Less than a month ago, Sean Bailey had never sent V15. Now he’s sent one of those and two V16s: first Box Therapy, in Rocky Mountain National Park, Colorado, and just yesterday Grand Illusion, in Little Cottonwood Canyon, Utah. Throw in a handful of V14s for good measure and that’s one helluva month.
“It’s been insane,” Bailey, 24, told Rock and Ice of his recent leveling-up in the blocs. As to what’s behind it, he chalks it up to not having focused as much on bouldering in the past:”I’ve put a lot of time in clipping bolts outside, but this is definitely my longest stint bouldering.”
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Grand Illusion – This thing sits around the 9a+/9b zone for me. Amazing vision from a bunch of folks over the years digging this one out further and further. Special shoutout to @drewruana and @nathaniel.coleman for the recent vision. Thanks for the photos @neilson.ben. @outdoorresearch @scarpana
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His ascent of Grand Illusion is only the second to date, following Nathaniel Coleman’s FA earlier this year. The problem is a low start that was dug out beneath Euro Roof, a V13 established by Chris Sharma.
The problem has a “super unique style,” Bailey said. “It’s about 25 moves out a roof with no rest. A ton of power endurance pump with the crux at the end. The bottom boulder revolves around some pretty thrutchy compression on tufas, which is crazy to see on granite. Through the middle there’s some long moves on a series of decent underclings, and the top crux gets its difficulty from two hard shoulder moves and a bunchy toe hook. The crux suited my style and size perfectly.”
Bailey’s sending spree began at the end of September with several a number of problems around the Front Range of Colorado. He climbed Ode to the Modern Man (V14), a Daniel Woods problem at Mt. Evans, to get things underway.
He then set personal bests multiple times by repeating a couple of Daniel Woods problems. First he made an ascent of White Noise, his first V15, and a week or so after that he polished off Box Therapy, his first V16. Woods established it 2018, and Drew Ruana made the second ascent this past summer.
That would have been a banner bouldering stretch for Bailey already, but the icing on the cake was Grand Illusion. He started working on the problem, along with a strong crew including Daniel Woods and Jimmy Webb, but he didn’t need much time to take it down. On his first try from the bottom on just his third session climbing on Grand Illusion, he sent.
As to the grade, Bailey said, “It’s hard to say. It’s a different style than any boulder I’ve tried so it’s definitely in a category of its own. It’s probably most similar to First Round First Minute“—a Chris Sharma 9b (5.15b) in Spain—which is what I’m basing this grade off of.”
Asked which of his three recent ticks was the hardest, Bailey couldn’t say. “They all had their own challenges,” he said. “White Noise was my first of the grade, Box Therapy is 6.5 miles up a mountain, and Grand Illusion was the first endurance climbing I’ve done in quite a while. All in all, really varied styles so I couldn’t pinpoint a hardest bloc. Just psyched to be filling out my bouldering scorecard to get a better idea of what my next level will be.”
From the sounds of it, Grand Illusion might see ascents numbers three and four in the near future. “Daniel is looking super close and Jimmy is looking right behind!” Bailey said.
Watch the first ascent of Grand Illusion