We received an email from Ben Heason who left the country at the end of January with a string of hard grit ascents under his belt, for a yearlong trip to Thailand, Australia and New Zealand.Continuing on from his recent good form on the gritstone, Ben has added a number of impressive ascents to his tick list. First stop was the ever-popular tropical sport-climbing destination of Thailand: Ben on sighted “Met Friends, Bicoins, Stones”, his first on sight at the magical grade of 8a (graded 8a+ in the guide but general consensus agrees on probably 8a.) He also on sighted another recently climbed, and un named 8a on Tonsai wall. Back to his more usual style of bold climbing, Ben made a few fairly impressive solo ascents of classic sport routes on Tonsai wall, giving some nearby sun bathers rather a shock! First up was a barefoot solo ascent of “Seafood Monos Fritas” 7c+, followed by the bouldery 7c+ “Voodoo Doll”, both of which would apparently equate to roughly E7 6c. “Phet Maak” is considered a soft option at 8a but the long reach to and from the shallow two finger pocket at about 40 feet must have felt very different without a rope – equating to approximately E8 6b/c. After the month in Thailand, building up a little stamina, Ben continued on to Australia where he has made several impressive ascents both on bolts and on trad. First up was some bolt clipping antics in the Centennial Glenn area of The Blue Mountains, a couple of hours west of Sydney:- As well as numerous 7b´s and 7b+´s, Ben on sighted three 7c´s, one 7c+ (Bernie Loves Tofu) and his third 8a (August 1914). Moving South to the Arapilles and the Grampians Ben´s form has continued. After on sight soloing the photogenic roof climb Kachoong (21 / E15b), Ben made a rare on sight ascent of the classic 26 Procul Harum. Ben says, “Although it´s only graded 26 it felt like one of my best on sight efforts. I put so much effort in, and was close to vomiting the whole way up, through sheer body pump!” The burly roof crack apparently contains very few orthodox holds, requiring novel and painful moves, and weighs in at a solid E6 6b. In the Grampians National Park Ben on flashed the classic and picturesque (check out the picture of Dave Jones in Simon Carters inspiring coffee table book of Climbing in Australia) “Milupa”. Graded 28, this bolted climb equates to a very bouldery 7c+. His best efforts since leaving the UK, and possibly ever, came on the intimidatingly steep Sandanista Wall in the Grampians. After soling the classic “Sandanista”, a 35m 23 (E3 5c/6a) Ben turned his focus to “Journey Through Nicaragua”. This Malcolm Matheson route follows an overhanging corner / groove and is climbed entirely on trad gear. Graded 30 the route is rarely climbed and, quite possibly, has never been flashed before. Ben Abbed down past the line first without touching the holds (it´s too steep anyway!) to check that there was sufficient gear to avoid hitting the deck at any point. Satisfied with what he saw Ben proceeded to flash the route – E7 6c. Several days later, feeling confident, en returned t the Sandanista Wall to try “Contra Arms Pump”, another route of the legendary Malcolm Matheson´s graded 30. This one has two bolts at the beginning and is then climbed on trad gear. (In a recent edition of Rock, the national Australian Climbing Magazine, both these two routes feature very near the top of a list of Australia´s hardest traditional climbs.) Ben says of the ascent “The moves above the second bolt felt totally desperate and I was very nearly off. I had to make a massive slap for a really good pocket. I tried to place a cam in a blind crack to the left but after throwing one wrong size over my shoulder I managed to get a pretty dodgy one in, hoping to get something better in soon. About 15 to 20 feet of sustained 6a/b moves higher up I was totally boxed looking at a groundfall from about 65 feet if the cam ripped. I managed to reach a hold that was good enough to hang on for long enough to place a bomber wire before continuing more easily to the top”. Apparently Ben felt that, unlike Nicaragua, this route was more like a sport climb that ran out of bolts rather than a trad climb. A very impressive and pure on sight at a solid E7 6c. Ben has also climbed a couple of V10´s (Font 7c+) at the Australian bouldering Mecca of “Hollow Mountain Cave” in the Grampians. Ben enjoying a shower outside his new home for the next year! We´ll keep you posted if he get´s up to anything else over the next ten months!