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Queen Maud Land
Over 17 days in December 2017, Alex Honnold, Jimmy Chin, Savannah Cummins, Anna Pfaff (pictured), Conrad Anker, and Cedar Wright visited Antarctica, exploring the granite of the Drygalski Mountains in Queen Maud Land. Chin and Anker big-walled on Ulvetanna, the highest peak in the Wolf’s Jaw Range. Honnold and Wright went on a simul-climbing and soloing blitz, summitting 13 lines, including the first ascent of the Dark Tower, a 5.10d X on the East Pillar of Stetind with a final pitch of loose face climbing that Honnold called “one of the scariest things I’ve led.” And Cummins and Pfaff climbed Holtanna (8,694 feet) and other mountains in the austere landscape. All told, the team summitted 15 routes via 12 new lines, exploring the barren walls and summits poking through the ancient ice.
Age of Ondra
Over the past decade, the Czech climber Adam Ondra has dominated, with the second ascent of the Dawn Wall (VI 5.14d), a flash of Supercrackinette (5.15a) in France, and the FA of the world’s hardest rock climb, Silence (5.15d) in Flatanger, Norway. He is surely the strongest rock climber ever, and on the heels of Silence he headed from the Czech Republic to Spain to France to the Canadian Rockies to chase more goals with his signature intensity. Here, Ondra works out the ultra-thin beta on Disbelief (5.15b) at Acéphale, Alberta, Canada. On a monthlong visit to Alberta this summer, Ondra established two new 5.15s—including Disbelief— and onsighted three 5.14s.
Up to Speed
When climbing was announced as an event in the 2020 Tokyo Olympics, many were puzzled by the three-pronged format: In addition to lead and bouldering events, there will also be speed, a discipline little known outside the competition milieu. Still, in certain parts of the world, speed climbing has a devout following, and the athletic focus applied to sprinting up a standardized 15-meter wall has led to superhuman times of 6 seconds or less—vertical running in which the competitors are more often airborne than not. Here, world-record holder Reza Alipour of Iran guns up the speed wall, secured by a specialized autobelay to keep pace with his rapid motion.
Valley of the Moon
In recent years, there’s been a flurry of hard new big-wall free climbs on the desert sandstone of Wadi Rum, Jordan. “As we worked on the Sultan route close to town, we enjoyed listening to the call to prayer as it echoed melodiously off the walls and into the vast desert space around us,” says Madaleine Sorkin, pictured here jamming up the crux pitch of Sultan ul-Mujahidin (5.13+; 14 pitches; 1,800 feet). Eliav Nissan and Elad Omer equipped the route in 2014–2015, putting in long, hard days on the wall to sort out the line. In January 2017, Sorkin joined the team, nearly redpointing the crux pitch. (The redpoint of the full line went to the Czech climbers Jachym Srb and Matel Svotjka the following month.) “As a woman, I felt respected by our Bedouin hosts for being the stronger climber in my party, and I felt inspired to offer the same respect across our different cultures,” says Sorkin.
REEL ROCK 13 is touring now with some of the biggest, boldest filmmaking in the climbing world. From the ice-bound monoliths of Queen Maud Land, to Adam Ondra’s quest to tick the planet’s hardest climbs, to a close look at competition speed climbing, to the sandstone walls of Wadi Rum, Jordan, RR13’s four new films have your white-knuckle fix.