Starting his day like any other, Billy began with a fingerboard session because, in his own words, "you can't miss out on training." He then went for a solo session at Crag X with the aim of completing Superman Sit Start. He had climbed the stand start a week before and briefly checked out the moves to the sit start.
The stand start to Superman was first climbed by Jerry Moffatt in 1988, before Ben Moon added the sit in 1994. After his ascent, a crucial sidepull broke and it wasn't until the early 2000s that Tim Clifford reclimbed the stand and 2015 until Ned Feehally reclimbed the sit start. The crux of the problem revolves around what Billy describes as "a miserable crimp" which is roughly 1/3 of a pad. He also used a slightly different sequence to some, making use of a marginal heel:
"By itself, it is next to useless but by pressing your left leg into the roof you can create an opposing force to the heel and take a lot of weight through it. This way I could use my hips to hold my body tight and pull through quickly.
"The sit start adds half a dozen moves which are not all that hard by themselves but means that you then have to do the same crux of Superman slightly fatigued, slightly sweaty, and slightly less well set up on the holds. This all adds up to make it a good bit harder."
Before pulling on, he warmed up on Hulk (7C+) which shares the same finish as Superman and prepared the boulder.
"I then sat at the bottom and climbed to the top first go, what the hell happened there!? After the surprise had subsided I knew that I needed to cash in on the day. There was energy left in the tank, and clearly, I was feeling good, so I closed up shop and drove down the road to the Tor."
At the risk of hyperbole, today was probably the best day of rock climbing I've had. Superman sit (8b+) ✅ Keen roof (8b) ✅ Fat lip (8b) ✅ The plan was to go and try Superman sit after doing the stand last weekend. I turned up prepared for a battle, but instead found myself at the top on my first go from the start. If you'd told me I was going to do that at the start of the year I would have laughed in your face, so that's pretty cool. I played on Keen roof and Fat lip quite a bit in the summer and did some links, but the roof holds on keen had felt too sweaty, and the heel hooks on fat lip too finicky, so I'd sacked them off. With energy to spare after Superman, I figured it was time to give them another go. Cooler conditions, fresh shoes, and I guess a run of form right now meant they felt very different problems, and after a couple goes on each they were done. Not sure where all that came from, everything just felt easier today 🤷🏻♂️ certainly not something to complain about, I just hope it carries on!
He had played on both Keen Roof and Fat Lip before and had completed all the moves. Still warm and clearly pretty motivated, Billy quickly climbed some links on Keen Roof before trying from the beginning. He had a false start where he dropped the crux slap to the lip of the cave and then climbed the problem next go.
"That had worked out better than expected again and so still with some energy I figured I would have a play on fat lip too. I went straight from the start, had a foot a slip but pulled back into the position and climbed to the end. A quick rest and then I did that next go too."
Fat Lip was his favourite of the three; a compression problem that requires precise heel hooking ability and exceptional power endurance.
Billy's day was up there with some of the best on British soil in terms of numbers: "It was all a bit surreal, everything just felt easier than it normally does, I had so much confidence that nothing ever felt in doubt. I think I'll be waiting a long time to have another day as successful as this."
Years of dedicated training obviously played a massive role in ticking all three problems in an afternoon, but Billy believes that the unusual year also had a positive affect. He spent all winter training hard for the World Cup season and then was hugely deflated when COVID hit:
"I was pretty demotivated and needed some downtime, and even once I got my psyche back I was not hammering myself like before. I didn't realise it at the time but I think that allowed my body to properly recover for the first time in forever. I think that combined with having the opportunity to tune in to climbing on rock, specifically the peak lime style, set me in good stead for the year."
The UK bouldering scene is thriving at the moment. Climbs such as Billy, Aidan Roberts, Jim Pope, Will Bosi, Alex Waterhouse, Pete Dawson and Buster Martin (to name a few) are consistently making noteworthy ascents in the form of hard repeats, or climbing new problems which are sure to be future testpieces. All these climbers were in the same youth category and Billy believes the current strength in the bouldering scene is no accident:
"Since we were kids we have been competing and pushing one another, driving the level forward constantly. Now that we are all adults the same thing is still happening, in competition and out on the rocks. So I guess it is the new generation coming through, though I already feel like there are younger kids nipping at our heels, I think that's just how it goes! The longer you fend them off the higher the standard gets pushed, so it's good for everyone."
Late last year, Billy climbed his first Font 8B+ with an ascent of Never Ending Story in Magic Wood, Switzerland. Post-lockdown, he skipped through the grades whilst sport climbing, ticking his first 8c and 8c+ with ascents of Make it Funky at Raven Tor and Mr Hyde at Ceuse; two routes with very different styles - the first a powerful 10m route with an infamous mono and the other a 30m endurance testpiece.
Last month I had the pleasure of filming with @_andrewmac_ on the route I was trying at the time 'Make it Funky'. On top of that we talked a little about my development in climbing and how I've worked my way up through the competition ranks. I'm the last person to enjoy watching myself on camera but I think he's made a great little story out of it, shout-out to my dad for getting in front of the camera and coming out to belay too 🙌🏼 The link for the video is in my bio, or just go find Andy's channel on YouTube, hope you like it!
There are still a few loose ends that Billy wants to tie up on the limestone before the end of the season, but over winter he's looking to finish off Voyager and have a look at Ned Feehally's new problem, The Boss, at Yarncliffe. Watch this space...