The following story originally appeared in the October 2014 issue of our print edition.
Climber: Alex Megos
Route: Biographie (5.15a), aka Realization
Location: Céüse, France
Every once in a while, one route emerges as a collectively agreed-upon benchmark for the world’s strongest climbers. These routes can be about more than just hard climbing with a high grade—they’re about history. First bolted and named in 1989 by Jean-Cristophe Lafaille, Biographie went unclimbed until Arnaud Petit added an anchor at the halfway point and sent the first portion in 1996. Five years later, Chris Sharma climbed the full route. In classic Sharma style, he didn’t grade the climb, but he did give it a name: Realization. (French tradition calls for the route to be named by the bolter; U.S. tradition calls for the route to be named by the first ascensionist, hence the dual moniker.) The route saw six more ascents over the course of 13 years, when American Jonathan Siegrist kicked off a send train in early June 2014 after a month of working it. Alex Megos (pictured) followed suit on July 11, completing it on the third try of his first day, and 11 days later, Adam Ondra sent—two years after he tried to flash it while the world watched via social media. One week into August, Japanese strongman Sachi Amma rounded out the sends with the eleventh total ascent.
Climber: Alex Puccio
Route: Top Notch (V13)
Location: Rocky Mountain National Park, Colorado
Despite her position as one of the strongest female climbers in the world, with dozens of international podium appearances, a half-dozen national bouldering championships, and countless V12 sends under her belt, Alex Puccio had yet to tick V13 as of June 2014. Then on July 1, she headed to Chaos Canyon and sent the difficult Top Notch (V13) on her second day working it. Five days later, she put away Nuthin’ But Sunshine, another V13 in Chaos Canyon, which she said was not quite as hard as Top Notch. The summer of sends didn’t end there: On August 2, she ticked her first V14 with an ascent of Daniel Woods’ iconic testpiece Jade, also in Chaos Canyon; it was the first try of her fourth day on the problem. The lady-crushing rounded out with two more women climbing V14, Angie Payne getting the first female ascent of her four-year project Freaks of the Industry (V13) in Chaos Canyon, Brooke Raboutou nabbing her first V13 with Fragile Steps in Rocklands, South Africa, and Ashima Shiraishi sending Betta Move (V13), also in Rocklands.
Climber: Shauna Coxsey
Route: New Base Line (V14)
Location: Magic Wood, Switzerland
After breaking her leg in Magic Wood two years prior, 21-year-old British crusher Shauna Coxsey came back for revenge this summer, which she got in spades with her send of New Base Line, securing her position as the third woman in the world to climb V14. It was a fierce race for second place. Coxsey’s ascent came only a few days after Ashima Shiraishi, 13, became the second female to send the grade with her ascent of Golden Shadow in Rocklands, South Africa. (In October 2012, Japanese climber Tomoko Ogawa, 34, nabbed the top spot when she sent Catharsis in Shiobara, Japan, after three years of effort.) Coxsey, who is known as a top competition climber, including an overall second place finish in the 2014 IFSC Boulder World Cup, visited the Wood to wrap up some two-year-old nemesis projects: Piranja (V10), which she broke her leg on in 2012, and One Summer in Paradise (V13). When she sent both quicker than expected—saying they “lacked the fight I had been craving”—she moved on to New Base Line, a problem that was at the top of her wish list. Despite three days of rain and an emotional battle with a committing move toward the end, Coxsey stuck with it and secured her place in climbing history.
Climber: Mike Brumbaugh
Route: Original Avluntning (5.11a)
Location: Lofoten Islands, Norway
With gigantic granite walls rising straight out of the ocean, a latitude that lies within the Arctic Circle, and a surprisingly temperate climate for how far north it is, the archipelago of the Lofoten Islands is a multi-discipline climber’s dream. Think: World-class ice climbing in the winter meets accessible all-day alpine ridges, big walls, and countless boulders in the summer (by all day, we mean 24 hours of daylight with the characteristic midnight sun). Several main islands with fjord-laden topographical features and an exceedingly long coastline mean this area is rife with rock. Climbing in Norway originated in this region about 150 years ago, and there are currently enough established lines to fill a lifetime—with enough new-route potential to fill 10 more. Here, Mike Brumbaugh thinks about his next move on Original Avluntning, graded 7 on the Norwegian scale.
Climbers: James Pearson and Caroline Ciavaldini
Location: Rocklands, South Africa
In recent years, boulderers have flocked to Rocklands for the seemingly limitless rock and opposite optimal season (our summer is their winter), but these small stone–minded developers largely ignored the potential for trad lines in the uniquely shaped sandstone. Briton James Pearson and Frenchwoman Caroline Ciavaldini (who’s originally from La Réunion, a French island in the South Indian Ocean) visited the area for three weeks this summer, establishing several hard new trad routes on the sculpted rock—many of which were within sight of campsites and popular bouldering spots. Growing up climbing on the gritstone of the United Kingdom, Pearson is no stranger to climbing hard through scary runouts over tricky gear, but he found the opposite in South Africa: “The amazing rock is full of horizontal cracks, making gear placement really easy. The routes are often steep and athletic, and almost always completely safe—Rocklands is a trad-loving sport climber’s dream.” That was perfect for Ciavaldini, who got her start on the lead competition climbing circuit, but eventually moved to repeating—and now establishing—hard lines outside. It’s almost guaranteed that the duo will be back for what Pearson calls “potential for literally thousands of new routes.”