Milestones: Carnage 7b+

This is part two of a series of posts all about the turning points in my climbing career. From single moves to huge time spans, these are the events that shaped me into the climber and person i am today. 

I’ll be posting a new one every few days so keep an eye on the blog for the latest or, if not, they will appear in one beast of an article at the end of the series. Feel free to comment and let me know of some of your own highlights, i’d greatly enjoy hearing some of your own. 

Carnage 7b+

Giving it my all, which wasn't enough. March 2011
Giving it my all, which wasn’t enough. March 2011

It has long been said (and will long be assumed) that bouldering lacks the feeling and emotion of other forms of climbing; that it does not compare to the sense of topping out a mountain or a big wall after prolonged periods of effort. Anyone who says that will not have experienced what i did on a mild day in March 2014.

Given 7b by some, it didn’t even rate as the hardest graded problem at the time but was certainly leaps and bounds above problems of the same grade already ticked: Left Wall Traverse, The Sting or Ongle Jo, a climb i’d done just the day before. While Ongle Jo took a session, Carnage took an age.

My first try was when working on the neighbouring Helicopter back in 2007. While this wasn’t a serious effort, it was certainly when the seed was planted. It was in 2010 (i think) that i really started to give it some serious attention.

Plas du Curvier, Fontainebleau, France. Another crag with an abundance of importance in climbing history that receives a fraction of the attention of Yosemite
Plas du Curvier, Fontainebleau, France. Another crag with an abundance of importance in climbing history that receives a fraction of the attention of Yosemite

To be honest, i can’t remember exactly when i was on it properly for the first session, nor can i remember how many sessions (let alone efforts) i’d put it by the time it relented. What i do know is that when i rocked up in March 2011, i thought i was close and was sat underneath it for a good portion of the week.

The winter of 2013-14 was when i realised i had to do something different – simply going back to try again, hoping for that little bit more wasn’t going to work. had to work. I trained, for the first time, specifically for the problem, doing dead hangs on holds that matched those i knew so well but struggled to hold. Pull ups on similar holds, sessions on sling trainers and rings to work relevant muscle groups, even a project-specific problem at the Beacon.

By the time i returned, i knew i was ready but wouldn’t know how ready until it was over. Cuvier was scheduled for early in the week, day two or three i think, and while the others continued on the blue circuit i was using to warm up, i quietly left.


It took three efforts. The first i fell from shock at being able to hold on so well. The second was over enthusiasm. I sat, breathed, calmed myself, ignored all around me, strangers all. Still shaking slightly, i stepped up and sent.

Years of effort, obsession, commuting while running through the moves in my head, training and work like never before, the emotion got to me. Once the screaming had subsided , i sat atop the block letting it sink in. It was over, after all this time and i began to cry. Softly, i sat on top that boulder for ten minutes, unable to get off thanks to shaking limbs and teary eyes. I can still tell you every hold, every muscle that aches and when nearly eighteen months later and i wager i still will for quite some time to come.

To say bouldering lacks emotion is to be short sighted. To say it’s lacks time and effort is naive. Big walls and Greater Ranges can take weeks or months, granted but true bouldering, at the true limit of your capabilities can take years. When it does, the rewards can be so much greater.

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