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This Week In Review: First Ascents, Free Soloing, and Climbing as Therapy

We published close to thirty stories this week. Some were digitized versions of our latest print stories. Others were dusted off from Climbing's archives. Still more were original online content. Here are six stories that stood out.

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Photo: Courtesy of Marcus Garcia

News: Liam Foster Nabs FA on His Mentor’s 5.14 Project, Two Decades After Its Bolting  

by Corey Buhay

On January 5, Liam Foster, 21, clipped the chains of Riders on the Storm (5.14-), putting down a 20-year open project in Durango, Colorado. When Foster lowered, the first thing he did was call Marcus Garcia, his mentor and coach of almost a decade. There were tears on the phone; Garcia is the one who bolted the route back in 2000. Then, he was the same age Foster is now.

Read the full piece.

Lor Sabourin on the famous Concepcion (5.13), Moab, Utah. Dean Potter did the FA in 2003; in 2008, Alex Honnold and Steph Davis made the first repeats. Photo: Blake McCord.

Opinion: Can Climbing Be a Form of Therapy?

by Lor Sabourin

Climbing’s all-consuming nature can have strong therapeutic benefits. With its support, many people have fought through substance-use disorders, grief, break-ups, and periods of uncertainty. With its intense demand for focus and body awareness, climbing can help us live in the here-and-now and empower us to make healthy changes; it has the potential to fill our lives with joy, purpose, and friendship. However, the problem for many athletes comes from this belief: “If a little climbing is therapeutic, then a lot will heal me.”

Read the full article.

More than anything, Janja Garnbret has her eyes on the 2024 Olympics in Paris, France. Photo: Simon Rainer

Profile: How Janja Garnbret Beat Everyone By Preparing For The Worst

by John Burgman

At age 22, Garnbret is widely considered the greatest competition climber in the world. When the Olympics kicked off in early August 2021, going by the numbers, Garnbret possessed a total of 30 World Cup gold medals—17 in Lead and 13 in Bouldering—more than any other person in history. She also had six World Championship gold medals. If one added to those her myriad other medals from national Slovenian competitions or events not on the IFSC’s annual circuit, Garnbret’s honors would swell to almost incomprehensible proportions. Yet, rather than leaning on past accomplishments, she knew to trust her preparation. In the years leading up to the Olympics, she had practiced countless different scenarios and envisioned what it would take to perform optimally at the Games.

Read the full article.

Epic: When a Mountain “Warm Up” Turned Into a Struggle For Survival

By Pat Deavol

We reached the steep grey gully that Marty had led so competently. The snow was pouring down in bigger and bigger waves, more and more frequently—every couple of minutes. Each approaching wave sounded like a freight train. Even now, nearly 20 years on, I can still hear the sound of those avalanches coming. But how to get down the gully? To abseil directly down the 20-foot-wide gulch would have been a death sentence.

Read the full epic here.

News: How Underrepresented Groups Are Becoming Texas’s Next Big First Ascentionists

by Alben Osaki

According to the Access Fund, a mere 5% of the land in Texas is public, though some folks have told me it’s even less. Historically, many of the routes and crags have had a similar recipe for development: bolt first and ask for forgiveness later. When word gets out about these new areas, climbers begin to visit, growing steadily in number, until the crag or boulder field is eventually accepted by the landowner. It’s by no means a perfect development strategy, but it’s how, historically at least, a lot of Texas crags seem to be born.

Read the Full Article

From the archive: When You Fall Free Soloing … and Live: Five Climbers Recall Their Lucky Grounders

By Michael Reardon

I static to a four-finger sloper, 15 feet off the deck. I’m on Kim Chi (5.11d), a 40-foot bulging face climb on pocketed tuff just uphill from the trickle of Malibu Creek. I’ve been climbing here for 15 years: I know the beta to every route, have touched every pocket, splashed down into the water countless times, and bouldered my ass off. It is seven miles from my house, in Oak Park—practically in my backyard. There are no surprises left … or so I think.

Read the full article.



Film: How Matt Cornell Free Soloed One of America’s Classic Hard Mixed Routes

"The Nutcracker" explores the mental challenges of solo climbing and the tactics Cornell used to help him send the route.