Former Team GB comp climber Alex Waterhouse has made a flash ascent of Belly Full of Bad Berries, 5.13b, a crack climbing testpiece in Indian Creek, Utah.
First climbed by Brad Jackson in 1997, Belly Full of Bad Berries is one of the world's most renowned crack climbs, and has seen ascents from some of the worlds best crack climbers, including Alex Honnold, who made the second ascent in 2008, and Adam Ondra, who made his own ascent in 2018.
In 2011, the Wide Boyz took their cellar-honed skills to the US, with Pete Whittaker flashing the trad route, and Tom making an ascent on his second attempt. Just last year, Mari Salvesen made the second flash ascent of the route, with Tom belaying and Pete filming.
Whilst Alex is undeniably less experienced than Pete and Mari when it comes to crack climbing - this was first attempt of a route in this style - he has made impressive strides since embracing crack climbing just a few years ago.
In May 2020, he made the second ascent of Tom Randall's 8B crack boulder The Kraken (f8B) at Hartland Quay, known for being the hardest crack boulder in the world.
After his ascent of The Kraken, Alex expressed interest in seeing 'how far I can push myself in this unique discipline'.
Despite having flashed a route that has taken some of the world's best crack climbers multiple attempts, Alex's ascent of Belly Full of Bad Berries is part of what he has described as 'crack training', ahead of his and Billy Ridal's attempt on El Capitan's The Nose (C2)/5.14a.
'The first stop on our trip across the US was to the crack paradise of Indian Creek for some crack training before heading to the Valley', Alex said on Instagram. 'Naturally, we needed to do battle with this offwidth monster while there'.
'I first saw a photo of this beast on the cover of a magazine when I started climbing, and thought it was a completely ridiculous feature, but photos fail to capture quite how steep and wide it is'.
'Starting on low angle thin hands, the crack slowly widens through hands and fists until the halfway point. From there, the only option is to invert, stick your feet above your head into the crack and make upward progress using stacked butterfly and hand-fist jams'.
'I've not climbed this style before, so the learning curve was steep on my flash attempt. With a little beta, watching Billy quest upwards and what we could remember of the videos we'd seen, I spun myself upside down and started struggling upwards'.
'The crack size changes as you progress, so the technique changes every few moves. Just when you have a rhythm going, that sequence will stop working and you'll need to switch to a new style to make progress'.
'I got to the rest hold pumped out of my mind in a totally new way. My ankles and toes were the worst from desperately twisting them into the crack to stay on, but my core, hips, arms, and hands were all at the edge of failure while eyeing up the steepest, widest portion of the climb to the finish'.
'The next few minutes are a blur, but I can honestly say it was the hardest I've ever tried on a climb. My body felt like it was shutting down, but in a wide pony I could still make an inch of progress at a time, so I kept shuffling, screaming louder every move. Holds next to the anchor were meant to be a glorious respite, but my arms had long since failed'.
'I somehow flipped myself back around, stuffed my knee into the crack and clipped the chains with a big scream. The best fight of my life on the flash of one of the best routes in the world, it doesn't get much better than that!'
'Next stop, Yosemite. If I can find another fight like this one, it's going to be a good trip!'
Keep an eye on UKC's YouTube channel, where we'll be checking in with Alex and Billy throughout their attempts on The Nose.
Watch Mari's flash of the route below: