Defining a Decade - Climbing News of the 2010s (Part 1)

Looking back at the start of the decade, the climbing world was a very different place. Adam Ondra was 17-years-old and catching up with Chris Sharma, highball bouldering was nearly a thing and nobody knew what a Wideboy was.

The sport and all of its disciplines have changed dramatically in the space of ten years; from a huge push in the standards of sport climbing and bouldering, competitions emerging as a true discipline of the sport, fast alpine-style ascents in the greater ranges, and the emergence of some iconic men and women who have shaped our weird and wonderful pastime.

We've taken a look back through the decade and gathered some national and international highs and lows. This first article focuses on 2010-2014.

2010

The Game by Daniel Woods

Daniel Woods completes his long-term project The Game in Boulder Canyon. He graded the climb 8C+ and it becomes a contender for one of the hardest in the world.

MacLeod makes a winter ascent of Anubis

Dave MacLeod made a winter ascent of his E8 route Anubis on Ben Nevis, spectacularly raising the bar for Scottish winter climbing. MacLeod said: "The number of hours to finish the lead might just be countable on one hand, and completely exhausted me for the following three days. In other words, I completely went for it."

Golpe de Estado (9b) for Adam Ondra

A 17-year-old Adam Ondra repeats Chris Sharma's Golpe de Estado (9b) at Siurana in what would become an incredible decade for the Czech climber.

2nd ascent of The Story of Two Worlds for Dai Koyamada

Dai Koyamada made the second ascent of Dave Graham's The Story of Two Worlds. The problem links two Font 8B+s into each other and at the time of the first ascent was heralded as a new level in bouldering.

The Indian Face for MacLeod

Dave MacLeod makes a rare ascent of The Indian Face climbing the route in less than ideal conditions, just before a large patch of rain enveloped much of Snowdonia's mountains.

Scotland's hardest for Malc Smith

Malcolm Smith adds Scotland's hardest sport route at The Anvil. Hunger weighs in at 9a and it held out until the end of the decade for a second ascent.

Legendary German climber Kurt Albert killed

Kurt, the inventor of the Rotpunkt (redpoint), was often regarded as the catalyst behind modern sport climbing. Kurt painted red circles at the base of routes when they were projects, and filled the circle with a 'redpoint' when he had managed to climb them, and this is where the now universal climbing term 'redpoint' came from.

Font 8B for Anna Stöhr

Anna Stöhr climbs her first Font 8B with an ascent of Riverbed in Magic Wood. Anna has been extremely influential in the development of hard bouldering and competitions throughout the decade.

Ryan Pasquill flashes Knockin' on Heaven's Door

Dark horse Ryan Pasquill completed his second flash of an E8. His first was of End of the Affair in the previous decade.

Leo Houlding frees The Prophet

Leo Houlding, partnered by Jason Pickles, free climbed his long-term project on El Capitan: The Prophet. Documented in a film by Alastair Lee, the route went on to become one of the best (and hardest) on El Cap.

Pete Robins repeats Sea of Tranquillity:

Pete Robins repeated Sea of Tranquillity (F8c+) at Lower Pen Trwyn, Llandudno, North Wales. The route, first climbed by Ben Moon in 1993 was originally graded F8c, but in line with modern grading has now been upped to F8c+.

2011

Gasherbrum 2, Alpine style in winter

Simone Moro, Denis Urubko and Cory Richards became the first climbers to reach the summit of an 8000er in the Karakorum winter season

Ondra onsights 8c+

In a warmup for the rest of the decade, Ondra onsighted two 8c+s in two days. It wasn't the first time the grade had been onsighted (Patxi Usobiaga laid claim to that), but it showed that Ondra was starting to take the sport to new levels.

First Round First Minute

Chris Sharma completes his long term project First Round First Minute, in Margalef. The route was made famous by Reel Rock in a film about Sharma attempting the route. It has become a benchmark 9b.

Shauna Coxsey on the world stage

An 18-year-old Shauna Coxsey starts to make headlines, firstly with an ascent of Pilgrim (8A+) which was the hardest problem climbed by a British woman at the time. A couple of months later, she went on to reach her first of many World Cup Finals.

Hazel Findlay climbs Once Upon a Time in the Southwest (E9 6c)

Hazel became the first British woman to climb an E9 with her ascent of Dave Birkett's route at Dyer's Lookout.

The Big Bang gets a repeat

James McHaffie repeated Wales' hardest sport route - The Big Bang (9a) - at Lower Pen Trwyn. The route was first climbed in 1996 by Neil Carson and was Britain's first 9a. James' ascent was the first repeat of the notoriously sharp and desperate line.

Century Crack

The Whittaker and Randall Wideboyz team climbed a career-defining route with their ascent of Stevie Haston's infamous Century Crack project in the Utah desert. They climbed the 120ft crack twice after some criticism for using pre-placed cams on the first ascent.

The Shark's Fin on Meru

Americans Conrad Anker, Jimmy Chin and Renan Osturk made the first ascent of the much sought-after direct line up the Shark's Fin on the northeast side of Meru Peak in the Garhwal Himalaya.

Highball Bouldering starts to get higher

The decade saw a massive rise in the number of bouldering pads at crags. Two pioneers of the genre, Dan Varian and Ned Feehally kicked off the decade with an ascent of The Prow at Kyloe above pads. A month later, Varian went on to get the second ascent of Andy Earl's The Dark Side in a similar style.

Adam Ondra flashes Gecko Assis

Ondra made a clinical flash of the complex and technical Gecko Assis in Fontainebleau. It was the second flash of the grade, but perhaps the most impressive.

2012

David Lama Frees the Compressor Route

Days after Hayden Kennedy and Jason Kruk chopped the original bolts from the infamous Compressor Route on Cerro Torre, Austrian climber David Lama grabbed the first-ever free ascent of the line.

Lama was heavily criticised for his efforts on the route in 2011, during which extra bolts were placed and gear left abandoned, stepped up to the plate and made an ascent that will surely go down in mountaineering history

Tim Emmett and Klemen Premrl Finish Spray On

The pair complete one of the most outrageous ice routes in the world at Helmcken Falls. Emmett and Premrl successfully climbed the route of 'Spray On' all the way to the very top of the cave, turning the lip, and continuing up the 60m overhanging headwall to the very top, making a long multi-pitch route. Normal ice routes go up to around WI7 or WI7+, but due to the super steep nature of the spray ice at Helmcken Falls, which is unique in style, the grades for these routes are a few notches higher - to WI11!

Northumberland's hardest route for Dan Varian

Dan Varian has added what is likely Northumberland's hardest route with his first ascent of Empty the Bones of You at Back Bowden Doors. This sandstone route/highball is around Font 8A+ in difficulty and is very high. It takes a line between the existing routes The Darkside (E9) and Mordreth (E6).

Shauna Coxsey places 2nd in a World Cup

Shauna was narrowly beaten by Slovenian climber Mina Markovic at the competition at the city of Log-Dragomer, Slovenia, but a gold was close…

Sasha Digiulian repeats Era Vella, 9a

American climber Sasha Digiulian repeated Chris Sharma's Era Vella (9a) at Margalef. Sasha had previously climbed Pure Imagination (8c+/9a) in Red River Gorge.

Hard Swiss boulders for MacLeod

Scottish trad, sport and winter climber Dave MacLeod showed us his bouldering skills with an ascent of Daniel Woods' Font 8C Mystic Stylez in Magic Wood, Switzerland. The ascent followed his repeats of New Base Line (8B+) and Conquistador Direct (8B/+).

Yosemite Triple for Alex Honnold

Alex Honnold climbed El Capitan, Half Dome and Mt Watkins solo in under 24 hours. Alex climbed most of the route 'free solo' - without a rope or any protection, and for the hardest sections he self belayed.

James McHaffie Climbs 'The Meltdown' - 9a Slab

James climbed the long-standing slate project The Meltdown to give the UK its hardest slab route at around 9a. The line was first attempted and bolted by Johnny Dawes when he was climbing at his prime, during the time that he was very active on the slate. Johnny came close to completing the route, but never quite ticked it.

Font 8Bs for Ashima Shiraishi

11-year-old Ashima Shiraishi climbed three 8Bs in 2012 with ascents of Crown of Aragorn in Hueco Tanks, Steady Plums at Topside in South Africa and Fragile Steps in Rocklands, South Africa.

Fran Brown wins World Championships

British climber Fran Brown won the Paraclimbing World Championships in Paris. Fran, who has partially lost the use of her legs following a spinal cord injury, was competing in the female physical-disability category.

Mecca (8b+) for Mina Leslie-Wujastyk

With her ascent of the Raven Tor 8b+ Mecca - The Mid Life Crisis, Mina Leslie-Wujastyk became the first British woman to climb 8b+ in Britain, and the second British women to climb that grade anywhere.

First Ascent of Change (9b+) by Adam Ondra

Ondra started to push the sport to new grade boundaries in 2012 with his ascent of Change at Flatanger. The route is a 55m monster that breaks down into a 9a+/b, followed by a rest and then a final 9a. A new level.

First female Font 8B+

Tomoko Ogawa became the first woman to climb a confirmed 8B+ boulder problem by repeating Dai Koyamada's Catharsis at Shiobara in Japan.

Hukkataival climbs old project 'Off the Wagon' (8C)

Nalle Hukkataival made a long-awaited ascent of a project made famous by Chris Sharma called 'Off the Wagon.' He graded the problem Font 8C and although the problem has come down to Font 8B+, the problem is no less iconic.

French Legend Patrick Edlinger Passes Away

Iconic French climber Patrick Edlinger died aged 52. Edlinger was well known not only for his hard sport onsights in the early 80's, but also for his audacious solo ascents of technical and hard routes such as Orange Mécanique, an 8a at Cimai, and multiple solos in the huge Verdon Gorge.

He went on to climb routes at the very limit of difficulty in the late 80's.

Major New Route for Bracey and Helliker

British Alpinists Jon Bracey and Matt Helliker added a major new line to the northeast face of Mont Grouvetta, Mont Blanc range, Italy.

Eyes Wide Shut tackles the NE face of Mont Rouge de Grouvetta and weighs in at 900m, ED1, M6, AO, UIAA IV+.

2013

Hardest trad mixed route in the world

Austrians Albert Leichtfried and Benedikt Purner established what was possibly the world's hardest traditional mixed climb. Senza Piombo is located in Val Lunga, in the Dolomites of northern Italy and is a naturally protected five-pitch M10.

Adam Ondra Climbs the Dura Dura (9b+)

Ondra and Sharma had been battling for the first ascent of the project dubbed La Dura Dura for a few years and Ondra grabbed the first ascent in February 2013. The route featured a Font 8B+ and was a contender for hardest in the world. Sharma stuck with it and grabbed the second ascent a month later.

Careless Torque for Leslie-Wujastyk

Mina Leslie-Wujastyk climbed the classic arete highball of Careless Torque (8A) at the Stanage Plantation, Peak District. The route follows the stunning arete to the left of the classic ramp-line Not to be taken away, and is one of the most beautiful and well known lines on gritstone.

Mina's was the first female ascent of the line.

Coveted 2nd ascent for Boswell, Bullock and Robertson

Greg Boswell, Nick Bullock and Guy Robertson made the coveted second ascent of Mort (IX,9) on Lochnagar. The route had its first winter ascent back in 2000 by Brian Davison, Andy Nisbet and Dave McGimpsey, but had been attempted in winter as far back as 1985.

Hazel Findlay Climbs Chicama - E9 6c

Hazel Findlay climbed her second route of E9 with an ascent of Chicama at Trearddur Bay, near Gogarth. The exceptionally steep route had lain unrepeated for a decade.

First 9a onsight by Alex Megos

The big one and perhaps not the person we expected to reach this milestone first! A 19-year-old Alex Megos onsighted Estado Critico at Siurana. The route was bolted by Dani Andrada and first climbed by Ramon Julian back in 2004. The grade had been hovering around 8c+/9a, but several top climbers had confirmed 9a for it, including Adam Ondra…

Jordan Buys repeats Rainshadow

Jordan's ascent of Rainshadow, the third after Adam Ondra's in 2011, was the first repeat of a Steve McClure F9a by a Brit - a worthy prize and one which a number of top sport-climbing Brits had been vying for. Justifiably, Jordan was over the moon: "best climbing day of my life so far!"

McHaffie and Bransby Repeat Longhope Direct

James McHaffie and Ben Bransby very quickly made the second free ascent of Dave Macleod's Longhope Direct on St John's Head, Hoy, Scotland.

Shauna Coxsey climbs Nuthin' but Sunshine

By repeating David Graham's 2000-test piece Nuthin' but sunshine at Lower Chaos in Rocky Mountain National Park, CO, Shauna Coxsey has become one of very few women to have climbed font 8B.

Babsi Zangerl climbs Silbergeier, 8b+ MP

Barbara "Babsi" Zangerl repeated Beat Kammerlander's notoriously run-out and technical route Silbergeier at Rätikon, Switzerland.

Cobra Crack for the Wideboyz

The Wideboyz, Pete Whittaker and Tom Randall have turned their attention to finger cracks and made rare ascents of one of the hardest finger cracks in the world, Cobra Crack, 5.14-.

Varian adds The Rail to Bowden Doors

Dan Varian added a desperate new sandstone mega-problem - The Rail - to Bowden Doors in Northumberland.

The problem weighs in at roughly 8B+ and climbs a beautiful wall of textured sandstone.

Steck solos Annapurna South Face

Ueli Steck soloed the huge South Face of Annapurna (8091m), Nepal, in one of the most impressive Himalayan climbs in history. This was Ueli's third attempt at the 2500m south face, his previous attempts ended when he was first hit by stonefall in 2007, resulting in a 300m fall and then in 2008 when he abandoned an attempt to go to the aid of another climber who tragically died.

Tyler Landman claims Smiling Buttress

Tyler Landman nabbed the first ascent of one of the most infamous gritstone last great problems, Smiling Buttress at Curbar. Tyler climbed the line above pads, having worked it on a top-rope first.

Smiling Buttress was orginally tried by Ben Moon in the nineties, documented in the seminal Hard Grit

Ben Bransby reclimbs Parthian Shot

Ben Bransby climbed Parthian Shot at Burbage in the Peak District, making the first lead of the route after the breaking of a crucial hold 2011.

This famous route was graded E9 until the crucial 'shipwreck' flake was broken off in a fall by visiting Canadian climber Will Stanhope.

New E10 at the Roaches for Pete Whittaker

One Staffordshire Grit's Last Great Problems was climbed, the direct start to Headless Horseman, E1 5b, at The Roaches. Climbed by Pete Whittaker, it is a very bold and technical line, first tried by Simon Nadin, Pete graded it around E10.

2014

Caldwell and Honnold complete Fitzroy Traverse

Alex Honnold and Tommy Caldwell made the first ascent of the 5km long Fitzroy Traverse in Patagonia, Argentina. The route was Honnold's first route in Patagonia and was one of the great challenges of the area.

Sean 'Stanley' Leary Killed BASE Jumping

Sean 'Stanley' Leary was killed in a BASE jumping accident in Utah, USA. Leary was well known to many British climbers after starring in a run of Alastair Lee films such as The Asgard Project and The Last Great Climb. He was a hugely successful Yosemite climber who had broken several records on the big walls of the valley.

Baron Greenback Direct (E10) for Whittaker

Pete Whittaker made the first ascent of the direct start to Baron Greenback, E9 at Wimberry. Pete climbed the original line back in May 2013, skirting in from the left to avoid the hard boulder problem start. The new start added a hard, scary highball boulder problem to an already desperate route.

Hukkataival claims sit start to Bügeleisen

Nalle Hukkataival made the first ascent of Bügeleisen Sit Start at Maltatal in southern Austria. This was one of the most famous projects in the world of bouldering.

Shauna Coxsey wins gold at World Cup

Shauna won gold with a win at the World Cup in Grindelwald. She went onto place 2nd in the overall series in what became a breakthrough year for the rising star from Runcorn.

100 Lakeland Extremes for James McHaffie

James McHaffie soloed 100 routes of E1 and above in the Lake District. Caff started at 3:40am by soloing Central Buttress, E1 5b, on Scafell before running to the next crag on his list. Caff's list of crags covered roughly includes; Scafell, Pers Gill Crag, Flat Crags, Neckband Crag, Gimmer, Pavey Ark, and then down into Borrowdale to eventually finish at Castle Rock.

150 Extreme Grit Solos in a Day for Pete Whittaker

Grit guru Pete Whittaker soloed 150 routes graded E1 or harder in a single, hot day in the Peak District. Inspired by Ron Fawcett's original 100 Peak extremes in a day, Pete decided to see if he could take it a step further.

New Base Line (8B+) for Shauna Coxsey

Shauna Coxsey repeated Bernd Zangerl's New Base Line, 8B+, at Magic Wood/Averstal, Switzerland. This was her first of the grade making her the third female ever after Tomoko Ogawa and Ashima Shiraishi, the latter beating her by just one day.

Ondra joins the 9a onsight club

Adam Ondra has onsighted Stefano Ghisolfi's TCT, 9a, at Gravere, Italy, making him the second person to onsight the grade after Alex Megos. Apparently, he was very close to onsighting La prophétie des grenouilles as well, making it two 9a onsights in a day…

Mawson adds Pembroke E10

Neil Mawson made the first ascent of a new route in Pembroke at Stack Rocks Area which he has named Choronzon. Its grade of E10 (8b+) makes it Pembroke's hardest route yet. The line follows a 30 degree overhanging wall for 30 metres with good but spaced gear, only being dangerous in the easier territory.

Pete Whittaker as close as you can get to flashing El Cap

Pete climbed Freerider via the Teflon Corner in a single push first go. The nuance in his ascent is that he fell off his attempt on the Boulder Problem pitch and then flashed the alternative method. Either way, it was one step closer to a 'pure' flash of El Capitan and it's something to wind the American's up with.

Dave Pegg passed away aged 47

Pegg was an influential rock climber in the UK prior to his move to the USA in 1996. He was particularly active on the gritstone outcrops of Yorkshire, and some of his more notable UK routes include Mind Bomb (E7) at Earl Crag, The Bottom Line (E7) at Brimham Rocks, MaDMAn (E8) at Wimberry, Heart Beat City (E8) at Rylstone, as well as the amazingly situated First and Last and Always (E7) on the high mountain crag of Esk Buttress in the Lake District.

Pegg continued his obsession with climbing after his move America, and after a stint working at Climbing Magazine, founded the guidebook company Wolverine Publishing.




1 Jan

Nice. I wonder if the free ascent of arch wall on the troll wall should have made this list? I'm surprised at how little it gets remembered given that it was absolutely heroic. I think the people who did it kept it low key and didn't go down the whole sponsorship/drones/netflix route (not a dig at those who did).

https://www.ukclimbing.com/news/2010/08/big_wall_news_from_norway-57150

1 Jan

Not sure the change has been that dramatic. More incremental - more of the same and at a higher level. I think the decade which saw dramatic change was the 1980s, at least in rock climbing - emergence of ‘pro’ sponsored climbers (although they weren’t the first to embrace structured training - that was already a thing for some top climbers back in the 1970s), development of sport climbing, rapid increase in sport and trad standards, sticky rubber shoes and international comps.

1990s for the genesis of light and fast Alpine style ascents - for example Mark Twight.

Not sure when bouldering really took off in terms of number of boulderers and grades - probably 2000s?

The first modern style climbing walls were in the 1990s.

The main thing the 2010s brought us was social media, so we get to hear about stuff a lot more often and a lot quicker. That makes it sound like what’s happening is revolutionary. In fact it’s mostly just a continuation of the upward trajectory which got its first major boost in the 1980s. This is not to detract from today’s top climbers - just to say that they aren’t exactly revolutionary.

1 Jan

I was about to write something similar although would also have said there were also major changes in the 70s connected with better gear being widely available.

2 Jan

I sincerely hope that the part 2 (or 3 or whatever) includes the fact that Sav (aka Mountain Spirit) got out climbing before the decade was up....

2 Jan

Great effort pulling all that lot together,

Chris

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