birthday challenge
September 18, 2014 posted by

Carlo Traversi’s Epic & Birthday Some Challenge Perspective

Carlo Traversi’s Epic & Birthday Some Challenge Perspective

Spenser and Vikki’s second Birthday Challenge video is out. In it, professional climber Carlo Traversi does perhaps that most hard bouldering ever done in a day. What starts looking fairly innocuous turns into an epic struggle. Since bouldering is a somewhat esoteric activity, especially volume bouldering, I think a little perspective will help understand just how impressive this challenge is.

Since I’ve been doing challenges for over thirty years, I’ll use my own as a progression meter. Like Alex Johnson’s (the first in the Epic series), my first challenge was a toe-in-the-water foray into the unknown. So was my second. They ended up being big, hard days for me but they weren’t really things that quite a few other people hadn’t done. They were quite clearly possible. Like with Alex’s challenge, there were personal hurdles but I knew, if things went okay, I should be able to finish.

My next challenge had more unknowns. It was to do all 31 pitches of overhang climbing at a new sport area called Devil’s Punchbowl. I’d done 100 traditional pitches in a day so, on paper, it didn’t seem too bad. However, trad climbing is mostly on your feet. Sport climbing is more athletic and most routes (particularly back then) are 100% dependent on the muscles, connective tissues and skin from your fingers to your elbows. This changes the equation, greatly, which as someone who’d been mainly a trad climber until that then I hadn’t fully considered.

By route ten my skin was thrashed. By twenty it looked like it had been put through a meat grinder. I didn’t finish all the routes but did get my 31 pitches in by finding one route that was skin friendly enough to do my final five laps. It was a skin-of-your-teeth struggle, starting and finishing in the dark. All for a measly 31 pitches. It was rad.

I don’t want to give the video away but Traversi’s reminds me a lot of this. He doesn’t know what he’s getting into at the start and, part way through, it seems as though it may not be too bad. But keep in mind, most super hard bouldering days like this end at about ten problems. I think ten double digit boulders have been done in the Hueco Rock Rodeo, which is a frickton. But it’s also ten. 26, ya know, is more. And when we’re talking about hard—and V5, the bottom of Traversi’s scale, is still 5.12 climbing (full-on elbows to fingers)—even ONE more problem is an issue.

With that bit of history, enjoy the vid. Hopefully it will help you feel his pain. My first two challenges might have appeared harder on paper but it was the third, and the misery it challenged me with to finish, that hooked me on birthday challenges as a life-long pursuit. Carlo, congrats and join the club.

For anyone keeping score, here’s Traversi’s birthday challenge list of boulders.

1. The Kind V5
2. Mr. Wimpy V7
3. The Kind Traverse V11
4. Crack Line V7
5. Whispers Of Wisdom V10
6. Storm Shadow Stand V10
7. Unnamed V6 (Cube Boulder)
8. Unnamed V5 (Cube Boulder)
9. Unnamed V6 (Cube Boulder)
10. Real Large V9
11. Hi Fi V11
12. Arete V8
13. Tommy’s (Other) Arete V8
14. The Donut Thief V9
15. Veritas Assis V11
16. Stripes V8
17. Menwax V7
18. Bulgin’ Out V8
19. Child Of God V10
20. Suzuki Boulder V5
21. Smile For The Blade V7
22. Just Rite V7
23. Hagan’s Wall V5
24. Curmudgeon V7
25. Bob’s Bulge V5
26. Undercling Traverse V9

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