Billy Ridal’s Rocklands Revelations: Boulders, Breakthroughs, and Beyond
Billy making quick work of Air star 8B.
Photo by: Frances Bensley
At 3RD ROCK, we're not just about crafting stellar, sustainable activewear 😏. We're also about celebrating the incredible adventures of our tribe. Today, we bring you a cracker of a tale from one of our very own athletes, Billy Ridal, who reminds us all that sometimes the best-laid plans are the ones you don’t make.
🚀 A Last-Minute Leap into the Unknown
Billy’s latest bouldering trip to Rocklands was as spontaneous as they come. A recent retiree from competitive climbing, Billy found himself with an unexpectedly open calendar, a group of psyched friends, and an opportunity he'd be nuts to pass up. With the shimmering rockfaces of Rocklands calling, Billy and his crew jumped on a plane, abandoning the rigidity of competition for a quest of passion, thrill, and pulling hard.
🧗 No Constraints, Just Climbing
3R: Before flying out, did you have any set goals or problems you wanted to climb?
Billy: I didn’t want to set any really firm goals, I think with a big trip it makes sense to follow your nose and figure out what motivates you once there. There are too many excellent climbs in Rocklands to put constraints on yourself. I’ve been once before in 2017 and had a few bits of unfinished business, Sky, Mooistie Meisie, and Power of One, all 8B, so they were the only things I was pretty set on trying to do.
Trust Issues 8B. Photo by Frances Bensley
The Challenge of ‘Get Railed’
Among the climbs, ‘Get Railed’ stood out – a highball 8B+ first climbed by Nalle Hukkataivalin 2015. With its tricky position and risks, it was more than just a physical endeavour. This climb demanded strategy, patience, and an agile response to the unpredictable weather.
3R: How did you decide you wanted to give 'Get Railed' a go?
Billy: Though training up to the trip had been pretty ad hoc, I found myself in a good run of form for Rocklands style, those 3 climbs (mentioned above) went down without too much stress, alongside a bunch of the other iconic 8s. I exceeded my own expectations in doing most of the boulders I was excited about, so in the final couple of weeks I wanted to find something that I wasn’t confident I was capable of.
When I was last there in 2017 this boulder had a bit of mystique to it, sat above the roadside sector, rumoured to have a comp style start and hard crimping above a poor landing. It seemed pretty concept to me at the time. At heart, I’m still just a climbing fanboy, so any climb which inspired me in my formative years has a special allure for me.
3R: So, did it go down quickly? tell us more about the boulder
Billy: Its position makes it quite logistically involved. It bakes in the sun for most of the day so good conditions are hard to come by, and it climbs above a plinth meaning that for the entire crux sequence a fall would risk toppling off the edge and down the hillside. That crux revolves around slanted edges and a smeared foot, all angling you towards the edge, making it difficult to ever feel secure. As you climb higher you come above a boulder which could result in an equally bad fall if you were to land poorly. The climbing is easier up there, but it’s impossible to know how you will feel from the bottom, and you need some margin on those moves to be able to execute in that situation.
I actually really enjoy extra factors like this beyond just the physical difficulty, it requires a more measured approach, and thorough prep so that you are ready to perform when the opportunity arises.
The difference in my performance depending on conditions was stark, I needed a cold overcast day, but with only a week left and either rain, or cloudless sunny days forecast, I wasn’t sure there would be an opportunity, so we had to take a chance on an iffy forecast. It had been raining overnight and it was due to be sunny in the afternoon, so I was relying on a short window after it dried out but before the sun arrived. We arrived to a damp crag and nearly turned around immediately. Frances and Orrin encouraged me to at least put the rope up and chalk the dry top half.
IIl will caveat here that the rock on this boulder is bullet proof, and we are talking about single nights of rain so it is surface damp, not soaked in and seeping, I didn’t climb on it until the holds were dry, and were it less solid rock I would want to leave it much longer. I don’t condone climbing on wet rock!
Whilst up there the weather was changing on a dime between spitting rain and beaming sun, sometimes simultaneously… The net result was a dry boulder but it was not the conditions I felt I needed. Finally the rain stopped completely but left a cloudless sky and hot sun. This was the window but I felt like the clock was ticking down on me. When there is a degree of risk to the climb I want to control the factors as best I can and have everything nicely aligned for a focused performance. Far from that, the back and forth with the weather had me anxious and rushed as I lined up for an attempt.
Watch Billy climbing 'Get Railed'.
I didn’t have good sensations as I progressed, my fingers felt a little off on the first rail and I felt my elbow flaring as a result, I continued regardless to then mess up my foot sequence mid crux and find myself set up wrong for the committing move to the lip. I improvised an adjustment but still felt much lower down than I should be. I nearly dropped off in that moment, but it still seemed possible. I let out a grunt to rev myself up and just barely kept tension as I caught the hold in full extension. The intensity reduces a little from here giving you the headspace to consider the situation you are in, I could feel that my fingers had gone numb and the next series of holds are small glassy crimps. You could still bail at this point but pouncing on to the boulder behind you feels nearly as risky as continuing upwards, so I carried on, unable to feel much of anything and hoping for the best. More grunting and some shaky foot placements took me to the top, rewarding me with a euphoric sense of relief that it had gone my way!
Looking back, I had more margin on the boulder than I realised, and in all likelihood we could have come back if we needed to, at the time however; it felt like it was now or never. Making it happen then, despite things feeling imperfect, made it easily the proudest ascent of the trip for me.
Billy’s Rocklands trip saw a series of memorable climbs, including:
- Get Railed 8B+
- Book club 8B+
- Trust Issues 8B
- Sky 8B
- Mooiste Meisie 8B
- Power of One 8B
Billy’s adventure underscores the essence of what we stand for – a genuine passion for the outdoors and a commitment to sustainability. His journey reminds us to stay adaptable, enjoy the moment, and respect our beautiful planet.