Beth Rodden feeling optimistic.
Beth Rodden, The Optimist
It was a year of “8c glories” in sport climbing: the long-awaited first 11-year-old redpoint of 8c (5.14b), by Adam Ondra from the Czech Republic, and Josune Bereziartu cranking her brains out as usual on climbs up to 8c+. There was Yuji Hirayama doing the “world’s first 8c onsight,” White Zombie in Spain — a killer ascent, but in a climbing world brimming with photos, videos, and tick marks, “first onsight” has become almost hopelessly entangled with “first flash.” We nearly awarded the Piton to Patxi Usobiaga — a 24-year-old professional climber who is being coached into international dominance over in Spain’s Basque country — who had an all-around stunning year, including the third ascent of Realization at Ceüse, a number-four world rank in competition climbing, and an unprecedented five 5.14a onsights. 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!