Dan Varian and Ned Feehally have just had an exceptional tour of UK grit. Repeating many of the hardest routes, replacing a rope with a stack of bouldering mats. They claim that routes under 10m high (of which there are many on Grit) are purely highball boulder problems. It seems a new era is emerging in style and ethics.
I remember working at Outside in Llanberis 10 years ago when the first bouldering mate arrived. We all looked at it as if it was an alien being, never seen before by mankind. We certainly didn't think it would turn out to be an essential part of the boulderer’s body armour.
A few years later, at Black Rocks Neil Gresham and I were keen to repeat Meshuga - Seb Grieves infamous masterpiece that shocked and inspired viewers of Hard Grit.
Neil and I had bouldering mats in the car, but we didn't use them. How stupid were we! The way I saw it was " if you use a rope, then you don't use a bouldering mat, end of story". Neil then went for the 2nd ascent, with no mats and no helmet - and fell off, tumbling onto the unthinkable landing of strewn boulders. Neil had concussion for over a month, but got away with it. We both ended up repeating the climb, and it was one of my most memorable experiences I have ever had. Both belaying Neil and then after, tying into the rope at the bottom, squeaking up my Anasazi's, with adrenaline gushing through my veins, my brain desperately tried to convince itself that I could actually climb this without ending up in hospital like Neil did.
It is great to see how the sport is evolving, and fantastic effort to all those that are pushing the boundaries.