The 48-year-old Japanese climber Akira Waku didn’t start climbing until his mid-30s, but in the past few years he has made up for lost time. As 50 approaches, he’s still getting better. Just last Saturday, November 9, he sent his hardest problem yet, Hydrangea. Originally graded V15, a break has made the problem harder and now it may be V16.
Hydrangea, established by Dai Koyamada in 2005, adds a five- to six-move sit start to a V13 called Hydra. Daniel Woods made the second ascent of Hydrangea in 2013, and since then it has been repeated by Motochika Nagao, Sachi Amma, Ryuichi Murai, and Nomura Shinichiro.
According to a Facebook post by Waku announcing his send, the problem broke in 2016, before Shinichiro’s ascent, and made it harder. Shinichiro reportedly called the problem V15/16 post-break, but Waku thinks solid V16 might be the right number.
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Hydrangea is Waku’s third 8C or harder. In June 2017 he repeated Dai Koyamada’s Hyper Ballad—which Koyamada originally graded 8C, but Waku recorded as 8B+. He then did a direct, harder version of Hyper Ballad that he graded 8C, in September 2017. In May 2018 he repeated yet another Koyamada 8C, Babel. All the problems are located in Shiobara, Japan.
48-Year Old Akira Waku of Japan Sending Hydrangea (V15/16)