There are three other routes with this magic grade, Fred Rouhling's Akira, Dani Andrada's Ali-Hulk (sit-start-extension) and Bernabe Fernandez's Chilam Balam. The first two are long boulder problems climbing out of caves that don't require a rope, the third is a massive 200ft pitch. There is doubt surrounding whether Chilam Balam has actually been climbed according to many of the world's top climbers, writes Josh Lowell.
The name, Jumbo Love is no doubt inspired by the neighbouring route, Randy Leavitt's Jumbo Pumping Hate (8b). Randy Leavitt discovered and developed this impressive limestone crag above Interstate 15 at the California/Nevada border south of Las Vegas. Leavitt also originally bolted Jumbo Love envisioning it as three pitches similar to Jumbo Pumping Hate. Sharma saw a greater challenge in doing it in one massive 250ft pitch and re-bolted the line to facilitate this. Boone Speed said about the wall, "Fuck, that is the most amazing wall I've ever seen" . The limestone at Clark is often featured; pockets, colonettes, and sometimes featureless like glass.
Jumbo Love starts with 60ft of 7c, then kicks back to 50 degrees and bouldery 8c+ climbing for a 100ft or so, then get's really hard to easier 8a+/b climbing right to the top of the cliff. Sharma took 100ft falls, as clipping bolts is nigh on impossible as the climbing is so hard, there is one jug on the route. The route tops out.
Will this 9b grade stick? Who knows? It will take a repeat by one of the world's elite to confirm the grade given by Sharma but all evidence suggests that it will. Why?
Ethan Pringle has attempted Jumbo Love. Pringle is another US climber at the top of his game, including a successful redpoint of Realisation, and has worked other Sharma routes including Dreamcatcher, Three Degrees of Separation, and Es Pontas (all three unrepeated). Pringle considers Jumbo Love, according to Lowell, as 'leagues above all the others' and "even mentioned that after working on it he'd been telling people it felt like 5.15c to him." (5.15c would be 9b+). Plus Sharma is incredibly fit after a winter climbing in Spain and recently achieved a second try success of Joe Kinder's Golden Direct, which Kinder rated 9a.
Repeats? Who is capable? Take your pick:Ethan Pringle, Sonnie Trotter, David Graham, Steve McClure, Adam Ondra, Patxi Usobiaga, Ramón Julian Puigblan, Dani Andrada, Dave MacLeod.
This is no roadside crag. The limestone is impeccable, some of the best the USA has to offer, the approach long. Drive 40 miles south of Las Vegas (or 235 miles from Los Angeles) to Stateline, after the casinos take a dirt road passing Prim Valley Golf Course into the wilderness of the Mojave National Preserve. Drive 9.8 miles up this rough track, high clearance vehicle needed, 4WD good. Park up, then hike steeply for an hour gaining over 1,000ft in elevation to the Monastery. Take sunblock and plenty of water. Watch out for the local 'flying' rattlers, the Mojave Green. East facing; best time to climb, April through to November, can be bitterly cold in the winter. Lots to warm up on. There's nearly a hundred routes on Clark (at four crags) ranging from French 6a to 9b, with the majority, 6c or harder. The area is alpine in nature, there's pine trees, and a very beautiful place to climb. The views way down to the desert are stunning.
Once at the Monastery (elevation 7,300ft - 2,200m) you will find a cliff similar to Malham Cove in height and quality, but steeper, (with a catwalk) and home to perhaps the hardest sport route in the world, Chris Sharma's Jumbo Love.
Photos and more musings at www.bigupproductions.com