Golden Piton Awards 2013


From the first 5.14d onsight to runout 5.13 traditional routes to a multitude of V-hard bouldering flashes, Climbing pays tribute to the most inspirational climbers, ascents, and routes of 2013 with the 12th annual Golden Piton Awards.

Golden Piton Awards

Adam Ondra grabbed the first ascent of La Dura Dura (5.15c). Chris Sharma followed suit the next month. Photo by Bernardo Gimenez

Adam Ondra grabbed the first ascent of La Dura Dura (5.15c). Chris Sharma followed suit the next month. Photo by Bernardo Gimenez

Climb of the Year: La Dura Dura (5.15c)

Thanks to Big Up Productions and the Reel Rock Tour, La Dura Dura was one of the world’s most famous sport climbs long before it was redpointed. The 2012 film, also called La Dura Dura, highlighted the friendly competition between Chris Sharma and Adam Ondra to set a new level of difficulty. “The two strongest climbers in the world go head to head in Catalunya, Spain, vying to establish the planet’s first 5.15c,” promised the promo copy.

Never mind that Ondra, the 19-year-old Czech phenom, was already hard at work on a route that actually would become the first 5.15c: Change in Flatanger, Norway, which Ondra redpointed in October 2012. By then, the rivalry had hit more than 400 theaters worldwide, and when Ondra and Sharma returned to La Dura Dura in early 2013, their every move lit up the Internet.

Sharma, 32, had discovered, cleaned, and bolted the 40-meter line in Oliana, Spain, years earlier: a deliberate effort to take the next step in sport climbing’s evolution. But Sharma soon came to feel the climb might be too difficult. When Ondra showed up in Oliana, Sharma encouraged him to go for it, and then got re-inspired to work the climb himself.

Ondra was first to do La Dura Dura, sending on February 7 (he had just turned 20) after five trips to Oliana in 18 months. He said it was definitely harder than Change, but still 9b+. Would Sharma now lose interest? No way. As he told Planet Mountain, “I’d practically written the route off, and when [Adam and I] decided to work it together, he brought it back to life. We fed off each other’s motivation.” With Sharma’s send on March 23, the climbing world had its Hollywood ending.

Alex Megos on Retired Extremely Dangerous (aka the Red Project), Australia's first 5.14d. Photo by Simon Carter

Alex Megos on Retired Extremely Dangerous (aka the Red Project), Australia's first 5.14d. Photo by Simon Carter

Breakthrough Performance: Alex Megos

Until about 18 months ago, only climbing-news junkies knew Alex Megos, a 20-year-old from Erlangen, Germany. Like many superstars, Megos started young (age 5) and quickly moved through the competition scene. By 2012, he’d redpointed up to 9a (5.14d) and pulled off a string of impressive flashes, including Pure Imagination (8c+/5.14c) in Kentucky’s Red River Gorge.

“After finishing high school, I could fully focus on climbing and traveling,” Megos says. The result has been an unprecedented leap in standards. In March, Megos onsighted Estado Critico in Siurana, Spain, the first 9a onsight in history. (Adam Ondra had onsighted two routes graded 9a, but he downgraded both of them; he then onsighted a 9a four months after Megos.) The young German said he never expected an onsight when he started up the climb. “I just told myself I would climb as far as possible,” he says. “It was the biggest surprise of my climbing life.”

Other proud achievements include a repeat of Corona (9a+/5.15a) and the new route Classified (9a/9a+), both on his home turf in the Frankenjura. In Australia, he established the country’s hardest sport climb (9a), as well as a 5.15a bouldering link-up in the Hollow Mountain Cave.

Expect more: “At the moment, I am a full-time climber,” Megos says. “I decided to take another year off from school, because I am doing quite well right now, and I want to continue a bit before starting my studies.”

Of all the places in the world, where would you most like to climb? “For bouldering, Brione, Switzerland. For multi-pitch climbing, Madagascar. And for sport climbing, Céüse, France.”

What climber most impresses you? “Probably Adam Ondra. Some weeks ago he came to the Frankenjura, and I gave him beta for a 9a he wanted to flash. It impressed me how well he could memorize everything I showed him. During his attempt, it looked like he was trying it for the third time. Everything I told him he was able to put together perfectly. That was the most impressive thing I have seen—and really motivating!”

Jimmy Webb on the first ascent of Future Trippin' (V13), Leavenworth, Washington, on a trip where he flashed 10 problems V11 or harder. Photo by Aaron Matheson

Jimmy Webb on the first ascent of Future Trippin' (V13), Leavenworth, Washington, on a trip where he flashed 10 problems V11 or harder. Photo by Aaron Matheson

Bouldering: Jimmy Webb

From the Deep South last winter to Europe in the spring, and then on to South Africa in the summer and Colorado in the fall, Jimmy Webb seemed to be everywhere and climbing everything, usually in blazing speed. Webb flashed at least half a dozen V13 problems—we say “at least” because he downgraded problems that felt easier for him, including Sky, often called V14, which he flashed in Rocklands, South Africa. In Rocky Mountain National Park, Webb did the third ascent of Dave Graham’s Bridge of Ashes (V15) in just 30 minutes. He also put up two new V15 problems at Lincoln Lake in Colorado. Oh, and he bested a stacked field at last summer’s Psicobloc deep water soloing comp in Utah, leaving viewers wondering, “Who’s that dude with the beard?!”

Webb, 26, hails from Tennessee and has been bouldering hard for more than half a decade. (He did his first V14, Jade in Rocky Mountain National Park, in 2010.) But 2013 was extraordinary by anyone’s standards. “I honestly don’t know if I’ve gotten stronger, or if I’ve just had more opportunity,” Webb says. “I’ve been fortunate to travel a lot, so it’s only natural that I’m able to complete more boulders. And the overall experience is so good for my climbing that it makes me stronger mentally.”

Working part-time as a route-setter at the ABC Kid’s Climbing Gym in Boulder, Webb says he likes repeating hard boulders and putting up new problems just as much. “I usually like to go to an area, spend some days paying respect to the classics, and then branch out and try to discover something new,” he says. With a full year of travel coming up, he should have plenty of opportunities.

Of all the places in the world, where would you most like to climb? “There are so many places I haven’t been. Australia would be rad.”

What climber are you most impressed by? “The beauty of climbing is that everyone is different. Right now I really like climbing with Dave Graham, because he’s so technically sound. He really knows how to move on the rock.”

Honorable Mentions:

Sending temps: During one week in January, three of America’s hardest boulder problems got repeated. Daniel Woods found a new way to do Witness the Fitness (V15+?) with broken holds at both cruxes, eight years after Chris Sharma put it up  in Arkansas. Outside Las Vegas, after six days of work, Dave Graham scored the second ascent of Meadowlark Lemon (V15), put up by Paul Robinson a year earlier. And in Boulder Canyon, Colorado, Jon Cardwell completed the third send of The Game (V15), first climbed by Woods.

Daniel Woods on the Ice Knife (V15). Photo by Beau Kahler

Jimmy Webb on the first ascent of Future Trippin' (V13), Leavenworth, Washington, on a trip where he flashed 10 problems V11 or harder. Photo by Aaron Matheson

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The sharpest knife: After 13 days of work, Daniel Woods climbed a sit start to the two-year-old Dave Graham problem called The Ice Knife in Colorado, adding four moves of V12 to the V14/15 problem. A possible V16? Woods wouldn’t say so, but he did say this was harder than any of the nearly 20 V15s he’s done.

Hazel Findlay stretches for the next hold on Adder Crack, her 5.13c R first ascent in Squamish, BC. Photo by Paul Bride

Hazel Findlay stretches for the next hold on Adder Crack, her 5.13c R first ascent in Squamish, BC. Photo by Paul Bride

Traditional: Hazel Findlay

It was one hell of a year for Brit Hazel Findlay. The petite 24-year-old’s climbs included the second ascent of Chicama, a bold 5.13 in North Wales; Freerider (5.13a, 35 pitches) on El Capitan in just three days; and a 5.13 R trad route in South Africa. Findlay’s near-one-day ascent of Babel, a runout 20-pitch 5.13 in Morocco, was featured in the Reel Rock film Spice Girl. She also did her first 5.14a sport route.

Findlay started climbing at 7 and was a multi-time British youth champion. In 2011, she became the first woman to redpoint E9 (runout hard 5.13 by American standards). She also freed her first El Cap route, Golden Gate (5.13a), and in 2012 made the first female free ascent of PreMuir (5.13c/d, 33 pitches), El Cap.

What climber are you most impressed by? “For all-out natural talent and strength, my friend Neil Dyer, who has too much of both. For hard work, tenacity, and talent, Tommy Caldwell, who is ready to try hard at all aspects of climbing, whether it’s ferrying loads to the top of El Cap or holding on to a razor-sharp granite crystal until his fingers bleed. As for who I’m most inspired by, I’d have to say the Belgian boys, Sean Villanueva and Nico Favresse, who are the best because they’re the climbers having the most fun.”

Honorable Mentions:

Trad is rad: Keeping the trad flame burning bright in the New River Gorge of West Virginia, Matt Wilder climbed a 5.13d line, Eye of the Beholder, at Beauty Mountain. He managed this between burns on the still-unclimbed Rapunzel project: a traditional 5.14.

Nico Favresse working The Recovery Drink in Jossingfjord, Norway. This 5.14 crack line is "the hardest crack I have ever redpointed," he says. Photo by Bernardo Gimenez

Nico Favresse working The Recovery Drink in Jossingfjord, Norway. This 5.14 crack line is "the hardest crack I have ever redpointed," he says. Photo by Bernardo Gimenez

Full recovery: After five weeks of effort over two visits to Norway, Belgian Nico Favresse freed The Recovery Drink, a 115-foot overhanging crack that the 5.14+ climber called his hardest trad route ever.

Give me liberty: Lucho Rivera and Cedar Wright completed the first all-free ascent of a major Yosemite Valley wall: the southwest face of Liberty Cap.

Taking the lead: Paraplegic climber Sean O’Neill pioneered a system to lead crack climbs in Yosemite without the use of his legs.

Bella! Sasha DiGiulian, best known for her cragging and competition prowess, did the first female ascent of Bellavista (5.14b), a sporty big wall free climb on the north face of Cima Grande in the Italian Dolomites, complete with an unplanned bivouac on the summit.

Wild 5.14: David Allfrey, Nik Berry, and Mason Earle added a 5.14a free route to the 1,800-foot north face of Mt. Hooker, deep in Wyoming’s Wind River Range. Bonus: They’re headed back next summer to straighten out the line and add more hard pitches.

5.14 on the Diamond: Twelve years after he did the first 5.13 on the Diamond, a 900-foot wall in Colorado topping out at over 14,000 feet, Tommy Caldwell led the first free ascent of the full Dunn-Westbay Route, including an 80-meter crux 5.14a pitch. Joe Mills followed the whole route free.

M-trad: Ryan Vachon dry-tooled Red Beard, an M12 route at Vail, Colorado, on removable trad gear, skipping the climb’s usual bolt protection.

Kilian Jornet slides down a fixed rope during his run up and down the Matterhorn. Photo by Sebastien Montaz-Rosset

Kilian Jornet slides down a fixed rope during his run up and down the Matterhorn. Photo by Sebastien Montaz-Rosset

Speed: Killian Jornet

Climbers have long wondered what might happen if Olympic-caliber athletes from other sports brought their strength and stamina to the vertical world. Now, we have a pretty good idea: Catalan runner Kilian Jornet Burgada is systematically blowing away speed records on the world’s most famous peaks.

Jornet, 26, is a three-time winner of the Skyrunner mountain-running series, and in 2011 he won the 100-mile Western States Endurance Run in California. He’s also a world champion ski mountaineer. Jornet has been climbing since he was a child, and in the past two years, he has focused his near-superhuman aerobic ability on more technical challenges.

Last summer, Jornet smashed the record for climbing and descending Mont Blanc, from downtown Chamonix to the 15,781-foot summit and back, and then did the same on the Matterhorn, making the round trip on the Italian side in 2 hours, 52 minutes—more than 20 minutes faster than an 18-year-old record set by Italian Bruno Brunod. “I had a Matterhorn picture in my bedroom when I was a child, and Bruno’s record was the most expressive of the sport—the ultimate thing to motivate me to do skyrunning,” Jornet says.

Late in the summer, Jornet and mountain runner Emelie Forsberg were widely criticized for seeking a rescue when their ultralight ascent above Chamonix had to be aborted. But Jornet shrugged off the flak as the “price of being known.” He adds, “We go every day [in the] mountains, so it is logical to have good days and bad days.”

Whether Jornet is dangerously pushing the limits of light and fast or not will likely become clearer as he ventures onto higher peaks in his multi-year Summits of My Life campaign. On tap for 2014: Denali and Aconcagua.

Do you also climb for pleasure, other than speed records or training? “I always run and climb for pleasure. Records are just the excuse to go to the mountains, to spend time with friends there.”

Honorable Mentions:

Need for speed: Scott Bennett set two Colorado speed records: 44 minutes car to car on The Naked Edge (5.11-) in Eldorado Canyon, with Brad Gobright, and 12 hours, 31 minutes car to car for a midwinter ascent of the Diamond on Longs Peak, with Joe Mills.

Zion x 4: Tommy Caldwell and Alex Honnold linked four big walls in Zion National Park in 16 hours. This was just a warm-up for Honnold, who three days later free soloed Moonlight Buttress, Monkeyfinger, and Shune’s Buttress in about 12 hours.

Canadian speed: Young Squamish climber Marc-Andre Leclerc raced up his home crag—the Chief—in record time, and also soloed two huge routes on the north face of remote Slesse Mountain in a single day

Nose blitz: Libby Sauter and Mayan Smith-Gobat shattered the female speed record for the Nose of El Capitan. The two climbed the route in 5 hours, 39 minutes, more than 1.5 hours faster than the old mark.

Utah local Jacinda Hunter takes a big fall during the Psicobloc comp. Photo by Alton Richardson

Utah local Jacinda Hunter takes a big fall during the Psicobloc comp. Photo by Alton Richardson

Competition: Psicobloc Masters

Competition climbing in the U.S. survives mostly on a thriving youth circuit and a few national and international events that draw decent crowds—for bouldering, that is, but not for lead climbing. Many of America’s strongest men rarely ever compete, even on U.S. soil, and with climbing out of the running for the Olympics, that scenario seemed likely to continue.

In this dim light, the Psicobloc competition in Park City, Utah, was like a life-giving blast of sunshine. Modeled after an event in Bilbao, Spain, that Chris Sharma won in 2011, Psicobloc offered a head-to-head, deep water soloing format that promised big thrills for climbers and spectators alike. The event team, led by Sharma, Mike Beck, and Kevin Bradburn, erected a temporary wall that loomed 55 feet above a 10-foot-deep practice pool at the Utah Olympic Park. (Competitors had to risk the nearly five-story plunge over and over if they made it high in the standings.) The comp was timed to coincide with Outdoor Retailer, a semiannual gathering of the tribe in nearby Salt Lake City, and the sheer novelty of the thing—plus a $20,000 prize purse—lured a who’s who of top talent that doesn’t usually compete these days, from Sharma to Dave Graham and Lynn Hill to Tommy Caldwell.

More than 2,500 spectators flocked to the finals in Park City to see 5.14 flashes and painful-looking splashes, and nearly 20,000 people from more than 100 countries tuned in for the live stream. Sasha DiGiulian and Jimmy Webb won the comp, but the real winner was competition climbing itself. Look for a repeat performance in Park City this summer.

Honorable Mentions:

Alex Puccio bouldering her way to a seventh national bouldering championship. Photo by Beau Kahler

Alex Puccio bouldering her way to a seventh national bouldering championship. Photo by Beau Kahler

Lucky seven: Daniel Woods and Alex Puccio bouldered out fresh wins at ABS Nationals in Colorado Springs—an amazing seventh national championship for each of them

National champs: Daniel Woods won SCS Nationals in Boulder, Colorado, becoming the first person to be U.S. national champion in both bouldering and lead climbing in the same year. Frenchwoman Charlotte Durif won the women’s competition, which made runner-up Delaney Miller the national champ.

Bouldering gold: Austrian Anna Stöhr won the boulder World Cups in Toronto, Canada, and Vail, Colorado, and claimed her fourth season title.

Alpine: Ueli Steck

After the ugly confrontation at Camp 2 on Mt. Everest last spring and the media onslaught that followed, Ueli Steck thought he might never go back to Nepal to climb. But the Swiss alpinist and speed soloist had already attempted Annapurna’s 8,000-foot south face twice before, and had nearly died on it in 2007. He had unfinished business.

Steck returned to Annapurna in the fall with Canadian Don Bowie. Their goal was to complete the line attempted by Pierre Béghin and Jean-Christophe Lafaille in 1992. Steck hadn’t planned to climb alone, but on October 8, as they launched up the wall, Bowie told his partner he didn’t have it in him to solo as much of the route as would be required. “It was a difficult moment for me,” Steck says. “I knew at that moment I just needed to leave, without too much talking and thinking.”

Steck thought he’d just probe farther up the wall for a couple of days, but he soon realized the face was in the “condition of the century.” The crux rock band above 23,000 feet was laced with runnels of perfect ice. Steck knew it was now or never.

What followed was one of the greatest climbs in Himalayan history. Alone, with the bare minimum of gear (see p. 75), and climbing mostly at night, Steck soloed to the top of the wall and on to Annapurna’s 26,545-foot summit. With only a single rope and a handful of pitons and ice screws, he could not rappel the enormous face—instead he had to exercise his seemingly supernatural skill and self-control to downclimb nearly the entire way. Twenty-eight hours after starting, he was back down safely.

As if to underscore what Steck had accomplished, two of France’s best alpinists started up essentially the same route on Annapurna a little more than a week later, and they took 10 days to complete the second ascent, narrowly escaping with their lives—one of them suffered severe frostbite. One later said the headwall Steck soloed had pitches as hard as M6. The ascent, he said, was “revolutionary.”

Honorable Mentions

The new normal: A year after more than 100 bolts were removed from the Compressor Route on the south side of Cerro Torre in Patagonia, dozens of climbers ventured to the wild west face of the granite spire, which houses an all-natural ice line first climbed in 1974, called the Ragni Route. Aided by unusually good weather and a path forged through the crux rime ice by repeated ascents, about 140 people repeated the route. Most impressive ascent: Austrian Markus Pucher free soloed the route in 3 hours, 15 minutes.

Sean Leary jams a cold crack above the ice cap on Ulvetenna. The ascent was featured in a prize-winning film, The Last Great Climb. Photo by Alastair Lee/Posing Productions

Sean Leary jams a cold crack above the ice cap on Ulvetenna. The ascent was featured in a prize-winning film, The Last Great Climb. Photo by Alastair Lee/Posing Productions

Mega-cold: Brits Leo Houlding, Alastair Lee, Jason Pickles, and Chris Rabone, along with American Sean Leary, climbed the northeast ridge of Ulvetenna, a 3,600-foot granite tower that looks like a fighter jet blasting out of the ice cap in Antarctica.

Free Patagonia: In the Paine region of Chile, Belgian climbers Merlin Didier, Stéphane Hanssens, and Sean Villanueva O’Driscoll free climbed the El Cap–sized east faces of Cerro Catedral and Cerro Cota 2000, both at 5.13a. Hanssens and Villanueva then snuck in a new free route on Cerro Fitz Roy in Argentina, with only hours to spare before heading home.

Triumph and tragedy: A Polish team made the first winter ascent of 8,047-meter Broad Peak in Pakistan—25 years after one of the climbers had nearly succeeded in winter. Sadly, two of the four summiters disappeared during the descent.

Moose attack: The 10,335-foot Moose’s Tooth is one of Alaska’s most popular high peaks, and each year dozens of climbers attempt the classic west ridge or the Ham and Eggs couloir on the south face. But the 5,000-foot, super-steep east face is rarely climbed. So it was amazing to see three new routes on the face in a single week. Climbing with Pete Tapley, Scott Adamson completed a line he had tried three times, making the first all-free ascent of the east face. After a brief rest, he joined Chris Wright to complete a second new route on the wall’s left side. Meanwhile, the Swiss-Austrian duo of Dani Arnold and David Lama blasted up their own new route—a direct line in the center of the east face—during the pair’s first trip to Alaska.

World’s highest birthday: May marked the 60th anniversary of Mt. Everest’s first ascent and the 50th anniversary of the West Ridge climb by Americans Tom Hornbein and Willi Unsoeld.

Karakoram firsts: Two much-coveted peaks in Pakistan got their first ascents: 23,294-foot K6 West, by the Canadian duo Raphael Slawinski and Ian Welsted, and 24,278-foot Khunyang Chhish East, by the Swiss-Austrian trio of Simon Anthamatten and Hansjörg and Matthias Auer.

Alpine trilogy: Barbara Zangerl of Austria was the first woman to complete the so-called Alpine Trilogy, three long 5.14 routes in the Alps, each put up in 1994. Zangerl did the first female ascents of two of these climbs.

Rockies legend: Twenty-eight years after it was first climbed, the legendary Blanchard-Cheesmond Route on the north pillar of Twins Tower in the Canadian Rockies was repeated by Jon Walsh and Josh Wharton. Says Wharton: “I have done lots of routes that have a bigger bark than bite, but this route lived up to its reputation.”

Himalayan giant: Four French climbers completed the much-eyed south face of 23,406-foot Gaurishankar in Nepal, but without reaching the summit.

John Ellison, center, is the founder of Climbers Against Cancer. Photo by Beau Kahler

John Ellison, center, is the founder of Climbers Against Cancer. Photo by Beau Kahler

Community: Climbers Against Cancer

“You can’t do anything about the length of your life, but you can do something about its width and depth.” —John Ellison, founder of Climbers Against Cancer

Englishman John Ellison was diagnosed with cancer in late 2011 and given only a few years to live. Ellison had been judging climbing comps for about a decade, and at the world championships in Paris, nearly a year after his diagnosis, he had an epiphany: The climbing community was like a vast and yet very close family. He saw climbers and coaches from all over the world loudly cheering each other on. Surely, he thought, there must be a way to harness all that positive energy for a greater good.

Ellison, a gregarious, 50-year-old father of one, had already raised a bit of money for cancer research at climbing events, and now he broached a much bigger idea with friends Graeme Alderson, the longtime British coach and competition official, and Shauna Coxsey, a leading British boulderer. Their enthusiasm spurred Ellison on. He and another friend designed the distinctive Climbers Against Cancer logos and colorful T-shirts, and they launched the CAC fund-raising website in January 2013.

Almost overnight, those CAC shirts seemed to be everywhere, from the crags of Catalunya to the competition walls of Slovenia. The shirt sales (£15 each, or about $24) and other donations brought in more than $240,000 in just 10 months. In November, CAC (climbersagainstcancer.org) began selling a 2014 wall calendar featuring Alex Puccio, Anna Stöhr, Alex Johnson, and other top female climbers in 1950s-style pin-up poses. In keeping with CAC’s international focus, the money is being doled out to cancer-research organizations worldwide—Australia, France, and Canada so far.

Ellison doesn’t know how much time he has left. But he has vowed to continue CAC’s mission of raising money and demystifying cancer as long as he can—and to foster a powerful international movement that will long outlive him.

Honorable Mentions:

Lemons to lemonade: Massive flooding in Colorado in mid-September killed eight people and uprooted thousands. With many crags closed, a few Boulder climbers launched a community-based relief effort that earned national attention. As the roads and trails reopened, climbers discovered the high water had left a bonanza of early-season ice in the nearby mountains.

Lead now: A year-long, round-the-world climbing trip? Yes, please! But Paige Claassen and filmmaker Jon Glassberg have loftier goals than simply sending and sightseeing. Claassen’s Lead Now tour aims to raise awareness—and cash—for issues facing women and children worldwide, all while attempting to raise the bar for women’s climbing. As of December, the two had visited five countries, raised more than $10,000, and Claassen had climbed big: a new 5.14a and the first female ascent of another 5.14a in South Africa; the second ascent of a 5.14b “slab” in Italy; and a 5.14b first female ascent in China, among others. Up next: India, Turkey, and Ecuador.

Jeff Lowe grabs the first ascent of Stewart Falls (WI5) in Utah's Wasatch Mountains in 1976. Photo courtesy Mike Lowe/Jeff Lowe Collection

Jeff Lowe grabs the first ascent of Stewart Falls (WI5) in Utah's Wasatch Mountains in 1976. Photo courtesy Mike Lowe/Jeff Lowe Collection

Lifetime Achievement: Jeff Lowe

If any American climber can be called a visionary, it is Jeff Lowe. A Utah native who lived in Colorado for much of his climbing career, Lowe envisioned countless new routes in the Rocky Mountains, Zion National Park, the Canadian Rockies, and the Greater Ranges. He invented or co-invented many types of gear and clothing, and his 1979 book, The Ice Experience, and later books, articles, and videos gave ice climbers whole new ways to think about the sport.

Lowe did the first ascent of Colorado’s Bridal Veil Falls (WI5+), with Mike Weiss, back in 1974—in the infancy of vertical water-ice climbing—and then soloed the 375-foot route just a few years later. His new routes in Nepal and Peru helped bring modern ice techniques to the highest mountains. When new equipment began to make pure ice seem routine, Lowe combined traditional mixed-climbing techniques with pre-placed protection to open radical terrain for winter climbers. His first ascent of Octopussy (WI6 M7 R, 1994) in Vail, Colorado, opened eyes throughout the world.

Though he often climbed alone, Lowe was also a keen and imaginative promoter of big events—he brought the first World Cup competitions to the U.S. and created the hugely popular Ouray Ice Festival. “Ice climbing is just one small part of Jeff’s contribution to how we look at climbing today,” says Will Gadd. “I don’t think there’s another climber to ever play so many different games at such a high level. He’s a climbing generalist who managed to redefine climbing.”

Since 2000, Lowe, 63, has been suffering from a degenerative neurological condition with similarities to multiple sclerosis or ALS. The disease has confined him to a wheelchair and limited his ability to speak. As Lowe’s condition deteriorates, friends and family are working to complete a film about his life, Metanoia, centered on his unrepeated solo route on the north face of the Eiger—a lasting tribute to an extraordinary climber.

Other Honorable Mentions:

The gift: Alex Honnold teamed up with pal Josh McCoy to restore and redpoint an old Kurt Smith project in El Potrero Chico, Mexico: Mi Regalo Favorito. The 19-pitch route went free at 5.13c/d.

Passages: The great Colorado climber Layton Kor, responsible for a multitude of classic routes (moderate and bold alike!) from Eldorado Canyon to Yosemite Valley, died at age 74 after a long illness.

Youth brigade: Twelve-year-old Harry Edwards from Arizona redpointed Southern Smoke (5.14c) at the Red River Gorge in Kentucky.

Saddle sores: Alex Honnold and Cedar Wright enchained all of California’s 14ers in a three-week, human-powered adventure by bike, foot, and free soloing.

Is 5.15 still hard? Adam Ondra spent a few weeks in Norway and came away with two new 5.15b routes, Move and Iron Curtain, in the giant granite cave outside Flatanger. During the full year, Ondra established seven 5.15 routes and repeated a couple of others, begging the question: Is 5.15 even newsworthy anymore? Well, consider this: There are still only three consensus 5.15a routes in North America: Jumbo Love in California, Flex Luthor in Colorado, and Jaws II in New Hampshire. Only the last has been repeated, including two ascents this past fall, by Andrew Palmer and Paul Robinson. So, yeah, 5.15 is still hard. Adam Ondra is just at a whole new level.

European vacation: During a school holiday in Europe, 12-year-old Mirko Caballero from California climbed his first 5.14b and his first V13, both in Switzerland.

Ashima! Twelve-year-old Ashima Shiraishi traveled to Europe during her school vacation and climbed two 5.14b routes at Céüse, France, including a second-try send. Switching gears, she then headed to Switzerland to go bouldering and soon sent her second V13, One Summer in Paradise, at Magic Wood. Back home in the States, she squeezed in trips to Rocky Mountain National Park (Automator, V13) and the Red River Gorge (24 Karats and 50 Words For Pump, both 5.14c).

A very full day: Adam Ondra completed the only three 9a (5.14d) routes in Germany’s Frankenjura that he hadn’t already climbed—and he did them in a single day.

WTF? "Rusty" Pitons:

Climbers Simone Moro, Ueli Steck, and Jon Griffith got embroiled in a violent dispute with Sherpa climbers at Camp 2 on Mt. Everest, following a confrontation on the Lhotse Face. The three abandoned their climb and fled the mountain.

After a sustained effort by the International Sport Climbing Federation to win a berth in the Olympics, the IOC announced that climbing would not be part of the 2020 Olympic Games.

Pakistani terrorists murdered 10 foreign climbers and one local staffer at Nanga Parbat base camp.

Tito Traversa, a 12-year-old 5.14 climber from Italy who seemed destined to become one of the sport’s greats, died following a tragic accident in which some quickdraws he borrowed had been assembled incorrectly and failed when he weighted them.

Jose Luis Mosquera, 33, a climber from Ecuador, was shot outside his tent in Ten Sleep, Wyoming, shocking climbers worldwide. Mosquera recovered, but no perpetrator or motive has been found.

For 16 days in early October, a partial government shutdown locked climbers out of national parks and other federal lands. Americans and visiting climbers alike wondered, “WTF?"



Comments

Daniel Wood's picture needs a new caption; the one from Jimmy got carried over...

David - 02/11/2014 4:22:23

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