Peak Bouldering Round-up 2022-23

© Dave Parry

As the temps are well and truly up and the doors close on everyone's last-ditch gritstone projects, this is probably an appropriate point to review the 2022-23 winter bouldering season in the Peak and have a look back at some of the most significant additions and repeats.

Jim Pope on Applied Imagination.  © Dave Parry
Jim Pope on Applied Imagination.
© Dave Parry

Thanks to a number of keen local activists the pace of development of mid grade problems continues unabated, with new venues unearthed and old ones revisited, and although the Peak is no Ticino it's also good to see that we still have some top quality harder new lines being climbed. One of the best looking lines this winter came courtesy of Jim Pope, who made short work of the project right side of the Brainstorm arête at Doll Tor, giving Applied Imagination (f8A+) 8A+ back in November. This one really is as good as it looks, a beautiful piece of rock. The ascent was captured in this Wedge video and is worth a watch. Repeats have not come thick and fast; it's no pushover, Ned Feehally this spring being the only one on the radar as yet. Also, on the block just downhill from this, Ned also added a proper jump start off the floor to the existing problem Matryoshka at 7C, which is proving relatively popular.

Another of Jim's lines to receive its first and possibly only repeat this winter was Frowned Upon (E8 6c) E8 / highball Font 7C+ at Curbar, courtesy of visiting New Zealand climber Isaac Buckley. A big line, and an ascent which stands out immediately as it's not on most foreign climbers' gritstone holiday tick list. As you can see here Isaac had a pretty productive trip. While we're talking about this particular buttress at Curbar it's worth pointing out that this coming November will mark ten years since Tyler Landman's first ascent of Smiling Buttress (f8B), and incredibly for such a legendary line it remains unrepeated at the time of writing, despite me bigging it up in Grit Blocs no end. Maybe only now we're really starting to understand how huge a deal Tyler's ascent was. It's hardly been ignored either, seeing some attention from a few fairly handy suitors recently, some of whom regard this as likely the hardest thing on grit still. Maybe this winter will be the one to see the spell broken?

Tyler latching the top of Smiling Buttress.   © Dave Parry
Tyler latching the top of Smiling Buttress.
© Dave Parry

Another visitor to our shores this winter was Adam Ondra, who managed to sync his visit with what seemed like the only week of sustained good weather of winter 2023. Thankfully it wasn't all YouTube content generation, and some climbing occurred. Although sadly missing out on the flash of the classic The Traverse (7a+) by virtue of not matching the arête at the end (sorry, but rules is rules) no such fate awaited him on The Ace and the problem saw its first flash, cheered on by Jerry, no less. The amazing part of this however isn't really that he flashed it; it is relatively basic afterall and he's the greatest climber to ever walk the earth. It's more that with the wealth of homegrown talent and strength in our ranks these days nobody else had beaten him to it in the 20-odd years since the problem was put up. What have all the strong kids being playing at? We clearly need a few more to quit the competition scene!

Back to new things, and aside from the aforementioned Doll Tor addition, for my money the other outstanding harder line to fall this winter was the wall left of Swivel Finger (f6B) at Nth Cloud. This leaning buttress of pristine Staffs grit, away from the fleshpots of the busy Roaches circuit, sports a couple of low footholds, some inviting looking overlaps and not much else. It's seen attention from various parties over the years, not least Ben Moon back in the 2000s, but it finally fell to Ned Feehally on an April morning this year after many visits.

Ned on an attempt at N of The Affair.  © Dave Parry
Ned on an attempt at N of The Affair.
© Dave Parry

Normally if it takes Ned umpteen sessions on a multi-year project, with various custom modified rock shoes being tried, you're guaranteed a hefty grade, but this one seems to be struck by the "feels easy when you do it" gritstone curse. Hence the suggested grade lies in the 8A ballpark. This armchair commentator suspects that is a low estimate, and would put money on it being harder than that. Grading issues aside, it has an appropriate name — N Of The Affair.

Also over Staffs way, Tom Newman has been busy as ever and contributing some quality nuggets of esoterica. One particularly good-looking one is his Salty Towers 7C, taking a beautifully rippled prow around the right end of the Roaches lower tier. And at the very northern limit of the Peak Tom has brought the grade of 8A+ to Shooter's Nab of all places. Everything I Do Is Brand New takes a sort of compression prow on pinches and must be a contender for the hardest thing in the Kirklees area. Maybe it won't attract the international wads away from Switzerland but it looks pretty good to me.

Rob Smith on Bank Manager Low.  © Dave Parry
Rob Smith on Bank Manager Low.
© Dave Parry

The South Peak remains a hotbed of recent development in the 7s, and to pick one ripe plum to highlight here we turn to Hillcar woods on the fringes of Stanton Moor. As a result of a tree blowing down in a storm, the landing under the previously unpopular Bank Manager (f7B+) problem has improved, now being two flat paddable tiers rather than one big deathly toboggan run. It's also opened up a lower start, so Jon Fullwood did the deed on this to turn Jamie Lilleman's original 7B+ into a 7C called Bank Manager Low (f7C), which is genuinely an outstanding line on a remarkable chunk of grit and as such is destined for popularity.

There's far too much being done down this neck of the woods to adequately do it justice here, but another rebooted old problem which was temporarily the most popular 7B+ in the Peak this winter was Chicken Ginger low start (f7B+) by Neil Amos, and well worth searching out. Ned Feehally has also climbed the arched wall immediately left of Brutal Arête (f7B) hereabouts; expect a very reachy 7C, a poor landing, and no queues.

Quinn Mason on Deliverance.  © Dave Parry
Quinn Mason on Deliverance.
© Dave Parry

On the subject of notoriously reachy problems, spring saw visiting American climber Quinn Mason repeat Deliverance (f7B+) 7B+ at Stanage, prompting some discussion online as to whether or not this was in fact the first and so far only female ascent. If anyone wants to own up to having done this before Quinn, you'd better be quick otherwise the medal is going to be popped into an airmail envelope headed across the Atlantic very soon.

Finally, let's bookend the winter season with a mention of the limestone. At the very start of the autumn perennially handy Ben Bransby nipped in and closed his account on the iconic Superman (f8B) at Crag X. This is hardly a rarely repeated problem these days but Ben's ascent does give hope to all us aging dads out there.

Ben Bransby on Superman.  © Dave Parry
Ben Bransby on Superman.
© Dave Parry

At the other end of the season, a young chap you might have heard of by the name of Will Bosi put up a Font 8C line at Raven Tor after his training trip to do some problem or other in Finland. This is documented on UKC already but suffice to say it won't get the credit it deserves because the grim dusty crimpy stuff at the Tor isn't sexy enough these days — shame! Probably the hardest problem in the Peak right there, took him longer than the 8C+ Badger Cove line (Honey Badger) of last summer, and wasn't climbed in a heatwave either, requiring a cool breezy spring day.

Will Bosi on Wild South.  © Dave Parry
Will Bosi on Wild South.
© Dave Parry

You'd think Raven Tor would be well and truly worked out by now but no, we malign the Tor at our peril — a fact Sam Prior's recent Font 8b+ link of Belly Of The Beast into Nacho's Start to Keen Roof is testament to. It sounds like a linkup, but in reality it's a long straight line out of the deepest part of the cave, and as such deserves a mention in dispatches.

And here is probably a good place to wrap up the 2022-23 winter season — fingers crossed for a dry autumn.

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20 Jun, 2023

Only in the interest of UKC's otherwise highest quality of reportage:

"....a young chap you might have heard of by the name of Will Bosi put up a Font 8C line at Raven Tor after his training trip to do some problem or other in Scandinavia."

Someone needs to point out that Finland isn't actually in Scandinavia. Despite the technical geography point, most Finns are perfectly happy to be considered Scandinavians as it's far preferable to being mixed up with Russia. ;-)

20 Jun, 2023

Great write-up Dave.

23 Jun, 2023

Enjoyable read thanks

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