with James Scarborough
by Tim O'Neill © 2001 AustralianBouldering.com
Again the boring questions first ...
Ape factor (index)?
Normally here I'd ask you about your hardest (bouldering) ascents but as you are very recent convert from sport climbing I'll let you give me your hardest sends, both bouldering and climbing?
Ammagamma V13 and Alpha Leather 32
For something new, here's the "Big Brother"-esque eviction 10 questions ...
1) Who do you like most in the bouldering community?
That's a pretty hard question to answer, I don't honestly think that I could say that I like anybody "the best" as there are a lot of people who have been really supportive to me over the last few months. Obviously there's guys like yourself and Ben [Christian from Uncarved Block] and Dave [Kellermann] and Kyle [Dunsire], but then there's all the Nowra/Woolongong boys like Paul Meharg, Ben Kavanagh and the Wooley's [Mark and Heather] who are always keen to go out and are really fun to boulder with. Then there are some other Sydney people like Matt Wrigley and the Big Daves, Cameron [Barrie] and so on and so on. But I think that I'd have to say that Sam [Edwards] has been the most influential over the past few months. Mainly because we both climb at a very similar level and there are many aspects of our climbing that we can both improve through bouldering together. We feed off each other quite well which is really motivating.
2) Who do you dislike the most?
It'd have to be you Timbo! Ummm ... no-one really, I think I get along with most people?
You're so PC! Ok, 3) Who would you most want to share a tent with in the Grampians for 3 months?
Probably Sam, although after 3 months we'd probably have nothing left to do, except the Hollow Mountain Cave link-up!
4) What one thing would you take with you for the trip, and it can't be a person?
It'd be a toss up between climbing shoes and food.
5) Name 5 people that are stronger than you are?
That I've met ... Fred [Nicole], Sam, Garth [Miller], Q [Quentin McDonald] can do one-armers so I guess he's stronger and Jark [Justin Clark] can bench press more than I can.
6) What's your ultimate overseas bouldering destination?
I don't know, there seems to be too many, I'm planning to go to Switzerland, Font, Bishop and Hueco next year so I'll tell you when I get back.
7) Most undergraded/underappreciated problem you've ever done?
I think Pinch Me at Armidale, it's fantastic and definitely the hardest "10" I've done as well.
8) Most overgraded/overhyped?
I'm not sure really? Cave Man in the Grampians comes to mind but there has to be others that I've shut out?
9) The one thing you'd like to change about your body - from a bouldering point of view?
Fix my broken pinky and I'd like to buy an elbow that can't get tendonitis so I can get some lock off strength in my left arm.
10) The one problem you'd really like to do still?
On a world scale I think Dreamtime [V15 in Switzerland], Spectre [V14 in Bishop] and The Mandala [V12 in Bishop] are the most motivating lines and in Australia there are tonnes of projects to be done. I'm going to have to spend some time in Armidale doing all the projects that I started on my last trip, there are so many, it's just crazy. I guess I just have to do everything.
So, like Sam, have you totally crossed over to the dark side? I mean when was the last time you tied into a rope?
I haven't been on a rope for a few months now but I still want to go and do Attack Mode [32 in Nowra] and I'm going to go and do some multi-pitch things in the Blue Mountains when I get a bit more time.
What! Traitor ... this interview is over! Ok, seriously then, what motivates/attracts you about bouldering versus climbing? How do they balance each other?
I think to me bouldering and the movements involved are much more natural than in climbing. I don't feel uncomfortable on a rope, that couldn't be further from the truth, but the types of routes that I have always enjoyed the most are the more gymnastic, powerful or bouldery ones, so I guess it seems like an obvious transition. I really enjoy the movement and being able to link together what are the hardest moves that you could possibly do but it is so hard to do hard moves on a rope. I couldn't realistically imagine doing more than half of the problems that I've done in the last few months on a rope, it'd just be insane. But I also think it is good for your head and more importantly your motivation to get on a rope every now and then, it kind of keeps it real by adding a little variety. It's not like now I'm bouldering more I hate climbing on a rope - I love climbing in general and it's not something that you can limit to one specific style.
Now for my favourite question, are you goal (i.e. the send) or journey (i.e. the experience) oriented?
I love the feeling that you get when you redpoint something, but as most people that I have climbed with for a long time will know all too well, I tend to be a bit of a siege master. The longer it takes you to do something, the harder it is for you so the better you feel when get the tick, but you also feel sad because then you know it's over and you have to go and find something else to beat your head up against for ten days or so until you get another tick and so on and so on. I think that if you are too goal oriented you lose sight of the journey or the battle and of what climbing is really all about. If all that you can think about is the tick then I don't think that you can really begin to understand the movement, motivation and visualisation that are required to redpoint something that is truly hard for you so you will never achieve what you are fully capable of. So I think that for me the journey is more important that the goal because if you experience and enjoy the journey then you will inevitably achieve your goals.
So, tell us about your trip to the Grampians? Who did you go with and for how long etc?
The Gramps were excellent, I had a really great time. I think that I climbed pretty much as well as I possibly could have and the only things I didn't do that I was keen for were Dead Can't Dance [V12] and Mad Max [V12]. I think that I could have done them both though if I didn't fracture my left pinky ten days before the trip. I was there for about 3 weeks and pretty much everybody who is anybody in the Australian bouldering scene were there with the only exceptions being Garth, Saxon Johns and Paul Westwood. It was an awesome atmosphere with people bouldering and climbing with no real animosity, everyone was psyched, the weather was almost perfect and everyone was cranking, it couldn't have been a whole lot better.
So how on earth did you fracture your pinky then?
It was a bit silly really, I was playing AFL at Uni and I ran out in front of someone to get the ball, as I pushed past them they pushed my hand back and the ball impacted right on the end of my pinky dislocating it. When they pulled it back in, due to the nature of the dislocation, they chipped part of the bone away with a ligament attached to it, so now I can't really bend it and it feels like it is going to pop back out every now and then. It's not very stable.
Doh! So heaps of other people were trying Ammagamma, how did they go?
Sam, Kim [Robinson] and Sharik [Walker] were also trying it. Sam didn't go so well and he got a bit demotivated by it. Kim was hiking it with no real reason why he couldn't have done it, he just didn't want to, who knows why? Maybe he just didn't want to walk all the way up there or maybe he was putting too much pressure on himself, I don't know? Sharik came really close as well and he fell off after the crux a couple of times because he didn't have the the finish dialled. The top's not hard, maybe 9 or 10, but you have to have it sorted so that once you stick the crux throw you have no doubt that you're going to punch it all the way to the top. I guess different people have different approaches?
Tell us about the problem, what was the business for you, how many days, how hard etc etc?
It's a beautiful line, probably one of the best around. It's a 45 degree bulging wall up the side of a big boulder that starts under a roof and climbs up through a series of pockets and sidepulls with an arete on the left and tops out through these two enormous fans on top of the boulder. It's gorgeous, it's the kind of thing that you just look at and think ... "Wow, I really want to climb that!". It is just one move really, which is virtually right off the deck, although you have to stuff around with your feet and you don't get the holds perfectly so it's a fair bit different to just doing the move by itself. It's probably like a 2 move 11 to a tricky 9 or 10 to a really fun and easy top out, albeit a bit scary. It took me four days, which was kind of funny because it came pretty quickly and easily and I tend to like a bit of a struggle, so for the next few days I was a bit spaced out but then it sank in. I think it's hard but I honestly couldn't say how hard. I think it's definitely harder than any of the 12's I've done but I am improving pretty quickly and I'll let you know when I've done some of my projects.
And you did Killer Dwarf V12 as well. I heard there was a bit of a controversy over whether you and Sam finished in the right place ... what was that about?
Yeah, I don't know what the deal was with that? We were both told that it didn't top out and there is no real obvious top out for it. You'd have to traverse across to the right on these jugs and then roll over onto this ledge. I don't know and I don't really care, the business finishes on the big juggy pocket and that's where both of us jumped off. I was happy with what I did and I think Sam was fine with it as well?
And what about your trip to Armidale?
My trip up there was really fun. When you go up there its not just a climbing holiday, it really is a true holiday. Hanging out with Ben [Christian from Uncarved Block] and Justine [Barrett, his partner] is just really nice and relaxing. There is no need to rush to go and do anything, you've always got the whole day. Our average day was sleep in until 11am or so, get up eat, go bouldering until dark, come home watch TV, play Unreal Tournament on Ben's computer network, go to bed at about 2am, get up the next day and do it all over again. It even snowed! Even though the weather was atypically warm for midwinter in Armidale, it tended to be OK late in the afternoons when the sun started to drop, so that was OK I guess. The one pisser about the trip was when I'd only been there for about 3 days and I tried Fluming [a V11 that James later put up] at Gara Gorge and I ripped my whole tip off my ringfinger on my right hand, I had to take about 6 days off to let it get better, but after that it was all good. The bouldering up there is quite good, the harder it gets the better the moves are the the nicer the lines, all of the projects up there are just mega lines which make it really easy to be motivated to get them done.
Now I heard you did Vampire Dagger V11/12 in about 20 minutes!
Yeah that was pretty funny, it was just after my tip got better and I felt like my trip had been wasting away and I hadn't done anything and I hadn't even been able to try anything. My goal for the trip was to do this roof project but after I tore my finger I didn't think I had enough time so I set out to do all of the easier things and then focus on that line next trip. So I got on Vampire Dagger trying it the way that I thought I'd have to do it and did all the moves, then Benno walked around the corner and said "try it this way" and showed me his sequence, I tried it, did all the moves that way, sat down totally not expecting to do it then found myself topping out, then Benno pulled on to do the standing start which he hadn't done since Fred added the sit-start and topped out right next to me, it was really cool.
So far this year there's been some other 12's you've done, Contact, Special Delivery and Abacus. Tell us about those ... I mean you did both Contact and Abacus in about an hour each didn't you?
Contact was a bit of a trip really. Sam had just come back from the States and he was like ... "let's go and do Contact" and I was like, "ok", so we went down there, warmed up, and did it and went home. It was pretty funny really. It was my first 12 and the hardest problem I'd done before that was Pinch Me so I was pretty happy. Abacus is kinda strange for me because it suited me so well - it is big open pinches on a bulging wall with dynamic body tension moves between them. It could be anything from 10 to 12 but I can't really comment because it was perfect for me and I had all the beta. At the end of the day it's one of the best problems around and I guess that is what really matters. Special Delivery was different, I first tried it in summer with Sam and Ben [Cossey] and it was just ridiculously hot. I did all the moves on the first day and fell off the last move on linkage on the second day. Then I went to the Gramps and when I got back I couldn't do the crux the way I did it before because of my pinky so I found a new sequence and came really close. I then went back with Saxon and found another sequence for the finish and did it on that day and it felt quite easy. It makes you feel like a bit of an idiot, I should have found that sequence on the first day and I probably could have done it then, but I didn't and that subtlety adds to the problems quality.
So what would you say is your ideal style of boulder problem?
I'd say a nice clean, slightly bulging wall between 35 and 55 degrees overhanging, 8-12 moves long on sloping pinches and edges, jumpy moves on which you have to really precise and accurate, nice clean landing with an easy victory top out ... that's not too much to ask is it? Oh and granite or sandstone.
Sounds like Ammagamma was your perfect problem then?
Nearly, the only problem with Amma is that it is essentially a one-move wonder. It would be a whole lot better if that pocket was even all the way across, maybe one digit and slightly incut (like it is at the sides), then it would be the best 12 in the world! I couldn't see anything being better if that was the case.
Ok, what would you say you say your best "skills" are?
Definitely contact, movement and accuracy.
You mean even more than your motivation?
I wouldn't really say that motivation is a skill, I'd say it was more of an asset, which is just as important, if not more so than the other skills. As without the motivation you cannot develop the skills which are important to climbing. I'd like to be able to say it less typically, but it is definitely true. Motivation is also a product of your environment and I've always been very lucky because of who I've climbed with, I mean, coming from Penrith there is no shortage of motivated climbers. Everyone climbs really well and places climbing as their upmost priority and that rubs off on you and helps to shape you as a climber. If you always surround yourself with people who want to climb well and can also be intrinsically motivated you will always be motivated. Also, the more holidays and road tips you can go on the better to make sure you don't get stale.
I saw this cool pie-chart in Roc'n Wall that illustrated the % that each world cup boulderer spent training in each of several different disciplines (e.g. climbing outside, bouldering outside, plastic, weights, cross-training etc), so what would your pie-chart look like?
At the moment mine would be pretty boring with 50% bouldering on plastic and 50% bouldering on rock. If I had done it a while back though it would have been even more boring with 100% on rock.
What do you get out of each then in 25 words or less?
Rock equals fun, motivation and achievement and plastic equals training.
So you just won the first Australian Bouldering Nationals. Tell us about that? Was it a good comp, what were the problems like, the format, the crowd etc etc? Any controversies?
The comp was good and I had a good time. Although I've been a bit turned off by comps of late they tend to do a pretty good job at ClimbFit at St Leonard's and they kept their reputation in my opinion. The format was fairly standard, there was a 2 hour pumpfest where you have to go around and do problems with a point value attached to them and your top ten point scoring problems count towards your final score. Usually the top 6 would go into the final but this time they changed it to 8 and made it like the World Cup finals. You had 5 minutes on and 5 minutes off which was quite good for me because I hadn't spent a whole lot of time on plastic going into the comp so I needed the rest. There were heaps of people there with video cameras and propaganda and the vibe was pretty hectic. Just remember September 22nd, that's when the Penrith comp is on, it'll be awesome, everyone has to come!
Ok then so obviously it's time to plug the sponsors ... so who's supporting your addiction?
Uncarved Block, Mountain Designs and of course The Climbing Centre in Penrith.
And last but not least, grades ... necessary or unnecessary?
I think they're necessary. They give someone a somewhat accurate guide as to whether they will be able to do the problem they are about to attempt and they can show improvements. Most importantly though they provide a fun topic of conversation and controversy, where would we be without them?