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Too Big To Flail

At 14 meters high (45ft), this highball boulder is really too big to flail. First put up by the free solo legend himself, Alex Honnold, Too Big To Flail has only seen eight daring ascents.




United States




14m (45ft)

First Ascent

Alex Honnold

Date of FA


Too Big To Flail

Ascent Log

ClimberSuggested GradeDate of AscentNotes
Alex HonnoldV1015th Jan 2012First Ascent. Video
Lonnie KaukV10Dec 2013Video
Steven RothV10Feb 2014Gripped Magazine
Ethan PringleV10Feb 2014Gripped Magazine
Fabian BuhlV102017Planet Mountain
Nick MuehlhausenV102018Video
Nina WilliamsV102019First female ascent. Red Bull TV
Timothy KangV102020Instagram Post

Climb Profile

The Route

“Too Big to Flail” is a remarkable climbing route that has garnered attention for its unique characteristics and the challenges it presents to climbers. Located in the renowned climbing area of Buttermilks in Bishop, this route stands out as a significant feature in the landscape.

Too Big Too Flail

One of the most striking features of “Too Big to Flail” is its height. Standing at approximately 14 meters/45ft, it pushes the boundaries of what is typically considered a highball boulder problem. The height of the route brings an added psychological element to the climb, blurring the line between highball bouldering and free soloing.

If you consider Too Big To Flail a boulder, it’s graded a V10, if you consider it a free solo, it’s graded a 5.13d. First put up by Alex Honnold, this highball has only seen 7 ascents without a rope. Many people who wish to test themselves on this highball without the added risk of falling to their demise do so with a top rope.

highball bouldering pads
That’s an insane amount of pads!

The route consists of small crimps, small feet and a whole lotta nerves. The crux section is halfway up the route and around the top of the boulder, you have well and truly entered the no-fall zone.

First Ascent

15th Jan 2012: Alex Honnold

The first ascent was put up by no other than the one and only Alex Honnold. Just like with most people who project Too Big To Flail, Alex tried the route on top rope first to perfect all the moves. As he said in The Struggle Climbing podcast,

‘’You need so many pads to make it reasonably safe and you have to carry the pads so far to get there you only want to have to do this once.’’

Alex and a bunch of his friends hiked up on send day to the boulder with around 34 pads which is just insane. Needless to say, even with that amount of pads, you don’t want to be falling off the top!

Alex Honnold Too Big Too Flail
Alex Honnold on Too Big Too Flail

Second Ascent

Dec 2013: Lonnie Kauk

A year after Alex, Lonnie Kauk became inspired by this monster highball. After trying it a few times on a top rope, he quickly became the second ascensionist of this boulder testpiece.

Lonnie Kauk on the second ascend of Too Big to Flail
Lonnie Kauk on the second ascend of Too Big to Flail

First Female Ascent

18th Mar 2019: Nina Williams

Two years after making an ascent of Ambrosia V11 first put up by Kevin Jorgeson, Nina was hungry for more highballs. Her mind and efforts turned to Too Big To Flail.

Before taking on this huge challenge, she went over her beta with Alex Honnold. It became very apparent that Nina would have to use a completely different beta for some of the more reachy moves. She eventually found a way to get through the middle crux by sucking her hips close to the wall and extending her full body length to the crimp.

climber Nina Williams on highball boulder Too Big Too Flail
Nina Williams on Too Big Too Flail

The crux near the top also proved to be a little difficult for Nina. No one had fallen off the top crux, so the pressure was on. For Nina, a high foot made her feel very insecure and off-balance. To make things even more sketchy, she does a ridiculous foot hop 45ft up the boulder to swap her feet.
You can watch Nina’s full ascent on Red Bull TV.

Video Library


Meet Angel, a former desk-jockey turned global wanderer. After catching a severe case of the climbing (and travel) bug, she's now a world traveller, living the dirtbag dream. Highballs? Too mainstream for her taste. She's all about the thrills of lowballs, where the real action happens. Nowadays, you'll find her in Thailand, either precariously balanced on a granite slab or trading stories with Nemo and his buddies underwater!

Necessary Evil

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