The whole world is on fire. Literally.
California is burning up by the acreage, oil is being pumped from the ground faster than you can say “electricity”, our climbing areas are being taken away from us and the youth are taking climbing standards above and beyond where we ever thought possible. Remember when 5.11 was a pipe dream? I don’t. But I’m sure some of you can, however, I do remember when I could count on my hands and feet the number of 5.14 climbers in North America. Todd Skinner did one, Boone Speed did one, Scott Franklin, Jim Karn, Lynn Hill, Ron Kauk, I think Rock and Ice even published an article about all the 5.14 climbers in the whole world at one point. Imagine trying to tally that today? It would be virtually impossible. There are so many styles and rock types now, that it’s beyond our control. And 5.15 is the next trade grade – are you ready for that?
When I was in the Red two weeks ago, I met Alex Puccio (19) and Carlo Traversi, (both of whom were very friendly folk) but they had power to burn. I saw Carlo (who is astonishingly close in both build and style to Sean McColl) crushing 5.13’s onsight as though he’d climbed them 20 times. And Alex just recently had a better week in Colorado than any female on record, destroying multiple V12’s. I mean really – can V14 be that far off for a woman of her talents?
It’s getting impossible to keep up with these rock stars. Ethan Pringle is learning to place widgets all by himself now and he’s become a major contender for establishing the worlds hardest trad lines, I can only pray that once he’s done with all these repeats, he will be inspired to find some lines of his own and get funky with them. 5.14 is not hard for the young lad Ethan, he should have his sights set on 5.15 trad. He’s incredible motivated right now, I heard he eats nails for breakfast and can dead-hang a matchstick for 30 seconds with one hand, while the other hand crushes bricks. People are starting to figure out that traditional gear actually works. Who knew?
Speaking of trad, check out my personal favorite climber (above), Kevin Jorgeson. Dude just made grit history by climbing the FIRST EVER E9 ground up. Parthian Shot. While there is still room for an onsight attempt, or other such adventures, Kevin is not talking about style, he’s just out there doing what he can, in the best way he can imagine. Ever see this guys’ grip strength? Unless your last name is Sharma, I’m willing to bet it’s higher than yours. These climbers do not have a death wish, they are all very smart and well calculated artists. I never go into a climb thinking I am going to fall and get hurt, I realize the potential for injury and I (like most) enjoy making calculated decisions. It’s fun to take a risk.
While on topic of the golden one; Chris just made the first onsight of Transworld Depravity 5.14a in the RRG. Steve McClure and Carlo Traversi both got past the crux and to the rest, but fell off on easier terrain for unexplainable reasons. I fell off up there as well two weeks back, and vow to return for it is a quality endeavor. Good job Chris, you never cease to amaze me. He also crushed Lucifer 5.14c on his third try and after trying to put words to this, I came up with – WOW. So when is Chris going to join the 21st century anyway and get himself a blog? Isn’t it mandatory for pro’s?
Paxti the Spaniard just made quick work of Action Direct, the benchmark for 5.14d, established by the original Rock Star and still my highest form of motivation – Wolfgang Gullich. 5.14d is STILL really freaking hard. I’m not sure a line such as Action Direct has really ever been able to take its place as ‘benchmark’. You see, endurance routes are fantastic, they are long, high off the ground, impressive and of course enduring. But endurance climbs tend to get easier over time, with practice and fitness (I’ve heard numerous rumors that Biography extension has been downgraded, but wtf do I know about it). While a hard route does get easier too with practice, it will ALWAYS be hard. What will be the first BENCHMARK 5.15d? I think what keeps us all in check are the D’s of the planet, not the A’s. Which is good, because I was always better as earning D’s than A’s anyway. Action Direct has had only 10 repeats in its 17 years of existence and I’m pretty certain it is non other than Adam Ondra who holds the fastest ascent time, which leads me to the worlds best climber.
I used to think there was not a worlds best climber. I try to uphold some hippy values and declare that there is no such thing, as long as you are having fun that’s all that matters. Besides, it was hard to claim the worlds best when you take into account of all the different styles of free climbing. But when someone comes along and not only masters all of those styles, but he/she then proceeds to take each level (in each style) and raise the bar substantially, well, then, I think the argument is pretty much over. Adam Ondra is the worlds best free climber. There I said it. I’ve hit rock bottom and I am now condemning myself to my room without desert. The kid, who is still not old enough to drive a car, has climbed in record times – the worlds hardest boulder problems, the worlds hardest sport routes both redpoint and onsight, the hardest multipitch sport routes, the scariest multipitch sport routes and still finds the time to establish new routes at the hardest of grades. I hope he picks up a camming unit soon. Can you say it with me? – Ground Up, Onsight, In a push, All free, The Nose, El Capitan, Yosemite, California, USA (the greatest country on earth).