Josh Cornah Climbs Whalerider V14
Christchurch climber Josh Cornah has made the first ascent of Whalerider (V14), at Flock Hill. This is the low start to Moby Dick (V12), involving six more moves into that problem, at a difficulty of around V12 for this section. This makes the boulder problem a contender for the hardest in the country, with just one other graded V14 (Biotronic, at Quantum Field, first ascent Niky Ceria and one repeat by Stuart Kurth).
Josh spent around two and a half weeks trying the problem, finishing off a strong winter season after also climbing Wild Style (V11), Moby Dick (V12), Middle Trifecta (V13) and the second ascent of Psychosis (V13). September can be a stressful time for Flock Hill bouldering enthusiasts, with spring bringing a mixture snow, rain and also overly warm conditions. It literally is 'Sendtember' too, with the area closed for lambing between October 1 and Christmas (at which point it is definitely too warm). Given the covid-related lockdown in place in August/September, the stakes were pretty high for many people in the latter part of September. But with the help of reasonable conditions and a battery-powered blower for assisting in drying out holds, Josh was able to get Whalerider done with just a few days to spare before the closure kicked into place.
Josh reports that he bungled the top on link a few times, though he thinks the original Moby Dick is potentially at the easier end of V12, demanding slightly more technical prowess than power compared to others in the area at the same grade. Nevertheless, the tricky movements are difficult to execute with any consistency from the ground—and with the addition of six additional hard moves at the start, this make the boulder a lot more difficult to complete.
Many readers will be more familiar with Josh as a route climber, with ascents of two grade 35 routes in New Zealand (Blood Of Olympus and Nebuchadnezzar, both in the Cleddau valley's Babylon crags). I asked Josh if he needed to do any special training for taking on hard boulders, his response was: 'I almost exclusively train strength and power, even for route climbing. Most hard routes are made up of hard boulders, and being able to crush the boulders is better than being at your limit the whole way!'
Congratulations to Josh and we look forward to seeing a repeat from one of the other talented climbers devoting time to Castle Hill Basin next year. With Biotronic famously requiring a considerable wingspan, those looking to prove themselves at V14 now have another contender and given Moby Dick has had at least ten ascents, there are likely a few people with an ascent of that problem wondering if they can link in the opening moves.
Josh Cornah works as a climbing coach and is writing plans for climbers all around New Zealand. He is contactable on instagram.
Photos courtesy of Lans Hansen.