We held off reporting on ascents during lockdown, but as things begin to ease in the UK, here's a round-up of some of the hardest ascents from the last few months...
Nico Pelorson climbs Seodain Seul - suggests Font 8C+
23-year-old Nico Pelorson has made the second ascent of Simon Lorenzi's Soudain Seul in Fontainebleau. Lorenzi graded the climb Font 9A, which was understandable considering the attention that the project had seen from the likes of Jimmy Webb and Jan Hojer. He began working on the problem back in 2019
Fanatic Climbing interviewed Pelorson after his ascent. Like Lorenzi, Pelorson also used the interesting technique of strapping a book underneath his kneepad.
Commenting on the grade, he believes the problem is closer to Font 8C+, although only subsequent repeats will help to confirm the grade one way or the other. Interestingly, this is the second time Pelorson has suggested a downgrade for a Font 9A. In late 2020, he repeated Charles Albert's No Kpote Only (also in Fontainebleau) and believed it to be a 'solid 8C.'
Martina Demmel in the sport climbing form of her life
19-year-old German climber Martina Demmel has been in unstoppable form in Spain. She started climbing in 2017 and has since amassed a huge ticklist of sport climbs up to 8c+. Most recently, she has been climbing at Oliana and two weeks ago she onsighted Picos Pardos (8b) and then climbed American Hastle (8c) on her second attempt. The following week, she onsighted Marroncita (8b) and followed it up by climbing Fish Eye (8c) on her second go.
Just a few days later, she onsighted her first 8b+ with an ascent of Los Humildes pa casa and then redpointed Joe Blau (8c+) on her third attempt. Two days later, she redpointed La Morenita (8c+) on her fourth go. Such rapid ascents of many hard routes is unprecedented. 8a.nu report that over the past year, she has recorded nearly 900 routes of which she onsighted 70%. We're going to be hearing big things from Martina...
Repeats of Ned Feehally's 'The Boss'
Billy Ridal and Nathan Phillips made the 3rd and 4th ascents of The Boss at Yarncliffe in the Peak District. Billy got close to repeating the roof back in the Autumn before the standard British winter resumed and soaked the problem for months. A spell of dry weather at the start of March dried the problem sufficiently for Billy to resume his attempts. He finally ticked the problem after falling off with both hands on the finishing jug three times! On the problem, he said: 'Kudos to Ned for the vision on this one, it's easily the most enjoyable sequence of hard moves I've done on grit, sustained and powerful from start to finish with technical foot beta to keep you sucked in.'
Watch Billy on his successful attempt below:
Nathan's sequence was different to the others and instead of using a backwards toe hook, utilised a crimp. Ned originally dismissed the hold because it was so poor and on quite friable rock, but it appears the hold has changed from a 'spike' to a four fingered hold since his first ascent. Ned was at pains to point out he thought there was no foul play, only that the rock is quite soft in that section of the roof. With his new sequence, Nathan believed the problem to be around Font 8B.
New Font 8B in South Wales for Eliot Stephens
South Wales local Eliot Stephens climbed a new Font 8B at Neath Abbey Quarry, calling it Texas Flood. He first climbed on the boulder in 2014 and has made changes to the landing since. Watch Eliot's excellent breakdown of the problem in the video below:
In March 2020, Eliot climbed a Font 8B+ at Neath Abbey called Húsafell which followed a very successful trip to Switzerland:
Sleepwalker (8C+), The Nest (8C) and Pegasus (8C) for Matt Fultz
Back in February, Matt Fultz climbed his second Font 8C+ with an ascent of Jimmy Webb's Sleepwalker in Red Rocks, Nevada. In the same evening after his ascent, he went onto climb Squoze (8B+) and Trieste Sit (8B+).
The 29-year-old continued his run of good form by ticking The Nest later in the month and then Pegasus, in Joe's Valley, in March.
Last September, Matt climbed his first Font 8C+ with an ascent of Daniel Woods' rarely repeated Hypnotized Minds in Rocky Mountain National Park.
Hamish McArthur flashes Bulbhaul at Almscliff
Strong youth Hamish McArthur flashed Bulbhaul at Almscliff which is almost certainly one of the hardest flashes in the UK. The jury is out on the grade; Font 8B+ was suggested when Tom Peckitt made the first ascent, but it's likely to be closer to Font 8A+/8B. Either way, it's an impressive flash from Hamish considering the style of the climb - there's no easy section throughout and the crux is at the end of the problem.
Font 8Bs for Marine Thévenet and Karoline Sinnhuber
In February, Marine Thevenet ticked the desperate, vertical problem Podomos (8B) at Cresciano, Switzerland. Late last year, Marine ticked her first Font 8B+ with an ascent of New Base Line in Magic Wood.
In March, Karoline Sinnhuber climbed her 6th Font 8B with an ascent of Nihilist Low in Zillertal, Austria. She had climbed Nihilst (8A+) back in 2019 and now intends to work on the sit start which adds two moves that bump the grade to Font 8B+.
Tom Bolger's First Ascent Spree in Margalef
Tom Bolger, who is resident in Spain, recently ticked three First Ascents at Espadelles in Margalef, two at 9a/+ and one at 9a. Tom completed a long-standing old project which he called Frenesí 9a/+. At the same sector, he bolted and cleaned Wild West 9a/+, a tough line with a steep start involving a wild move on a mono, followed by techy and tense climbing up to a final dyno to the chain. Mr Big came in at 9a, with big dynamic moves up a perfectly continuous steep wall leading to a thin headwall. 'This is probably the best route I've ever bolted,' Tom wrote on Instagram.
Will Sim and Korra Pesce climb new line on Drus West Face
Chamonix-based British Mountain Guide Will Sim paired up with Italian Korra Pesce and climbed up the famous rock scar on the West Face of the Drus. They climbed a line mostly following the "Voie des Papas" (one of the first repeats) over four days with some variations.
'It was very interesting as we climbed very close to where the Bonatti Pillar used to stand, and even found a couple of pitches from the Bonatti Pillar still stuck to the wall high on the mountain!' he told UKC. 'We stumbled upon two pitches of old, bronze coloured rock with loosely jammed pegs and wooden bongs. These are 2 pitches of 30 or so that Bonatti climbed in 1955, which are still stuck to the mountain. They're clinging on in a sea of fresh white granite where 430,000 cubic mètres of rock fell away.
They pair called the line 'La Voie des Papas/Los Gitanos variant.'
Buster Martin on form in Spain
GB Climbing Team member Buster Martin has spent the winter in Spain and racked up a handful of hard redpoints. In March, he made the fourth ascent of Adam Ondra's El Potro 9a at Laboratori Sector, Margalef, which he downgraded to 8c+. He also ticked Bumaye 8c+, a stream of 8cs and more recently Ley Innata 8c+/9a, Directa Rodillar 8c+/9a and Jungle Speed 9a in Siurana. Buster was also working on First Round, First Minute 9b but must return to it as unfinished business.
Dave MacLeod climbs Font 8B project
Dave MacLeod ticked his Glen Nevis Roof Project, which he's named Ultramarine and graded '8B ish'. The project followed another Glen Nevis line which Dave ticked shortly before working on Ultramarine, weighing in at 7C+.