Home > Rock

Five Futuristic Bouldering First Ascents from 2021

2021 saw an almost unbelievable series of first ascents. What did some of these new problems tell us about the future of bouldering?

2021 comes into review with another V16 first ascent from Ryuichi Murai. The boulder shows the developing style of outdoor climbing and reflects the increasing performance of the world’s best boulderers. Although this year was tough for many climbers, 2021 saw numerous futuristic first ascents.

Ryuichi Murai – Floatin’ – V16

Dubbed The Launchpad Project preceding its first ascent, Floatin’ arguably represents the most futuristic new climb of 2021. On this gymnastic problem, Ryuichi Murai chose to forgo the pogo of his original beta, instead deciding to campus the first move. This speaks to the subtle nature of the problem and also seems too reflect a delicacy seen in indoor climbing. After sticking the first hold, Murai, rosed through to a thin grip. This rose is something we have seen before, but the subsequent downward campus amazed those who viewed it.

Finally, Murai returned to the first grip and completes what might be the first V16 clock sequence. A clock is when a climber uses a hold, moves from it, and returns to that hold after moving their body in such a way that they can better access the next moves of the problem. It is a rare type of movement.

Though it seems as though the first beta Murai tried had potential, the spanning dead-point of the move appeared difficult. With that said, Murai’s beta also appeared difficult as he campused three of the first four moves. The fact that campusing seemed to have been the most efficient beta reflected the difficulty of the problem.

Daniel Woods – Return of the Sleepwalker – V17

Woods’s Return of the Sleepwalker made headlines early last year. As the world’s second V17, it provided a resistance-based test-piece for the world’s strongest to test themselves. Although the higher start, Sleepwalker, has become the most repeated V16, the sit start has yet to see a second ascent.

Although this problem featured more standard movement than Murai’s Floatin’, it showed another potential future for hard bouldering. For more physical climbers like Woods, resistance-based boulder problems become contests of endurance and precision. By contrast, Nalle Hukkataival’s Burden of Dreams V17 appeared to suggest a more delicate sequence.

This is not to say that one is harder than the other. Instead, it simply showcases the two ways bouldering can further itself in terms of difficulty. Linking hard low starts into challenging boulder problem begins to ask the question: what happens when you link V15 into V15?

Pablo Hammack – Love will tear us apart – V15

This gnarly V15 presents one of the most heinous examples of thin-hold grip-wrangling. Pablo Hammack climbed this classic this summer. It became the first problem of its difficulty in the Yosemite Valley.

Although it doesn’t speak to the future of outdoor bouldering in the same way that Return of the Sleepwalker might, it does show the developing nature of climbing in North America. Even a crag as classic as Yosemite retains potential for progression if climbers search for the next limit-pushing project. This ascent came on the heels of Jimmy Webb’s Tierrany, a spectacular V14 and another first of the grade for the Yosemite Valley.

Yves Gravelle – So What – V15

In eastern Canada, Yves Gravelle has established numerous V14 boulder problems and one V15. This problem became the second of the grade in Canada following Tim Clifford’s Squamish classic The Singularity. Although So What does not speak to the future of bouldering globally, it does show the developing level of Canadian rock climbing. Gravelle has established numerous challenging climbs that have amounted to several ascents for Canada’s developing climbers.

Victor Buadrand established the second ascent of the long unrepeated Miall’s Ahead V14 this year and shows potential for becoming one of the few Canadians to have climbed V15. Only by the work put in by developers can Canadians hope to continue to progress in climbing.

Taylor McNeill – Sailor’s Delight – V14

Although this more recent ascent falls a few grades below the others on this list, it raises a few questions about the future of bouldering in relation to grading. While morphology is always present in the rating of a problem, McNeil’s Sailor’s Delight appeared significantly more challenging within the context of reach.

The problem represents a beautiful example of compression style but appears potentially impossible for shorter people. Still, this new problem shows the quiet potential of bouldering in the southeast.