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“I felt in beast mode going back out there,” says Daniel Woods, a 29-year-old professional climber from Longmont, Colorado. Woods was referring to his new problem Box Therapy (V16), at Box Lake in Rocky Mountain National Park, a line he completed on October 29 after hiking an estimated 91 miles total to unlock its 18 powerful, crimpy moves.
Tommy Caldwell and his father, Mike, first found the granite bloc out by Box Lake (elevation 10,500 feet) in 2007/2008, hiking 6.5 miles from the park’s Wild Basin trailhead, not far from Longs Peak. The massive boulder clearly had futuristic potential, and Tommy set to work, establishing Spread Eagle (V11), a stand-start to a seam that runs across the 20-foot boulder’s fifty-degree-overhanging north face and onto its headwall. Box Therapy adds the low start to the seam, beginning with a sit-start at its base and following the thin crack rightward through a mini-pinch, a small crimp, and a tiny slot into Spread Eagle. “The holds are pretty micro and require a lot of hand strength,” said Woods. “There are limited footholds and most of the feet track the previous hand holds.” The crux comes around the transition into the stand start, with a difficult campus move to grab the starting rail of Caldwell’s problem and then a hard front-lever cross move to a 10 mm edge to get established on Spread Eagle. “From the start to the stand start is V14/15, and from the stand onward is V12,” says Woods, explaining that when you come in from the sit, you need to resequence your hands for the stand.
Box Therapy marks Wood’s fourth V16 first ascent and the third he’s established in Rocky Mountain National Park, home to the world’s largest collection of difficult boulders. In 2010, he established the crimp testpiece Hypnotized Minds at the roadside Veritas Boulder, and in 2016, he put up Creature from the Black Lagoon, a long roof problem on Upper Chaos Canyon’s Jade Boulder. Creature from the Black Lagoon has seen a half dozen ascents, while Hypnotized Minds has seen only one repeat, by Rustam Gelmanov in 2016. The rest of the world’s approximately seven V16s have not been repeated, nor has Nalle Hukkatival’s Burden of Dreams, which is a proposed V17.
Woods hiked to the boulder for the first time with Chad Greedy and Isabelle Faus in September of 2017 and spent three days working on the problem, having heard about it from Bouldering Rocky Mountain National Park & Mount Evans guidebook author Jamie Emerson. Though he climbed all the moves and made mini-links, the problem proved too difficult at the time for Woods, who was still recovering from a grade 2 sprain of his MCL sustained earlier in the summer climbing on the Jade boulder. While the climbing didn’t affect his knee, the long approach was taking its toll, and Woods left for the season with the problem unfinished but deep in his thoughts. “I think I still have to hike many more miles to do this thing,” he wrote in a September 23, 2017, Instagram post. “Obsessed.”
The climb percolated for the rest of the year as he focused on sport climbing, taking a late-winter trip to Catalonia, Spain, where he sent La Capella (5.15b), First Ley (5.15a), and Jungle Speed (5.14d). Woods then traveled to Rocklands for a few months during the summer where he climbed 21 problems from V12–V15, including Nalle Hukkatival’s Finnish Line (V15), Dave Graham’s Black Eagle Assis (V15), Paul Robinson’s Pirate Code (V15), and a flash second ascent of Robinson’s Eskimo Brothers (V13).
Feeling strong and injury free this summer, Woods returned to the Box project and was able to put more work into the problem, having ramped up with all the other hard climbing he’d been doing. An early season snowstorm in the first week of October seemingly shut down his attempts, with a foot-plus of snow falling across the Rockies and surrounding foothills. Undeterred, Woods postholed for 6.5 miles with Chad Greedy and Isabelle Faus to the problem to have a look. Deep in the backcountry, snow covered the block and icicles ran from its lip to the base. It seemed well out of season, especially in Colorado’s high country where once the snow starts flying, it usually doesn’t stop until April. Still, Woods returned a few days later after a spell of warmer weather with a shovel and ice axe, rapping in and cleaning snow and ice off the line. He worked through the climb, linking from the second move to just past the crux. The finish proved too wet for an ascent still, and so he waited—again. Woods returned four days later, on the final day of a short fall weather window in Colorado, and sent the problem after seven total days of work. It was just in time, as another snowstorm hit the area yesterday with predictions of eight inches of snow in the mountains.
Woods plans to climb a few more hard problems in Colorado this fall before heading back to Spain in December to take on First Round, First Minute, Chris Sharma’s notoriously bouldery 5.15b. “I was attracted most to the holds and movement of the line,” Woods said. “There is just one set of hold going out this mega roof and I believe just one sequence that works. It had everything I look for in a pure bloc.”