10 hardest boulders/Pohl


16 February 2010

The 10 hardest problems on the planet,

from the 8a yearbook 2008
Björn Pohl

Not that we're psychic, but yep, we know what you’re thinking: “Not again. Not another one of those lists. When are the 8a.nu-people gonna understand that you can’t quantify everything...?” Close enough? Well, of course it’s impossible for us to rank the hardest problems. Most of them, we haven’t even seen. This holds especially true in bouldering, where body specifics are determining the perceived difficulty so much more. When making this list, we decided not to include problems that are either very long, what we call “boulder routes”, contrived or chipped.

 Shadowplay, 8C+, John Gaskins 2004, Kentmere, UK
If you encounter a tale of a problem including phrases such as “impossible looking” and “spanning a
huge blank roof, using a couple of matchstick-size flat crimpers”, chances are good
 it’s about a Gaskins-problem as his specialty seems to be climbing improbable boulder problems
that no one else can even imagine a possible sequence for. 'Shadowplay' is located on the
“Giant Stone”, Kentmere. To quote the guide book you “Climb the hideously hard central line of
the big roof from sitting - futuristic!” "The holds are pretty much non-existent, there are 3
holds in 10 feet all of which are quarter joint side-pulls or undercuts. I simply cannot imagine
how anyone could even hold on to any of them." is a quote by Tim Palmer, who’s seen the problem
in the flesh, we found on a forum. Although ‘Shadowplay’ is really graded 8C, based on statements
like those below, we figured it’s probably harder. "I have only tried one of his problems graded
8A+/B and it is the hardest thing I have ever tried. I have seen some of his harder problems but
not tried them as they are impossible looking. I am a firm believer that Gaskins has done the
hardest moves and climbed the hardest problems. Whether they are the best, is a different
question, but in terms of pure difficulty of moves, I think G is the G."/ Tyler Landman. I've
never tried or even seen any of Gaskins' hardest problems but apparently they are incredible.
He seems to be better than anyone, at least in Britain, at pulling on tiny holds. I must go to
the Lake District to have a look. Apparently Steve McClure had a look at 'Walk away sit start'
and struggled to find any holds (McClure’s fingers aren't weak). At any rate I don't think
Gaskins problems are easy ticks. I have a feeling they will be unbelievably difficult i.e. as
hard, or harder, than anything in the world. Gaskins is strong and he worked on these things
with total dedication for years/Malcolm Smith.

Shadowplay was upgraded to 8C+ and listed as the world's hardest boulder in this 8a yearbook
article in 2008. 8a have been criticized for this as this #1 appointment was only based on
three persons who had never tried the boulder and that no comment was included
from the FA John Gaskins. In fact, it actually turns out that FA had stopped communicating
with the author of the article several years ago. 8a agree to the criticism especially since it was printed in 20 000 copies.)

The story of 2 worlds, 8C+, Dave Graham 2004, Cresciano, Ticino, Switzerland
Dubbed the “the new standard for 8C” by Dave Graham. "The boulder is a pure sit start to a
chunk of rock Toni Lamprecht climbed and called ‘The Dagger’. I have done the whole line now,
after 6 days of trying and 3 years of fucking around with trying to get an idea how to get on,
can compute as an intense, super technical-PAINFUL- Monster of a problem. It starts with 7-Big
moves at  8B or 8B+ ( it's harder than the dagger for me, and it's my style so its probably 8B+)
which is very friction dependent, and crimpy as all hell, directly climbing into the an
incredibly physical 8B+". "Climbers like Daniel woods are telling me over and over how this
boulder must be the standard for 8C+, and I think this is interesting, as I did grade it a
rather bizarre manner."

Terremer, 8C or 8C+, Fred Nicole 2005, Hueco Tanks, TX, USA
Rep: Paul Robinson -08
This beast of a boulder problem involves long pulls on razor crimpers in very steep terrain. It
links from the start of 'Diaphanous sea', 8A+, via a couple of linking moves, into 'Terre de
Sienne', 8B+, with the crux, a long deadpoint/stab for a really sharp hold (ask Dave Graham) at
the end, weighing in around hard 8C or 8C+. "I have … never done something which felt that hard at
first, except maybe 'Entlinge'," Fred Nicole As for the grade of ‘Terremer’, he said, “I’m not
sure, but I could propose V16.” This problem begins on the opening moves of 'Diaphanous Sea'
and heads right through a series of incuts on a bulging wall. It basically links an 8B into the
8B+, 'Terre de Sienne', also put up by Nicole.
In search of time lost, 8C, Daniel Woods 2008, Magic wood, Switzerland
The full boulder, starting at the start of ‘Left hand of darkness’ and going left into ‘Remembrance
of Things Past’ adds 8A/+ into 8B+. According to Daniel it's sustained and powerful the whole
way, and his hardest boulder yet. As he's climbed quite a few problems in different parts of
the world, he should know what he's talking about.

Jade, 8C, Daniel Woods 2007, Upper chaos, RMNP, Colorado, USA
Rep: Tyler Landman -07, Paul Robinson -07
A.k.a. the ‘Green 45-project’ this boulder problem achieved almost legendary status already as a
project… The problem lies at over 3000m above sea level in a jumble of talus and is well known
for having one of the hardest moves in the world. The crux, if you can talk about a crux on such
a short problem, is one single move, a balancy lock-off-stab-deadpoint kind of move. Once you
get past that, it should be in the bag.
Entlinge, 8C, Fred Nicole 2005, Murgtal, Switzerland
Mary Gabrieli, Fred’s partner, tells us: “‘Entlinge’ is a 50° overhang with 6 moves to the lip.
It is a nice line that was found by Thomas Steinbrugger who told Fred it is an open project.
Fred tried it from time to time during a few years until he found a solution and climbed it in
the spring of 2005. Fred proposed 8C because it took him a long time to find the solution and he
found it hard to climb too. “

Practice of the wild, 8C, Chris Sharma 2004, Magic wood, Switzerland
Rep: Tyler Landman 2008
'Practice of the wild' is a wild boulder problem. This is the story of the FA. I was there, Ty
Landman was there and so was Toni Lamprecht, probably the best spotter I know. It’s one of those
things that just happen, unexplainable. We’d been climbing together in the wood for a few days.
Toni Lamprecht and a couple of friends of his had driven down from Munich for the weekend, Tyler,
13 at the time was there with Tim Hatch, and I was there with a friend of mine, so was Chris.
We were simply walking between the problems the whole bunch, just trying different things,
taking turns climbing and spotting. No pressure, just a really nice day among the pebbles.
Everyone climbed well though, and things went down. I think it was early afternoon when we
arrived at the site where Chris had his project from last year, an intimidating line starting
deep down on the belly of a huge boulder. He’d been passing it every day, touching the holds
and going through the moves in his mind, but he had yet to pull on for the first time this year.
Same thing today: He started feeling the holds, which were a bit damp as usual. After a while,
he decided he’d have a go, just to try it really, and we started arranging ourselves and the
pads as best as we could. I don’t think anyone thought that this was going to be anything but
a rehearsal of the moves, just to get back into things. After all, Chris had been working this
thing quite extensively the previous summer. Anyway, he pulled on and started. The first part
has a couple of slopey pinches and then it basically continues in the same fashion, it just
gets worse the further you come. Chris moved through the first part quite swiftly and seemingly
effortlessly though, hitting the holds right and powering away, and all of a sudden he was at
the crux, squeezing two rounded crap pinches he went ballistic, throwing a backwards-spine-
twisting-crossover-monster of a dyno into the good slot that marks the end of the roof and start
of the exit. We were all absolutely stunned, just looking at each other and laughing in
disbelief. What the hell was that!? I think we all realized we had been watching something
truly remarkable and very, very rare. History in the making stuff. Meanwhile Chris plowed
through the thick wet moss on the unrehearsed top-out. This ascent is, hands down, the most
inspiring piece of climbing I’ve ever witnessed. Extra terrestrial!

Gioia, 8C, Cristian Core 2008, Varazze, Italy
In his own back yard, Cristian Core found his dream problem. Gioia follows a logical line,
ascending a perfect boulder diagonally. Crisian says it’s the hardest thing he’s ever done by
a long way. How hard? Future repeaters will have to decide.

Anam cara, 8C, Bernd Zangerl 2007, Silvretta, Austria Rep: Bernhard Schwaiger 2008
‘Anam cara’ is what Bernd calls a perfect problem. Steep and only four moves long, but with
everyone of those moves being on the physical limit. Berni Schwaiger, another Austrian power
house, made quite fast work of it, but thought it warranted 8C none the less. Bernd says he's
simply fascinated by really difficult single moves. "On a long 8C I can usually immediately do
all the moves, so it’s just a question of stamina… and this motivates me less at the moment. I
like trying things where you don’t even know if it’s physically possible when you start working
Zunami, 8C, Bernhard Schwaiger 2003, Saalachtal, Austria
Rep: Herman Schwaiger -04
‘Zunami’ is a brick hard roof climb, combining 8A+/B start and an 8B/B+ finish, with a total of 12 moves, all on small crimpers, bad slopers, and crappy foot holds. Bernhard took advantage good conditions and made the FA of his ultra-project after a year or so of working it on and off. A month or so later, brother Herman battled baltic temperatures to make the 2nd ascent.


Contenders to Top-10
 From dirt grows the flowers, 8C, Dave Graham 2004, Chironico, Ticino, Switzerland

Kaiser Sauzé, 8C+, Romain Desgranges 2008, Argentière, France
Romain worked this proud granite boulder for close to 3 years before success, only to see it
vandalized and destroyed shortly after.

Walk away sd, 8C, John Gaskins 2003, Fairy steps, Lake district, UK
Gaskins' problems might not be the most aesthetic, or the best lines you'll ever come across,
but in terms of pure difficulty, they're probably a notch or two above everything else. Not the
typical Gaskins-problem, this is an almost vertical wall of incredible crozzled limestone,
climbed direct from sitting. “While most people would take a bow to Mother Nature and move on,
Gaskins pinched the hell out of an imperceptible ripple and somehow reached the slopey break to
create what is certainly one of the hardest single moves in the world."/Greg Chapman

Il Pirata, 8C, John Gaskins 2004, Trowbarrow, UK,
The low steep roof on the SW side of the Trowbarrow Boulder (Shelter Stone).
"Literally involving using a flat matchstick sized edge (yes literally, not a joke!) to fully
span a foothold-less roof to a small slopey crimp, the meat of this problem boils down to 4
moves, with that one in particular being the meatiest – Gaskins could only do this move one in
every hundred attempts. The result is ‘Il Pirata’ V15."/Greg Chapman

Witness the fitness, Chris Sharma 2005, Grade: Non given, but probably 8C
Rep: 1, Fred Nicole (dispite several broken holds)
"Well my friend Blake Strictland found the cave but I conceived the line myself. It's by far the
coolest problem I've ever seen in my life. It's like 15 meters long with a really hard gaston
move 3/4 out the horizontal roof. It took me like four days to put it all together. I'd say it
the hardest thing I've ever done. It's the full package of beauty, difficulty and creativity
(you do several 360's while climbing it)." The status of the problem is dubious right now as
even more holds have broken. At its present state, it's probably unclimbable...

Assassin, monkey and man, 8C, Toni Lamprecht 2008, Kochel, Germany
This is an 8m long prow on the base of a climbing cliff in Kochel, South of Germany. The
overhanging and polished limestone allows the climber to show all his skills from blind-folded
dynos over sloper-compression to tricky heel- and toe-hook-work. After 6 "easy", but athletic
moves on the sit-start follows the 7 moves long crux part. Leaving the hardest moves you slap
up the top part of the prow with another 12 body-eating and desperate moves, until you reach a
big jug and easier ground. 25 moves in total combine an 8B+ with an 8A+ -part to an ultimate
body-tension festival, which guarantees a full-body workout and a high purple head-colour.

In respect of certain really strong guys that haven't graded harder than 8C to stop the
inflation of the grades, there would be no way to call it harder than that. To call it less
would mean to downgrade other problems I did in the past and frustrate others. I simply take
the easiest solution and call it "Hard"… The exact number after this four letter word should be
filled by more experienced boulders in the future. They are welcome to try it anytime!

Memento, 8C, Bernd Zangerl 2005, Silvretta,
Rep: Bernhard Schwaiger, Cornelius Obleitner, Kilian Fischhuber, Akito Matsushima

Banshousha, 8C, Tokio Muroi 2000, Ogawayama Crystal slab, Japan
The oldest problem on the list, and still unrepeated as far as we know. Tokio climbed this 6
meter arête without a crashpad.

Hydrangea, 8C+, Dai Koyamada 2005, Shiobara, Japan
Difficult roof climbing at its best, or worst if you like, involving big throws and monos.
‘Hydrangea’ was created by adding an 8A+ 6 move sit start to ‘Hydra’, an existing 8B+. The
whole problem has around 25 moves and is about 15 meters in length, 10 of which is a horizontal

Warpath, 8C, James Litz
8A – 7C+ - 7C+ - 7C+ = 8C? Apparently a great problem, but, because of its length, more than
20 moves, it didn’t make the list.

The island, 8C, Dave Graham 2008, Fontainebleau, France
Rep: Nalle Hukkataival -08, Sam Edwards -08

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