13 year-old Leo Skinner from South Wales has ticked Butch Cassidy (f8A) 8A at Dinas Rock, the day after his 13th birthday. Leo has been working his way up through the bouldering grades over the last two years, with multiple 7Cs and 7C+s under his belt.
Leo has been climbing for five years and started to climb outdoors two years ago. He gave us the rundown of his ticklist to date:
'My first hard climb was in 2015 when I ticked my first 7Cs (both at Dinas Rock) Taylor Made Eliminate (f7C) and Fat Cat Roof (f7C). A month after this, I managed to do my first 7C+, Fat Cats Roof + Taylor Made (f7C+).
'In the spring of last year, I made the trip up to North Wales and sent Bus Stop RH (V9) 7C and Ultimate Retro Party (f7B) 7B the same day in a few attempts. In the summer I went to Biblin's cave in the Forest of Dean and managed to tick Bit Bites Again (f7C) 7C in one session and Peckitt's Traverse (f7C) 7C in a couple of sessions.'
All the while, Leo had been projecting The Riot (f7C+) 7C+ at Dinas Rock. After falling from the last move countless times, he succeeded on his 10th session. In October half term, he travelled up to North Wales for the day and climbed Badgers in the Mist (f7C) 7C and Moria (f7B) 7B in the same session. One weekend later, he went up to Dinas Rock to choose a winter project. He decided on Boy Racer (f7C) 7C, but completed it quickly and then looked to the sit, Butch Cassidy (f8A) 8A.
On working the problem, Leo commented:
'When we had dry enough weather in December I went to Dinas to try Butch Cassidy. The sit start is often wet and needs a lot of drying. You start off with a rubbish left pinch and a two finger pocket undercut and make a hard pull up to a slopey-crimp intermediate and throw to a polished sloper. This first move is often the first crux as the pull on is so hard off one boulder pad. After this, you swing your feet high left above your head onto two foot holds and throw out into a hard compression swing to a two finger dimple while your feet swing out. This is the second crux and this was the main move I had trouble with as when you swing out it's hard not to dab the pad. When I first linked these two lower cruxes together, I was into the V9 Boy Racer. I fought to the finish of the problem, surprised I had done it after only three sessions!'
Completing Butch Cassidy last Saturday, Leo's success came as a late birthday present:
'When I ticked it, my first 8A, I felt ecstatic and was shaking for a while after I had sent it with excitement. I pushed myself so hard to my physical limits. I couldn't quite believe I'd done it.
So, what's next for this strong youth? Leo has plenty of problems on his list:
'Next on my list is Diesel Power 8A in the Llanberis Pass, North Wales. I love North Wales because of the number of quality lines, I love going up there and trying everything whether hard or not in such a beautiful setting. Another on my list is Right Hand Of Darkness 8A, which I hope to climb when I go to Magic Wood.'
When asked if bouldering is his speciality, Leo replied:
'In the future, I'd like to climb routes but I don't at the moment, mostly because it's always wet and also because I have never really had the chance. I think I'm more of a boulderer, but I could learn to sport climb in the summer maybe!'
Leo gets his inspiration for hard bouldering from videos posted online. He added:
'Especially those of local strong boulderers Eliot Stephens and James Squire and further afield, the videos made by Sam and Joe Lawson and Dom Bridgewood. My coach Morgan Preece also inspires me with his quick ascents of very hard problems and the support he gives me - without him none of this would be possible.'
His Dad, Rich - who also ticked his first 7C, Boy Racer on the same day as Leo's big tick - told UKC:
'I'd like to add that Leo generally only gets to climb outside once a week and that's only if it's dry (which isn't very often) and chose the problems at Dinas as that's the crag closest to us. He's incredibly self motivated and researches the problems he wants to try himself.'
Leo is sponsored by: Llangorse Climbing Centre and Monkey Fist