Last weekend Dan Varian climbed the much coveted sitting start to Main Vein, Mark Katz’s classic 7C on the Caseg boulder. This obvious line has resisted all attempts to climb it and was well known as one of the last great challenges. This is a fantastic effort from a visiting climber and really shows Dan’s remarkable class.
Here he explains how it came together for him:
“I was absolutely chuffed to do it. The Caseg was the first boulder I climbed at in Wales in 2007 on a weekend visit. We went for an hour or so and then nipped to Sheep Pen. Until yesterday I'd only been back once in 2015 with Katie, Pete Robins and Ducko. Between those years the myth of the Main Vein sitter had grown enough gravity for me to want to take a proper look. I remember I always used to miss our house trips to Wales as I worked weekends and Ned'd come back telling me of the various problems and projects.”
“The stand problem is superb, a volcanic fontesque prow with a touch of glaciation. I think the reason it's held out for 18 years since Katzy did the stand is the sit is one of those wonderful examples of powerful ambiguity. If it was a board I reckon I could do the sitter 7 different sequences, all viable but each with slight nuances and strengths that are needed. It held off in 2015 despite doing Caseg sit 2nd go but I knew it was very do-able. Interestingly I was probably stronger then but a bit too blinkered. I focussed on pulling off the crimps with a weird backwards heel; I tagged the heel hold on the stand but didn’t clinch it.”
“Since breaking my wrist last year I've basically had a year of only getting up things by climbing well rather than pulling. It was great to steal a morning session this year and see how much I've changed mentally since 2015. I just sat down and tried to sniff out the best beta. This time I gradually found better and better positions and I settled on using the massive start holds as they wanted to be used. Right hand: good crimp, left hand: side pull. Then I deployed a fairly techy half heel hook on the spike, which just worked better than the further back option and just smeared with my left foot in the best body position area.
“I was getting close to the lower stand start hold and I knew I could hang it on one arm if I connected well. Alex was telling me I was super close to the hold and I felt about the right speed to connect the move. I tweaked a few tiny micro beta adjustments, settled my left hand better and suddenly I'd stuck it fine! In a flurry of arms and legs I climbed straight through - this barely ever happens with projects so it was a fairly special moment to not punt.
“I actually don’t think the sitter is that hard physically, it was just incredibly complex mentally and ambiguous with all its half options. 8A+ish should be fine for it but as ever grades are bollocks and body size and individual talents are much more of a factor. Either way it’s a classy move into a classic problem on some lovely holds.”
“For me I was extra chuffed as I've always been theoretically keen to establish and repeat an 8th grade problem in all of the UK countries and thanks to a shocking laziness in Wales I just plonked straight for a well known project when given half a chance (well if nobody else wants it!) One day I'll go for a jog and put some effort into looking, but I've hardly been sat on my hands if you drive north. [editor’s note; fair play on that one Dan, you’ve got a rack of king lines under your belt!]”
In the afternoon Dan also managed to make the second ascent of Caff’s spectacular highball Mur Gwyn 8A! at Gallt yr Ogof - ”A bloody good problem/micro route, classy but glassy!” according to Dan.