On December 23, Fred Nicole from Switzerland made the second ascent of Chris Sharma’s Witness the Fitness roof problem in Arkansas. Sharma established the problem in March 2005. Although neither Sharma nor Nicole graded the long, horizontal sandstone roof, Nicole said it was the hardest boulder problem of this style he had ever done.
Below is a short account from Mary Gabrieli, Nicole’s partner, describing the second ascent (with minor spelling and punctuation changes):
“We came to Arkansas for the first time in October 2006. We had seen the Dosage video with Chris Sharma in Arkansas and were motivated to discover these new areas. We spent a great month at Horseshoe Canyon Ranch, [near] Jasper, but we also had a lot of rainy and wet days. Witness the Fitness is a wonderful line in a little too-soft sandstone cave, so that you have to choose only the very dry days to try it in order not to break any holds. Unfortunately, the very first try of Fred ended with a broken hold, luckily not in the key section. He still managed to find a solution, but then he broke again another hold and was starting to get worried about the survival of the line. By the time we left he had found a way to climb it, but couldn’t link it together. A little bit disappointed, we had to go back to Switzerland.
“This line didn’t get out of Fred’s mind, so only a month later we came back to Arkansas. We were thinking of a place were Fred and myself would be able to climb in winter, and it was easy to decide to come back to Horseshoe Canyon Ranch. The place is really great, and the people here more than friendly. And above this you have many fantastic routes and boulders for everyone directly at the ranch! The first day back in the Witness cave was a big disaster; we had never seen the cave in such a pity shape. Almost every hold was dripping water! It looked as [if] those holds would never be dry again. But we were completely wrong, and only a very cold, windy day later the cave looked as [if] it had never seen a drop of water. We had to go back a few times before Fred managed to repeat Witness the Fitness the 23rd of December 2006. This horizontal line is unique, has many small holds, and is very athletic, and you need a lot of power stamina to link it (over 20 moves). For sure [it is] the hardest line in this style Fred has ever climbed.”
Date of Ascent: December 23, 2006
Sources: Mary Gabrieli, www.climbhcr.com
Fred Nicole working the moves on Witness the Fitness, Arkansas.Photo courtesy of Mary Gabrieli.