Monday, March 8, 2010

The Mandala

So it's been two days since the Chatty crew rolled into Bishop, CA and we have been making the most of Spring Break '10. I came here with a list of 8 problems:

1. The Mandala
2. The Buttermilker
3. The Swarm
4. Spectre
5. Stained Glass
6. Checkerboard
7. Xavier's Roof
8. Haroun and the Sea of Stories

and after two climbing days I have been able to tick the Buttermilker (v13) and flash the Mandala. I have little to say about the Buttermilker - it's a hard powerful boulder and I was extremely happy to climb it. Instead I would like to focus attention on the Mandala.

Recently this boulder has been getting a lot of attention. The start in particular has been drawing a lot of controversy. Should the boulder start on the two edges and move into the undercling left hand as the first ascentionist (Sharma) started? Or should it start left hand on the high edge and right hand already in the undercling? In this case though I think the answer (starting left hand on the high edge and right in the undercling) is obvious for several reasons:

1. The undercling is lower on the wall than one of the original start holds - it seems self explanatory. Simply starting with the right hand lower on the wall doesn't seem to pose any major problems. It does cut out 1 move, however, and I suppose this is what people have problems with. Would it be legitimate then to start right hand in the undercling, left on the lower edge, pull on and move left to the high edge before continuing the climb?

2. The boulder should be climbed in the easiest most direct manner possible - there is no questioning the beauty or purity of the Mandala; it is one of the most recognizable boulders in North America. To question something as trivial as beta on this amazing bloc seems to contrive the boulder. In my opinion this is an affront to the pure nature of the boulder and of climbing itself.

3. The undercling is such an obvious feature - it's not always the case that the first ascentionist climbs a boulder in the easiest, most obvious way possible. Boulders often experience a period of grade deflation after the first ascent (think Graham boulder in RMNP). This is in no way a bad thing. It simply shows that refined beta and its exposure (on the internet and over time) makes climbs easier than first perceived.

I would also like to discuss the grade of the boulder. The Mandala has been in the v12 range for a number of years but I don't think it belongs. The Mandala is a perfect example of a beautiful boulder that receives a lightly inflated grade as a result of its beauty. The Shield (v12) at Little Rock City is another example. Taking into account simply the difficulty of the movement, I think the Mandala (as well as the Shield) deserves a grade more in line with v11.

That being said, this boulder is an amazing testpiece and one of the most beautiful boulders I've ever climbed. I am psyched to climb on some of the other amazing boulders in Bishop. Tommorrow Jimmy and I are going out to try the Swarm. Wish us luck!

-Brion

18 comments:

  1. We have to be able to define what a boulder problem is and, at the very least, where it starts. The most objective way to complete a problem is by starting where the first ascentionist started, regardless of whether it is obvious or not, or whether you agree or disagree.
    "The boulder should be climbed in the easiest and most direct manner." What is easy for one climber is not easy for another and leaves this definition as open to interpretation. Clearly, you started where you did because it was easier.
    "To question something as trivial as beta on this amazing bloc seems to contrive the boulder. In my opinion this is an affront to the pure nature of the boulder and of climbing itself."
    I don't follow this argument. So if a problem reaches a certain level of amazingness, it is then free from questioning? The question is so trivial that you devoted three paragraphs to it? Do you see yourself as affronting the purity of the Mandala, or climbing itself? I think we must reach a consensus on what constitutes an ascent, and to do that, every aspect of the sport must be questioned.

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  2. Olson- yes we do need to be able to define what a boulder problem is but it seems that a boulder problem should simply be a piece of climbable rock not a defined sequence of movements. Also what is easiest for one may not be easiest for everyone but in most instances people agree on the easiest method. The concensus grade is based on what is easiest for most people not what is easiest for each individual. This is a rare instance where the first ascentionist didn't start on the lowest holds or at the most obvious place and therefore these things must be questioned.

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  3. I cannot comment on the grade of it since I have not tried it (yet...).
    As for where to start... it seems to me that it doesn't really make a difference starting one way compared to the other (1 move?).
    Regardless, congrats on the flash and send!

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  5. In the South they just say "That's not the problem" when you stray a bit. Lowest holds?! Doesn't this rig have a Sit start. Maybe you did the HIGH stand start rather than the regular stand start. Hehe, good stuff. Props on the flash!

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  6. Brion, congrats on the flash. Very nice work. I'm really psyched you and Jimmy did The Buttermilker from the original start as well. It's nice that people are starting to respect the original start, though I'm sure some will continue to do the stand and take credit for "The Buttermilker".

    You make some good points about The Mandala. I climbed it several years ago before the pile of cheat stones appeared at the base. I tried to pull on from one pad with the undercling and it was too high for me. I could just barely reach the crimp above it so did the problem with Dave's beta. With so many more climbers attempting it, there is quite a pile of rocks to stand on now. Totally understandable for shorter climbers, however, I'm 5'11" and when I climbed on the problem with all those cheat stones and stacked pads for shorter climbers, I could easily pull straight into the undercling.

    So what to do? If you're too short to pull on from the ground, then tough shit, you have to jump for the starting hold? Or stack as many pads as you want and start however you want? I think anyone arguing the former is going to lose out to people that just want to climb "The Mandala" as easily as possible and take the V12 grade.

    As for the grade, I thought it was easy for V12 even with the old beta. And feels a bit easier with the new beta pulling on from a bunch of pads. But maybe it suits taller climbers that can crimp hard? V11 seems fair to me. Or maybe it's only V10 if you stack enough pads? Either way, props on the flash and I'm glad you're questioning the grade with the new accepted way to climb the problem.

    Good luck on the rest of your trip!

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  7. I am still confused, as I don't think you have addressed the issues I raised. I will rephrase them.

    First of all, you state,
    "This is a rare instance where the first ascentionist didn't start on the lowest holds or at the most obvious place and therefore these things must be questioned."

    This was preceded by,
    "To question something as trivial as beta on this amazing bloc seems to contrive the boulder. In my opinion this is an affront to the pure nature of the boulder and of climbing itself."

    Your thoughts seems contradictory. I stand by the assertion that to repeat a problem, you must start from where the first ascentionist started. In the case of the Buttermilker, that problem was climbed from a higher start, after the lower start broke, was deemed unclimbable, and called the Buttermilker (stand). Although irrelevant, it is interesting that Wills Young felt the start was justified enough for his guidebook, too.

    Then you continue,
    Statement 1"Should the boulder start on the two edges and move into the undercling left hand as the first ascentionist (Sharma) started? Or should it start left hand on the high edge and right hand already in the undercling? In this case though I think the answer (starting left hand on the high edge and right in the undercling) is obvious for several reasons:"

    this is followed by,

    Statement 2 "Olson- yes we do need to be able to define what a boulder problem is but it seems that a boulder problem should simply be a piece of climbable rock not a defined sequence of movements. "

    I see these statements (1 and 2) as contradictory, as you seem to want to define the starting sequence (1) and then say that a "boulder problem ...(is) not a defined sequence"

    Mostly this post seems to be about your justification for doing something that, even in your own eyes, was not ideal. I don't think you would have spent so much time explaining yourself if you did think it was ideal.

    Again, I stand by my argument that if you want to repeat the Mandala, you have to start where the first ascentionist started, regardless of how inobvious or uncceptable you deem their start to be. If anything is an affront, it is changing where Chris started the problem and suggesting it is the same thing. This is simply an objective and logical way to look at things. These are important questions that are fundamental to understanding what actually constitutes on ascent.

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  8. i think the problem here is people starting from multiple pads and cheat stones and then tries to redefined the start of the problem to make it easier for them. i´m 185 cm (6,07 foot) high and not able to start in the undercling with the right hand.

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  9. Really? When it boils down to it you are just climbing a stupid piece of rock. Do it how you see fit.

    oo shit you started that epic v12 from a hold 1 inch higher, history dab! Ooo dude your chalk bag totally took weight!

    Honestly people have we really come to that ^^^?

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  10. Olson, I think you raise some interesting points of contention about the mandala. However, if the bouldering community is as progressive as it claims to be, then new and more efficient ways of climbing boulders should be recognized and appreciated. Brian is being pretty forthright in acknowledging that boulders over time are subject to more interpretation and subsequent grade changes. He should be applauded for understanding that beta as well as grades are a community effort, subject to adaptation. I think it would be foolish for us as a community to simply accept that Chris' start is the only way to start the mandala.

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  11. http://www.bigupproductions.com/#/vidplayer/The_Mandala/

    The crux is deffinatley in the first 3 moves.

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  12. The reason Sharma started on the holds he did is because he didn't stack 5 pads up to reach as high as he could like you did.

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  13. adapting beta is one thing, but adapting new starting holds is another... even IF Chris could have started on the seemingly "obvious" start holds that everyone seems to be now but didn't, we are all subject to starting on those same start holds the same way if we want to call it an ascent of the Mandala. If not, then you're just climbing a Mandala impersonator... but still good work on the flash, sick either way!

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  15. To Olson:

    Thanks for pointing those things out.

    First, I am questioning the reasoning behind a sequence in order to broaden the scope of the climb. In my eyes the best climbs are as broadly defined as possible, allowing climbers to interpret them according to body type, strengths, etc. Questioning all other methods and limiting the scope of the Mandala to a specific sequence is unnecessary.

    This is only problematic because the start holds are in question. If I were questioning the use of holds anywhere else on the boulder there would be no issue.

    Second, I'm not trying to define this specific start as "the start." There are several ways to start the boulder and I'm merely defining this one as a possibility. Each climber must choose which method he prefers.

    Third, I am completely satisfied with my ascent. I did not write this to justify an unworthy ascent. I was simply trying to make a meaningful contribution to the climbing community.


    To Chea:

    The opening sequence (even starting from the two crimps) has been significantly altered. Now, instead of matching the undercling, most move left into the undercling and right to a small hold (not used by Sharma). Check it out: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=v7F8UoThdS0.


    To Marcus:

    I can reach all the holds from a single pad on the ground. But I'm tall.

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  16. Yeah man but even though most people who start on the two crimps move up with their right hand first now, it's still the crux. Also, the undercling is higher than the left starting crimp, so by starting with your right hand already in it you aren't just starting from a different place, you're starting from higher holds which I think in the case of just about every other climb would not be considered doing the same problem. It's not just that the undercling is a different way to start, it's that it is a higher hold to start on.

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  17. its not the sequence in question. anyone can do anything they want but a lot of the climbing community (i think) would agree that you should start on the same holds as the first ascentionist, then from there do whatever gets you up the problem the most efficient way. Dave G. started the same as Chris but found a much more efficient way of doing the problem. If the efficient way of doing the problem involves using different starting holds, then its the most efficient way of doing a "different" start to a "different" problem... kinda lame, but the way it is.

    The problem has been that since the ground eroded away it has become harder to even reach the good crimp starting hold for most folks. So a cheat stone pile was put into use, allowing shorter folks to just barely reach the start crimp. But then a taller person uses that same cheat stone and can easily reach the start crimp (therefore can easily use the undercling). Not 100% on this but I'm fairly sure that barely being able to reach the crimp would mean that using the undercling would be suuuuuper hard (even though its lower), but with some slack in your arms, its totally doable.

    I'm on the fence about the whole thing b/c the logistics of making sure you're just "barely" tall enough to reach the start holds seems silly, but (for now) I agree that people should to continue starting the way Chris did and either using his method (crazy) or Dave's (crazy but smarter). And I would guess that if it wasn't due for a downgrade before the new start beta, it is now. that's my pennies.

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