• TNB: Climbing's Big Mistake
  • TNB: Trad Dads and Dad Bods
  • TNB: Do the Right Thing
  • TNB: Big Wall Soloing Sustenance – Cookies vs. Bugs
  • TNB: When Your Rope Falls Off—and 5 Ways to Prevent the Nightmare
  • TNB: Before I Die - What Would Climbers Think?
  • TNB: Raphael Slawinski - Firsthand Account of Everest Earthquake
  • TNB: Point Break - Sharma, Andrada on the Big Screen
  • TNB: Muscle Shoals - Rock and Soul
  • TNB: Naked Soloist is Saner Than Me
  • TNB: The Hard Climb to Heaven
  • TNB: Summer Camp
  • TNB: Suicide in Our Sights
  • TNB: Ethan Pringle's 10 Tips for Sending Your Project
  • TNB: Hawaii Rocks - Totally Aloha
  • TNB: PointGate - Why Comp Climbing Is Not The Future
  • TNB: My First Epic
  • TNB: Eight Ways to Avoid Braking Bad - The Art of the Soft Catch
  • TNB: #Dawnwall and The Creation of Alex Honnlove
  • TNB: Vision Quest - Benji Fink and Mexico’s Steepest Big Wall
  • TNB: The New Dawn (Wall) of Climbing
  • TNB: The Top 5 Weekend Whippers of 2014 (Plus the Comments)
  • TNB: 10 Tips for Jolene Kay, Professional Climber (and Hot Actress)
  • TNB: The Story Behind the Craziest of Rescues
  • TNB: The Risk of Climbing
  • TNB: How to Get Stronger by Doing Nothing for 5 Minutes a Day
  • TNB: Eight Ways to Improve Your Footwork
  • TNB: In Praise of the Weekend Warrior
  • TNB: Joe Kinder Visits the World's Hardest Cave
  • TNB: Celebrating Insomnia in Chamonix
  • TNB: Run, Rabbit - Hermann Gollner, 71, Cranks Pump-O-Rama (5.13a)
  • TNB: Five Best Photos of 2014
  • TNB: Clip Like A Pro - 5 Tips from Sasha DiGiulian and Sean McColl
  • TNB: Five Things Every Gym Climber Must Know About Climbing Outside
  • TNB: Still Jeff Lowe
  • TNB: Moving Over Stone With Doug Robinson
  • TNB: Wheels Up—The Top 5 Climbing Rigs
  • TNB: Is K2 The New Everest?
  • TNB: Things—Besides Us, That Is—That Fall
  • TNB: When Homemade Gear Works, Sorta
  • TNB: The Outsiders
  • TNB: R.I.P. Homero Gutierrez Villarreal - The Padrino of El Potrero
  • TNB: A Short Talk with Sierra Blair-Coyle
  • TNB: Ian Dory, Ninja, or The Craziest Thing I Ever Seen
  • TNB: The Best Crag Dogs of All Time
  • TNB: 5 Ways to Make People Love Your Routes
  • TNB: Hudon and Jones, and Don't Forget It!
  • TNB: Climbing's Tribal Rites
  • TNB: Sasha DiGiulian and Alex Johnson On How to Be a Modern Pro
  • TNB: Is Dean Potter A Bad Father?
  • TNB: Silly Places We’ve Slept - Tales of Unplanned Bivies
  • TNB: Forgotten Hero - Frank Sacherer 1940-1978
  • TNB: The World-Class Weekend Warrior – Martin Keller Climbs V15
  • TNB: Everest Sherpas No Longer Willing to “Grin and Bear It”
  • TNB: Hardheaded Helmet Lesson Learned
  • TNB: Six Most Awesome Jobs for Climbers
  • TNB: The Coolest Climbing Deal Breaker
  • TNB: Sharma and Glowacz Send World’s Steepest Rock Climb
  • TNB: An Encounter with a Legend - Patrick Edlinger, Plus A Whipper Vid
  • TNB: Six Things Every Climber Should Do Before They Die
  • TNB: Falling from the Top
  • TNB: Weekend Whipper
  • TNB: Band of Crushers
  • TNB: Charlie Porter, We Hardly Knew You
  • TNB: Climbing's Greatest Route Names
  • TNB: Hot Women Die and Have Sex on Everest
  • TNB: The Great Tragedy at Carderock
  • TNB: Thoughts On Death, and Last Words
  • TNB: Climbing's Next Big Story
  • TNB: Next Level? Honnold Pushes the Game on El Sendero Luminoso
  • TNB: Jeff Lowe Invented the Sport
  • TNB: The Most Popular Weekend Whippers of the Year
  • TNB: If Ondra Isn't The Best Climber In The World, Who Is?
  • TNB: Storm Years or Typhoon? The Biggest Issue in Climbing
  • TNB: Jim Bridwell Speaks
  • TNB: Honnold's Biggest Solo
  • TNB: Death on Forbidden Peak - Was the NPS Complicit?
  • TNB: Ice Climbing Goes to Sochi Olympics
  • TNB: When Gear Attacks
  • TNB: 8a.nu: The Best Climber in the World is the One with the Most Points
  • TNB: Shutdown: Illegal Climbers in Yosemite—Ninjas or Criminals?
  • TNB: Who is the Best Climber in the World?
  • TNB: The New Courage in a Rucksack
  • TNB: Unsolved Mystery - The Ten Sleep Shooting
  • TNB: The Pad Problem - Honnold, Kehl on Headpoints and Highballs
  • TNB: Travels with Delaney Miller - National Champ Turns to Rock
  • TNB: Jail Food and Booty
  • TNB: Love on the Road
  • TNB: Is Pakistan Safe for Climbers?
  • TNB: Flash Floods, Climbers and How to Get Out of the Way
  • TNB: Climbing's Next Level
  • TNB: Best in Show - Brand New Gear from the Outdoor Retailer Show
  • TNB: Adam Ondra Ties the Knot
  • TNB: Under Pressure - Trotter and Honnold On How Bets Can Help You Send
  • TNB: The Tragedy of Tito Traversa
  • TNB: DR's Crazy Brain Puzzle. Get It Correct or Else.
  • TNB: What Happened To Climbing Films?
  • TNB: Cry of the Colorado Fussy Snivel
  • TNB: Mystery Solved!
  • TNB: The Mystery of Moses Tower - Help Answer a 25-Year-Old Question
  • TNB: No Such Luck
  • TNB: Erasing Midnight Lightning
  • TNB: Mayhem - Crawling, Balling & Brawling on the Evere$t Soap Opera
  • TNB: Watching the Boston Marathon
  • TNB: Chasing the Devil's Snort
  • TNB: Born-Again Gumby
  • TNB: Super Unknown - Austin Dark Horse Establishes 5.14d in Random Texas Cave
  • TNB: Fearless?
  • TNB: The Big Freaking Deal, Ain't Bouldering
  • TNB: Honnold's Achilles' Heel
  • TNB: He's Either Crazy or a Poet
  • TNB: The Fish Cheat and the Prince of Climbing
  • TNB: A Letter from Santa... I mean Sharma
  • TNB: Traveler's Advisory - El Potrero Chico, Mexico
  • TNB: A Year Ago - Athol
  • TNB: Gun Control
  • TNB: What's the Problem?
  • TNB: Derek Hersey's Magic Carpet
  • TNB: The Apprentices
  • TNB: The Jungle
  • TNB: Klem Loskot is Back Climbing V15 and 5.15
  • TNB: Eliminated
  • TNB: The Hurt Locker
  • TNB: The Perils of Sport Climbing
  • TNB: Baddest Climb of the Year
  • TNB: Crossfit Misfit
  • TNB: Eating People and the Real Seventh Summit
  • TNB: Bring It On, Bitch!
  • TNB: What Would Warren Harding Do?
  • TNB: The Curse Of The Bandit
  • TNB: Reality Pro
  • TNB: Chris Sharma and The Art of Jeep Maintenance
  • TNB: American Dirtbag
  • TNB: How Not To Climb 5.12
  • TNB: Project FAIL
  • TNB: The Backwards Future of Climbing
  • TNB: The Death of Progress
  • TNB: The Da Vinci CO
  • TNB: The Philosopher King
  • TNB: Spam Alert
  • TNB: Bad Genes - The Different Types of Gumbies
  • TNB: Mouth Wide Shut
  • TNB: Outside Reality
  • TNB: The Day I Saved Jésus
  • TNB: My Pad, Your Problem
  • TNB: House Rules
  • TNB: Five Things I Don't Hate About Climbing
  • TNB: Metro-Pointing
  • TNB: Beast in the East
  • TNB: Artificial Intelligence
  • TNB: To Boldly Go Sprad Climbing
  • TNB: Self-Destruction
  • TNB: Soul Sport
  • TNB: Nine Pitches
  • Video Spotlight
    Where The Wild Things Play
    Where The Wild Things Play
    Whipper of the Month
    Weekend Whipper: Alastair McDowell's Los Indignados (M7) Screamer
    Weekend Whipper: Alastair McDowell's Los Indignados (M7) Screamer

    TNB: Climbing's Next Level


    Instrumental in bringing Psicobloc to the U.S., Sharma took climbing to the next level. Again.If there is one thing I don’t need to hear again, it’s about how the next big idea in climbing competition is going to “take it to the next level.” This flat statement—uttered essentially since Harvey T. Carter held climbing’s first organized bouldering competition 50 years ago—lost its kick after the late Patrick Edlinger, blond locks backlit against the celestial lights, won America’s first real big comp on the  concrete walls of Snowbird, 1988. After that decisive victory, competition climbing was supposed to go mainstream, with televised events, superstars and real money—the “next level.” Love was blind back then.

    Instead, underfunded big comps fizzled like wet dynamite and competitors took their tights and tincture and went underground to stuffy plywood hovels. The reasons for the failure were as numerous as the ambitions that had hoped otherwise: Lack of organization; not enough media coverage (who wants to read about a comp?); lack of industry support (despite the millions of dollars shelled out by sponsors); and a format as bland as unsalted mashed potatoes (agreed).

    But somewhere in there, over 20 years, climbing crept up to the next micro level, and the next, and the next. The changes were subtle, like growing a mustache, and passed unnoticed. There wasn’t a big singular thunderclap event that transformed the game, rather it was an evolution taken in baby steps. Climbing gyms became sophisticated businesses with real walls. The best climbers were able to eek by on sponsor's dole and winnings without losing fingers working summers on oil rigs or fishing trawlers or selling weed. The World Cup got organized and even returned to the U.S. Elementary schools offered climbing programs.

    We did take a shot to the heart this summer when the IOC passed over Sport Climbing as a demonstration event for the summer Olympics, but let’s look in the mirror: Roped climbing is even less fascinating as a spectator event than baseball, which at least has corking and pine tar, and is now a demo event for the seventh time. Swing for the bleachers, baseball.

    Curiously, Mixed Climbing did get the nod and next year is off to the deep freeze of Sochi, Russia, where it will be a demonstration event in the Winter Olympic Games. That Mixed Climbing—slamming tools into trash buckets of ice suspended from chains—made it to the Olympics got little fanfare, but there it is. At The Next Level while Sport Climbing was left behind. I suspect this happened because the Winter Olympics are in Russia, and Ice Team Russia is ranked number one in the world. But I remain hopeful. Gordon McArthur up in Canada has already build his own Olympic training facility, a timbered structure to behold that is up there with Noah's ark, and he will be a real threat.

    Two weeks ago I did see the first sport-climbing competition that I would actually have reached into my pocket and paid serious cash money to attend. The Psicobloc Masters at Park City, Utah, was as spectacular as the naumachiae, or Sea Battles of the Colosseum. America’s best male and female climbers hucked and lurched, free solo, up a 50-foot-high overhanging wall and fell not a few feet onto dusty pads, rather they plunged from many stories up into the blue waters of an Olympic-sized swimming pool. More than one climber emerged from the chilled depths gasping and stunned by the brutal fall. The crowd of nearly 4,000 was also stunned. Most had never seen such a spectacle, and pulled along by the current, roared in approval, some spilling beer all over themselves, others elbowing closer to the front for a better look. Beautiful women wandered about languidly caressing pet gazelles and hoping to lock eyes with him, Chris Sharma. Even the hardened VIPs with the special access wristbands and whisky up in the balcony seemed genuinely happy. Psicobloc felt like a real professional sporting event. The type we’ve been hoping for since Snowbird.

    Psicobloc did have its shortcomings, and these are being bandied about online—mostly by pundits who weren’t there. They say that the climbing was dangerous (climbing, dangerous?), that they couldn't understand the format (tip: the person highest on the wall is winning) and that the commentary was hard to hear (what did you say?) But, Psicobloc is the first child, the next will only get better, and if you were in Park City for the birth on August 2 you got to witness something special: Climbing going to The Next Level.


    Update: Gordon McArthur disagrees with my characterization of Mixed Climbing and sent me a link to this video, to show off real World Class Mixed Climbing. After reviewing the video, I agree that there is more to mixed than aping around on frozen ice buckets. I hope he brings home a gold. Correction: An earlier version of this article noted that Patrick Edlinger won Snowbird in 1989. He won in 1988.

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