Oliver Shanks Makes The Second Ascent Of By The Power Of Greyskull (31/32)
Talented young climber Oliver Shanks (19) has, after a 12-year lull, made the second ascent of the proud Waipari line By The Power Of Greyskull (31/32). Oliver sent in this report:
By The Power Of Greyskull, or Greyskull for short, always felt like a mystery to me. It’s ironic that one climb, situated in the middle of the most popular sector of the most popular North Island crag, surrounded by some of the North Island's most trafficked routes, is so unexplored and unknown. It sits proudly in the middle of the valley, staring down at you as you walk in, like He-Man atop Castle Greyskull.
By The Power Of Greyskull was first bolted in the ‘90s by Richard Bull and Andrew Wilson. For over a decade, Greyskull remained unconquered, withstanding Richard Bull’s attempts (which were hindered by Colin Pohl attached a kettle to the second draw) and a near onsight by a visiting french climber. In 2010, Stu Kurth achieved what Skeletor never could and defeated Greyskull.
I knew very little about Greyskull before I considered trying it. I had seen a couple photos of Stu sending the climb in an old Climber magazine (Issue #70, summer 2010/2011) and had read the accompanying article. I remember finding a link to Stu’s old website. I would repeatedly click the link, hoping that maybe this time I would be taken to the Beast Kong blog and not a South East Asian online casino. I would spend hours scavenging the corners of the internet, searching for any tiny piece of information or blurry photos of someone trying the climb. I would stalk Facebook accounts and sift through Flickr profiles. My huntings proved fruitless. All I had was that one Climber magazine. Through my hunger for media consumption, I reached out to Stu to see if he had any extra content he could share. He was kind enough to share another photo with me and give me some beta for the crux. I began considering By The Power Of Greyskull more seriously.
My first session on the climb was fantastic. The crux is at the very start, so most of my attempts I spent falling off after one or two moves. The top headwall is very thin and challenging. It took me some time before I could successfully link the whole headwall. I realised almost instantly that I was not tall (or strong) enough to use the beta Stu provided me with. I had to find my own way through the crux. I settled on a plausible yet low-percentage method, which involved a long cross to a bad two-finger pocket, then a huck to a flat jug out of the roof. I surprised myself and managed to pull the entire crux in my first session, only to drop the large bump move immediately after. I couldn’t believe it. Was I going to send By The Power Of Greyskull next session?
Greyskull proved that it was not going to be conquered so easily. Over and over and over I would siege the crux with little success. It would tear holes and flappers in my skin and yet, much like Skeletor, I found myself returning to Greyskull again and again. A handful more times I would pull through the crux and it looked like Greyskull’s defences would crumble, but I would get spat off on that same bump move.
The day of the send felt amazing. I felt like I was floating through the crux. Motivated by my heartbreaker attempt only an hour earlier, I successfully laid claim to the second ascent of By The Power of Greyskull, 12 years after Stu’s first ascent. It was an amazing lesson in managing expectations. I want to say a big thankyou to my Dad and my sister, Izzy, for the endless belays and patience and everyone else for their support! I hope more people get on it!
We quizzed Oliver about a grade opinion, as in the 12 years since Stu Kurth's ascent and with his subsequent unveiling as a V14 boulderer, many people have speculated the route could be a lot harder. Others argued the crux is just very specific. Oliver very reasonably suggested 'It is a bit hard to grade. I think it could be 32 but probably the low end. I imagine that if someone taller and more powerful than myself tried it with the same beta I used, then they wouldn't find it too hard. It feels harder than other 31s I have done and tried and harder than some other 32s I have tried, so probably low end 32.'
Header image by Izzy Shanks.