Billy Ridal gets third ascent of The Boss
- Thursday 4th March 2021
Taking full advantage of the recent cold but dry weather Billy Ridal has just sent the third ascent of The Boss (Font 8B+), Yarncliffe.
New top-end problems on Peak Grit don’t come along often so when Ned Feehally did the first ascent of The Boss last year it was pretty big news. Named as a nod to the late gritstone ace, John Allen, Ned Feehally said at the time of his ascent that he thought it was one of the hardest problems he’d done on grit: “It is rare to find a gritstone problem that's got sustained climbing as this roof does. As a result, it feels much more physical than your average grit boulder problem. It's a real fight.”
In typical style, the second ascent of The Boss actually fell to dark-horse, Micky Page. Unsurprisingly, that repeat came and went largely without much noise at all!
Enter Billy then onto the scene. Usually Billy is usually focused on the competition circuit but when all the comp were cancelled last year he switched his attention to climbing outside. Having bumped his sport redpointing grade up considerable earlier in the year Billy had a major breakthrough bouldering on Peak Limestone in October of last year. As we reported, click here for that report, Billy smashed out three of the hardest blocs on Peak Limestone doing Superman Sit (Font 8B+), Keen Roof (Font 8B) and Fat Lip (Font 8B) all in a day!
It was about that time that Billy first had a look at The Boss. He got close to the send but was stopped by bad weather. Finally, he managed to get there on dry rock after the recent decent spell. Billy is full of praise for The Boss as he said in an online post: “Kudos to @nedfee for the vision on this one, it's easily the most enjoyable sequence of hard moves I've done on grit, sustained and powerful from start to finish with technical foot beta to keep you sucked in.”
Keen for more detail, Climber has been in touch with Billy with a few questions…
You had a pretty amazing run of routes last year both on the bouldering front and sport climbing. After all that training and hard work its clearly pay-back time then?
Thanks very much! The one positive of this last year was that it gave a lot of opportunities to get out and do things that you wouldn’t otherwise have had time for. So, I guess all the training I normally do for competing got to be shown elsewhere. I think having a little rest and being able to prioritise objectives on rock led to some ‘pay-back’ haha, certainly towards some nemesis problems close to home.
It’s obviously very satisfying to get the tick on The Boss?
Yeah, I’m pleased with this one, when I first saw that Ned had done a new hard grit boulder I was really excited. There really aren’t many options when it comes to big numbers on Peak grit, it is pretty much Voyager and the Ace, which I have always found frustrating as they always feel limited in conditions and the quality of your skin. Having something new in a style that you can actually have a fight with was a dream for me.
From the footage of you climbing The Boss, it looks as though you really got on well with the moves. There’s obviously a stack of body tension/core going on along with heel hooks, compression moves and micro-adjustments with the left left-hand and foot along the lip. Did it take a while to get the sequences dialled?
Despite it all being at head height it’s a bit tricky to work as a lot of the positions are so tensiony you can’t pull into them off the ground, so you have to climb it in sections to figure it all out. I did manage to figure a sequence out in my first session though, helped by some footage of Ned working it which expedited the process a little with some of the more subtle foot beta.
What felt the hardest aspect of The Boss for you?
Linking it all together. No single move is exceptionally hard, but it’s on you from the moment you pull on and is sustained the whole way, I had to consciously force breaths where possible as your whole body is squeezing. Getting through it all without making any mistakes, and having enough left for the final moves is the hard part for sure.
You’ve been waiting for it to dry all winter but how did it all come together and how was the actual send?
I was pretty confident the day I did it, I was rested, my body felt good, my skin was solid, the weather was pretty ideal, and it was after a week of sunny weather so that it would finally be dry. I find with this sort of power endurance climb the best way to do them is first go of the day when everything is fresh, you also don’t have to deal with mind games quiet so much at that point as there isn’t so much pressure, it’s still the start of the session. That isn’t how this went though… I felt great and flowed through the moves, but I got nervous at the end, lost tension in my legs and managed to fall off despite both hands being on the finishing jug. That was frustrating but not stressful yet. Then I did the same thing twice more, feeling worse on the climb with each go. Now I was stressed! Stressed that I’d messed up the session, wasted my good form, skin and weather, and that they might not line up again this season. I felt tired on the moves, and based on the last session I’d had, 3 good burns were all I had in me before my body gave in. So, I suppose my expectations were dropped after that, I didn’t think I could do it anymore. It felt hard the go I did it, I battled the moves rather than flowing through them, but when I got to the end rather than getting nervous I just took a breath and really focused on doing the move right, rather than potentially doing it wrong, and that time it worked out.
You did some of the hardest problems on Peak limestone at the end of last year and now you’ve started this year with one of the hardest blocs on Peak gritstone. The obvious question is how do they all compare?
Superman sit was my big tick last year on the lime and as they get the same grade is the obvious comparison. They’re obviously quite different in style so it’s hard to equate one to another very well, The Boss suits me about as well as anything I have climbed on, Superman not so much, though there are definitely still bits of it that favour me. They took me a similar amount of effort and felt similarly hard for me, so I’d guess that The Boss is a little harder for most people. The other obvious comparison is Fat Lip as they are relatively similar in style. The moves on The Boss are a good bit harder than on Fat Lip, you cannot get away with hanging off your heels or fingers, you have to squeeze everything to stay in place.
In December you also knocked off an old nemesis Snot (Font 8A+) at the School Room; the training has obviously been going well over winter. Presumably, the Elite Athlete Programme has helped massively with that?
I’ve been climbing at the School Room for years and that board has always represented my antistyle, Snot isn’t a particularly impressive tick in there by today’s standards, but it was a bit of a breakthrough for me and represents a huge amount of work that I have put in to improving my weaknesses. I think progress in that style is largely responsible for what I have managed outside over the last year.
The Elite training exemptions through the most recent lockdown has been incredibly helpful for keeping up my skills training for competitions, keeping motivation up whilst the weather is bad, and keeping me sane when there is so little else going on. I’d have really struggled this winter without it, I think. If and when competitions start up again, the time we had in there will have been invaluable.
Finally, what have you got lined up for the year ahead – assuming that the covid restrictions are lifted soon as anticipated?
Competitions! At least I really really hope so. It feels like I have been aiming for goalposts that keep being moved further and further into the distance. I’m confident that they will start up at some point this year, but when that will be is still totally up in the air, and so I’m trying to keep flexible and sustainable with what I’m doing. I feel like I have made a lot of progress since the last time I competed, so I’m just excited to see what I can do now. I don’t have any solid plans for climbing outside right now, hopefully, some recreational travel will be possible at some point and then I’ll start scheming!
To follow Billy, and watch him climbing The Boss, click through here to go to his athlete page on Instagram here.