In a single season, Team Canada’s Brennan Doyle found himself atop the most numerically difficult boulder problem in Squamish’s Top 100. The 17-year-old competition climber came into his own this season with a number of difficult first ascents as well as multiple classic repeats.
Though many of these repeats would fall within a single session, there would be one that would elude him for months. The notoriously challenging, ultra-classic V14 called The Reckoning.
First climbed in 2010 by Tim Doyle, The Reckoning stands among Squamish’s few elite-level boulder problems. Having seen ascents from some of the world’s strongest climbers, this boulder problem is never approached lightly and rarely gives up a top without a bit of a fight. This past August, Brennan would come close to nabbing his own ascent of the classic. However close he may have been, it would take time before he was fully ready to check its box in Squamish’s Boulder guide.
Since his punt in August, Doyle has been climbing and training. He has also worked to develop the local areas around Vancouver Island. Whether spending his time on competition slab, pumping out weighted pull ups or exploring new lines, The Reckoning persisted in the back og Doyle’s mind.
After climbing a challenging V13 called Shadow Realm on the island, Doyle described what his next few months might look like. Though porojecting is fun, DOyle resolved that he would spend his time training and waiting for the colder November conditions. The friction-based compression problem rewards good skin, cold rock, and low humidity. Returning to The Farm in the North Wall Boulders would bring Doyle’s process to an end. Standing atop his project, Doyle looked forward into the new year.
Though the future is bright for this young athlete, the present, too, has been pretty rewarding. This ascent was important to Doyle. He said, “I felt pretty relieved. That same day that I sent, I had also fallen off the finish.” As mentioned before, he had punted back in August as well, but this time around, he “was way closer. My hand was on the hold, I just didn’t move my heel up for some reason, so I cut and fell because I was too tired.”
In the end, Doyle was psyched. “I was pretty happy, and it was pretty quick progression. I showed myself that I was pretty good at climbing. I am excited because The Reckoning, opens up every other boulder in Squamish. I am no longer scared to try.”
For Squamish locals, the next big classic on the line of progress is the infamous Singularity. Naturally, Doyle wanted to check it out. He laughed, “I looked at the Singularity the day after, but it looks so hard.” As such, he decided to focus in on the more recent Jimmy Webb FA, I Shot the Sheriff.
Doyle said, “I tried the Sheriff the day after. I don’t think it is as hard as The Reckoning, I did all the moves pretty quick, but I felt like I had no power the day after doing The Reckoning. I feel like next trip I go back I think I should be able to do that boulder.”
Aside from the Sheriff, another North Wall classic, Doyle is thinking of stepping back from Squamish’s hardest problems in an effort to build his pyramid.
He said he is focused on “just climbing a lot of V12. I haven’t done a tonne of them, and there are a lot of good V12 problems in Squamish. Even on the island, there’s a couple I still have to do. I think I will fill out the pyramid this winter, and then, when I can travel more, go out to get on some harder stuff.”
One such problem is the Sandstone Cave’s, Tim Doyle FA: Example V12. This long, challenging boulder problem has yet to see a second scent which is a part of its appeal.
All of this climbing and training fits alongside Doyle’s final year of high school. His pandemic-set education, “has been way better than last year. I have way more time now. I think it makes the classes a little bit harder, pre-calc is getting pretty tough, but I have way more time to train and it is a lot more flexible.”
In terms of training, Doyle has been keeping a general approach. This is to allow him the space for both the potentially upcoming competition season as well as the increasingly prime conditions of the winter bouldering season.
Though there aren’t specifically any projects, aside from the Sheriff, the Doyle is excited to focus on in Squamish, he does admit to one big goal for his upcoming bouldering career.
He said, “I think one of the dream climbs for me is the Big Island in Font. It is my style, and I just think that it is such a nice line. I would like to try that eventually, though I don’t know when I will get to because of COVID-19.”
Setting a thick V15 goal at the head of his progression takes guts. It is also a necessary next step for a V14 climber looking to push themselves to the next level. The Dave Graham classic features large sloping compression moves that attract Doyle to its style.
Perhaps what is most interesting about the young, classically-considered competitive climber is not that he is dreaming big, but that he is dreaming big in terms of outdoor bouldering.
Though Doyle did admit that he would consider the Olympics if he is still doing well in comps in 2023, he said, “It is not a big goal of mine. I’ll just see where I go in climbing and if it is on the way, then that would be cool, but if not, it doesn’t matter.”
This almost laid-back approach is reflected in Doyle’s desire to enjoy the climbing he participates in. With that said, it’s not all about having fun.
“I think seeing progress makes things fun. So when you are working a boulder and doing new moves and stuff, that makes it fun. You can do that indoors, outdoors, anywhere. Just being around friends and stuff makes it more fun. At the end of the day I want to be able to look back and say, ‘That was a good day,’ but at the same time, I’m not going climbing just to have fun, I’m going climbing to make progress on the routes and the fun comes from that.”
Learning to enjoy the difficult process of trying hard is essential to progression in highly strenuous rock climbing. Though there are many aspects of Doyle’s life that help build him into a strong climber; longevity in the sport, competitive climbing and volume; it is perhaps the fact that his enjoyment is, in some ways, derived from progression that allows him to succeed in each discipline he attempts.
Beta Breakdown – Doyle and The Reckoning
For the technical among us, Doyle broke down the difficult ascent into terms.
“The first move, you are in this narrow compression with a left heel and a right smear. I actually did the first move in a way I haven’t seen anyone else do it, I go straight to the hold. Everyone else bumps off a lower part of the sloper. I just found going straight to it easier because it is one less move.”
“You then match feet, bring your left foot up, and bump right up into a three finger drag, which allows enough space for your heel on the good part of the edge. Then cross over, and do a big move up to where the stand start begins. Then you have to fully close it, or else you can’t hold it, bump the left hand in, to where the left hand of the stand start is, but it is not as easy as if you are starting from the stand. This is because when you start the stand, you can grab the right hand has a side pull, but from the bottom you have to grab it flat. Then, you cut feet, put your heel on, do the move out to the crimp and then flip the right hand.
“I think that is the hardest move from the bottom, I only did it perfectly once, and it feels so easy when you do it perfectly, but, every time, your right foot comes off and it is hard to hold. You then climb into the top, bump again left hand, left foot goes out, come into a rail, left heel on, bump, left heel up, drop your right foot down to a little crystal, right hand, move the heel up, little right foot smear and then throw to the jug at the top.”
The glory move at the top definitely makes the problem worth the struggle, and if you are in the area it is definitely worth a go. Feeling like V14 is out of your range? Well the top is graded in the book at V10 and the moves are simply incredible.