2018 was a turbulent year politically, but what went down in the climbing world? Elite female climbers pushed women's standards ever higher, indoor climbing continued to rise in popularity, and UKC's Rob Greenwood received an MBE...
As ever, the year took several heros and heroines of the mountaineering world away from us, notably: Yosemite pioneers Jim Bridwell and Tom Frost; Elizabeth Hawley, chronicler of mountaineering feats in Nepal; Mark Vallance, founder of Wild Country; Jeff Lowe, visionary innovator and mountaineer, and the talented young Canadian alpinist Marc-André Leclerc.
Below are some of the most memorable events and ascents of 2018.
Rescue on Nanga Parbat
January saw the dramatic rescue of French mountaineer Elisabeth Revol and the death of her climbing partner Tomek Mackiewicz on Nanga Parbat. Elisabeth and Tomasz reached the summit (8126m) after which Tomasz became ill and eventually unresponsive. Elisabeth descended alone, while a rescue team comprising elite mountaineers Adam Bielecki, Denis Urubko, Jaroslaw Botor and Piotr Tomala were dropped below Nanga Parbat Base Camp at 4900m. Adam and Denis climbed to Camp 2 at 6100m, meeting Elizabeth and ensuring her safe descent to Camp I, where she was taken by helicopter to the hospital in Islamabad. This marked the start of an eventful year of helicopter rescues in Pakistan.
Ondra flashes 9a+
Adam Ondra (who else?) made the world's first 9a+ flash of Supercrackinette 9a+, achieving a long-held ambition after numerous failed flash attempts on other climbs around the world.
Perfecto Mundo 9b+ by Alex Megos and Stefano Ghisolfi
In May, Alex Megos made the first ascent of Perfecto Mundo, 9b+, at Margalef, Spain, thereby becoming the third person to climb this grade after Adam Ondra and Chris Sharma. Stefano Ghisolfi added his name to the list by repeating the line in December.
Kaddi Lehmann boulders 8C
German boulderer Kaddi Lehmann made the fourth ascent of Franz Widmer's Kryptos at Morchelstock in the Balsthal, Switzerland, becoming only the second woman in the world to climb 8C, after Ashima Shiraishi.
Gukov Rescue/Latok I
Another dramatic rescue took place in July on the North Ridge of Latok I (7145m). Alexander Gukov's climbing partner Sergei Glazunov fell to his death while abseiling above 6000m on 25th July, leaving Gukov stranded in harsh weather conditions. Poor weather continuously hampered rescue efforts on the mountain, but after 6 days without food or water and no communication by sat phone, Gukov was rescued by pilots of the 5th Pakistani Army Aviation High Altitude Squadron.
A few weeks later, a British-Slovenian team consisting of Tom Livingstone, Aleš Česen and Luka Strazar made the coveted first ascent of Latok I (7145m) in the Pakistan Karakoram from the north. The team decided against an integral ascent of the North Ridge and instead opted for a safer line on the face in the last quarter, summitting via the West Col and making only the second ever ascent of Latok I and the first from the north.
Daniel Jung repeats Recovery Drink 5.14+
German sport climbing star Daniel Jung made the much sought after first repeat of Nico Favresse's 2013 steep crack test piece Recovery Drink on the Profilveggen at Jøssingfjord in Norway, beating crack connoisseurs such as Tom Randall and Pete Whittaker to the tick.
Solo first ascent of Lunag Ri by David Lama
In October, Austrian alpinist David Lama completed the first ascent of Lunag Ri's main summit (6907m) on the border between Nepal and Tibet, solo and after two unsuccessful attempts in the last three years. In 2015, Lama and Conrad Anker reached 300m short of the summit after a three day ascent. The next year, following Anker's heart attack at 5800m, Lama continued alone and was forced to retreat 250m below the summit.
World Championships Innsbruck
The first senior 'Olympic' Combined event took place at the Innsbruck 2018 World Championships in September, showcasing the new Olympic format of Speed, Boulder and Lead. The Austrian team dominated the event, with Jessy Pilz winning gold in Lead, Jakob Schubert winning gold in both Lead and Combined, while Slovenia's Janja Garnbret topped the scoreboards in both Boulder and Combined. Japan's Kai Harada took gold in the men's Boulder event.
Meltdown first repeat by Carlo Traversi
US climber Carlo Traversi made the long-awaited first repeat of Beth Rodden's Meltdown 5.14c/8c+ at the Upper Cascade Falls, Yosemite Valley. Rodden made the first ascent in 2008 and the line was both the hardest single pitch trad climb in the USA and the hardest trad climb established by a woman at the time (and to our knowledge, remains so).
Pete Whittaker rope solos El Cap and Half Dome in a day
Pete Whittaker made another mark in Yosemite's history books this year. He rope-soloed Half Dome and El Capitan in Yosemite in 20 hours and 19 minutes. This is believed to be the first sub-24 hour 'Big Linkup' since Dean Potter and Hans Florine's ascents in 1999, with the exception of Alex Honnold's sub-24 'Triple Crown' solo in 2012. Adding to the significance of his achievement, Pete had only climbed The Nose twice, Half Dome once and had not soloed either route before.
Honnold and Caldwell climb The Nose in sub 2 hours
In June, Alex Honnold and Tommy Caldwell set their third speed record on The Nose of El Capitan in the space of a week, breaking the 2 hour barrier that they had set their sights on, with a time of 1 hour, 58 minutes and 7 seconds (1:58:07). On 4th June, they stopped the clock after 2:01:53, just five days after they set a time of 2:10:15. That's over 2,600m (3 x ~880m) of Yosemite granite climbed at speed in the space of a week...
Keita Kurakami rope-solo frees The Nose
Relatively unknown Japanese climber Keita Kurakami's free ascent of The Nose in rope solo style came as a surprise at a time when some big names were announcing attempts at 'the free Nose.' As if a free ascent with a partner wasn't impressive enough, Keita climbed, abseiled and jumared the classic line alone; all pitches freed in a single push from the ground over 5 days. Keita had redpointed each pitch the previous year, but didn't feel satisfied with his achievement, having not completed a free ascent in a single push from the ground. This was his first big wall rope solo ascent...
15 year-old Connor Herson frees The Nose
Freeing The Nose is a lifetime ambition for many a top climber, but for 15-year-old American Connor Herson, he achieved his goal a fair bit earlier than the 5(!) people who went before him. Not only did he make the youngest ascent to date, but he also climbed the classic in good style with no fixed ropes and completed the full ascent over a 3-day period with his dad in between school commitments. 2018 marked the 25th anniversary of the first free ascent of The Nose by Lynn Hill, and what a year it was...
The Year of the Mainstream Climbing Movie
You *may* have heard of two much-anticipated climbing films that were released in 2018: Free Solo, which documents Alex Honnold's solo ascent of Freerider on El Capitan in 2017, and The Dawn Wall, which tells the story of Tommy Caldwell and Kevin Jorgeson's first ascent of the route of the same name in 2015. Both have won numerous awards and been screened at multiple film festivals and events around the globe. If you haven't seen them yet, are you even a climber? Stay tuned for our UKC interview with Tommy Caldwell about his life before and after The Dawn Wall...
Despite the dark cloud of Brexit tainting the UK's political and cultural image, some of our climbers managed to uphold the UK's reputation somewhat, at least among the national and international climbing scene, with notable achievements at home and abroad.
Emma Twyford on a roll
Emma Twyford had what was perhaps her best climbing year to date in 2018. With two E9s (Once Upon a Time in the South West E9 6c, The Big Issue E9 6c) two E8s - including the infamous Nightmayer E8 6c - and an 8c (Mind Control) under her belt, it might be worth watching this space for news about Emma in 2019...
Will Bosi on fire
Not literally we hope, but the 19-year-old Scot made a considerable mark both outdoors and on the competition scene in 2018. Will made the first repeat of Malcolm Smith's Hunger 9a at the Anvil, ticked Practice of the Wild 8C in Magic Wood, made his first senior final in the Chamonix Lead World Cup and finished top 20 in the Combined event at the World Championships in Innsbruck, showing that he's on the right track for Olympic qualification this year...
E9 Extravaganza: trad round-up
In addition to Emma's E9 ticking spree, her climbing partner James McHaffie also racked up a number of big E numbers in 2018, including the aforementioned Once Upon a Time and new routes up to E8. He also returned for some unfinished business on Cloggy. After a harrowing experience on an onsight attempt of Jerry Moffat's Master's Wall E7 6b in 2000, 'Caff' never returned for the line - until July 2018. He finally ticked the route that both eluded and haunted him for 18 years. Comparing the line to the notorious E9, Indian Face, Caff told UKC: 'It felt the same level as Indian Face to me, but then I have a history with it!' In July, Indian Face saw its 8th ascent by local lad Angus Kille - the first ascent in five years since the sending spree of summer 2013, which saw three ascents in one week. Neil Gresham established a new E9 6c at Dove Crag, which he named Fearless, and Jim Pope ticked the totemic Meshuga E9 6c. Maddie Cope - climbing with Emma and Caff - also ticked Once Upon a Time - her first E9.
Also of note were French couple Florence Pinet and Gérome Pouvreau, who swapped the French heatwave for a British one as they toured the UK in their van last summer. In just a few weeks, the pair headpointed a long list of hard trad classics - a list which any Brit would be rather proud of. Gérome made the 6th ascent of Rhapsody E11 7a and ticked Muy Caliente E9 6c and The Big Issue E9 6c as well as three E8s and a cluster of E7s. Florence also climbed The Big Issue E9 6c, The Quarryman E8 7a, Point Blank E8 6c, Chupacabra E8 6c and Requiem E8 6c.
Dave MacLeod's Big Day Out
One of the most-read news reports of 2018 concerned Scottish all-rounder Dave MacLeod. Dave completed a long-held ambition to complete what he calls his '24/8' challenge - climbing a Font 8A+ boulder, an E8 trad route, an 8a sport route, a VIII,8 winter route and 8 Munros within 24 hours. Dave managed the challenge in 18.5 hours after many years of waiting for perfect conditions to align for all disciplines.
Edward Mills inspired us all
In June, 8-year-old Edward Mills became the youngest person to free Orkney's Old Man of Hoy (137m) and raised over £30,000 for the charity Climbers Against Cancer in the process. In recognition of his fundraising effort, Edward won a 2018 Pride of Britain award. His mum Bekki, who inspired Edward's challenge, had been living with breast cancer and sadly passed away a few months after his feat.
Three Golds in Paraclimbing World Championships for Team GB
At the Innsbruck 2018 Paraclimbing World Championships, Team GB came away with three World Champions and one silver and one bronze medal. Hannah Baldwin, Abbie Robinson and Matt Phillips became World Champions, while Mikey Cleverdon won silver and Anita Aggarwal won bronze.
Hannah Slaney becomes Junior World Bouldering Champion
19 year-old Hannah Slaney of Bristol became Britain's first World Youth Champion, winning gold in the Female Junior category in bouldering at the annual World Youth Championships in Moscow, Russia. The 2018 British Bouldering Champion finished her last ever youth competition in the best possible way.
Johnny Dawes and Ben Moon back to form
2018 was a year of comebacks for some '80s climbing legends. Ben Moon ticked the notoriously tricky Evolution 8c+ at Raven Tor - perhaps not all too surprising given his return to 9a in 2015 - while Johnny Dawes climbed his hardest route since 1990 and defied expectations by ticking an 8b+ slab, Inuit, at La Pedriza in Spain. Johnny's return to fitness at 54 is especially impressive considering his diagnosis of Hashimoto's disease, an autoimmune illness which affects hormone balance by suppressing thyroid activity.
UKC - Our 2018
2018 was another busy year for UKC and Rockfax. We gained a new full-time staff member in September when Andy Ovens joined as an additional Technical Developer: this should speed up progress on some of our long term technical projects. We also welcomed Rebecca Ting on a part-time basis as a Rockfax sub-editor and gear reviewer. You can see Rebecca's extensive women's all-round harness group test here. Our press accreditation for Tokyo 2020 was approved, and we're looking forward to what 2019 will bring.
The Rockfax publishing arm of the company produced three new books - Kalymnos in April, North Wales Slate in September and Spain : El Chorro in early December. Looking forward, we have the very exciting Lake District Climbs book due to be published towards the end of 2019, plus the (very) long-awaited release of the Android version of the Rockfax app earlier in the year.
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