The Game

Posted on 25. Apr, 2011 by in News

In 2010, Daniel Woods climbed the FA of The Game in Boulder Canyon, grading it V16. This was heralded as one of, if not THE hardest problem in the world. Daniel spent over two weeks of days figuring out the beta before making his ascent. He even broke off a crucial hold just before he climbed the line. Paul Robinson, who was (and still is) in good form, had put a number of days on it and hadn’t climbed it and it seemed as though the line might have actually held its grade. I had gone there a number of days with him and I struggled to do several of the moves. It certainly seemed much much harder than any V14 I had ever tried, but it also seemed so far beyond my ability that it is not realistic for me to even give any sort of meaningful opinion of the grade. I am merely trying to shed more light on the situation.

Here is what Daniel had written about the climb on his scorecard:

17 days of work over 2 years, At first none of the moves were possible until now. A true breakthrough in my climbing and the longest I have ever worked a boulder problem. So many different style of moves both technical and physical out a 60 degree overhanging prow. 8 moves in total… topped out in the snow and ice had to dig deep to send. Game Over…

It quickly became one of the most coveted problems in America, and climbers were suddenly lining up to try and repeat “the hardest problem in the world.” Dave Graham, Jon Cardwell, Jimmy Webb, Carlo Traversi, and even Chris Sharma all tried the line. I had given up hope and hadn’t gone back in a while. The buzz continued to build this spring though, when Carlo figured out a sequence that seemed much better for a shorter climber like himself. He was suddenly making good links and before I knew it I was back in Boulder Canyon underneath that impressive dagger of rock watching Carlo top out the second ascent. Carlo, not certain that he was up to V16 strength, gave it the expected downrate to V15. Many climbers wondered how it was possible that something that was so hard for Daniel be so relatively easy for Carlo. There were a number of possible explanations, and the reason I bring all of this up is that it seems to be a pattern that has happened not only for The Game, but a number of other difficult and iconic problems around the world.

1. With knowledge that a problem can be climbed, a climb becomes easier.
2. Carlo figured out better beta.
3. Holds were chipped to make it easier.
4. Small bits of rock fell out when holds were brushed, making them slightly better.
5. The problem was not as difficult as initially percieved.

Of course it could be some of these, all of these, or simply that Carlo is just really strong. Adding to the mix was that Daniel went out and nearly repeated the line for a third time, and commented on his scorecard:

After returning back and using the new method, The Game felt to be more like a soft v15 than 16. A couple of the holds have seemed to of grown in size from brushing. This new method is different from what I did, so therefore it is a different boulder problem. Before, I could not use these holds since they were not as positive as they are now. Regardless, it is still an amazing boulder!

Then Jon Cardwell, who was also climbing well on the problem, broke off another hold that was important to both his and Dave’s sequence. So what really happened? No one really knows. I thought that one of the holds (the first slot for the right hand) felt slightly better than before. Did someone chip the problem? I don’t have much evidence to support that, and no one else really does. I do think Carlo figured out better beta and I would be very surprised if it was chipped. And Carlo is a totally upstanding climber who has often taken the high road. I am not attempting to point fingers or place blame, simply to illustrate some of the challenges that can arise when using such an varied and complex playing field. It is also that playing field to which I think we are all so strongly drawn. Thoughts?

IMG_0905 Jon Cardwell on The Game V15

50 Responses to “The Game”

  1. sammy d

    25. Apr, 2011

    I don’t know. Maybe we should ask Courage Wolf

  2. B3

    25. Apr, 2011

    I like this Sam.

  3. ferrells

    25. Apr, 2011

    This is a great post., and the best thing about it is the list of reasons that problems are always easier to repeat than to do first.
    It doesn’t sound like this is the case for the Game, but it reminds me of Dreamtime. Fred Nicole climbed Dreamtime right around the time that I was getting started climbing and it looked like the most beautiful boulder on the planet. A few years later, he revisited it, and found that aggressive brushing had improved several holds, and that it was significantly easier. This image, of him finding the boulder, and feeling the chipped holds, is burned into my memory forever.
    Sorry. Not really on topic. I concur with what you’ve said.

  4. jeff

    25. Apr, 2011

    I know you aren’t trying to point fingers, but just do to the construction of the article, it does sound like you are slightly curious as to whether or not Carlo chipped it and are looking for others to support your belief. Personally, I could care less. However, I am sure there are swarms of people out there that would burn someone at the stake for this, if it happened. If this is totally off base from what you were thinking, then maybe less alluding to certain ideas in the future might help keep the reader from thinking in a certain direction.

  5. B3

    25. Apr, 2011

    Not at all. Sorry you read it that way. Carlo is a friend and one of the most upstanding climbers out there, in my opinion. I ‘m not sure how you thought I was “alluding” to that. I tried to eliminate that from question by writing:

    “…Carlo is a totally upstanding climber who has often taken the high road. I am not attempting to point fingers or place blame, simply to illustrate some of the challenges that can arise when using such an varied and complex playing field.”

    I thought there would be no ambiguity. If you think there is, I am telling you there is not. I think the holds got far more attention from brushes with nylon bristles, and this may have broken out some small flakes. I have no evidence or even suspicion that anyone, let alone Carlo (who has demonstrated time and again his strong ethical stances) chipped The Game.

  6. Chuck Diesel

    25. Apr, 2011

    “1. With knowledge that a problem can be climbed, a climb becomes easier.
    2. Carlo figured out better beta.
    3. Holds were chipped to make it easier.
    4. Small bits of rock fell out when holds were brushed, making them slightly better.
    5. The problem was not as difficult as initially perceived.”

    The factors mentioned above help out a boulderer/climber significantly. Also, beta from videos also play a huge role too. For example, maybe CT tried DW’s original beta, but couldn’t send the problem until he figured out another solution. And motivation/psyche to do a problem is also another encouragement for the send as well.

  7. CJS

    25. Apr, 2011

    Try to be as clear as this in all your future posts, and I think you’ll avoid a deal of controversy:

    “I thought there would be no ambiguity. If you think there is, I am telling you there is not. I think the holds got far more attention from brushes with nylon bristles, and this may have broken out some small flakes. I have no evidence or even suspicion that anyone, let alone Carlo (who has demonstrated time and again his strong ethical stances) chipped The Game.”

    Otherwise, I think this is a fascinating question, fascinating post, and fascinating climb. Good work everyone.

    Oh, and I also highly doubt that Carlo would ever bring a climb down to his level by chipping or modifying in any way that he could control. The dude is as motivated and sincere a climber as I’ve ever met, and I agree with you that he is a tremendously upstanding guy.

  8. Seth

    25. Apr, 2011

    And on Easter Sunday Christ rose from the grave and stated to Peter and his disciples…..

    “Peoples of the werld….use Lapis brushes. Stop using nylon and wire brushes for your sends as you show irreverence for the boulders I have placed on the earf. Now get to sendin. Catch you on the flip side”

    And so it is in the good book that Lapis brushes were to be used by those in the ‘know.’

  9. Hensley

    25. Apr, 2011


    The problem is climbing is multitudinous and climbers are mutinous. Firstly – Mother Nature can move tectonic plates like a 6 year old pushing toast around his plate with a fork. In a likewise manner boulder problems are thusly changed by elemental forces.

    Second, your points – that climbers find better beta; initially over-grade; wear down the holds with brushing – these are fair, unintentional changes we find no blame for. But they too permanently change boulder problems.

    Finally, down-climbing my first V10, a witness offered to call my “second GO” an on-sight. I was very confused: one can lie, but one cannot cheat reality. This offer, in spite good intentions, is climbing mycetism.

    So a problem’s grade must evolve, and thus far we seem to only be able to evaluate the grade based on one thing: the collaborative vote of its most recent ascentionists.

  10. michael

    25. Apr, 2011

    The Game is V15

  11. cardboard_dog

    25. Apr, 2011

    My opinion means squat in CO affairs, or even in climbing affairs in general because I’m a fat couch potato and I love my xbox. buuuutt …
    I met Carlo organically just by ending up on the same boulder as him for the same 2-3 day time period. He was working Dark Waters and I was working swamp traverse and the Hardest V9 on the planet that some lanky bastard wants to call V8 but is out of his mind, (something) mechanics?? I remember him telling me that he had only been climbing for a couple years at that point, but was good friends with and trained with DW and PRob. I saw the progrssion from him falling off the first 2 moves several times to him sending a day or 2 later. If you are climbing v13 after 2 years, I’d say that with a good training ethic, sending v15/16 all these years later is far from a stretch. Dude is strong.

  12. Adam M

    25. Apr, 2011

    Great points. Great thoughts. Great rock climb.

    @ hensley: Spot on.

    @ everybody else…I want to make out with Carlo too. All around great dude so back off people he’s mine.

  13. peter beal

    25. Apr, 2011

    Except on poor rock, it seems unlikely that a nylon brush can significantly alter a hold on a previously climbed and well-worked problem. However the Game is not on the best rock.

    Watching Jon work the problem a couple of weeks ago, I saw him pop off a very small portion of a very poor hold on rock that looked completely solid. That’s the way it is with the granite there.

  14. Lee Cujes

    26. Apr, 2011

    Regardless of the way you may have meant your post to have read Jamie, what you have actually done is put into people’s minds that Carlo might have chipped the problem. Unless you have serious evidence, you shouldn’t have even hinted at that. I think you’ve done him a disservice.

  15. B3

    26. Apr, 2011

    This previous post is actually appalling to me. I feel I must use such harsh language, because I went out of my way to explain how I felt. If you are reading this and feel there is some insuation ( opposite of what I wrote) then you are flat out wrong. There is no insinuation that Carlo has ever been anything but the respectable and upstanding climber that he is.

  16. Adam M

    26. Apr, 2011

    Agreed. Lee you read that post all wrong. Never was Carlo hinted at doing anything wrong. I thought Jamie was ppprrreetttyyy darn clear on that one.

    This isn’t a Fox News pundit show. Read what’s written. Don’t find fault.

    Carlo is still mine btw.

  17. michael ringsred

    26. Apr, 2011

    Jamie’s posts have been so overly scrutinized in the past it is not surprising to see that he now writes them with near legal phrasing. I have only been climbing for 3 years and have been following this blog for nearly as long. I come here to learn about ethics, grades, and the simple enjoyment of climbing. I read through the comments, after sifting through the clearly moronic ones, and make conclusions for myself out of the discussion. Therefore, if you are not in the “know” on the topic please just read and be humble, such that others might benefit from the well thought out contributions.

  18. B3

    26. Apr, 2011

    Micheal and Adam. Thank you so much!

  19. DaveH

    26. Apr, 2011

    I have no idea how people are getting that from this post. Hang in there Jamie.

  20. rico10a

    26. Apr, 2011

    off topic, but not too far…

    It has been suggested in the good book that my Oral B is somehow doing problem-altering damage? I don’t buy it, at least not on the type of rock I climb on.

  21. sidepull

    26. Apr, 2011

    I think the Carlo misinterpretations have to do with the structure of the last paragraph. Jamie brings up the question of someone damaging the rock and then immediately brings up Carlo. Yes, he is clear that he’s not suggesting it was Carlo but the juxtaposition, for many people, might seem like a strong implication otherwise. I’m not arguing that this was Jamie’s intention but I don’t think that the misinterpretations stated above are really that shocking given the structure of the writing.

    That said, let me suggest another possible explanation for the apparently incorrect grade of The Game. We’ll call it 5b since it is close to the original #5 posted by Jamie:

    5b – Some climbers have a history of over-grading.

    It seems like many of Daniel’s supposed “next level” problems get down graded. Jade is a prime example. Perhaps it is because so many people are in awe of his skills and make statements like “Daniel must be the best boulderer on the planet right now” that he feels like what he climbs must be the next hardest thing. Or it could be that his “inner-dial” is just set a level above what Carlo’s is. At the very least, it seems Daniel tends to slightly over-grade and Carlo tends to down-grade. I think it’s helpful for everyone to realize trends, not to create skepticism but so that people can be a bit more reflective about claims by a given climber.

  22. michael

    26. Apr, 2011

    all rock climbs will change in some way or another

  23. Isaac

    26. Apr, 2011

    Jamie, pretty sure Lee up there was just trolling. If he was serious, he is seriously lacking in reading comprehension skills. It’s obvious to any reader that you were in NO way insinuating that Carlo (or anyone?) intentionally chipped The Game.

    @people who think nylon brushes don’t damage rock,
    You’re just wrong. They’re GREAT for cleaning dirty projects for just that reason. Sure on most decent-quality rock that would be a long evolution, and sure our fingers and shoes wear on the rock over time too, but do you really want to contribute to enlarging that crux hold if you can avoid it? The current state of Diaphanous Sea is a perfect example.
    Keep the nylon off the established lines and use your fancy Lapis boars hair brush. Don’t got one? suck it up, they’re only a few bucks.

  24. slabdyno

    27. Apr, 2011

    the game? worst name EVER!

  25. michael

    27. Apr, 2011

    slabdyno, May the blessing of the Lord be upon you

  26. […] B3Bouldering explores some of the different reasons a boulder problem like Daniel Woods’ The Game can change over time which can result in the grade of the problem changing. […]

  27. Mike

    28. Apr, 2011

    So nylon brushes fall somewhere right above talc. Granite, even if it is complete and utter choss, falls somewhere in the range of 5-7…just something to think about.

    @Jamie: when are you coming to Idaho to develop new stuff?

  28. Ol' flail an thrash

    28. Apr, 2011

    @slabdyno –

    When this was first done, I agreed. Pretty lame. But then I was at the gym the other day, doing the ol’ flail and thrash and thought – “wow, this is a pretty stupid game we play.”

    Bouldering is unlike any other sport in the world – that’s been said many times. Its really all about dicking around in the woods with your friends, trying to one-up each other. You’ve probably made up dozens of equally silly games on the playground.

    Maybe Daniel is trying to keep some perspective – even though its the hardest thing in the world, its still just a pastime devised by bored kids.

    So I don’t know. It works for me on several levels; more so than some flowery name that doesn’t mean anything. Could be wrong though, it could just be the greatest rapper…

  29. B3

    28. Apr, 2011

    @McClure Great comment. As soon as a company finds value in what I do, which is probably never….

  30. Mike

    29. Apr, 2011

    @jamie–it’s Bockino. And the offer is still there

  31. B3

    29. Apr, 2011

    Sorrry Mike, I want to come up! I just need some more money and some more time off.

  32. Peggy

    29. Apr, 2011

    Slabdyno didnt mean it, he just wants my attention

  33. Kevin

    29. Apr, 2011

    I don’t think the author of the article implied that HE thought that Carlo chipped a hold. That said, the way it’s written DOES make it sound like there is a controversy pointing at Carlo, and Jamie is defending him. After I finished the last paragraph, my thoughts were, “apparently some people think that Carlo chipped a hold, but the author of this post does not think that.” But still, my mind started wondering about Carlo chipping holds, because this article made it seem like there was a controversy about it and seemed to put Carlo in the middle of it.

  34. Ben Bishop

    29. Apr, 2011

    Hi Jamie. I’ve only been bouldering for about a year but I’ve fallen in love with the sport and have enjoyed following some of its superstars.

    Last fall I attended the Reel Rock Film Tour. One of the short films screened focused on Daniel’s work on The Game as well as Paul Robinson’s quest for, and subsequent send of, Lucid Dreaming, for which he suggested a grade of V16.

    I’m curious what you or others think about that problem now. You didn’t mention it in your post, but I did go back and read your April 5, 2010 thoughts on Paul’s send. Given what seems to be a concensus on the downgrade of The Game, does Paul’s problem now have some claim to the title of hardest problem in the world? Boulder grading is obviously a subjective undertaking and as far as I know no one has repeated Lucid Dreaming. Maybe I’m wrong on that.

    Thanks for your blog. It’s brought me a lot of enjoyment.

    Seattle, WA

  35. B3

    29. Apr, 2011

    Ben thanks for the kind words. I think the reason that Lucid Dreaming is not a contender (although maybe it should be) is that I have had a number of conversations with climbers who have tried it before it was climbed. It seemed the consensus was that it was probably hard V14 or V15. I think that Dave, Daniel and perhaps Tim Clifford and Matt Birch have done all the moves (I’m not 100% on that) so they have a pretty good idea of the difficulty. I’m not sure anyone has put any effort into it this spring and I imagine it will be on top of Daniel’s list come the fall. I have even heard Paul say that he thinks it will probably get downrated. Remember, DG, DW, Paul myself are all fans as well, and we love sitting around talking about 8a, who has done what, what are the hardest boulders, where the sport is going next. It’s not the end of the world if LD gets downgraded. It’s an amazing problem and a great achievement, just like the Game was for Daniel. Thanks again, I really appreciate you kind words.

  36. eric

    30. Apr, 2011

    Doing all the moves on a problem and actually sending it are not the same thing. I am not defending Paul or Lucid Dreaming, but someone can’t fully grade a problem if they haven’t sent it.

  37. Nietzsche

    02. May, 2011

    I think that at times you’re right. For example, doing all the moves on Right Martini is not even close to having an idea of doing Right Martini. However, Lucid Dreaming seems to be about 4-5 moves with a very distinctive crux. I think that in these cases it is much more reasonable to be able to get an idea of the difficulty of a problem. Having a blanket statement such as you wrote, “someone can’t fully grade a problem if they haven’t sent it,” might well be misleading. Surely they can have an idea of the grade, and with more experience of a grade problems tend to get easier to grade (although not always. WTF is V3? to a V15 climber? or a V8 climber for that matter). Don’t we always have an idea of how hard a climb is before we do it? Especially one that we may have worked on for a long time? Nevertheless I think Jamie has given a fairly good argument for being able to guess at a grade of a problem based on (1) trying the climb, (2) drawing on past experience, and (3) discussing it with other climbers.

  38. Cire

    02. May, 2011

    Notice the word “probably”

    ” It seemed the consensus was that it was probably hard V14 or V15.”

  39. B3

    02. May, 2011

    Comment of the year:

    “Jamie’s posts have been so overly scrutinized in the past it is not surprising to see that he now writes them with near legal phrasing”

  40. eric

    02. May, 2011


    I said “can’t fully grade a problem if they haven’t sent it.”

    They mignt have an idea, but until they send it, their idea of the grade is only speculation. They might be able to do every move, but then fail on linking the 4 or 5 moves over and over again. I stand by my comment that it can’t be “fully” graded until sent.

  41. Michael

    02. May, 2011

    In times of darkness our hearts must be opened to something, something that is so incredibly hard to do.
    The darkness must be filled by a light, a craving light that our thoughts never seem to end wanting as we sit in the world of darkness. Where is that fullfillment going to come from? There is only one answer said they full of joy.
    Follow me to the promise land, the only land where promises cant be broken. All those in darkness knew about this wonderous place yet they had never taken even one step towards getting there as attacks were still being made directly to them. What was this about those in darkness asked to the people that could see the light.
    But the people in the light could not explain it to them, for it was only the people in darkness that could possibly make the choice themselves to always be full of joy with the Lord.

  42. jacob

    02. May, 2011

    that was strange. is this a blog about religion? i’ve had comments about climbing that you wouldn’t post, but god freaks pushing religion get posted. bizarre. i guess that i’ll go somewhere else for my climbing news. praise g-bus

  43. B3

    02. May, 2011

    jacob I try to let people speak freely, in hopes that they will add appropriate commentary to the discussion, but it seems like his commentary is somewhat off base. I usually just approve every thing, but if it looks like I may have to delete some comments keep things pertinent to the topic of conversation.

  44. michael

    03. May, 2011

    Slabdyno, could you please refrain from posting rude comments.
    This website is about climbing, and climbing happens to have people with some of the most postive attitudes I have ever met.

  45. michael

    03. May, 2011

    and I hate to single you out slabdyno, because you are not the only guilty one of not having a good attitude. That message is for everyone. Thanks

  46. Nietzsche

    03. May, 2011

    Yet again there are times when sending a problem doesn’t accurately reflect the difficulty of the route. We’ve all been there when we’ve dialed a project and done it and it hasn’t felt the grade that it was. The send experience itself is not a determining factor and doesn’t add up to being able to “fully” grade a line, nor does it always accurately reflect the work put into the problem. Secondly, even after doing a route I often have no idea how hard a problem is and this only ever amounts to speculation. So what’s the difference in drawing the line?

    The only scenario I can think of where only senders get to suggest a grade is one in which either I want to keep less strong people from criticizing my accomplishments or I want to belittle those of others. Either way it’s about ego.

  47. eric

    03. May, 2011


    I appreciate your comments. Agreed that yes, even the sender can be completely off based on the grade. Sharma said he could not grade FRFM because he had become too emotionally attached to the climb, and was probably falling due to a mental block. I will never send v16, or prob even v10 for that matter, but i still dont think someone who hasnt sent a problem can suggest a downgrade. I personally dont care one way or the other if it holds grade or not, as I feel there has been a lot of overgrading on the upper end of the spectrum. Some climbers seem to want to be the first to solidify the new grade of v16 and be known as raising the standard. So if those climbers are suggesting a downgrade of a current v16, they should send it before making those kind of statements. That is more of the point I am trying to make.

  48. Aron

    04. May, 2011


    Your last comment makes a lot of sense. Someone should defitely climb a problem before suggesting a dowgrade (even if they have a fairly good idea of how hard it would be). I think it’s more about ethic than anything else.

  49. Dylan

    06. May, 2011

    Via Paul Robinson’s blog, it seems that he has decided to downgrade Lucid Dreaming to V15. He has a very long and well thought out post detailing how he feels about the grades of all his hardest sends. So while it seems that V16 doens’t exist still, V15 is finally consolidating with climbs like Terremer and The Story as the bookends for the soft and hard ends of the grade.

  50. Chankas

    09. May, 2011

    Maybe Livin’ Large in Rocklands is V16, maybe…

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