Kevin Jorgeson Sends Ambrosia and Blurs Line Between Highball and Free Solo

by Tom Markiewicz on January 11, 2009


You may have heard about the impressive recent ascent of the 45-foot high ball Ambrosia by Kevin Jorgeson on the Grandpa Peabody boulder in The Buttermilks, Bishop, Califonia.

Big UP was on hand to film the ascent and UKclimbing.com describes Ambrosia as a “V11 boulder problem in to a 5.13a (F7c+) solo.”

And Wills Young summarizes Ambrosia on his blog by:

The climb, on the east wall of the Grandpa Peabody, begins with v11 bouldering to gain a shallow hueco at the point most would consider the highballing limit. This is followed by a bold v8/9 sequence of huge moves between good edges that quickly covers about another 15 feet and takes the climber through that blurrred line between highballing and soloing. After that, and without significant rest, comes a strenuous section of what Kevin suggests is probably mid-5.12 climbing past pretty patina to the top of the wall, about 45 feet up.

But Björn Pohl asks an interesting question in his post – “when does a higball become a free solo?”

While purely semantics, as the ascent of Ambrosia is impressive in any context, it’s a thought provoking question nonetheless.

I tend to consider a highball to be a boulder problem where when nearing completion it is too high to fall without feeling comfortable about the outcome and there’s an above average chance of injury.

The danger factor can’t be the only aspect of a highball as there are many regular problems where bad landings and other hazards play a factor in the overall relative safety of the problem. So I think most climbers tend to look at height as the primary factor in considering whether a problem is highball. Hell, my gym has 18′ bouldering walls and many would consider that highball if it were not for the cushy padding on the floor.

But if we take my definition above, there is absolutely a subjective factor to consider here. What is highball for some of us is clearly not for others. But when does a boulder problem stop becoming a highball and start to be a route? Is length the only factor to consider here?

Sending Ambrosia clearly goes past my humble description of a highball, but what are your thoughts? Is this a highball boulder problem or a route that was free soloed? Does it even matter?

(For some additional coverage of the ascent, check out PlanetMountain.com, MomentumVM, and 8a.nu.)

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