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Dai Koyamada, Wheel of LifeWhat do you look for in the “boulder problem of the year”? Nothing could be more dubious than mere ratings: The top grades are adrift on a sea of genetics and sponsorship contracts. And stature has to count for something. There are extreme sitstarts that desperately flirt with the dirt … and then there are truly proud problems. There were many classic-style blocs established in the V14-V16 grades, worthy ventures all, if near impossible to verify, but what was unusual and outstanding? Near the top of our list were: Dean Potter’s send of the historic crack project on the Le Conte Boulder in Yosemite, a contender for the most painful boulder problem in California; Cicada Jenerik’s ascent of the lowly Low Rider (V10) in Bishop — notable because Jenerik was only 10 years old. And if you define bouldering as unroped climbing where you can fall from the crux without dying, how about Neil Gresham’s no-roped-rehearsal ascent of Wizard, a 45-foot 8a deep-water solo at Pembroke, South Wales? Too high to be called a boulder problem? Our winner was longer: Dai Koyamada’s Wheel of Life in the Rave Cave in Australia’s Grampians. This near-100-foot line combines several double-digit roof problems, classics by Klem Loskot and Fred Nicole, into one megajourney that was just begging to be linked. Koyamada spent 20 days on the problem. Compare that to his time for the benchmark V15 Dreamtime earlier in the year: two days. Longer than most sport pitches, Wheel of Life is not gradable. Thank God.
Only 30 meters to go.