Articles - Bouldering Beta: Highballs
Jamie Maddison - Posted on 14 Apr 2010
Grade: V3 (Font 6A+)
Location: Burbage West, Peak District
Description: Climb the scooped wall left of The Nose. The problem requires precise footwork and general good technique.
It’s not the highest, and certainly not the hardest boulder problem in the Burbage Valley, but despite this Go West remains an important test piece for the developing boulderer. The delicate initial crux serves as an excellent reminder that good technique can, and will, outrank sheer physical strength on this wall. Whilst the airy, but easier, final moves produce just the right amount of buzz for the advancing beginner keen to get to grips with highball bouldering.
1. With your left foot, step up onto the obvious lowest ledge at the bottom of the problem; undercut a good hold in the first break and spring with your right hand to a crimp around the arête.
2. Switch feet and then move your left foot up to the next large foothold. Those of average height will now be able to stretch up left to the protruding pebble, or, if the friction is good, the adjacent sloper. If you can’t quite reach from this point, try working that left foot up even higher.
3. The following crux moves become quite simple once you hit the right body positions. Carefully bring your right leg up to the foothold in the first break on the arête. This position feels tenuous, but is soon alleviated by moving your other foot out leftwards to the highest point of the obvious shelves, halfway between the first and second breaks.
4. Now carefully reach up to good holds in the third break. This stretch can feel quite long for those of a shorter stature, but if you really twist inwards towards your right hand, and make sure your left foot is high, then this span shouldn’t be too much of a problem.
5. Bring the right arm up to match in the break; with both hands on good holds, pull up, position the feet and stretch for the slightly sloping top.
6. To finish, trend rightwards, delicately given the height now gained, and mantel out the last shelf. Be careful not to hit your head on the protruding rock above.
7. Give yourself a pat on the back, and now go around the corner and try West Side Story if you want to envisage highballing at the opposite end of the grading spectrum.
5 Other Highball Problems
Problem: Diamond Slab
Grade: Font 5+ [V2]
Location: Eskdale, Lake District
Description: Climb over the lip of the Diamond feature and gently pad up the delicate slab. Fantastic climbing in an idyllic setting.
Climber name: Charlotte Telfer
Photographer: Tom Peckitt
Problem: Matterhorn Arête
Grade: [V1 5a]
Location: Almscliff, Yorkshire
Description: The obvious long arête, climbed on the left, is many climbers’ first introduction to the art of highball bouldering.
Climber name: Chris Berrie
Photographer: David Roberts
Problem: Rippled Wall
Grade: [V4 6b]
Location: Bonehill Rocks, Dartmoor
Description: The wall just right of the arête is a classic. The first move is the crux, but the easier finish will still feel scarily high once you’re up there.
Climber: Sarah Kruger
Photographer Stefan Kruger
Problem: And She Was
Grade: V6/E3 6a
Location: Simon’s Seat, Yorkshire
Description: One of the most prominent features of Simon’s Seat, And She Was simply cries out to be climbed. Be warned though; it’s high, hard, very exposed and you won’t half be thankful when you reach the easier top section.
Climber: Tom Peckitt
Photographer: Jon Pearson
Problem: Yellow Desert Scream
Grade: [V8] Font 7b+
Location: St. Bees, Lancashire
Description: Those who choose to trend out left before the top will not regard Yellow Desert Scream as hugely highball. However those who take the direct, and harder, finish will definitely think otherwise.
Climber: Tom Peckitt
Photographer: Peckitt Collection