While the 55-foot-tall Grandma Peabody boulder sports 10+ boulder problems, no one had completed a boulder ascent of its slab face until this year, when Miles Adamson made the FA of Too Tall to Fall (V10) on Jan 1. The new line starts up Dan Beall's Tiers of Uncertainty, a 5.14 toprope, before branching left onto new terrain and then connecting into the 5.9 Southwest Arete. Adamson estimates that the crux of Too Tall to Fall comes about 35-40 feet off the deck. You can watch a video of the ascent here.
Adamson, 26, from Alberta, Canada, is no stranger to highballs. He's likely the only person to date that's climbed every problem on the Squamish Top 25 Highballs list that appears in Marc Bourdon's Squamish Bouldering guidebook, four of which are rated V10. He's also completed an ascent of the 50-foot V11 Ambrosia in Bishop's Buttermilks. But Adamson is also an accomplished all-around climber, having spent time on the IFSC circuit and completed the third ascent of Honour and Glory (5.14d) in Echo Canyon near Canmore, Alberta. We spoke to him about Too Tall to Fall.
What kind of preparation went into Too Tall To Fall?
Miles Adamson: I spent the entire trip on it, so about five days of toproping over the course of a week and a half. It didn't take too long to find the line, surprisingly. Once you get up close the holds are a lot more obvious than from the ground. Then once you start climbing there's quite a few different features. I'd followed the path of least resistance up to the slab and then found all of the holds within the first toprope session.
You mentioned in your video that the line came about because snow was blocking you from trying your existing project.
Yeah, so going to Bishop I had ideas for two different lines. I really wanted to do a first ascent this trip, and the line I had tried previously was on the Grandpa Peabody. I couldn't get to the top of it because there was just too much snow. On the Grandma Peabody the 5.9 arete gets a ton of sun, so I was able to inspect the line and fully commit to [Too Tall to Fall].
You pulled off a hold off low during one attempt, then got right back on the wall. Did that affect you mentally?
It really didn't shake me up too much at all. It's just the way that I think, where I can separate what matters and what doesn't. If a hold breaks at the bottom, but I still end up above it with the same amount of energy, then it doesn't bother me. It really didn’t affect my mental state at all. I think I can contribute a lot of that to my time in competition climbing where you go to one boulder and if it goes terribly you need to be able to separate that from the next boulder problem. I think it is just a skill I have built up through competition climbing. I can see that being very hard to understand, though, that if a hold broke down low, why don’t I think a hold is going to break off up higher? But I had top roped it so much I knew the other holds would be fine.
How did you settle on the grade of V10?
So the V-scale doesn't take the risk into account at all, so for these really tall highballs it makes more sense to look at it as a route and then convert the crux of the boulder over to the equivalent level into the V grade. For this route, based on other highball lines I have done, it felt like 5.13d or 5.14a.
Do you think Tiers of Uncertainty will be bouldered in your lifetime?
[Ed. In the video for Too Tall to Fall, Adamson describes the crux of Tiers: "It's a wild cross to the last dish on the Grandma Peabody. It’s at like 55 feet. That would be a completely different level of highballing.”]
I think its future generation, but will be done in our lifetime. While it's really hard to picture right now,I don't think it's unreasonable to think it will be done. Once there's someone out there who climbs 5.15c who also wants to climb highballs, there's going to be some insane lines being done. I think Tiers will definitely be one.
Anything else you’d like to add?
Yeah, actually. I have been reading a lot of the comments on the video, and you get the typical “If you fall, you're going to die” or “You're going to fall and kill your spotters.” I just want to debunk these theories. When you're spotting really tall highballs, you're not trying to touch the climber on the way down whatsoever. What the spotter is actually doing is spotting the bounce. When you're moving that fast, you're likely to bounce off or roll off the pads. That's what the spotters are there to protect. Also, as a spotter, you do a lot of pad shuffling, making sure that the foam is underneath the climber. And as for the climber dying, I think that is insane. as you have a $10,000 foam pit underneath you. There are five layers of crashpads underneath me. The way I explain it is like when a car hits a wall at velocity. If it’s just your body hitting the wall, you die instantly, right? But what happens when you’re in a car that has a really good crumple zone, a seatbelt, and airbag? You might get injured, but your chances of survival are insanely higher. Assuming the system is set up properly, I think that comparing it to a free solo is very naive.