INTERVIEW: Aidan Roberts on Rocklands

Aidan Roberts has returned from a very successful winter in Rocklands, where he feels his form was 'a step up' from the bouldering trips he's been on in the past. Aidan had one month in Rocklands and came back with a varied tick list which included first ascents, a Font 8C and a Font 8B flash.

Aidan joined the small list of British climbers who have flashed 8B or above (Tyler Landman, Nathan Phillips and Ned Feehally are the other three) with his ascent of Master Key. He also climbed the notoriously difficult Monkey Wedding (8C), a ferociously fingery Fred Nicole test piece from 2002. To this date, less than ten Brit's have climbed 8C. Aidan also left his own mark with the first ascent of Skadoosh, which he tentatively graded 8B but on reflection felt it was more comparable to Oliphant's Dawn (see our report from Aidan's first week) and Amandala.

Skadoosh- FA, maybe 8b, maybe even 8b+? With some incredible rock quality about there's nothing quite like finding some sandy crimps to yard on. These small crimps are surprisingly comfy and I could bagged this in just a few tries. The decision of the grade is hard for me as I did it very fast and it suits my style perfectly. Initially I would have undergraded it but with reflection feel it is comparible to climbs such as Oliphants Dawn and Amandala. Maybe time will tell or maybe the fragile holds will crumble and this climb will be forgotten. Either way, the climbing was good and I'm happy with this one ☺ @thenorthface @thenorthface_climb @thenorthfaceuk #neverstopexploring #bouldering #rocklands #climbing_pictures_of_instagram #climbing

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You've just returned from a very successful trip to Rocklands and it seems like you stepped up a level on the trip. What would you put your success down to?

Yes, I was happy with my form this trip and feel it was a step up from bouldering trips I've been on in the past. I think I've been able to maintain the physical strength I obtained in the winter. I had no studies to attend this year so my winter consisted almost solely of training, it paid off for me in the end. I do a lot of board training which I feel does not help me much during the competition season but it turns out Rocklands and my home board are very much alike.

You were able to climb some very hard boulder problems such as Oliphant's Dawn in a very few attempts. How do you prepare for problems like that?

This boulder was one of the ones I was keenest for though I suspected would be very hard for me. I enjoy intricate sequences and subtle movements you get in places such as font but its rare that boulders are so simply strength based and this is something I feel I enjoy just as much. I knew the small holds suited me well but I didn't have anything to relate it to so was pleasantly surprised when it went down in a few tries. For this, and for Amandala, we got up very early to catch the cold morning conditions without the high humidity and warm rock you get at night. I found my fingerboard vital for both these boulders. I have developed a routine which allows me to pull straight on which avoids having to try boulders beforehand, saving skin and allowing for the better conditions.

Climbing day 4 Today was my best day yet! An early start brought me to Oliphants Dawn 8b+, I knew this was a hard boulder and anticipated a few sessions. In hindsight I feel I should have given it a good flash burn, dropping the last hold on my 2nd try! Thankfully it went down 3rd try, psyched! I then headed to The Coop and had a full day of climbing where I was able to do a bunch of 7's along with Patience 8a, The Beaten Path 8a, The Buying Power 7c+. I then finished the day off with Night Visions 8a+, the hard crimpy thing to the right of this (8something) and Antidote 8b. It was a fight to be climbing all day but I enjoyed every bit of it and hope for more great days like these. @thenorthface @thenorthfaceuk #neverstopexploring

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What did you think of the area itself? It seems like Rocklands has had a huge amount of development in the past couple of years and that's only increasing.

Rocklands is beautiful, boulders as far as you can see and, though many are unclimbable, there is potential for so much more amazing bouldering! I visited at a good time, the new guide came out on my third day there so I was able to get an insight into how much more the area has grown in the past few years. It's safe to say I will definitely go back.

Were there boulder problems that took a bit more out of you than others on the trip?

Monkey Wedding took me a little while. I had 3 sessions on it in the end, I was very tired on my first two and did not feel strong. I could do all the moves on my first session but didn't feel close to doing it. I felt a little fresher on my 2nd session and dropped the last move which was a shame but I knew if I had a rest day it should feel ok. I did that and on my 3rd session, it didn't feel too bad. This was the boulder which took me the longest but I feel the one I am most pleased about.

Monkey Wedding 8c/V15 Finished this off over a week ago and I'm pleased with it. It was an interesting boulder for me and one which felt as though it should not have been too hard. Physically I felt comfortable on it and found the final roll into the break easy, even from before the crux moves. However, after adding 3 easier intro moves my foot would pop every single time. I stuck the crux slap 8 times before I could get my foot to stay! Maybe this makes my ascent even more satisfying. Climbing at such a grade has always been inspiring for me yet also intimidating. Now that I've done it and it did not feel too hard I think it will give me confidence to try boulders of similiar difficulty in the future 👍 @thenorthface @thenorthfaceuk @edenrockclimbing #neverstopexploring #climbing #climbing_pictures_of_instagram #bouldering #rocklands

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Monkey Wedding is a superb tick. It seems incredible that Fred climbed it all those years ago.

I was super impressed as to the extent of hard boulders which he developed out there. By modern day standards, his ticket remains one of the best out there and it goes to show how far ahead of his time he was when he first started developing in this area. One thing I feel is equally inspiring is the difficulty of boulders he is still developing today. Only 2 years ago he was able to put up Chakijana, a steep roof with slopey scoops graded 8C. I did not try this but had a look at it and it looks desperate!

What are your aspirations in the next few years? Do you have goals in competitions?

It seems I had a lot more luck climbing outside than I have in competitions in the past but I have faith that, with perseverance, my time will come in competition climbing. I have only the World Championships left in competitions this year and so my efforts are focused on that for the time being. I have every intention of continuing with the Bouldering World Cups. This season has been useful for me and I feel I have a good understanding of what I need to work on in order to do well. It turns out there is very little pulling on small holds required! Despite this, I am very keen to organise some trips between university studies around Europe. This trip to Rocklands has given me some confidence and there are numerous lines which once just inspired me which I now am keen to try. Maybe top of this list is Bügeleisen in Maltatal, Austria.

Aidan is sponsored by: Eden Rock, La Sportiva, Petzl and The North Face

Forums 10 comments

Good to see Aiden getting some credit here. Definitely well deserved. I thought his companion Nathan Philips had a pretty good trip too doing a bunch of 8B's including first ascents. It would be interesting to know who...
AFAIK Secret Splendour was new at the time and was originally graded 8b but was subsequently downgraded around the same time as James’ ascent, and has stuck at 8a+.  Not sure how many ascents the Swiss ones had had...

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