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
5. Stained Glass
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!