2014: The year of the Scottish Referendum, conflict in the Crimea and Gaza, aviation disasters, the Ebola epidemic, the first comet landing and the infamous "selfie". It was a year filled with a heady mix of excitement, tragedy and bewilderment. But what were the top stories hitting the headlines in the climbing world? Bananas, fake beards and egg sandwiches all featured in the climbing news in 2014...
On a more serious note, arguably the most remarkable development in British climbing in the last twelve months was the progression in female climbing standards – with the seemingly elusive first 8c redpoint and a rapid succession of hard sport ascents, hard trad, World Cup finals, gold medals and barriers broken all-round.
In this article I take at look at the most memorable news and events of this year covered by UKC, which inspired, shocked and undoubtedly left us with sweaty palms and an overly-ambitious tick-list for 2015...
Alex Honnold kicked-off the year by soloing the 15 pitch route El Sendero Luminoso in Mexico. Ryan Pasquill headpointed Sleepy Hollow E10 7a at The Roaches, making its second ever ascent after Pete Whittaker. Tragic news came from Scotland as Donald Tiso - director of Tiso outdoor retail chain and son of its founder, Graham Tiso - died in a fall whilst walking in the Ben Starav area.
Alex Honnold and Tommy Caldwell made an incredible first ascent of the 5km long Fitzroy Traverse in Patagonia, Argentina. Adam Ondra grabbed the coveted second ascent of Chris Sharma's route First Round, First Minute 9b in Margalef, Spain. A major landslide on Portland caused concern, with serious damage to popular crags in the area. Meanwhile in the US Mina-Leslie Wujastyk was on form in Hueco, ticking a string of problems up to 8A+, including Barefoot on Sacred Ground. Young British dry-tooling star Emma Powell won Bronze in the UIAA World Youth Ice Climbing Championships.
The GB Bouldering Team suffered a sudden loss of funding which was remedied by the generous British public, who collectively chipped-in to Crowdfund the team and send some members to World Cups throughout the year. Ben Bransby made the second ascent of Pete Whittaker's Baron Greenback E9/10 at Wimberry, and Pete himself returned to climb the direct version of the route at E10. The first man to onsight 9a - German sport climber Alex Megos - had a whistle-stop tour of the UK, rapidly ticking-off mega classics and limestone testpieces at Malham and Raven Tor such as Mecca 8b+ and Unjustified 8c.
Katy Whittaker climbed China Crisis 8b+ in Oliana, Spain - the beginning of a groundbreaking year for British women's climbing. Climbers Against Cancer founder John Ellison became an Honorary Member of the IFSC following his dedicated work to promote awareness of cancer and raise funds through the charity. Unfortunately, the climbing world lost a great hero this month in the form of Sean "Stanley" Leary, who died in a BASE jumping accident in Utah.
Climbers were welcomed on the 1st of the month (!) with the almost unbelieveable news that the force of gravity is in decline, resulting in climbing becoming easier, especially at certain crags...
Neil Mawson headpointed Parthian Shot E9/10, making its second re-ascent after a crucial flake broke off. Shauna Coxsey got her 2014 competition season off to a good start with a Silver medal in the Chongqing Boulder World Cup and not long after ticked her second 8B, Zarzaparilla in Albarracin. Climbers Against Cancer became the official charity of the IFSC and Hazel Findlay became the first British woman to climb 8c with a fast ascent of Fish Eye in Oliana.
Devastatingly,12 sherpas were killed in an ice avalanche on Everest as a huge serac collapsed.
Shauna Coxsey hit the headlines once again, becoming the first British woman to win a Boulder World Cup round. She managed this amazing feat not once, but twice - with Gold medals in Grindelwald and Innsbruck in two consecutive events. James McHaffie freed both Salathe Wall and El Nino on El Capitan and Dan McManus freed the latter after narrowly missing out on a free ascent of Salathe. Belgian climber Muriel Sarkany redpointed PuntX 9a in Gorges du Loup. Alex Megos showed his incredible talent once again by climbing Action Directe 9a in under two hours in Frankenjura. Meanwhile in the UK, Blencathra went on sale...
James McHaffie climbed 100 Extreme solos in the Lakes in 19 hours, a feat covered enthusiastically by the national newspapers; the most remarkable aspect in their eyes being his minimal sustenance of "just one egg sandwich!" during the feat. Kilian Jornet achieved a new speed record on Denali, Dave Barrans and Michaela Tracy were crowned British Bouldering Champions for 2015 and Molly Thompson-Smith won Gold at the European Youth Cup round in Imst, Austria. Steve McClure made the long-awaited first British onsight of Strawberries E7 6b at Tremadog.
Pete Whittaker completed 150 Extreme grit solos in a day in the (un)suitably extreme summer heat. The first all-female Nepalese team summited K2. Shauna Coxsey came 2nd overall in the Boulder World Cup, narrowly pipped to the post by Japan's Akiyo Noguchi. Blencathra sold for more than the £1.75 million asking price to an unknown buyer. Alex Megos redpointed Biographie 9a+ on his third attempt, making the fastest-ever repeat of this historic route at Ceuse.
12 year-old bouldering star Ashima Shiraishi ticked Golden Shadow 8B+ and became the second woman ever to climb 8B+. However, just a week or so later, Shauna Coxsey climbed One Summer in Paradise - her 3rd 8B - swiftly followed by New Base Line 8B+ in Magic Wood, Switzerland- thereby joining a very small and very elite group of three (soon to become four) women to have bouldered this grade.
Chris Bonnington turned 80 and celebrated by climbing the Old Man of Hoy to raise awareness and funds for motor neurone disease (MND) charities in memory of his wife Wendy, who died of the condition in July. Emma Twyford became the first woman to climb 8c on British soil with an ascent of Unjustified at Malham Cove and followed this with a flash of Bucket Dynasty E7 6b at Dove Crag.
Michaela Tracy qualified for the finals of the Boulder World Championship in Munich alongside Shauna - the first time two British women have qualified for a final and a truly spirited performance by Michaela. Alex Puccio ticked Jade 8B+, becoming the third woman in about a month to boulder 8B+ and the fourth in history. Sachi Amma of Japan made the eleventh ascent of Biographie 9a+ at Ceuse - its fourth ascent this year.
The following two months had so many newsworthy ascents that September earned the pseudonym of "Sendtember"...
James Pearson made a fast headpoint of Rhapsody E11 7a at Dumbarton Rock, Neil Mawson put up a new route named Choronzon E10 (8b+) at Pembroke and Charlie Woodburn repeated Skye Wall E8 6c. In the Lead World Championships in Gijon, Spain, Jain Kim and Adam Ondra took the win, whilst Team GB's Fran Brown took Gold in the Paraclimbing World Masters event. Britain's very first Deep Water Soloing competition was held in Exeter which left competitors making a splash and even gave a few "Canal Belly" with complaints of vomiting shortly afterwards! Michaela Tracy and Liam Halsey won the event.
Pete Whittaker and Tom Randall paired up once more and completed the Brown and Whillans challenge routes on both the Eastern and Western grit edges in 22 hours. A new route on the North Face of the Grandes Jorasses was climbed just as a huge serac fall occurred on the South Face, and Dave Macleod put up a new route on the Cima Ovest in the Dolomites, named Project Fear.
Pete Whittaker was on form once again, flashing Freerider 5.12d on El Capitan and becoming the first person to flash the route in its entirety in one push. Also in Yosemite, the female El Cap speed record was broken by Libby Sauter and Mayan Smith-Gobat with a time of 5 hours and 2 minutes on an ascent of The Nose. Paul Ramsden and Mick Fowler made a first ascent of the North East Face of Hagshu in the Indian Himalaya. A status war broke out between Sheffield and Lochaber, debating who deserved the title of "Outdoor Capital of the UK." Angela Eiter climbed her first 9a Hades in Tirol, Austria and Zauberfee 8c+ in Arco, Italy.
Katy Whittaker redpointed Mecca 8b+ at Raven Tor, followed by Mina Leslie-Wujastyk climbing Mecca Extension at 8c, the third 8c completed by a British woman ever, and all in the space of a few months. Emma Twyford continued this female run of form by headpointing Strawberries E7 6b, and the 2014 Women's Climbing Symposium was a great success once again, having taken place in Glasgow this year. Nick Bullock and Will Sim made the second ascent of the House-Anderson route on the North Face of Mt Alberta.
Unfortunately October was also tinged with sadness following tragic deaths of trekkers in Nepal following violent storms, and climbers and skiers killed by avalanches in South America and the Himalayas.
Tommy Caldwell freed the crux pitch of his Dawn Wall project, and Kendal Mountain Festival supplied beer, food and films at what was once again a fantastic showcase of outdoor culture, art and an important social and industry gathering. Pete Whittaker grew a beard and dressed up as a banana and freed three big walls in Yosemite and Jorg Verhoeven freed The Nose on El Capitan.
The IFSC Lead World Cup finished off - Jain Kim and Jakob Schubert winning overall. Scandal erupted as Clif Bar dropped a number of its athletes engaged in soloing, BASE jumping or slacklining due to the risks involved. Greg Boswell flashed M11 and a Swiss team made three Himalyan first ascents. Areas of the Peak District were featured on Google Street View as the first off-road terrain to be included, enabling you to wave to your Mum from Stanage.
Renowned British climber Dave Pegg sadly passed away.
Steve Dunning headpointed New Statesman E9, followed by Will Atkinson's Santa Hat-clad ascent on Christmas Eve. Will Sim kick-started the Scottish winter season with repeats of Tomahawk Crack and Happy Tyroleans. The much-revered Plywood Masters competition made a popular comeback, Jeff Mercier onsighted D13 and Angela Eiter climbed her second 9a and another 8c+ to round off the year.
Shauna Coxsey was nominated for the BT Action Woman of the Year Award in light of her incredibly successful season, finishing second behind Olympic dressage rider Charlotte Dujardin. Top British climber Lucy Creamer returned to form in Spain after years of injury by flashing and onsighting two 8a's in the same day. Kilian Jornet set a new speed record on Aconcagua with a time of 12 hours and 49 minutes. Just as we thought nothing else could possibly go down on the very last day of the year, Austrian Lead World Cup winner Jakob Schubert made a stunning ascent of Fight or Flight 9b at Oliana, Spain - becoming only the third person ever to climb this grade (on his birthday as well!) Meanwhile, Tommy Caldwell and Kevin Jorgeson are working their way up Dawn Wall...
Here’s to 2015 – best wishes for the New Year from the UKC Team!
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