Daniel Woods climbs “Bubble Wrap”

Posted on 30. Jan, 2013 by in News, Organic Climbing, Updates

Last night Daniel Woods climbed possibly one of the harder things ever climbed inside, The Bubble Wrap Problem at CATS. Here is the video, produced by CATS guru James O’Connor.

It’s a great effort on Daniel’s part and I think it brings up several interesting points, particularly with the attention this ascent has garnered on the internet. Is this a quirky and relatively unimportant training climb that can provide motivation for the masses? Is there anything to this more than simply watching a strong climber climb something artificial and abstract, like Malcolm Smith in Splinter?


Daniel continuing the tradition of climbing something hard indoors, ala Malcolm Smith.

Or is this a significant ascent that should receive appropriate news coverage? Clearly Daniel doesn’t need to do anything in the gym to establish himself anymore as a good climber, but it is interesting the attention this ascent is being given, and does that attention validate it somehow? One of the many beauties of our sport is that nearly every major achievement has taken place outside, in a natural area, and has for the most part remained unchanged, literally set in stone. This key difference sets climbing and bouldering apart from nearly every sport, and it is one of the reasons I am so interested in it in the first place (having played a number of competitive sports throughout my life). I am reminded of a passage from bouldering legend John Sherman, who writes:

In the never ending pursuit of beefier forearms and bigger numbers, climbers created the artificial climbing wall. I’m told that the first such wall was built in England at Leeds University in 1964…None of the holds move, yet people still go here to climb year after year. On current artificial walls the surfaces are textured, the holds are changeable, and angles and curves replace the two-dimensionality of their predecessors…Routesetters follow suit and in the end the climbers aren’t forced to adapt to the challenge…”Unclimbable” terrain is the forge from which new technique emerges.

Is there validity to these kinds of ascents and artificial climbs, or has climbing made a significant step away from one of the tenets on which it was founded on, rock and adventure? Is this ascent important because it breaks new ground in terms of indoor bouldering difficulty, or is his ascent indicative of our ever more computerized and competitive world, ever more indoors, ever more away from the natural arenas from which our sport was born, where climbers don’t have to bend their minds and bodies to the challenges discovered on the rock, but to push their limits as far as we can imagine possible by performing under conditions that are controlled to allow maximum performance? Will there ever be a time when the performances of our top athletes on inside problems represent the paramount creative expressive achievements of our sport, or will those climbs set in stone retain their permanence irrevocably?

So often I leave these posts open ended, but I will add my two cents. While gyms unquestionably have their place, outside remains my home to be inspired. Inspired by the peaks, the valleys, the forests and fens, the mountains and the crumbs of their crumbling crust. Inspired by new and radically shaped boulders unseen, inspired by amazingly shaped holds unexpected, and spectacular new terrain uncovered, ever-changing under the sun, and wind and stars, all so thankfully unimaginable to my creative mind. I couldn’t dream of a more wonderfully complex pallet, and I get to paint on boulders “set by God.” I think Daniel would agree.

24 Responses to “Daniel Woods climbs “Bubble Wrap””

  1. [...] in the grand scheme of things2?  I doubt it—I’m inclined to agree with Jamie Emerson’s thoughts on the issue—but it’s clear that this sort of thing does resonate strongly with many of us on some [...]

  2. Aaron S

    31. Jan, 2013

    Lotsa good questions on this one! My favorite thing about climbing is the feel of moving in all sorts of crazy ways. Some of the most rewarding are big moves to big holds where you cut feet and control swings, etc. I have a second, originally unrelated interest in nature/being outdoors.

    Climbing outside will always be #1 as the movement is simply unique on every damn problem, and outside is, well, outside. However, climbing in the gym is awesome too because we can create great, fun movement on every problem. While it’s not possible to emulate the fantastic three dimensionality of real rock, you can set moves to more-or-less exact specifications, put the feet so they feel just right, the moves so they are 100% fun.

    I think that most climbers have lots of fond memories on boulders in the gym and it’s nice to see Woods reciprocate. That may be the point: climbing in the gym has no concrete end goal; if you send a problem in the gym it has little (no?) significance in the real world, only to yourself and perhaps a few friends. Even if we don’t want it to, climbing outside (at least for me, others can deny this) has a heavier weight, is where it really “matters.” Sends have an inherent significance (or feel like that do), and therefore come with desires, expectations and frustrations that supersede a lofty goal to simply have fun all the time. We can identify with Woods’ prolonged effort at a more-or-less pointless challenge, simply because he enjoys it and little more.

    On another note, most people enjoy watching feats of strength, regardless of whether it’s someone lifting a bending bar of weights or climbing an absurd problem. The more you can appreciate the nuances of a specific activity, the more you enjoy watching it be done at such a high level. This has absolutely nothing to do with the duality of inside/outside climbing, but has everything to do with 100k+ views.

  3. Tim S

    31. Jan, 2013

    Ben Pritchard was kind enough to upload a good quality version of Splinter to vimeo http://vimeo.com/6644468

  4. Jonas Wiklund

    31. Jan, 2013

    I do almost no indoor climbing and is mostly psyched for multi-pitch routes now, but at the same time I lost much of my interest in climbing videos (unless it is to steal sequences…). I much prefer to watch streams from the world-cup circus to be honest. Horses for courses.

  5. lame

    31. Jan, 2013

    i think that problem looks pretty lame and uninspiring. Sure, its probably 5 log harder than i could ever climb but that doesn’t make the movement look any less interesting. Undercling to a crimp/finger pinch at ~30degrees (on an x-y plane) to a crimp/finger pinch at ~30degrees, repeat, repeat, now change it up and do a move to a similar hold by pulling straight down, then repeat that move… lame lame uber lame.

    hard does not mean interesting.

  6. cadydreams

    01. Feb, 2013

    It’s what you make of it. It was a great achievement however, he is not walking around bragging that this was the greatest thing ever done either.

    What is Lame is a shitty attitude towards people because they don’t see things exactly how you do. There is no need for negativity on this, if it inspires you great if not oh well…..my 2 cent rant is over

  7. Karma

    01. Feb, 2013

    Honestly I think the big deal is just how beastly hard it probably is. V16? Care to speculate as to the difficulty Jamie?

  8. Slabdyno

    01. Feb, 2013

    No wonder you guys get paid min wage for setting. Left right left

  9. William

    01. Feb, 2013

    Most of us love the outdoors and adventure that comes with climbing in beautiful and amazing places, but it is cool to find training passion/psych indoors.
    Curious how this would compare to Splinter or Perky Pinky which I believe was done with added weight. No way to know but fun to guess.

  10. slabdyno

    01. Feb, 2013

    in all seriousness. its devastatingly uninteresting problems like that which make me think some sort of governing body of setters like usa climbing is almost necessary. but then i come to my senses.

  11. Matt

    02. Feb, 2013

    @ lame – I totally agree. Those move are completely straightforward. Left right left right. It may be hard, but doesn’t deserve any more notarity that my ascent of a three year project in my basement a few weeks back. It’s just as lame, not as hard. A few strong climbers have tried it and couldn’t send. It’s four hard moves, and I nearly immediately took the hand jibs down and screwed them somewhere else.

  12. Claudio Brisighello

    02. Feb, 2013

    Agree, I´d suggest the route setter to be more creative next time, rather than just right-left-righ-left repetitive throws between crap holds. Indoor climbing is the only playground where you can invent crazy circus super hard stuff out of your mind, lets use it to ivent a beautiful next “hardest thing”.

  13. Dylin

    04. Feb, 2013

    I’d take “The Bubble Wrap Problem” any day over the choss in the Buttermilks.

  14. Robbie

    04. Feb, 2013

    For those who do care about climbing on plastic, the moonboard at moon.com is pretty cool as it has a set design, holds and problems which people from all round the world can work on and contribute new problems to. I think it is loosley based on the Schoolroom board that `pinky perky’ was done on.

  15. ColoradoDayDream

    05. Feb, 2013

    @Slabdyno, Cats is a training facility you idiot.

  16. Slabdyno

    05. Feb, 2013

    @ColoradoDayDream
    I like ticky tacky problems, bumps, and small moves

    contact strength is a must for the nice edges on beautiful overhangs in Rocky Mountain National Park

  17. B3

    05. Feb, 2013

    If I were to guess on the difficulty, it’s probably V15. But then again, indoor problems probably shouldn’t be assigned V grades. They were made to be climbed on, which is the antithesis of outdoor climbing.

  18. JamesO

    05. Feb, 2013

    I find you reaction to this to be odd in a few ways.

    When you first heard the news your reaction was “too bad it doesn’t count”. Count?! Count for what? Points on your 8a.nu scorecard? Not only does that reflect poorly on your own motivation and reasons, but it is an unusual amount of negativity towards something completely unrelated to you.

    “They were made to be climbed on, which is the antithesis of outdoor climbing.” . . . . . . . I do not even know where to begin with that. You yourself just agreed with me that perhaps the most amazing thing about the best bouldering area in the country is that more than any other area the climbs, boulders, holds, features of Hueco Tanks seem to be made for climbing. Indoor climbing is not that antithesis of outdoor climbing, and it is nothing but silliness to suggest so. They are different. People enjoy different things.

    I even do not think it is an important ascent, it is just a video of a hard problem with a lot of views. People need to calm down.

  19. ktmt

    06. Feb, 2013

    Of course it counts. It’s a top athlete doing a notoriously hard series of moves. It’s a climber moving his body through space, from a beginning to an end, without falling. Isn’t that the current definition of modern, hard climbing?

    As a boulderer, you above define meaningful climbing as being outside, not climbing on plastic. Well, there are sport climbers who would consider what you do as “just bouldering,as training for hat they do (that’s how bouldering started: as a way to train for roped climbing). So it doesn’t really count, if it’s only practice, right? And God knows there are many multi-pitch trad climbers who view sport climbing as meaningless practice. And there are alpine climbers who view rock climbing in general as just practice for what they do. And there are big mountain climbers who view it all as practice for what they do.

    Our sport has many facets. That’s one of its greatest rewards: there’s room for everyone to define, for themselves, what counts, what matters. That’s the essential freedom climbing offers. It counts if it counts to you.

  20. Slabdyno

    07. Feb, 2013

    @coloradobutthurtboy and slabdyno
    No shit, the setting was still only level 2 tops

  21. EP

    07. Feb, 2013

    only in boulder could an indoor project get this kind of recognition

  22. DarkKnight

    12. Feb, 2013

    I thought the hardest indoor problem was escaping gotham penitentiary?

  23. sb

    16. Feb, 2013

    Every thing that gets a name had relevance to more than one person at some point in time. Humans only give names to things that matter. They only remember the name if they talk about it recurringly.

    A lot of people try to dismiss the importance of this boulder because it has artificial holds or because it apparently does not look interesting on a stamp sized video.

    If people tried this thing over and over again, it must have some quality. I bet there have been hundreds of unclimbed problems in that gym that no one remembers because they where just not inspiring.

  24. Kent Olmstead

    25. Feb, 2013

    Finding quality in the gym, but not losing it to the transitory here today gone tomorrow of routesetting is something the moonboard concept addresses well, but in a fairly limited fashion.

    A new system, http://cragwall.com is trying to make a wider range of problems repeatable and shareable for home walls and gym rooms. While allowing more of us to give something like Bubblewrap a try for ourselves likely won’t change the debate of nature vs. climbing wall — it may inspire a new level of community building around shared problems and routes.

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