Ben Burkhalter completes Southern Drawl (8C)

Ben Burkhalter, who last year did three 8C’s, has repeated James Webb's Southern drawl (8C) (FA'ed as an 8B+) in Chattanooga. In the 8a ranking game, the 23-year-old is #6.

Can you tell us more about the ascent?
Southern Drawl is a very meaningful boulder for me! It encapsulates everything that I was bad at. Pure big hold power on slopers that need perfect friction to stick. It also demands ton of body tension plus open hand / half crimp strength, which for a long time has been my total anti-style. Despite having grown up climbing in the Southeast, I’ve always been strongest on crimps. Drawl is one of those mystical lines that I’d heard about long ago, but with its brutal difficulty and physical style I never thought it could ever go for me.

I first tried it last winter, but didn’t really come close to sending. Then I had a few sessions over Thanksgiving this year and had a total breakthrough falling on the final rip into the victory jug EIGHT times from the bottom last day of my trip! Because of my height, I am unable to release before the final dyno like others have previously. Instead, have to do a violent slam across into the hold which makes it much harder to hold the swing. This move turned out to be my crux, constantly spitting me off many times each session, leaving me with gnarly flappers.

After 5 more sessions of falling on the last move I finally had the magic go where I hit everything right and ended up on top! It was a perfect moment of total bliss, disbelief, and happiness as I watched the sun set behind the southern hills. To me, sending this boulder marks the end of the final chapter in my Southeastern climbing journey. There will always be more hard lines to try, but none will be as meaningful as this. So psyched!

Davide Picco ticks two 9a's

Davide Picco, who started 2024 by sending Sanjski par extension (9a), has made the first repeat of Silvio Reffo’s Musa (9a) in Covolo.

Can you tell us more about those 9a ascents?
Let me start with Sanjski par: I've always had a weakness for this line, since the first time I visited Misja Pec. I think that might be because it is located in a 3-meter-high cave 😂. Anyway, during my Christmas holidays in 2019, I was able to send the first part but failed to connect the extension. I came back one weekend in December last year and was nearly able to make the ascent after the third day of trying. I was close but didn't expect to be that close 😅. When I came back again during Christmas time I warmed up, I did one go to brush the route and then I was able to make it to the top.

Concerning Musa: I chose this line because no dry caves were nearby 😂. It is a bouldery route (bolted and climbed by Reffo some years ago), that never gets wet. It seemed the perfect solution as in November it'd been raining a lot and there weren't any dry crags where I live. So we started going back and forth from Rovereto to Covolo every weekend of that month but I couldn't connect all those hard movements, 14 in total. To be fair the first three moves were the ones that made me trouble the most, those right before entering the main crux. Finally, on Christmas Eve I understood how to pass through and when I returned last weekend I succeeded. I would have never thought to send it soon after going past those three movements, usually, I'm the one who falls right in front of the anchor at least one time 😂.

“What an opportunity to discover a place like this! PEN-HIR! La Bretagne! Climbing above the ocean with so much atmosphere is not something I'm used to. I love being able to repeat these historic routes, which by the way, are sometimes tricky, with a rock type dependent on the weather conditions. I …

Sean Bailey opens Devilution (8C+)

Speaking on the Testpiece Climbing podcast, Sean Bailey reports that he has added a low start to the highball boulder Evilution Direct (8A) at the Buttermilks, calling it Devilution (8C+). The 8A goes from stacked pads and Sean basically added two super hard moves from a stand start. (c) John Kasaian

Everyone that comes out of the Milks normally walks through that boulder, we were trying it late in the day, we brought like twenty pads out there to do it so I'm already like a little stressed. I really don't want to have to get all these pads out here again, and I turn around and I'm like oh my goodness, there's like thirty, forty people out here. I want to get this thing done, it's getting dark...”

Earlier in the winter season, Sean flashed Slasher (8B), did the FA of The Doors of Perception (8C) and repeated Lucid Dreaming (8C). More details can be found on Sean's Instagram. The 27-year-old has been an active IFSC competition climber for over ten years and in 2021, he won one Boulder WC and two Lead WC's.