Alberta-based Miles Adamson is one of Canada’s top technical climbers. He made an early repeat of The Path 5.14R trad, has established many difficult highball test-pieces in western Canada and recently made the first ascent of a new V10 highball in Bishop called Too Tall to Fall. His new route was the first boulder ascent of the slab face on the 20-metre-tall Grandma Peabody boulder. The balancy new route starts up Dan Beall’s Tiers of Uncertainty, a 5.14 only climbed on toprope, and then branches left onto new terrain before connecting into the 5.9 Southwest Arete. Adamson said the crux of Too Tall to Fall comes nearly 15 metres off the deck. We touched base with him after his first ascent.
How did you decide that highballing was for you?
There wasn’t a specific decision, I just liked the entry-level ones I did years ago and did more and more. I climb sport more than highball really, since I climb in Canmore in the summers with just short trips in the winter to boulder.
What was your first memorable highball?
Definitely Enchanted V4 in Squamish. It’s a Jack Fieldhouse climb and that’s where I met him. He was very excited to see someone want to try it, and he went up the back to clean off the top jug for me. It’s a nice intro to highballing – the landing is super flat and the top out has a jug that collects pine needles.
Is highballing bouldering or free-soloing?
It’s somewhere in between. Certainly, there is a huge risk for your ankles, legs and back. However, there’s a difference between landing on pads and the ground. If you fall 10 metres onto a pad stack, you normally won’t be shook up enough to stop climbing for the day. A 10-metre free-solo fall onto the ground could be life-changing or ending.
What are some of the best highballs in Canada?
Almost all of them are in Squamish and already on the top 25 highballs list in the guidebook. My favourite first ascent in Canada was Purgatory, aV 9 in Kelowna.
You repeated the Path and Honour and Glory.
Any hard rope projects this year?
Last summer I was trying the extension to Atlantis at The Lookout. I think it has been up for close to 10 years with no first ascent. I have already tried it about twice as much as Honour and Glory, it will be the next step up for me this summer.
Do you have a training program or is climbing training enough?
I do train, but not with a super regimented program – lots of campus board and hangboard sessions, then endurance when it’s getting close to route season. Mostly, I just climb.
What is Too Tall to Fall like?
The route starts as for Tiers of Uncertainty, but then goes left when the wall kicks back and gets a bit steeper. There is a tense crux at around 35 feet with a vertical edge and a small foot. In order to weight the edge, you have to press into the foot really hard. The foot is tiny and at an odd angle, which makes it really hard to make solid. I think being able to highball the problem will revolve around this sequence. I’ve done many trips to Bishop and contributing to somewhere I like is very satisfying.
Was it like any other problem that you’ve climbed?
I’ve climbed a lot of near-vert slabs, which are still steep enough to require a lot of weight on your hands. There are quite a few highballs in Squamish like that – like The Broom V10 comes to mind. Climbs at this angle often feel like puzzles, where many features are usable or even good, but it’s complicated to link them together.
Advice for climbers hoping to project highballs this year? Just make sure to work up to whatever the real project is. It’s very dangerous to up the game in all regards all at once. You need to build up experience, pushing different aspects of your climbing in smaller steps.
What is Choss Media?
I built the website (chossmedia.ca) and Youtube channel just to show what my friends and I are climbing for fun. Since we’ve begun taking filming and editing a little more seriously, people have seemed to like it a lot and it’s growing fast.—gripped