After a lot of deliberation it ended up being too difficult to separate three outrageous ascents by some quite different climbers: so instead there's a joint first place for three different but equally amazing and inspiring ascents.
# 1a. Tom Randall and Pete Whittaker for Century Crack 5.14b/8c/E10? 6c?
"They said it would never go free" – Well they didn't say that exactly but it did seem a preposterous proposition: 100+ feet of horizontal offwidth that can be seen on Google maps, which had repulsed 'the best', out in the desert a 4hr drive from anywhere ... Anyway as we all know the rest is history ...
#1b. James Pearson for Muy Caliente, E10 6c, Pembroke, Wales, UK
One of the UK's most talented climbers went away, thought about it, trained like a demon and applied his new found skills to upsetting the applecart again with a skin of the teeth failure to flash a UK E10 route. Once again pointing the way forward as he has since the age of 17, James has used the adversity of some grading 'setbacks' to make him a stronger climber once again.
#1c. James McHaffie - Big Bang, 9a, Lower Pen Trwyn, North Wales, UK
In some people's minds the strangest conversion since St Paul on the road to Damsacus was James McHaffie becoming one of a very small number of Brits who've climbed 9A as well as getting the second ascent after 15 years of this 'rat crimp' nasty. However, to those who have watched his career for many years this is a guy who simply doesn't know limits and constantly invents new ways to surpass himself on rock.
#2. Ed Hamer – 2nd place at the World Youth Cup Imst, Austria
As well as a second in his last ever European Youth Cup. And I know these aren't strictly ascents but it seems worth celebrating a first podium finish for a Brit in a leading championship for a very long time as well celebrating the fact that Ed will be around for a very long time to come.
#3. Hazel Findlay – Golden Gate, 5.13a, El Capitan, Yosemite, USA
In becoming the first British woman to free El Cap, Hazel simply cements her status as an amazing talent and maybe just the one to watch in 2012 for something truly special.
Read more here.
Hazel video here:
#4. – Jordan Buys - 2nd ascent Loaded E8 7A, Ilkey, UK
... After a very long time. No video but a great spread in Climb magazine in Jan 2012. Jordan's had a great year and his ascent of the very hard and not often repeated sports route Controversy 8b+at Malham earlier this year was simply the precursor to some more hardcore grit action from this Lancashire hotshot. We predict more amazing things this winter. You can see more about Jordan here:
#5. Ned Fehally - Samson E9 7A, Burbage South, Peak District, UK
Now this is probably not Ned's hardest ascent this year, the man is a veritable machine, but by ground up highballing this classic Jerry Moffatt 'route' Ned seems to have caught the zeitgeist by showing how some amazing climbers are changing the game on gritstone by blurring the lines between routes and boulders. We're expecting great things in 2012.
#6. Adam Hocking – Return Of The King E9 7a 2nd ascent, East Buttress, Scafell
Following his first ascent of 'The Keswickian' E8 7a, in April Adam did the unlikely and became the first person to repeat one of Dave Birkett's many E9's – and it's a big one, taking an impressive line up the very overhanging east Butress of Scafell. All caught on film, it's a very impressive bit of climbing from a very underrated climber.
Return Of The King is the middle part of the film 'Islands' – see it here:
Anyway thanks to everyone who's pulled on a Wild Country T shirt this year, and stuffed our gear in cracks or clipped it up a route, and to all those wearing Red Chili shoes as well.