Monday, January 5, 2009

Tim Clifford, Matt Wilder, The Swarm (v14)

The Swarm (v14) has had a couple of new ascents in the last few days, first from Tim Clifford (an ex-Brit now living in Squamish, British Columbia), and then today from Matt Wilder (of Boulder, Colorado). "It best represents the hard Bishop crimpy problem," says Tim. "I was really psyched to climb it. I knew I only had a few tries, due to my skin, so had to dig deep."

Tim suggested that the line may not involve such hard moves as the grade implies, but also noted that because of the tiny holds, it requires a patient technique of "waiting and making each go really count."

In case you don't know Tim, he's the climber who made the first ascent of The Singularity, an incredible, and incredibly hard, unrepeated problem in Squamish, once known as The Room Project.

Here is a short slideshow of Tim Clifford climbing The Swarm (the 9th ascent I believe) during his recent trip here. Thanks to Georg from Squamish for the photos!

Tim Clifford climbing The Swarm (v14); photos by Georg

I also shot some pics of Matt Wilder climbing The Swarm today (10th ascent). Check these out:

Matt Wilder climbing The Swarm (v14); photos by Wills Young


Anonymous said...

*10th? Matt Birch, David Graham, Paul Robinson, Tyler Landman, Daniel Woods, Shawn Diamond, Kevin Jorgeson, Sam Davis, Tim Clifford, Matt Wilder

Wills Young said...

Ooops yeah. Nice one. Now corrected.

Anonymous said...

Is it true that Ben Moon flashed it from one move in and suggested V13? This is the most repeated V14 in America.

Wills Young said...

Ben Moon was the first to climb The Swarm from one move in, doing it just minutes before Matt Birch made the FA of the line from the starting sidepull. However, Ben definitely did not flash that shorter version.

Grades are always open to speculation and adjustment. I believe there are some who feel The Swarm should be given v13, and if that's how most people who have done it feel about it, then the rating should be changed. The majority, so far, have not disputed it. Often people will happily take a high grade for something without question, so who knows what they might really be thinking (maybe if they're reading this, they can let me know!).

There are so few v14s in the US, that the fact one is more climbed than another means little really and is more a matter of where the climb is, and how it looks/climbs. The numbers of ascents are usually in the 5 to 10 range and usually by many of the same people--so it ultimately comes down to those people to determine the grade. Esperanza has also had a "lot" of ascents, though I don't know if it's more than 10--very well could be. Is 10 a lot? Mandala Sit-start has also had a very similar number of ascents as The Swarm. Slashface, at Hueco is another stunning line that has had more ascents for sure (though the rating is more openly disputed).

I don't know if that's what you're doing, but you should be wary of concluding that because something gets a lot of repeats, (or to be specific, one or two more repeats than others problems of the same grade) it can't be the grade it is given. Perhaps you're not saying that, but it's worth looking into anyway.

What if the quality of the climbing, popularity of the location, and availability of good conditions at that location, makes a line popular? This is the case with many problems that get a lot of repeats: they're just amazing climbs at good destinations with good weather that everyone in the area with a hope of sending will go straight to and try. If the location of the problem is at a super-popular bouldering destination to which people travel in large numbers from all over the world--many of them top climbers bent on repeating the hardest lines--then that problem will inevitably get a lot of repeats. This is true for the best lines of every grade at the Buttermilks.

In contrast, getting very few repeats does not necessarily imply that a problem is stout for the grade. It could be just a pile of ****. Or it could be amazing, but located somewhere that very few people visit.

Down-rating problems based on numbers of repeats would be a never-ending system, because as soon as you've down-rated one, then there's another line sitting there ready to take on the title of "most climbed v-whatever"--thus you'd now have to down-rate that one and so on until there are none left at that grade! Unless we coordinate same-moment ascents of the most climbed lines, there will always be (at any given moment) one that has had the most ascents, no?

I know this is kinda ridiculous, but you see the problem. Unless perhaps you're looking at a problem that has multiple times the numbers of ascents of other lines the same grade and NO GOOD EXPLANATION can be found for that, you can't draw a conclusion about the difficulty of something based on numbers of ascents.

Dr Tim O'Neill said...

Let's not forget that that was a stunning photo sequence and looks like a brilliant problem regardless of grade - Wills, tell Matt I said that :)