Dai Koyamada: Humble and Powerful Reflects on His Latest Send

posted by dpm on 05/26/2010

Dai Koyamada: Humble and Powerful Reflects on His Latest Send
Interview by Anthony Lapomardo
Unreported from mid May, 2010, Dai Koyamada has grabbed the much coveted second ascent of Dave Graham’s The Story of Two Worlds (V15). During the time of its ascent, the climbing world was discussing the same issue it is facing today, grade inflation. Dave Graham had just torn through Switzerland knocking down every double-digit problem in the area. After repeating the area’s hardest lines, and expressing his discontent with the grade inflation our sport was facing, he made his thoughts on the topic known. Dave’ answer to the constant controversy was The Story of Two Worlds; a line in his mind that would represent the baseline for V15. 

Dai had been competing with the weather during this trip climbing both mid-morning and late into the night attempting to grab the second ascent. He was finally able to find good temps during the late night and make the link claiming the second ascent to this line. Dai is still unsure of the grade himself, it seems even a second ascent can simply raise more questions instead of create solid answers.

Photo courtesy of Ikuko Serata and Mad Rock
DPM: How many days did you spend working on the project?
Dai: Dagger took me 2 days. The Story... took 6 days by itself, so total of 8 days.

DPM: What was your mindset into working one of "the" hardest problems in the world?

Dai: This problem wasn't on my list at first. In the middle of this tour, I was able to climb Remembrance of Things Past V14 (8b+) and so set the target on its low-start In Search of Time Lost V15 (8c), but had to abandon it because of sudden snow. Cresciano was climbable at the time and since I'd already done the Dagger, I tried the lower part of The Story... and felt not so impossible. Then the weather turned and rain persisted, but I went out in the rain anyway and kept trying the lower part. This lower part is really tolerant of rain and condensation, and I was lucky to be able to try in such a bad weather. The fact that this problem required lots of toe-hooking was also a factor - toe-hooking is my forte. 
DPM: Can you run us through how the problem breaks down?
Dai: The lower part moves are complex and particular. Start with right-hand(RH) undercling and left-hand(LH) sloper. Right foot(RF) is on a tiny stance below the undercling and left foot(LF) is on a toe-hook. This hooking is hard. Then RH aims for polished, rounded edge as intermediate and then to bigger and sloping edge's right side. Match this with LH. Change the direction of LF hook and RH goes to the starting hold of Dagger. Next move is the crux of the lower part. Both feet have to come off and resisting the swing is very hard and takes lots of energy. In fact, when I tried repeating the problem after the ascent for photo shoot I couldn't do it. After that is linked to the Dagger.
Photo courtesy of Ikuko Serata and Mad Rock
DPM: What move or moves gave you the most difficulty?
Dai: All of lower part moves. After solving the moves it took me a long time to get used to do those moves. And crux of the Dagger was of course bad when linked from the start, and I fell there number of times. Bad weather was a real pain, too.
DPM: How does this problem compare to Dreamtime or New Baseline or any of the V16 that you have put up? Where does The Story… rank in difficulty? And can you even compare them?
Dai: I haven't done the Dreamtime V14 (8b+) after hold broke so I can't compare, but it felt 1-2 grades above New Base Line V14 (8b+). And it did feel harder than other 8c's I climbed in the past, but my sense of grading may not be accurate because I was trying The Story... in very bad conditions. Anyway, again Dave is awesome to do this problem 6 years ago.
DPM: You have written about trying to understand grades & whether or not we should reaffirm the grade. Where do you stand on grades? Is grade inflation too prevalent and is revisiting old problems and down-rating helpful to our understanding?
Dai: I'm not so keen to talk about grading, to be honest. Grades are strictly dependent on personal senses. For instance, while I may be able to climb some 8b+'s easily that other people may struggle, there are 8a's I cannot do at all. There are many people who are trapped into 'grading' so much that they are making climbing rather constrained and uneasy. That's very unfortunate. Rock climbing is freer, and I think those who must be strict about grading should be some professionals only. Grade is only a small part of certain problem/route, whether or not a problem is up-graded or down-graded does not change the beauty of line or enjoyment of making the moves of any problem. What's important is not the numbers but it's whether or not one can do the moves of the problem one wants to climb - nothing else.
DPM: Dave Graham called this the baseline for V15... Having climbing numerous double digits where does this problem lie in your mind? Can a baseline even be achieved?
Dai: I haven't talked to Dave directly so I can't be sure, but he may have had certain idea at the time. Proposing grades and stating one's thinking should be free. But I think it's wrong to say you have to climb this problem in order to claim having climbed the grade or to be qualified to have done the first ascent of this grade or higher. World is full of strong climbers. But I think it's useful in that you can confirm where you are and/or grades of certain FAs by climbing the "baseline".
Photo courtesy of Ikuko Serata and Mad Rock
DPM: In the last couple of months there has been two new proposed V16's.  Are we moving forward for the sake of moving forward or are these problems and climbers taking it to the next level?
Dai: I think that climbing world is evolving at an amazing speed. No one could have imagined the appearance of climbers with ability like Adam Ondra. Training methods must also have been evolving. It's quite believable that we may see emergence of problems and climbers with a whole new level that we have never seen before.
DPM: Toni Lamiche says he believes there is not a move harder than V13...can you respond to that? Will we ever see a legitimate V17 or have we peaked?
Dai: I think harder moves are possible. Things must be evolving even during our life time. 100 years from now? There may be problems and climbers we can't even imagine now. It's more fun and we can have dream to think that way, isn't it?

DPM: What is next on the horizon for Dai Koyamada? Will you be visiting the states anytime soon?
Dai: There are lots of projects in Japan, and I want to keep trying them. I like discovering new rocks, clean them and doing first ascents rather than doing repeats of other people's problems. I'd like to continue developing new crags. I'd like to visit US as well. I've never been to the US just for bouldering. Let me know if there's a good place.
DPM: We know of a handful of places. Thanks for speaking with us.
For more information about Dai, click HERE