'I haven't really climbed outside very much, especially compared to the others on the trip. This was my fifth time bouldering outside and my first time to Magic Wood so I still felt a bit unsure as to what I was capable of doing.'

She added:

'I'd done three 7Cs in Font before but that was about it, and this trip I did quite a few 7Cs, all of which felt quite similar in difficulty, maybe a few easier than the grade given but Magic Wood is suits my style fairly well so I may have found them more manageable!'

Among the 7C's that Molly climbed on this trip were Jack the Chipper, Fight Club, Minisex and Man of Cow.

Molly Thompson-Smith trying Piranja, 7c+.  © Molly Thompson-Smith
Molly Thompson-Smith trying Piranja, 7c+.
© Molly Thompson-Smith

'I was pleased to have felt close on a couple of harder problems that I tried - it gave me a bit of confidence that maybe I could climb some fairly hard stuff outdoors one day and that I wasn't just a comp climber!

'It was just generally nice being in a low pressure situation with some friends, really enjoying climbing in its purest form – a pleasant change from stressful competitions. The trip was great and I can't wait to get back on rock as soon as possible! The only thing that I've come home feeling a little sad about is that I didn't get to finish my project for the trip, From Darkness to Sunshine (Low Start), 8A/+, as it rained near the end of the trip, soaking most of the holds. I was pretty gutted as I'd managed it from three moves in and it was a lot harder than anything I'd thought I would be capable of climbing on the trip. But I guess it's a reason to go back soon. The psyche for outdoors is definitely high!'

Molly enjoying Blown Away, 7b:

Former GB junior team member Jonny White also achieved a new personal best, managing to skip a grade in the process. He went to Magic Wood with the goal of climbing his first 8A in mind, his previous best being 7C+.

'While there I climbed Jack's Broken Heart, 8a+, so this was above my goal for the trip. It felt like a real come-back to climbing well again.

'The trip had a friendly but competitive vibe that I feel pushed me to climb harder, as everyone on the trip was climbing so well. I think its' always good to climb with people who are better than you so that you can learn from what they do and the way they approach things.'

Aidan Roberts, also on the GB Junior Team, came along with a plate and 9 screws in his foot following an injury in Font. According to Orrin, 'he still managed to burn everyone else off' despite that. He told UKC:

'Although not my hardest problem to date, I was happy to get One Summer in Paradise', particularly as I'd only had three climbing sessions since recovering from my injury.'

Aiden also came very close to a send on New Base Line, 8B+.

A video by Orrin Coley of their Magic Wood trip:

Another video by Billy Ridal of the trip:

Orrin is sponsored by: Evolv, Metolius and prAna.

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Molly is a member of the GB Climbing Team, holding multiple British Championship titles. In 2017, Molly won bronze in a Lead World Cup and earned a top 10 World Ranking. She is currently working towards...

Molly's Athlete Page 8 posts

Orrin Coley is a top UK boulderer based in Leicester. He has climbed several hard first ascents at Forest Rock, including two Font 8B+'s and has repeated Ben Moon's Voyager Low Start (Font 8B+).

Orrin's Athlete Page 7 posts 5 videos

Career Highlights: 

  • Two time BUCS National Champion (2016, 2017)
  • 4th place at British Boulder Championships and British Lead Championships 2016
  • 8b Riverbed, Magic...

Billy's Athlete Page 4 posts 1 video

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5 Aug, 2016
James Squire is over there atm as well so hold tight for more hard ascents.
Nice shirt!!!
5 Aug, 2016
I can see you in that shirt Rob! Good work youths.
Shame you wouldn't see me getting up any of the problems featured within the report!
Lol, me too!
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