James Pearson Climbs Second Ascent of Tribe, Possibly The World’s Hardest Trad Climb

Pearson says that Tribe has the hardest sequence of moves he’s ever climbed on trad gear.

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Tristan Hobson / Wild Country

On October 21, 34-year-old English climber James Pearson made the second ascent of Tribe in Cadarese, Italy. Tribe is considered to be one of the most difficult trad lines in the world and speculated to go at 5.14d, though it has yet to be assigned a grade.

“Whilst I can’t say I’ve checked out every single trad route in the world, I have been on quite a few of them, and I’ve spent a lot of time searching for my own mega-project,” Pearson wrote in a press release. “For me, Tribe is by far the hardest series of moves I have ever done on a trad route, and it’s a real miracle that the thing is actually possible on gear.”

Pearson made history in 2011 when he climbed Muy Caliente (E10) in Pembrokeshire, Wales ground up—the first person to ever climb E10 without first rehearsing the moves on toprope. The British grading system factors in both difficulty and danger. E10 is approaching the upper end of the scale. There is only one E11 in the world, which translates roughly to 5.14c R/X: Dave MacLeod’s Rhapsody in Dumbarton Rock, Scotland. [Ed. MacLeod’s Echo Wall is also at the upper end of the scale, though MacLeod declined to grade the route.] Pearson climbed Rhapsody in 2014. 

Tribe was established in 2019 by Italian climber Jacopo Larcher. The line works up a 30-meter arête with a stopper crux of bad slopers and precise sequencing high on the route. It was six years from the time Larcher first envisioned the line to his redpoint.

PearsonCaroline Ciavaldini / Wild Country

“I followed Jacopo‘s journey on the route with interest, first of all interested to see if it’s possible, and later to see whether his conviction would stand the test of time and if he would put everything together,” Pearson says. “Climbing a first ascent is really hard, much much harder than making a repeat, it took a lot of curiosity for Jacopo to originally check out the line, and a lot of courage for him to stick with the process and finish it off.”

When Pearson arrived in Cadarese to project the route, conditions were poor—seepage caused much of the route to be wet. Nonetheless, he worked it on toprope. After a few days of effort was able to perform all the individual moves—“by the skin of my teeth,” he says—and began redpoint attempts. On lead, Pearson was repeatedly spat off by the upper crux.

“With lots of rain forecast over the coming days, I’d pretty much given up hope, which is probably exactly what I needed to take all the pressure off and just concentrate on climbing,” Pearson says.

On his seventh attempt, James Pearson became the second person to climb Tribe. He chose to follow in Larcher’s footsteps and not assign a grade to the route.

“The real reason is that Jacopo didn’t want his experience on the route, the excitement, the simplicity, the curiosity, the frustration, the joy, to be summarized by a single number,” Pearson wrote. “Can we not simply say ‘Wow, what a line,’ and marvel at how, from time to time, Mother Nature can give us something really special! It’s a position that I completely respect and agree with, and hope that perhaps even on a tiny scale, by leaving the grade out of the discussion, we might be able to re-focus on what is truly important.”