Leah Crane is one of a crop of young British women climbing hard in many disciplines. She has pushed herself on bolts and on boulders and is no slouch on trad gear either. Here she takes us through her pick of some of the most inspirational ascents from 2008.
2008 has been an impressive year for female sends, not just from the Brits but from around the world. The standards are set higher with each new news report. So to round up, here are just some of the most impressive ascents in my opinion from 2008, I'd be here all day congratulating everyone other wise!
Many British climbers prefer to hop on a plane and search out sun kissed rock, but Lucy Creamer (probably Britain's best female sport climber) has embraced all that Raven Tor has to offer, with her ascent of the stamina link: Weedkiller Traverse into Chimes of Freedom (F8b), a very long and powerful link-up. This ascent was quite under the radar but was an impressive effort to say the least.
I must also mention 14 year old Kitty Wallace, who had an amazing trip to Kalymnos, redpointing Dani Boy (F8a) [originally graded F8a+, now down to F8a] as well as onsighting 7c.
I'm sure we can expect to see a lot more from this young lady in the future!
In world stakes, an impressive run of form came in April, when Charlotte Durif (17 at the time), from France, wowed the sport climbing world with an ascent of Home Sweet Home, (F8c+) and Smoke (F8c) at Pierrot beach. She climbed both routes second go and became the 5th woman to climb F8c+, after Bereziartu, Sansov, Vidmar and Rodden.
Moving onto bouldering, we have definitely seen standards raised and from some new names as well. Back at Raven Tor, Ben's Roof (Font 7c+) has seen three sends all in the space of a week. Ben's Roof saw an ascent from myself in October, shortly followed my Mina Leslie-Wujastyk and then by Rae Cowie.
Ben's Roof, is a near horizontal roof, following a series of crimps and pockets, heel hooks and toe hooks, including an incredibly painful knee bar. Aesthetically not very pretty to look at, the moves on this climb, in my opinion are amazing and the last moves have seen many a boulderer pop off, right at the end. The problem has seen two other British female sends, prior to 2008, by Lucy Creamer and Siobhan Coughlan.
Another boulder problem that seen many female top-outs is Brad Pit at Stanage Plantation (Font 7c+). This year has seen Lucinda Whittaker, Katherine Schirrmacher, and Mina Leslie-Wujastyk. It is a classic gritstone problem, and notorious for its incredibly high heel hook at the start and for most people a stopper first move. Mina actually slapped the jug at the top a couple of days before she went and completed it. I don't know what would have been more frustrating for her, not doing it that day or doing it that day and then not being able to top out due to there being about an inch of ice on the top! She's off to Switzerland for a month in January so watch this space...
Watch a video of Brad Pit
Now over to America, for one of my personal bouldering heroes Lisa Rands:
"First done by Chris Sharma in 2000, the problem has gained almost mythical status as one of the most popular and most famous lines in the world, and for good reason: it is an extraordinary climb"
The Mandala V12. This thing isn't only hard bouldering but also quite scary, with a big long move to a crimp on the lip, quite high off the floor. Having seen footage of this climb being done by various guys, it's V12 for a reason and no easy path even for them, remembering back to when it was Chris Sharma's project in one of the early Dosage's, and then a few years later, it sees a female ascent...
Alex Puccio Interview:
19 year old Alex Puccio, also from the US has had an amazing year. Since August, Alex has completed four V12's. This Girl is on fire at the moment and I thought I'd ask her some questions:
Leah: What age did you start climbing and how did you get into it?
Alex: I started climbing when I was 13. My mom got me into it. She had a boyfriend that got her into climbing then she got my younger sister and brother, and me into it. Now my mom has been a coach for a few years and my little sister and brother are on her team.
Leah: Do you class yourself as a boulderer or do you do ropes too?
Alex: I am mainly a boulderer. I would have to say I enjoy bouldering more, but sometimes I will rope climb a bit if I feel like I need to change it up or if I have an injury.
Leah: What kind of bouldering is your favourite?
Alex: My favorite type of bouldering would have to be sand stone, but I like the way some granite climbs better.
Leah: Obviously you're doing pretty well in comps at the moment, do you think they help your outdoor bouldering or do you just do them for the fun of it?
Alex: I think Indoor climbing and outdoor climbing are almost two different sports. I don't feel like I can climb outside a lot and then go to a comp and do well. I think climbing inside gets you stronger, but it doesn't really teach you the skills you need for climbing on real rock. And I do enjoy competing. I like the feeling of getting nervous and excited and comps are perfect for that.
Leah: Who are your heroes?
Alex: Tommy Caldwell, Beth Rodden and Lynn Hill. All these amazing people inspire me in different ways. They are some of the best climber's in the world.
And finally on to good old trad climbing. With a funny year of weather here in Britain, trying to work a project might have been quite difficult for some people that needed cold and DRY conditions! But Katy Whittaker seemed to time things just right. Earlier in the year, Katy got the youngest ascent of E7 with Kaluza Klein (E7 6c), a smeary, rounded arête with low gear. However, she wanted to up it again. Warming for her next route on the classic E5 White Wand at Stanage, she headed over to Millstone where she got what is thought to be the second female ascent of Masters Edge E7 6b/c. Obviously Katy has a fine head for heights and I was interested to hear what some of her thoughts were:
Katy Whittaker Interview:
Leah: When choosing what route to do next, do you pick a good looking line, or do you play to your strengths?
Katy: Usually I love doing awesome looking lines, they're what attract me the most but I also enjoy doing smeary slab climbs as well.
Leah: How was your experience on Masters Edge?
Katy: Stood at the bottom looking at it on the day I was going to lead it I got quite nervous, but as soon as I pulled on and started climbing I was fine, all my nerves went and I just concentrated on getting to the top. The move before the top, my foot placements went slightly wrong, which wasn't good, but I kept it together and just grabbed the top hold quite relieved!
Leah: So stood at the bottom, tying in, what's going through your head? Do you do any mental preparation before hand?
Katy: A few people have asked this question before and I don't really know the answer. I don't do any mental prep as such. I do the obvious like route read and think positively but other than that I just tie in and get on with it!
Leah: Trad heroes?
Katy: Johnny Dawes, Lisa Rands and anyone else who's good..
And last but not least, I think one of the most inspirational sends that I've seen this year is from Beth Rodden and her achievement on Meltdown. She didn't give it a grade but some have suggested F 8c+/ 5.14c, making her the first female ever to climb this grade on traditional gear. The new route has been described as "improbable". It climbs an ultra-thin finger crack for about 45 feet on slightly overhanging, dark, north-facing granite, and then transitions into "discontinuous seams to the top". She devised a new way of racking up; placing three vital cams on her harness by duck taping them on instead of clipping them so she could rip them off easily saving precious energy. Having seen on a DVD how small the finger crack is and the holds she's holding on to, never mind the moves she making between them, it is truly an inspirational effort by her.
- You can read an interview with Beth Rodden after her Meltdown ascent on UKC: Beth Rodden Interview
So bring on 2009! I wonder just how far the bar will get raised...