First Repeat of Mutation 9a by Will Bosi, Proposes 9a+ Newsflash

© Band of Birds

22-year-old Will Bosi has made the long-awaited first repeat of Steve McClure's 1998 route Mutation (9a+) 9a at Raven Tor. The line has been a long-term project for Will and since he first started working the route four years and 40 sessions ago, he has gone on to redpoint his first 9b (UKC News) and 9b+ (UKC News).

Will Bosi makes the first repeat of Mutation 9a.  © Band of Birds
Will Bosi makes the first repeat of Mutation 9a.
© Band of Birds

Mutation is the direct finish to Evolution (8c+) 8c+ and has resisted attempts by some of the strongest in the sport over the years. On Sunday 31 October, Will finally topped-out on a 'training burn' that went unexpectedly well, ticking off his longest project to date.

Will commented on his ascent:

"Finally! This was by far and away my longest project on a route and I am so happy to clip the chains. It is so typical of the redpointing game that the route went down on the last go of the day with little expectation that I would send it! Full credit to Steve McClure on an amazing first ascent and for establishing a climb with such amazing moves."

Having missed perfect conditions due to competition preparation in previous years, everything aligned on Sunday. Will commented: 

"My skin was perfect, the conditions were great as there was a strong breeze whipping across the rock which kept the temperature down and I felt so strong on the wall. As I have spent the last three Octobers training for competitions, I have often missed the really good-condition days so I think I had a lot of luck this time round."

Will Bosi (right) after the send.  © Band of Birds
Will Bosi (right) after the send.
© Band of Birds

Will wasn't even born when the route was first established 23 years ago by Steve McClure. Steve kept a detailed climbing diary in the run-up to his successful ascent on 14th October 1998, which he later posted on his website. He commented on Will's first repeat:

"My first reaction when I got the news was 'Awesome!' I was so psyched for Will that he had finally done Mutation. A few years ago, I was really worried that the route was going to gather dust and not see a repeat so it was great when Will opened his account on it. Obviously, I think he took probably longer than he would have wanted on it but for me, the route is at the absolute limit with no margin for error. You need to have the route dialled, be in great shape and have perfect conditions so I am really happy that it all came together for Will!

"I can't believe it took 23 years to get a repeat! That's getting on for half of my life! It's not the new style of big powerful moves, it's all about tiny crimps and really accurate body position. That's probably why I liked it, but also Will too. It's also his style. Though I absolutely admire Will for his strength and skill, I'm also impressed by his interest in history and taking on classic challenges. He won't go for easy options."

Will Bosi made the most of perfect conditions to tick Mutation 9a.  © Band of Birds
Will Bosi made the most of perfect conditions to tick Mutation 9a.
© Band of Birds

The redpoint crux involves an awkward dynamic cross-through to a pinch off a poor gaston. But for Will, the hardest move came higher up the route. He explained:

"Mutation is probably the most consistent route in its style and grade; about 20 metres of the most savage crimping you can do! The crux for me was in the last two moves before the intensity relents. You have to hold an edge so small it's hard to believe you are actually holding it at first!"

The crimpy sequences are of such intensity that perfect, precise movements are key to success — along with a cool head and optimum conditions. Commenting as to why the line took so long to tick, Will said:

"With the holds being so small, it is very easy to slip if the slightest movement is wrong. Even though I felt ready to send it after a couple sessions, it never all came completely together and while I felt so strong in comparison to when I first tried it, strength alone will not get you to the top of this route!"

Suggestions that the difficulty of the line reaches far beyond 9a have long echoed around the UK — and international — climbing scene. Chris Sharma reportedly commented: "I will never do this route." Ben Moon once told UKC in a news report:

"I was at the Tor the other day with Alex Megos who was working Mutation. I told him I thought there was no way Mutation was 9a and he agreed."

Regarding the grade, Will said:

"Honestly, I think I lost all concept of the grade on this one about 20 sessions ago! However, I do know it cannot be 9a as the first half of the route is Evolution and gets 8c+. I sent Evolution in three attempts in the middle of July, in contrast to send just the Mutation extension link took me around five days! So in my head the top half has to be at least 8c+ too…? Now 8c+ into 8c+ definitely doesn't make 9a. Also to note, I reckon I must have sent Evolution hundreds of times by now which makes it even harder to grade, the bottom only takes about a minute to climb through now also!"

So, this begs the question: is Mutation the world's first 9b? Will commented:

"Maybe, time will tell with other ascensionists but I think I will go for 9a+ for now…"

Steve added: "Good to see Will have to fight too… not because I wanted him to find it hard, but because the more you invest the more, you get out of it in the end."

Will is now training for future outdoor projects abroad.

Watch videos of Steve on the route and Will's previous hard ticks below:

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Will is 22 and based in Edinburgh, Scotland. At 17, Will became the youngest Brit to climb 9a at the time with Rainshadow at Malham Cove. Since then, Bosi has become one of the leading lights of GB Climbing. In 2018, he...

Will's Athlete Page 31 posts 4 videos

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2 Nov, 2021

Wow, Brandeburg Gate project next?

2 Nov, 2021


2 Nov, 2021

my god... what legends, both of them

2 Nov, 2021

Outstanding effort.

Who are the biggest names it's shut down? Was Megos trying it (probably briefly)?

What's the chronology now with it being 9a+ in terms of what else was out there? If he'd gone full 9b that would have been the first by quite some years, yes?

2 Nov, 2021

Alex Hubers Open Air was climbed in 1996 and initially given 9a but was later upgraded by Ondra (who made the second ascent), so if Mutation is 9a+ it'd be the second after Open Air. Biographie is another early contender, first done by Chris Sharma in 2001.

First 9b is commonly taken to be Chris Sharmas Jumbo Love, first done in 2008. There's also Chilam Ballam which was claimed at 9b in 2003, though there's some doubt about the FA and some repeat ascentionists have suggested 9a+.

I think what's clear is that Mutation was absolutely cutting edge at the time and has stood the test of time. Pretty remarkable given Steve had only been climbing a handful of years when he put it up.

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