Aidan Roberts has climbed his long-term project at the Lad Stones, a sit-start to Man Power (Font 8A) which he has named Superpower. He has tentatively graded the problem Font 8C/+, which if confirmed, would make it the hardest problem in the UK.
Superpower - First Ascent. The second of my top projects. In terms of pure difficulty and minimalism, this one takes the top spot and undoubtedly barges it's way to my hardest climb to date whilst also aligning perfectly with my style. Steep, body tension, wide moves and small crimps and, from my experience, possibly one of the best of it's style I've come across. Over the past 4 years or so I've tried it on and off, never really linking more than a couple of moves and never feeling close to linking the full sequence. I knew I was currently climbing well but, until I had a session dropping the last hard move, my confidence for this climb eluded me. The satisfaction and disbelief when standing atop of this massive boulder will not be one I'll forget in a hurry. Dreading the topic of difficulty, I'll admit I'm out of my depth with this one. Having never really tried much of the top end bouldering it's hard to understand where this sits, though comparing to the ones which I have, it feels as though it sits a difficulty above any 8C I have tried. I'm not yet so willing to commit to this new territory with so little experience so, despite it's slightly lame nature, will propose the annoying slash grade of 8C/+. Perhaps some more clarity will arise once I've developed a little more experience of cutting edge climbing. Funnily enough, photos provided yet again by @samm_pratt ;)
Four years ago, Aidan climbed Man Power and saw then that the uncompleted sit-start was 'where the main quality layed.' Since then, he has been working on the sit-start sporadically, before climbing it last week during his 9th session. Aidan described how the problem is a difficult one to work:
'The holds are small to the extent that you get very few attempts before your skin and fingers throw in the towel. For me, it was only ever a maximum of 10 tries if I was lucky and my skin is generally pretty hard wearing.'
Described by Dan Varian (who is no slouch) as 'the hardest problem in the UK of its style,' climbing the problem relies on finger strength and body tension, something Aidan and Dan have in abundance. According to Aidan, 'there's few boulders that feel as basic' and the minimalism of the boulder appealed greatly: 'It takes a very striking and direct line up a blank face, which is relatively rare amongst the featured rock of the Lake District.'
Spending so long on a project is rare for Aidan, who quite frequently finds himself on top of 8B+/8C boulder problems after noticeably short time periods. In 2019, he climbed Jade (Font 8B+) in Rocky Mountain National Park on his 3rd attempt. More recently, he ticked pretty much all of Badger Cove in the Peak District (including Dan Varian's Dandelion Mind (Font 8B) and Bewilderness (Font 8B+)) in a single session. The following day, he climbed Superman Sit Start (Font 8B+), again in a session.
In between repeating the hardest problems in the country, he has been adding his own. At Trowbarrow, he made quick work of a project which he named Outliers and graded it Font 8C.
With all that in context, Aidan has stuck his neck out an put a '/+' on the end of Superpower. He explained his reasoning:
'Regarding difficulty, I've proposed 8C/+. I'm not such a fan of a slash grade but in this scenario, I feel as though I'm perhaps a little inexperienced trying climbs of this difficulty to cast an accurate judgement. I know in the past I've taken trips abroad and climbed up to 8C before returning home and trying this and not feeling close to linking the sequence. By this logic, it seemed obvious that it should sit a level higher seeing as though it also suits me perfectly too.
'That being said, this is referencing grades abroad. Traditionally, in my opinion, there's been a slight disparity between the Lake District and the rest of the UK and then from the UK to other areas of the world, so for me, it is tough to understand what to reference. Whether to maintain consistency of the area or try to normalise the system a little. I think I currently sit in limbo between the 2 and am doing my best to grade things as honestly as I can. I have no doubt I'll make some mistakes along the way but perhaps it'll just be my pride which takes the hit on that one.'
Aidan also climbed another project just over the hill in the Coppermines. The problem is the sit-start to the existing Copperline (8A+) and he has given it the grade of Font 8B+ and a hard one at that. He got shown the stand mid-summer by Dan Varian and climbed it shortly afterwards. He then waited for cooler temperatures for the sit-start.
'The real quality comes from the sit with physical compression on slopey edges and pinches. The sit adds about 3 hand moves and plenty of foot moves to create a 6 move boulder straight up the middle of the face. The quality of the climbing is incredible, and I think likely the most pleasant of my recent projects as I understand that not everyone enjoys a small incut edge! I completed this on my 4th session though had a full sequence change in the middle which unlocked it for me.'
Copperline - First Ascent. Means a lot to me this one! The first and possibly most pleasant of my 3 main projects for this year which somehow all dropped like flies in the last week. I completed the stand to this face a few months back and, in the summer heat, discovered an incredible sequence for the sit though one which felt far beyond me. With some cooler temps, an unusable slopey pinch became usable and as a result I was able to unlock a new sequence through some poor pinches and narrow compression. I ramped the gears up and dug deep and almost surprised myself on the day, a satisfying moment and possibly one of the most euphoric climbing experiences I've had. Regarding difficulty, I feel that, by Lakes standards, it far from suits my style. I've got a way to go with grading experience but feel hard 8B+ likely represents this one well. Regardless, possibly one of the best about and well worth a trip for any interested. Cheers @samm_pratt for yet again delivering the photos, seemingly a good omen for me at the crag! :)
Aidan seems to be delving deeper into the world of projecting, describing it as a 'satisfying game.' After his recent flurry of hard ascent and new-found excitement for putting time into projects, it's probably safe to say Aidan will be pushing the standards of UK bouldering even further in the near future.