Some readers may remember a time when ascents of the hardest sport climbs took weeks, and in some cases protracted sieges of up to a year before redpoint success was achieved. Remember Mark Leach's 46 day effort to produce Cry Freedom 8b+ at Malham in 1988?
Only three years ago Steve McClure said about 8b+, "Reaching 8b+ is a whole new world of hard climbing. 8a may be the magic grade, but 8b+ is touching the boundaries of what is humanly possible. 8a can be climbed on fitness and power, 8b+ cannot."
These days the top climbers are onsighting this grade, taking minutes rather than days - including Steve who has two 8b+ onsights under his belt. One of the first big break throughs came with Swiss climber Ellie Chevieux's onsight of Massey Fergusson 8b+ at the Calanques (France) way back in 1995. Almost ten years later, in 2004 Yuji Hirayama achieved another new standard with his onsight of White Zombi, 8c at Baltzola (Spain).
Patxi Usobiaga, winner of the 2007 World Cup (interview), is experiencing a run of form never witnessed before. On December 3rd Dougald MacDonald reported (link) that Usobiaga, "has concluded perhaps the most impressive week in sport-climbing," redpointing two 9a+'s and a 8c+/9a and onsights of 8b, 8c, 8b+. Soon after on the 9th December, taking only five tries, he made the first ascent of a Daniel Andrada project, Fuck the system, at Santa Linya with a proposed a grade of 9a. Patxi Usobiaga has now onsighted several 8c's, the first in October 2005 with Gaua at Lezain and his second, Pata Negra at Rodellar in 2006.
Then on Tuesday, 11th of December he achieved a world first, an onsight of an 8c+ with the first ascent of a project Bizi Euskaraz at Etxauri, a crag in the Navarra region of Spain. Ekaitz Maiz who bolted the route was present at Patxi's onsight, and with other strong Spanish climbers concur that the route is 8c+.
PHOTOS at www.patxiusobiaga.com
You can watch a video of Patxi Usobiaga climbing a 9a at Etxauri here
You can watch a video of Yuji Hirayama onsighting White Zombi 8c at Baltzola (Spain). here....and what a happy man he is when he reaches the anchors.
Patxi Usobiaga is sponsored by La Sportiva and Black Diamond.