2014 Climbing News: The Year in Review
by Paul Nelson
I hate lists (unless they're on cracked.com; those things are awesome), so we're not going to do one of those "10 most breath-taking events that happened in bouldering!"- type articles that you might see so many of. That said, here are a few of the more noteworthy news items that may have graced your feed through the past year. Read through them as you sit back, gorge yourself on one more holiday cookie, and resolve to finally send that longstanding project this year. Happy New Year!
BOULDERING: This year took off with a bang for Finnish boulderer Nalle Hukkataival traveling the world in search of hard first ascents. His sends were too numerous to list completely, but here are some highpoints: he kicked off the year with the third ascent (after Adam Ondra) of what might be the world's hardest boulder, Christian Core's "Gioia" (v16), in northwest Italy. Shortly thereafter, he completed an FA of a sit-start to Klem Loskot's "Bügeleisen" (v14) calling it even harder than "Gioia." Later in the year, he polished off new problems in Rocklands, South Africa, up to v15.
|Click here for video of Hukkataival sending "Gioia."|
American boulderers were pushing it too this year. Alex Puccio exploded into her best year yet, sending not one, but TWO v14s ("Daniel Woods's "Jade," and "The Wheel of Chaos," both in Colorado). New York youngster Ashima Shirayashi also broke the v14 barrier with "Golden Shadow" in Rocklands this summer. Jimmy Webb crushed this year as well, traveling around the world and in the process sending four v15s!Most recently this winter, Spaniard Nacho Sanchez has been pushing it on mega-enduro lines that might more accurately be graded as routes, sending the 21-move power-endurance line "Crisis" (v15/16) in a cave at Crevillente, Spain.
As always, sport climbing this year was dominated by Adam Ondra, who managed to push his total route ticklist of 5.14+ or harder routes past the 100 mark this year, including two onsights of the grade, and the second ascent of Chris Sharma's First Round, First Minute (5.15b). German Alex Megos also solidified his position as perhaps the fastest sender of hard routes, ticking off two historical climbs in a matter of a few hours apiece– Wolfgang Gullich's Action Directe (the world's first 5.14d), and Chris Sharma's Realization (called Biographie Extension by Europeans), the world's first confirmed 5.15a.
Although Americans lagged behind the Euros a bit in the sport arena this year, some great stuff still happened. Jonathan Siegrist managed to break the 5.15 barrier with his own repeat of Realization, Sean Bailey sent the Red River Gorge, and Paige Claassen got the first female ascent of Just Do It at Smith Rock. In my own neck of the woods, Nick Duttle completed his goal of sending ten 5.14s in one trip to the New River Gorge, even though he broke a hold on one of those sends!
|Click here for video of Duttle sending Hoax of Clocks at the New River Gorge.|
It was not just a great sport year for the pros, however. This spring, Mark Anderson, one half of the training guru Anderson twins sent two routes that are in the 5.14+ range in Colorado: Clear Creek Canyon's Mission Impossible (5.14c/d) in March, and the F.A. of Independence Pass's Insurrection (5.14c). These sends firmly establish Anderson, who has a full time job, family, and house, as one of the best non-professional sport climbers in the nation.
British climbers also crushed on their home island, where James Pearson accomplished what is certainly one of the hardest and most dangerous flashes in climbing history when he sent Something's Burning in Pembroke, Wales, a route that clocks in at roughly E9-7a, or 5.13+ X.
Finally, although not necessarily "trad climbing" (trad requires placing gear, right), Alex Honnold continued to push it in the free solo realm this year, kicking off 2014 with a ropeless ascent of El Potrero Chico, Mexico's very sustained El Sendero Luminoso, a dozen pitches of up to 5.12+, footwork-intensive slab climbing. Later, for his 29th birthday in August, Honnold decided to free solo 290 pitches of Squamish granite in one day.
|Click here for video of Honnold on Sendero Luminoso.|
It seems like for the past couple years, climbing media has been dominated by strong climbers that keep getting younger and younger; now there are even two-year olds that are crushing the boulder problems in the gym! But this year, the older climbers came out in droves too, telling the young punks to get off their lawns, and crushing. Rifle climber Lee Sheftel repeated a 5.13b this September at age 68. Swiss Fred Nicole, a pioneer of hard bouldering nearly two decades ago, showed that he still has it in his mid-40s with a send of the v14 "Escapist" at Rocklands in October. Austrian Beat Kammerlander, 55, the author of very scary, very hard techfests in Europe, continued to put up routes to scare the young punks these days with Drei Siebe (5.13+) this summer.
|Click here to see Kammerlander on his earlier testpiece, Prinzip Hoffnung (5.14)|
Perhaps most inspiring, on August 27, the venerable Englishman Sir Chris Bonington, climbed The Old Man of Hoy, a four-pitch 5.9 off the coast of Scotland with young buck Leo Houlding. This climb was special for a number of reasons: it was Bonington's 80th birthday, he put up the route nearly half a century ago, and he climbed it to raise awareness for motor neuron disease, which took his wife barely a month before the climb. Hopefully all of us will still be climbing as we enter our ninth decade.
IN MEMORIAMWe lost some great climbers this year as well. This is not a comprehensive list, but only a few of those whom we felt deserved notable mention.
In February, Charlie Porter died in Punta Arenas, Chile, of heart failure. Though this Alaska native was always famously reticent about his climbs, he FA'd numerous El Cap routes, including Zodiac, and put up the world's first Grade VII big wall on Mt. Asgard, Baffin Island.
In March, we lost Yosemite climber and BASE jumper Sean Leary in a BASE jumping accident near Zion National Park, Utah.
In August, "Flyin' Bran" McCray ended his own life in Las Vegas, NV. This true all-arounder, ushered in the first 5.14s at the New River Gorge before moving west, where he did everything from El Cap Speed records to hard sport FAs to remote big walls in Zion and northern Arizona.
In November, Dave Pegg passed away. Pegg was a British transplant, western Colorado climber, and most notably, a guidebook publisher. Though you may not know it, you probably have thumbed through at least one of Pegg's guidebooks published through Wolverine Press. He was innovative in moving guidebooks toward their modern state, with detailed topos, historical essays, and color photos.
In December, Eric Bjørnstad passed away in Moab, Utah. His career spanned well over 50 years, and he climbed all over the US West with the like of Fred Beckey. Without a doubt, Bjørnstad will be most be associated with the Colorado Plateau desert, however, and he authored the iconic guidebooks to the region– Desert Rock.
Let us know in the comments if we missed anything in this Year in Review (yeah, yeah, I know I neglected ice, mixed, alpine, gym, and American Ninja Warrior climbing), and Happy New Year! Let's all crush in 2015!