A Ton of New Eights
A ton of new 8’s
This spring, after possibly the most depressing winter in living memory things have finally picked up again and i’ve made the most of some days spent cleaning boulders in the winter.
New carrock low end 8B, really nice moves on this.
Incidentally this has meant that I’ve lurched past the hundred marker for hard new boulders in the UK. There wasn’t any great sense of satisfaction at the time. But retrospectively its something I’m quite proud of so it seems like a decent time to look back and take an abridged look at why, where and what I’ve been doing all these years.
Motivation for putting up new problems is a funny one. These days It seems most popular in middle to older aged men. It's Incredibly rare in the fairer sex and its an activity which is somewhat challenging for anyone who can’t drive. So why do I do it?
Well, these are my cards.
When I was younger I realized that British Bouldering was still only really coming into fruition. I sort of coasted in at the beginning of boom time when loads of crags had little or no high seven or eighth grade climbs done. I noticed this when I was 17 and just beginning to operate at those grades. A lot of this was thanks to lakesbloc creating a good movement in the lakes as well as bits and bats of info trickling down from Northumberland. When I started bouldering in Northumberland in 2002 it had two straight up 8’s done. (the bitch and working class) Nowadays it has sixty one. 39 of these are from my various days out there over the years. It has been incredible finding and climbing many of these lines and to be of the privileged generation that was born at the right time.
This has been my game plan if you will. Every generation has had a great opportunity to develop new rock, mine seemed to have nearly all the best hard boulders still to do. I’ve always been captivated by the bouldering movement in this country and its home grown feel. It was exciting when I was young and lots of things were happening pretty near to home. Malc, Gaskins and Andy Earl were putting up 8A-8C’s nearby. It seemed to show that anything was possible on the blank walls left by previous generations. I took a look round some local crags to see if I could play with the big boys and couldn’t believe my luck. Places like Queens Crag were totally unclimbed bar a few mid 6’s. Imagine walking into queen’s crag and having the big blank lines all to do? blank aretes and walls like queen kong and red dragon, arc royal.
I don’t have to imagine as I was there with Chris, and it was full on super market sweep mode.
Every so often I would head up to the crag and expect loads of people to be there as it was no secret where the venue was. Nope. And, barring a few exceptions, that’s pretty much been the case for the last 13years. line after line of great climbing all to play for, just sat there for the picking. Its been a great process sniffing things out and getting stronger and more cunning at finding them, with help from friends as the years have gone by.
I wouldn’t say I’ve ever vehemently hunted problems. Over the years I’ve repeated more than twice as many as I’ve put up in the UK. I’ve also put up eighth grade problems in France, Italy, Germany and the USA.
I’ve just always done two key things when I’ve gone out climbing. A: kept my eyes open to good gaps. B: made the harder decision to go and explore/try the unknown. This is opposed to the ease of going to a crag and knowing what to try and roughly how hard it is and what to do.
I think whilst climbing walls are fantastic for introducing people to the sport and helping them to get strong they have inevitably taken over the traditional shirt tails, rock based, upbringing into the sport that my generation had. I think this has meant that the outdoors is more of a unfamiliar commodity than it used to be for many and its something which I think has lead the crafty middle aged man to continue to dominate the FA side of the sport for the last 10 years when it comes to doing new things . They still hold all the knowledge of what’s to be done where and unless you are good friends with your local one you will likely be on the back foot when it comes to finding good new boulders in the UK.
All I can say is those people have got a good thing going most of the time,as it can be bloody fun finding and climbing new problems, especially if they are big boomers. If you’re not part of the development wave or have never ridden on it then it is a very different thing and I’d urge anyone to have a go somewhere once or twice in their life. Good problems can also be hiding anywhere. Two of my bizzarest moments have been literally stumbling upon great problems. Once when I went for a poo in Simonside woods and found Awooga and again when I took a bee line back to the van after exploring at Succoth and found “The beast of Succoth” 10m off the path, 10m high but fairly invisible from just above it.
I think that after the next fifteen years their wont be a lot of amazing problems left to be done in England and Wales bar the very hardest, Just like I can’t rock up to Stanage and put up 20 new HVS’s nowadays. Its not like every blank gap is climbable; as skin and rubber have their limits set by physics. Developing climbs is a one time only thing. After they’re done everyone can enjoy them, which is also a great part of it for me. but if you think you’re the type of person who’d like to head off into the true unkown or can tackle the hardest gaps still to do I’d get cracking now, as there’re buggers like me out there who really like doing it, and I’ve got pretty decent at it over the years. I’ve had so many fun experiences that it’s hard not to keep seeking them out if I spot something. I tell myself that I can repeat climbs any time when its convenient, and often do. But new lines are a one time only commodity. My only caveat is to pinch myself once in a while, if I find myself climbing some crap lowball link up its time to change tune and go and enjoy another niche or sport.
For someone to come into the sport in England or Wales nowadays and put up a hundered hard problems which aren’t crap link ups would be a big ask. That ship has pretty much sailed and the next generations will re invent the frontline I’m sure. If you’re Scottish or Irish, I think there’s plenty to do still. Good luck.
Here’s some pics of a quarter of my eighth graded problems that don’t really sum up the experiences too well but they might show what it’d be like to find them and where they are at. The UK is great for bouldering and, as ever I’d like to encourage people to get out and enjoy its huge diversity of rock types and landscapes.Iron Lung 8A Callaly moor. Northumberland at its quietest, and it's pretty quiet...
Colonel Hathi 8A+. Put up in just under 2 hours after a stag do, i guessed the sequence fast and got lucky just before the beer sweats got a bit much.
Marratime 8A+, of the twelve 8's i've put up in Scotland only 3 have taken more than a a session. It Would be good to see this get a repeat, its almost perma dry on the hard bit.
Bourgeoisie 8A+, when the crimps get this dirty the teeth come out.
Arc Royal. This one is like an old friend.
The Shrubbery 8A+, index mono. The trees are gone nowadays, which has made the landing much better.
The Clangers. 8A+/A Great team boulder move on this one Pic: Rob Hunter
Bewilderness. A limestone problem that isn't shit! Pic: Adam Long
Darkest Cloud 8A 5th cloud. Lovely slopers, minging crimps Pic: Nick Brown
Stanton Deliver 8A+, the only FA in life on hold, poor show boys!
Pic: Nick Brown
End Sequence 8B. One of my favourite FA experiences
Black Triage, 8A+ Like Monk Life only the holds are worse and the move smaller, and no one except Nige has put any time in. Pic Mark Savage
Ivan Dobsky 8A+, my first proper session on this was amazing, i was so close on every go, the session where i did it was humid, midgy and shit but i pulled it out the bag.
Pic Mark Savage
The Crack in the Shadows 8A, quietly brilliant this one 10m high.
Pic Mark Savage
Queen Kong my first 8A FA age 18 and by far my most repeated
Pic Mark Savage
Red Dragon 8A, Ned and i carried in this massive mat from my woody to do a highball there.
Pic Mark Savage
Awooga SS 8A+
Pic Mark Savage
Star Power 8B+ish Proper big boomer
Wilson 8A St Bees
Hobbie Noble 8B. Simply the Best
Glen Ross. One of the UK's best moves, cool sitter project too
The Pit Problem 8A+ Fairhead, done in the dark with Jonesy and Eddie
Helicoidal flow, one of my favourite ever days out bouldering anywhere 8A+ Reiff
Nth Power, one of my most perfect moments in climbing 8A+ Nth cloud
I forget the name of this one... Pic: Nick Brown
All pics Varian/Mundy collection unless credited.
Apologies for the back patting, i'll wait until 200 for the next bout of it. It's been pretty hard work putting these problems up over the years, If anyone fancies coming out and scrubbing muddy top outs, trundling massive rocks over their feet. ripping their good jackets on endless brambles and explaining to secluded land owners just why that little rock is so important to you, give your local developer a call.