2004 Golden Piton Awards: Sport Climbing
One ascent this year, however, commanded our attention above all others. Women have made impressive repeats of elite men’s climbs, with Bereziartu being the best modern example. Yet since Lynn Hill, few females have established top climbs. Working out and linking up moves on unsolved terrain requires a different vision, and forms the true foundation of extreme sport climbing.
Our Golden Piton, then, goes to Beth Rodden for her October first ascent of The Optimist at Smith Rock. An old aid seam, previously bolted for free climbing, this line represents the first 8c (or 5.14b) sport pitch to be established by an American woman, and only the second female FFA of that grade ever (behind Marietta Uhden with Sonnen im Herzen, near her home in Munich). Rodden, freshly recovered from a broken foot that kept her from climbing for eight months, required almost a straight month of work to do the project.
The pitch had been previously attempted, but never seriously. Watch Josh Lowell’s web footage of Rodden (posted on bigupproductions.com), and you might understand why: 80 feet of delicate, highly technical jam and sidepull moves on flared pin scars that look perfectly suited to Rodden’s style and build. (She won the 2002 Golden Piton for her granite crack climbing, and she’s tiny.)
Rodden has done Smith’s benchmark 5.14a, To Bolt or Not To Be, and calls her new pitch 5.14b with the same certainty that Lynn Hill rated the crux of The Nose 5.13b. Sandbaggers!