Bouldering Round-up: Wood, Pelorson and Johnson top big projects
- Monday 12th April 2021
Daniel Woods, Nico Pelorson and Alex Johnson all 'go big' on long-term projects.
When a climber such as Daniel Woods starts to dig in deep into a super hard project and posts about it on a near-daily basis it's clear that something pretty special is in the offing. Finally, having dedicated his entire focus to it, Woods finally topped Return of the Sleepwalker at a reported grade of V17/Font 9A. The 17-move bloc in Black Velvet Canyon at Red Rock, Nevada, USA immediately shot within the world’s top blocs. Assuming, as is likely given the circumstances, the V17/Font 9A grade sticks, Return of the Sleepwalker is the USA’s first Font 9A and one of only a handful around the world at that level.
The sit-down-start extends Jimmy Webb’s 2018 stand-up bloc Sleepwalker, itself a stout offering weighing in at V16/Font 8C+. Woods repeated Sleepwalker in 2019 and almost immediately started to look at the sit-down start.
In early February this year Woods posted about his recent focus saying: “Since Nov. of last year, I have been consumed by two projects that are next-level hard for myself. One is in Eldorado Canyon, CO dubbed Megatron. The other is in BV, Las Vegas dubbed Sleepwalker sit. Both these lines revolve around connecting 2 hard blocs to create a power resistant line. Megatron’s breakdown is V15 (8C) to v14 (8B+) with no rest (15 moves total). SW sit is V13 (8B) to V16 (8C+) with no rest (16 total moves for me). I haven’t tried anything else besides these two lines. Small increments of progress have been made. The longest I’ve worked a boulder before these lines was around 15 days. I stopped counting now after 20.”
Woods was aware he was heading deeper and deeper into the rabbit hole – something which Steve McClure dubbed the “performance tunnel”. It’s a familiar issue for many climbers trying projects at their limit. Woods again; “ The monotony of rehearsing the same moves, dialling the same sections, maintaining skin good enough to have a chance, and dealing with the weather has mentally added up. Part of me wants to chill but another part says keep going further because you have never been to this place within before. Shits addicting to be honest yet makes you feel crazy. I’m trying, that’s all I can do. I know these lines are possible and want them, but ultimately it will come down to a lucky day when conditions are on point, body feels perfect, and head is on auto pilot.”
Woods continued. A month ago he reported that he was doing reps on Sleepwalker; 15 or so in total and four in a day! Three months in, Woods eliminated coffee, alcohol and stopped smoking weed. By now Woods switched from living in an Airbnb to camping nearby. Suddenly he had a break though; Woods was getting to the last move. His focus was on minutiae: “Well I told myself if I wanted to climb the hardest shit I’ve tried then complete obsession needs to occur. This line has taken over my life for the last 3 months. I don’t sleep at night because of it. I don’t think about anything else in life besides internally feeling my flow on this thing. Figuring out how to speed sections up, when to breathe, when to hold my breath, when to ramp up, when to slow down.”
April 2nd Woods posted; he had succeeded “Return of the Sleepwalker (FA), proposed 9A/V17. It’s all just a game people... and I play the game. The game is how comfortable can you become with your own insanity.”
Having been a prominent boulderer for the last decade Woods has found the magic within himself to go further than ever before. Inspired by his success, Woods has now switched his attention to his Megatron project. A video of his ascent of Return of the Sleepwalker will be released shortly but for now, Woods appears to be deep within his second rabbit hole of the winter!
We switch to Fontainebleau for our second big-ticket bloc news item where local climber, Nico Pelorson, has made the second ascent of Soudain Seul – a.k.a. The Big Island Sitter – which was first done, as we reported previously, by Belgian climber Simon Lorenzi in February this year. Pelorson repeated The Big Island itself back in 2018 and has been working on the sit start with Camille Coudert for a while now. Both were getting close to the first repeat but it was Pelorson that has succeeded.
Soudain Seul was the second boulder in Font to be given the magic grade of Font 9A; Charles Albert previously having climbed his own offering, No Kpote Only, at that grade. However, it seems that Pelorson has also suggested a down-grade to Font 8c+ for Soudain Seul. Unlike Woods, Pelorson was ‘only’ trying Soudain Seul twice a week it seems, the rest of the time he was working on his physiotherapy studies and maintaining his training.
In a full interview with Fanatic Climbing (here) Pelorson talks about his training for, his ascent off and ultimately his reasons for suggesting a down-grade of Soudain Seul. His reasons for offering a downgrade appear to be that he doesn’t feel comfortable with having climbed Font 9A saying: “For the grading, I would feel bad claiming I have climbed one of the only two 9A’s on Earth, when I think deep down this boulder is not worth this sacred rating. 8C+ seems more consistent to me. I think there are many climbers around the world who could succeed on it with sufficient investment, and that would not be the case with a true 9A boulder. This is only my opinion and I respect Simon’s one too. Especially since it is not impossible that he had to give it even more effort with his beta for shorter climbers.”
For our final bloc news, we return to the USA where Alex Johnson has succeeded on her long-term goal of The Swarm (V13/14/Font 8B/8B+). “I turn 32 today. I started trying this boulder when I was 21. I am ecstatic to share with you all today that I SIEGED!!!!!” she wrote online. Once again, this is a remarkable story where perseverance, tenacity and personal belief has enabled Johnson to achieve her long-term goal.
Originally climbed by Brit Matt Birch, Johnson originally first clapped her eyes on The Swarm back in February 2011. Her eventual ascent came a decade later in March this year. Johnson pulled onto The Swarm alongside Nalle Hukkataival and Kilian Fischuber back in the day. She’s been trying it on and off ever since. Alison Osius from Climbing Magazine talks to Johnson about her journey; read the full story here.