“For me, China Doll was one of the best traditional lines I had seen on the Front Range—and one of the best pitches I’ve ever climbed,” says Mike Patz, who made the first integral free ascent of the Dream Canyon, Colorado, granite testpiece by first pinkpointing the extension as an isolated second pitch in 2004 and then returning in 2007 to redpoint the entire line, placing gear. The 40-meter route starts with six bolts, a fixed pin, and 45 feet of 5.13c, the crux of which involves a V7 layback on a pinch loaf. After a moderate rest, the climb tackles 22 feet of gear-protected tips jamming along a flared crack. In September 2019, the Boulder-based climber Molly Mitchell redpointed the integral line, skipping the bolts on the first pitch and placing her own gear. At the upper crux, she used a tiny cam—a Metolius 00—to protect the V8/9 moves. On the send, Mitchell had to dig deep into her physical and mental reserves—fitting, as she’s also the model (read: whipper victim) for our newest online course with Arno Ilgner, Overcome Your Fear of Falling.
From November 28 to December 1, 2019, 44 competitors from around the globe raced up a speed wall, bouldered, and tackled lead routes in Toulouse, France, all vying to secure an Olympic berth. The first Olympic qualifier, held in August in Hachioji, Japan, allowed eight men and eight women to move on to the Olympics. This second qualifier allowed six men and six women to advance to Tokyo 2020. Nathaniel Coleman, who placed eighth in the combined, became the first American male, while Kyra Condie (shown here in Toulouse), who placed seventh in the combined, joined Brooke Raboutou as the second American female to be headed to the Olympics next summer. The Olympians will be training in Salt Lake City at USA Climbing’s National Team Training Center.
With sea spray crashing onto the belay ledge, sea turtles swimming past, and hard climbing above, Jeff Elison and Lizz Grennard’s route Freedom (5.12c) epitomizes the experience on Cayman Brac’s Northeast Point. Elison equipped the coastal limestone line in 1995 after rappelling, bolting, and climbing the neighboring Throwin’ the Tortuga (5.11b), which climbs crystal-filled huecos up a brilliant-orange corner. These days, Freedom sports corrosion-resistant titanium glue-in bolts, a much-needed upgrade you’ll welcome at each of the route’s three cruxes: the thin face down low (here, climbed by Nina Williams), the strenuous bulge in the middle, and the physical exit roof. Accessing Freedom, which shares a belay ledge with Throwin’, involves rapping 100-plus feet down the unbroken sea cliff to a small stance above the water. From there, your only path back to freedom is to top out.
In May 2012, Daniel Woods sent Mission Impossible (5.14c) in Clear Creek Canyon, Colorado, freeing a line Jay Samuelson had bolted at Wall of the 90s. The 10-bolt route climbs 75 feet of vertical and slightly overhanging gneiss. The slopey holds, tiny crimps, and nonexistent smears have made the half dozen ascentionists speculate at the grade, though it has settled at a difficult 5.14c. “It’s hard to say, since the moves aren’t too bad, but the hands and feet are really poor,” says Paige Claassen, who redpointed the line in spring 2018. “And it’s kind of impossible until you unlock the body positions, and then it’s not too bad.” Her first day on the route, Claassen did less than half of the 50 or so moves—but by her fifth day, she had sent. “Thus is the nature of body-position cruxes,” says Claassen. “Once they click, they stick.” For more technical wisdom from Claassen—namely how to upgrade your footwork game—check out her course Precision Footwork.