The debate over where a boulder problem really starts can extend to many problems out there. Jump-start lines are notoriously hard to clarify, for example--how many pads?--and there are no doubt dozens like that. As for The Mandala, the now-standard start seems to have come to dominance over the last couple of years. I pointed out that the start has changed in the previous post simply because it has changed. I'm not saying there's anything "wrong" with the new start. Fact is that while some people know the start changed, many people, especially those who climbed in Bishop in the early 2000s don’t know this.
Here's a bit more background:
When Brion Voges flashed The Mandala last year, I didn’t report the ascent because I felt that by starting off of so many pads with the right hand in the undercling and left on the good crimp (just above), that this wasn’t doing the problem in the way it traditionally was done. It seemed an unfair start that didn’t respect Sharma’s line. It seemed unfair to Chris Sharma to claim to have flashed this historic problem, though Chris probably doesn’t care. It might also be considered unfair to anyone else that might have wanted to make the flash previously, or at least attempt it. I held that view for a long time and have mentioned it several times on my blog and elsewhere, though many people don't seem to agree, and people could debate this for years! I was trying to uphold a belief about the starting point of the problem, but even my own beliefs can't handle all the gray areas and lead to inconsistencies, so why bother being so pedantic?
Do I think Alex climbed the Mandala? Of course I do. I'm just saying for others coming along later that this is where she started the problem, and it's not the same place it used to start. Nearly everyone starts it that way now. Sure, it seems kind of strange to me but that's how it is. Now I look at all the videos out there of people doing The Mandala, I can see that there's almost no need to point out where it now starts, except to old farts like me and others climbing here back when Sharma first did the line.
The truth, I think, is that Brion and others had no idea there was ever a lower start. As I said, you can see loads of vids online. Of course Brion went on to comfortably complete the sit-start, and was very good humored when ribbed about the stand, but then, flashing The Mandala probably wasn’t too big a deal to him, amazing as that is!
To go back to the line: In the first few years after The Mandala was done, despite a huge number of attempts, I never saw a single person even consider starting the problem the way people do now. That’s not because there is a new sequence today. The sequence used from the high start is pretty much the same one Chris Sharma used for the FA (other than beginning higher), and the same as used by some others who also repeated it in the first few years—indeed, this includes Jared Roth’s third ascent for which he literally jumped off the ground to gain the good crimp, because he insisted that to use a pad or even a rock would invalidate his achievement.
It is within this context, and from this perhaps generational perspective that I watched the new start arise. If Chris Sharma, 11 years ago, had stacked four or five pads under the problem and pulled directly into the right-hand undercling, he would probably have felt like he was just working the moves. Sure, he could maybe have pulled directly into the undercling from the ground with his right hand, and a low left hand hold, and moved his left hand up to the crimp, but to do that does demand a hard pull—a harder move, he felt, than beginning with his right hand high, left hand low, and switching his hands on the undercling. Still, both options are there for the taking.
For Sharma to put a single pad under his feet to pull off the ground would have been frowned upon by some people back then, and would have been considered a very light-gray area to the magazines who reported groundbreaking achievements. Whether or not Sharma repeated the problem, or did the FA without using a pad, I don’t remember.
John Sherman amusingly told me one day after the problem went down, that maybe he would have done the line back in 1990 when he was in his prime if only he had stacked enough pads under it to reach that first hold. He was talking about the good crimp just above the undercling, a crimp that sure enough, most people can’t even reach from the ground. He watched annoyed as a few would-be ascensionists grabbed that hold standing on a pile of rocks plus pad, and struggled to bring their left hand into the undercling. I thought his comment comical when he said it because I didn’t consider that starting off a pad so as to put your fingers in the starting hold was such a big deal. So that’s where the gray area begins and the generation gap starts to appear. Funnily, though, John actually could reach that crimp from the ground!
Bottom line: The Mandala is an amazing boulder problem and unless you're John Sherman, you'll almost certainly need a boost to get to the start. Then, if you're anything like me, you will probably need another hefty shove to get any higher.