The Mandala

Posted on 02. Feb, 2011 by in News

Last week Alex Johnson climbed the second female ascent of The Mandala V12, in Bishop, CA. Wills Young (Bishop Bouldering guidebook author) broke the story on his Bishop Bouldering Blog, (an excellent source for information on some of the world’s better bouldering) and brought up an interesting point. Johnson and many other ascentionists of the problem (including Brion Voges who flashed it) started differently than first ascentionist Chris Sharma. Young didn’t report Voges’ flash because he felt it was somehow disrespectful towards Sharma’s original effort. I would speculate that Wills’ frustration comes from the feeling that climbers are climbing less than what Chris originally climbed, yet were claiming to do the same. Here is what Wills wrote about it previously:

“It is worth pointing out, for the purists out there, that many people are now starting The Mandala by beginning with their right hand in the undercling and their left on the crimp above (as you would arrive from the above-mentioned version of the sit), though doing so requires a big boost up, and is not the original problem–which begins with the right hand on the crimp as needed when stepping off the ground. It is strange to see 6-foot-plus climbers standing on a huge stack of pads to bring the starting holds down to waist level, rather than showing respect and doing all the moves of the climb (as Sharma did originally) before claiming an ascent.”

and also his subsequent response, with some excellent background information on the problem.

I maintain that to repeat a climb, the climber should start where the first ascentionist did. Because many now start as Alex did, should we, as a community, decide this be a minor footnote, or perhaps decide that it shouldn’t even be discussed at all? Should the masses have the right to change the start of one of the most iconic problems in America? Is there some implicit sexism in bringing this to attention now, or is it appropriate because Alex is such a talented climber? I realize this has been discussed many times at this site, however it continues to play a part in the game we play and it continues to be an unresolved issue.

Finally, here is video of Lisa Rands climbing the line, from Chris’ original start, uncut. Thoughts?

63 Responses to “The Mandala”

  1. BD

    04. Feb, 2011

    Pad stacking is just a symptom of a larger issue and that is the general decline in ethics brought about by a younger generation with a different perspective. A quick check of the news pages and blogs shows us rapid ascents of hard lines and it can be inspiring, but what gets left out is that sometimes climbers stack pads or crouch rather than sit and throw the whole ascent into question. If the crux of the Mandala is documented on film as being the first three moves, how can you stack pads to skip the crux and claim an ascent? With other problems, where pulling off the ground adds difficulty, how can a climber do a crouch start instead and still claim an ascent? Dave Graham described Story of 2 Worlds as 7 big moves into the start of the Dagger, but footage of Dai and the blogs of Carlo and Paul only show/talk about 3 moves into the stand. Did anyone ask where the other 4 moves went? Should they be sitting down and starting in a different spot entirely? Then we throw in the issue of downgrading… not only do some of these climbs get “repeated” in poor style (skip the sit or skip a few of the starting moves), but then it gets reported that the climb is actually easier. Big Paw is a recent example because again, the footage shows a crouch. Did Dai, Adam or Paul start where Dave did, and if not, how can they claim an ascent? An interesting question then comes to mind. What is driving this shift in ethics? Is it just the selfishness of the ego? Desire to be noticed? Delusion imposed by the need for instant satisfaction? And how can this be seen as alright? Groupthink isn’t a justifiable answer although it may be the case. Just because everyone else does something one way doesn’t make it right. Someone should call bullshit on a lot of these ascents until climbers own up to what they climbed – whether it be The Mandala High Start or some obscure bloc in someone’s backyard.

  2. cardboardd_dog

    04. Feb, 2011

    @ Alex Johnson ..

    That was in poor style to assume that you were “alex”. My mistake and also my apologies. The internet has become a place for everyone’s opinions, wanted or unwanted, favorable or unfavorable.

    @ Slabby ..

  3. first indian ascent

    04. Feb, 2011

    What about another classic boulder that pads are often stacked for: Celestial Mechanics in Little Rock City? Anyone care to explain how that boulder fits in to this debate?

  4. Fred

    05. Feb, 2011

    In Europe there is a thing called “american sitstart”. Means that you dont really sit, but rather do a crouching start sense we’ve seen so many americans “cheat” and not start with ass on ground/pad.

  5. Adam M

    06. Feb, 2011

    Alex Johnson is amazing. Jebus girl, that is one of my hardest boulder problems. Killed my fingers for two days.

    You are an incredible climber!

    Mandala is the shit. Anybody who hits the jug at the top feels the same way: Happy.

    It’s a great line and a must try in bishop.

  6. jacob

    07. Feb, 2011

    yeah, we get it, Fred
    Europe is great and American climbers are unethical morons.
    get over yourself, man.

  7. cj

    07. Feb, 2011

    If its at your limit and your knowingly making it easier, it ain’t legit!

  8. big poppa chosscrush

    07. Feb, 2011

    europe is also where spotters can be touching a climber without invalidating an ascent and resin is A-OK!

    generalizations are SO TRUE ALL OF THE TIME !!!!

  9. Alex

    10. Feb, 2011

    @cardboard_dog, you are aware that there are multiple Alex’s in the world, right? In fact, there are even two Alex Johnson’s in the world of high-level bouldering. And I am neither. I didn’t claim to climb the Mandala, nor do I have an 8a scorecard. So be careful way up there on that horse of yours.

  10. cookie

    12. Feb, 2011

    she didnt do shit

  11. cardboard_dog

    12. Feb, 2011

    @Alex …..

    Dear Alex,

    I am sorry. That you are so butthurt. It’s the internet. If you are going to use the internet to bring attention to yourself and to your sends, then you have to be ready to deal with the fact that peoples opinions are given openly and without a filter on the internet. Thats part of the game. You can’t just have it one way where everyone wants to be your friend and tell you how great you are because you sent a hard boulder problem.
    Your heros sends are invalid. Oops. there I go riding around on my high horse again.
    Read BD’s post because I don’t think it could have been put any better. Or better yet read my second post where I apologized for assuming that you were Alex Johnson.

    Here’s more of my high horse opinion. The reason we even know who half of these people are or what they’ve sent is because of the internet and the ability to film everything and have it up and viewable pretty much the same day. But on pretty much every website devoted to hosting climbing videos there is this little thing called the COMMENTS BOX. And unlike a BigUp production where the only people who can hear you say “SICK” or “TOTALLY INVALID” are the people on the couch next to you. When you give people he opportunity to let the whole world know what they think they are going to take advantage of it. And so if you want to use that forum to get yourself our there, thats what you have to deal with. If people are calling INvalid on a send, well .. we all know there are plenty of D-bags on the internet and I am one of them. But there are enough people calling invalid and so it has to be taken at least somewhat seriously. right??

    Everyone knows that I can be a big doosh. I know this and accept it. So your post is INVALID, this post is INVALID, this whole damn thread is INVALID.

    thanks for listening,

  12. chris

    28. Mar, 2011

    there was mentioned the existence of the american sit-down,dont know if it could be categorized like that,but…a very nice example could be this here at 0,36 min…..Alex Puccio on Marble SIT

  13. D

    01. Apr, 2011

    As a note Big Paw was not climbed as a sit by Dave Graham. In fact Tyler was trying this at the same time from the sit and then gave up when Dave did the ‘Bas’ start.

    Not 100% sure where Micky started from but this was discussed

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