Dave Mason has made the third ascent of Dan Varian's Bewilderness 8B+ at Deep Dale in the Peak District, near Buxton. The problem is one of the hardest lines on limestone in the country and was first repeated last year by Dan Turner (UKC News report).
Dave has not long returned from an extended climbing trip to Australia and New Zealand and has been busy training since arriving back in the UK. He took the time to answer a few questions about Bewilderness and his recent trip...
I was living with Dan (Varian) during the time when he was developing Badger Cove. I went down a couple of times and managed to do Badger Badger Badger but I remember watching Dan on what would become Bewilderness and thinking how good the movements looked. So the seed was sewn in my mind way back in 2011.
How many sessions did it take?
I first had a ‘play’ on the moves in the summer of 2014 after climbing King of Limbs in Rocklands, unfortunately I had picked up two finger injuries and I also just wasn’t strong enough for it. I have been talking about going back and putting some time into it ever since but until last Tuesday I hadn’t actually made it back there. On that session last week I managed to do the moves and was pleasantly surprised with how I felt on it, especially as it was my fourteenth session (training lots!) in 6 days. I then went back on Friday and gave it some attempts from the start; surprisingly my first two goes were my best, but I kept falling going with my right hand to an awful slopey intermediate just before the top. On my last attempt from the ground I got through to this move but was far too tired to put my left foot where I had previously been placing it, this resulted in me putting it much lower and I had a futile go at the move, I was nowhere near but something about the body position felt much more natural.
I returned on Sunday with a few friends and tried the top off a ladder just to see how this different foot hold and body position would be. It felt great, I knew this was the way. After one poor attempt from the start I managed to bag Bewilderness on my next go!
The top-out looks interesting, tell us about that!
You are right there! Dan topped it out, and although this is a little pointless and against the good old Peak District limestone drop-off ethics, standing on top is always a good feeling. It had rained a lot the day before and so the top was a mixture of wet rock, wet leaves, wet trees and mud - not your average top-out, that’s for sure!
Did your recent big trip help you to prepare for this - what did you get done while you were away?
I am not sure really, probably, I definitely feel like I have been climbing well since returning. I have been training a lot since coming back - I always miss training – and maybe this recruitment combined with the ability to move on rock from the time away has helped. Our trip was great and it was one of those rare trips where everything came together, Mina and I actually ended up climbing most things on our tick lists. The climbing highlights for me were managing the ‘Big Three’ 8B’s in the Grampians, On The Beach, Ammagamma and Cherry Picking plus getting the second ascent of White Shadow an E6 6B that a friend had put up years earlier, imagine End of the Affair but much better! In New Zealand pretty much every problem was good, but climbing The Big Show (8A+) just after fellow Brit Adam Watson was great. For two weeks we climbed as much as was physically possible every day, running around like kids in a sweet shop. I can’t wait to return to the boulders there.
Are you normally a fan of limestone bouldering?
In this country, no, in New Zealand, yes! Having said that, Peak District limestone bouldering serves a purpose for me. It’s a great way to get strong, the moves are often good and it still means you’re outside. Badger Cove is great quality rock, possibly the best in the Peak (?) and there isn’t a minging hold in sight plus all the problems are a nice height containing interesting movement.
Why do you think it's had so few ascents? (other than the fact it's clearly pretty hard...does it see much attention?)
I think it has a reputation of being really hard, which can put people off, it certainly did for me, in fact if Mina hadn’t badgered (excuse the pun) me to go last Tuesday I wouldn’t have done it. I know a few others who have tried it and will definitely get it finished at some point. The other two problems down there; Badger (8A) and Dandelion Mind (8B) have had quite a lot of attention in the last few years so I think Bewilderness will be next. There are plenty of others strong enough to do it.
Training for Font in February and getting out as much as I can whilst replenishing my bank balance after spending too much money over the summer!
Watch a video of Dave on Bewilderness below: