Matt Wilder has just established an impressive 5.13d trad climb at the New River Gorge in West Virginia. Dubbed Eye of the Beholder
, the climb was an “infield line” to quote NRG visionary Porter Jarrard—meaning the route was a swath of unclimbed sandstone lying unnoticed at the popular wall Beauty Mountain.
“When I first saw the wall, I looked up and the obvious question was: What route goes straight up the beautiful slightly overhanging headwall?” Wilder told Rock and Ice. “The answer was nothing, so I put myself to work on it.”
Interestingly, Eye of the Beholder was not Wilder’s primary objective at the New River Gorge, but rather a secondary project while resting from his infamous Rapunzel—an undone trad line that could be the NRG's hardest gear route.
Rock and Ice caught up with Wilder to learn more about Eye of the Beholder and the Rapunzel project.
Was Eye of the Beholder an open project?
Actually, I'm not sure if anyone viewed this as a project. It hadn't been cleaned or attempted when I started working on it. It's a direct finish to a classic 5.11b crack called Welcome to Beauty. But I was mainly in the New to work on this mega project I found several years ago and dubbed the Rapunzel. Eye of the Beholder was just something I saw while I was there and got psyched on.
What is the climbing like on Eye of the Beholder?
The first part is the crux and is probably about a V10 techy sequence up a thin seam. At the end of the seam, you are double gastoning and you can't let go with either hand, but you have to smear your foot on a bad hold and then spring up to a decent edge as you are falling away [see first photo]. The rest of the route is about 5.12+ climbing. Not terribly hard in comparison, but you could still blow it if you're not careful and take a big winger.
Is the gear good?
The gear is good, but spaced. The crux comes after a no hands rest at the end of the 5.11 climbing. There is gear about 4-5 feet below your feet when you are doing the last moves. For the rest of the 30-40 feet of climbing there are two trucker cams. Actually it doesn't feel as runout as it is and it's definitely safe. Still I took the fall once at the crux and it was scary.
How many days of effort did Eye of the Beholder take?
I cleaned it one day and played a bit on the moves. The next day, I worked it on top-rope and figured out all of the moves. On my third day, I gave a redpoint burn and fell at the crux. Then I got back on and sent to the top. On my fourth and final day, I did the route first try. I felt confident I would do it, but also knew that the move would never feel easy. It's just one of those moves where you could always blow off.
But you were simultaneously working on the Rapunzel project?
Well, my focus was definitely on Rapunzel, but I also needed to take rests from that project. In particular the holds are quite sharp so I sometimes needed to wait more than one or two days before trying again. That's more time than I need to rest so I was climbing at other places in between working Rapunzel. It worked out pretty well and wasn't too hard to work them both. The only tricky part was near the end of the trip. I hadn't done either project and I had to decide which route to try first while I was totally fresh.
Did this slow the process for sending Eye of the Beholder?
The process was definitely slowed by working on Rapunzel
, and the first day I made a redpoint burn was the day after trying Rapunzel
in the evening. I was definitely a bit tired and this may be why I fell.
What’s up with the Rapunzel project?
Rapunzel is sick. It is an amazing wall with hard climbing and all gear protection. The starting section is about 5.13c. That takes you to a horizontal with a decent but not great rest. Then you have to climb a V12 or V13 crimpy boulder problem to get to the easier, classic 5.12 climbing that leads to the top. Beautiful route.
When will you return for Rapunzel?
Hopefully in the fall. Today I'm heading off to Turkey to do some climbing and sailing. Then I'll be heading back to Colorado where I live.