Alex Waterhouse has climbed The Fly (9a/Font 8B) at Rumney in New Hampshire. The route was first bolted in 1995 as an open project, although the first ascent did not come until Dave Graham climbed it in 2000. At the time, it was one of the hardest climbs in North America.
At the beginning of every Rumney session for the last 3 years, I've pulled on these start holds and wondered if I would ever be strong enough to climb this route. In the beginning it was more of a pipe dream, but last fall I had my first glimmer of hope and my first sign that it was possible, and I'm so happy to have been able to top it out yesterday. Such an iconic route and its smack bang in the middle of my favorite crag, it doesn't get much better than that! ▪️ 💎💎The Fly (9a)💎💎 ▪️ Feels like a V13 boulder, but I was raised that if you're clipping bolts then you're sport climbing...
Alex moved to the US 3 years ago to complete a Computer Science degree and Rumney is now his local crag at just under an hour away. Over the past few seasons, Alex has been ticking his way through other hard classics of the crag, including China Beach (8c) and Livin' Astroglide (8c+).
Alex told UKC: 'China Beach is the jewel of the cliff, and likely the best sport climb I've ever done. It starts up a groove that shouldn't be very hard, about 8a+, but it forces you to climb with as little power as possible to save energy for the crux boulder above. I spent an entire session just before I sent getting this balance wrong and fell with my feet skating off every single attempt. After the groove, you launch straight into a 7C crux that should go every time off the rope, but even feeling perfect from the ground it feels like a lottery.'
Alex climbed China Beach in Spring 2018 and it was his first 8c. He soon set his sights on The Fly. It is certainly a line for people who enjoy crimping and luckily Alex does, so it was a perfect long term project.
The Fly is a strange sport climb because it is only six moves long, but the bolts were placed to protect a dangerous landing. Most ascents have utilised the bolts, although Jason Kehl and Kevin Jorgeson climbed it above crash pads after working the route on a top rope.
The route has attained somewhat of a mythical status according to Alex: 'It sits right in the middle of one of the busiest sectors at the crag and since the hardest move is right off the ground it's very easy to go and feel the holds and imagine climbing it. Because of this, I've tested myself on it about once a season, trying the first move a few times to see how it felt but it remained very much a 'maybe one day' kind of climb.'
Over the past year, Alex has doubled down on his training and believes he is at his strongest. Early in the season he stuck the first move and linked from the second move to the top: 'I knew it was game on but as the moves are so at my limit, I was ready to dig in for a siege. Fortunately, I came back the next week and finished it off in just a few goes!'
He certainly seems to be on top form and a couple of weeks before climbing The Fly, Alex managed an ascent of Meadowlark Lemon at Red Rocks. After 'underperforming' at some competitions, he took a step back from them and went on a 10-day trip to the area just outside Vegas: 'Unfortunately, the rock in Vegas is extremely susceptible to wear and damage, so the boulder is quite different compared to when it was FAed and the grade has come down a little, but to climb such a classic and aesthetic boulder so quickly was a great way to start that trip.'
WHAT???? I can't believe this just happened. I tried this dream boulder two years ago and could barely pull off the ground on the stand, so to come back and dispatch even that in about 30 minutes was enough to make this 10 day trip a success. I didn't have any beta on the sit, but figured out this novel gaston move that allows me to start from a true sit pretty quickly, and linked through to the stand in a few goes. Both sections felt hard on their own, but I hiked up yesterday knowing the conditions were due to worsen over the rest of the trip. I reclimbed the stand first go, and within an hour I was stood, flabbergasted, on top of one of the best hard rock climbs in the world. It's been a tough time in my life recently, but I'm so grateful that I can find such joy in the sport I'm devoted to and the people that I love. ◾️ 💎Meadowlark Lemon (V14/8B+)💎 ◾️ I don't climb V14 that fast, but I'll leave it up to the big guns to pull the trigger on the downgrade 😏 ◾️ Thanks to @claireecat for the video and the support, I couldn't do this without you
So what's on the agenda next?
'I think I'm going to put some time into Jaws II at Rumney over the rest of this season, but the biggest focus is now is preparing for the BBCs over the summer. I made the final last year and was right on the cusp of team selection, so hopefully, some minor adjustments to my approach and mindset (and some bigger biceps... ) will make the difference this year. After that's done, I want to take a bit of time to really get back into sport climbing and have some UK based goals over the summer and autumn.'