Climber: Brette Harrington Route: Sands of Time (5.9) Location: Calaveras Dome, California Deep in the Central Sierra, in the Mokelumne River Valley, lies a remote 1,500-foot dome of the finest California granite: Calaveras Dome. This once-secret haunt of reclusive Sierra climbers had its first-ascent heyday in the 1970s and ‘80s. One area classic is the 11-pitch Sands of Time, a route famed for the splitter 5.8+ finger crack on its fifth pitch. In October 2016, Brette Harrington onsight-soloed the route (here on pitch 2, 5.9). “Having grown up in California, Calaveras seemed like a mysterious place I hadn’t yet visited,” she says. “I researched Sands of Time and it looked beautiful: super-splitter cat-scratch cracks, and at 5.9 granite, it seemed just right for a solo.” Harrington is no stranger to unroped climbing, having made the first free solo of Chiaro di Luna (5.11a; 2,500 feet) on Patagonia’s Aguja Saint-Exupery in February 2015. On Sands, she took her time, especially on the nebulous upper slabs, where there were few bolts and no chalk to follow. “I had considered soloing other lines at Calaveras, but after the 5.9 slabs, I figured 5.10 would be pushing it,” she says. Photo: Francois Lebeau Climber: Alex Puccio Route: No More Greener Grasses (V12) FA: Luke Parady Location: Area A, Mount Evans, Colorado In 2010, Angie Payne made the first female ascent of No More Greener Grasses, a problem Luke Parady had established in 2004 and named for The Grouch & Eligh song. The problem follows razorblade crimps to a large hold and a moderate, albeit high, topout on the Dali Wall, home also to The Dali (V8), Clear Blue Skies (V11), and Ode to the Modern Man (V14). This July, Alex Puccio and Nina Williams shredded their tips on the sharp granite, figuring out the difficult first two moves on Greener Grasses. After falling on the seventh move, making a left-hand jab off a miserable right crimp, Puccio sent. A week later, Williams (spotting) fell in the same spot. She then channeled Pigeon John’s lyrics—“Love what you got or lose what you have”—for the send. Photo: James Lucas Climber: Kate Rutherford Route: Digital Crack (5.13b) FA: Alain Ghersen, Thierry Renault Location: Aiguille du Midi, Chamonix, France Most of us struggle just to slog up talus above 12,000 feet, but the high alpine, especially around Chamonix, France, is also home to some genuine free-climbing testpieces. One is Digital Crack (5.13b) on the Grande Gendarme, spiking from the Arête des Cosmiques on the Aiguille du Midi. This two-pitch route climbs a 5.11a slab to a small ledge before heading up the eponymous “crack”—in reality, a heinously sustained crimpfest and tips seam up a flaring dihedral guarded by an entry boulder problem. Here, Kate Rutherford enjoys a crisp, sunny day on the upper pitch. “ Digital Crack is a long, complex climb,” she says. The day of the photo, deciphering its intricate movements was complicated by helicopters passing overhead as they flew in giant panels of sheet metal for a remodel of the Midi tram station. Ah, Les Alpes …. Photo: Andrew Burr Climbers: Mayan Smith-Gobat, Ben Rueck Route: Solar Fusion (5.13b; 14 pitches) FFA: Ben Rueck, Mayan Smith-Gobat (2014) FA: Gérard Thomas, Marc Gamio (2013) Location: Tsaranoro Massif, Madagascar
What, for a climber, could be better than a new pair of rock shoes under the Christmas tree? How about a new 2,600-foot route, bolted, cleaned, gift-wrapped, and ready to send? Such was the case for
Solar Fusion, freed in September–October 2014 by Ben Rueck and Mayan Smith-Gobat (shown here on P8, 5.12b/c). The pair worked the slabbier first half using fixed lines, then pulled their ropes and set up a midway portaledge to address the difficulties on the vertical upper reaches, including the P12 crux. “The black-and-orange granite is nearly featureless, broken only by the odd tufts of tussock,” says Smith- Gobat. Down low, they weaved upward on non-holds, but found to their delight that as the wall steepened the grips got bigger. For company, the climbers had lemurs frolicking on the walls around them and the massive afternoon thunderstorms that built off over the arid basin below the massif. Photo: Andrew Burr
Four photos highlighting badass female climbers: Mayan Smith-Gobat on a Madagascar big wall, Kate Rutherford on Chamonix's alpine testpiece, Alex Puccio bouldering in the Colorado high country, and Brette Harrington free soloing splitter, California granite.