When Taylor McNeill unlocked a backyard boulder problem, Spreadin' Razor (V13), in Boone, North Carolina,
it set him in motion. Later that week, he made the second ascent of Jimmy Webb's Engine Bloc (V14) and the first ascent of Third Eye Awakening (V14), which he described as his “hardest and best first ascent to date.”
“When I ticked this one off it started a chain of events, and I took down Engine Bloc and Third Eye Awakening that same week,” McNeill
tells Rock and Ice. “Without a doubt that was the best week of climbing I've ever had!”
McNeill’s week began with Spreadin' Razor, which is literally in his backyard. “This is one of the thinnest, hard climbs I've done,” he says.
“All of the feet and hands are just barely there.”
It took McNeill “countless” days of effort to finish the boulder problem, he says, due it a low-percentage sequence. “This climb was so frustrating to
work, because it almost felt as if it came down to pure luck,” he says. “Every move is hard, and the feet are so awful you never know when you're just
going to get spit off.”
With Spreadin’ Razor complete, McNeill moved on to Engine Bloc. “It was the ‘last great project’ smack dab in the middle of one of Boone’s
most popular areas, Grandmother Mountain,” McNeil says. “[James] Litz had tried it, [Chris] Sharma had tried it, but it remained a project. When Jimmy
Webb made the FA last year, it sort of opened my eyes that this thing was actually climbable.”
Webb opened the boulder problem in October 2015. “Long time coming for this one!” he wrote on his 8a.nu scorecard. “One of the craziest low percentage moves I’ve ever done. Huge throw to a terrible sloper that has to be stuck perfectly.”
Grandmother Mountain, home of Engine Bloc, was one of the first places where McNeill had bouldered outside. “I remember being shown Engine Bloc and thinking how impossible it looked,” he recalls. “Throughout my climbing career, every season I would give it a few goes here and there, without
much luck. This climb is only like six moves or something, but really it all comes down to one move—an insanely huge jump to a terrible sloper.
“To be honest I'm still not exactly sure what happened. I jumped, slapped, and holy shit I was on the wall!”
few days after climbing Engine Bloc, McNeill put up a testpiece of his own. He first spotted the roof from a distance last year, but the area
was notorious for choss, so he “blew it off” without checking it out up close, he says. This year, after returning home to North Carolina after a month-long
trip to Japan, he was “itching for new rock,” he says. Joey Henson, a friend of McNeill’s, kept telling McNeill that he “had a feeling” about the roof,
so they finally went to check it out.
“I found myself under the biggest, baddest roof I'd ever seen in North Carolina,” McNeill says. Their joke is that Henson found the roof with his “third
eye,” which gave name to the boulder’s proud line.
After three days of effort, McNeill made the first ascent of the V11 stand start, Third Eye. After three more days, he had managed the eight moves
of the low start, yet couldn’t quite link it all together.
“I had the stand pretty dialed at this point, and truly believed that if I made it into the stand I would send. But after my first time climbing into the
stand, I realized how wrong I was,” he says. “I would have to climb so efficient to still have energy for the final crux, which involves getting really
extended with a terrible heel-toe cam.
“On my ninth day of effort, my heel finally stayed and I took it to the top!”
Watch Taylor McNeill on Third Eye Awakening (V14):
Southern Rampage – Jimmy Webb Establishes Four V14s