Climbing saw multitudes of achievements across all disciplines this year—too many to ever list. These seven (in no particular order), whether it be a first ascent, a speed record or a climb completed in better style, were chosen because they all advanced the sport in one way or another. This is not a comprehensive list, but a look back at some of the greatest climbing achievements of 2015. Don't hesitate to add any ascents you feel are also worthy of mention in the comments below.
Daniel Woods Sends The Process (V16)
On January 17, under a beacon of "Lanterns, God beams, [and] headlamps," Daniel Woods topped out the Grandpa Peabody boulder. He finished one of the great undone projects in the Buttermilks of Bishop, California. Woods dubbed the mega-line The Process, suggesting a grade of V16.
The Process links Blood Meridian (V13) into a V14 followed by a hairy V10 highball top out. For perspective, the 55-foot Jason Kehl highball Evilution (V11) lies to the left of The Process.
"Last night was just another one of those nights," Woods posted on Instagram. "Felt nervous yet at peace with this bloc and was able to climb the line.
"Huge respect goes to Daniel Beall for realizing that this line is possible, cleaning it, and being cool with sharing it with the rest of the climbing community."
According to Woods at the time, Beall was also close to sending The Process. Then in February, the crux hold on the last move broke while Beall was working the problem. "It's hard now...” Beall posted on Instagram.
The Process has yet to be repeated.
Ueli Steck Reclaims Eiger Speed Record
Ueli Steck set the record in 2007—at 3 hours 54 minutes. Not satisfied, he returned to the Eiger North Face the following winter. Steck shaved an hour off his own solo speed record with the unthinkable time of 2 hours 47 minutes. On November 16, 2015, he broke it again.
Steck, 39, soloed the Heckmair Route (ED2, 1800m, FA 1938) on the North Face of the Eiger in 2 hours 22 minutes and 50 seconds—beating his previous record by 25 minutes and Dani Arnold’s 2011 solo record* of 2 hours 28 minutes. When Steck uploaded the stats from his GPS watch, among time, distance, altitude and speed, it reported an average intensity of “moderate.” Ueli Steck is, the Swiss Machine.
Not only did Steck set a new solo speed record, he also claimed the Eiger North Face team speed record with Nicolas Hojac and Kilian Jornet. They climbed the Heckmair Route and bested Roger Schaeli and Simon Gietl’s 2011 record of 4 hours 25 minutes with a time of 3 hours 46 minutes.
Click here to read the Q&A with Ueli Steck
Stanhope, Segal Free Bugaboos' Tom Egan Memorial Route at 5.14
After four years and over 100 days on the wall, Will Stanhope and Matt Segal finally freed the 1978 aid line Tom Egan Memorial Route on the east face of Snowpatch Spire, Bugaboos, British Columbia. They climbed the 13-pitch route in a single, four-day push, from August 11 to 14, calling the free climb grade V 5.14.
“The crack [looks] as if the mountain gods had used a laser to make it barely passable,” Tim Kemple wrote of the line in ASCENT 2014 – Rock and Ice issue 218. “One of the most amazing alpine projects ever.”
The Tom Egan Memorial Route, originally a 13-pitch aid line (Grade V 5.9 A3) established by Daryl Hatten and John Simpson, ascends the east face of Snowpatch Spire to Yellow Tower on the Northeast Ridge.
The free version starts on Sweet Sylvia (5.12b) on the right side of the east face. It traverses to a bolted 5.14 face pitch, the crux of the route, before entering the headwall cracks of the Tom Egan. The next pitch—the splitter, “laser” cut finger crack—dubbed Blood on the Crack is the second hardest pitch at 5.14-. Two 5.13 crack pitches follow before the route rejoins Sweet Sylvia and the angle eases off for a handful of 5.10/5.9 crack pitches to the ridge.
During their four-day redpoint push, Stanhope freed every pitch, claiming the route's first free ascent—Segal freed all but the 5.14 face-pitch. They were hit with “classic Bugaboos mixed-bag” conditions, says Stanhope, “and an electrical storm on the descent.” The deteriorating weather prevented Segal from continuing burns on the face-pitch.
“[Matt Segal] fought like a champion but wasn't successful in linking the crux face pitch,” Stanhope says. “It could've gone either way and I got very, very lucky.
“Cheers to you, brother. You're the best partner a guy could ever ask for.”
Marc-André Leclerc Solos Corkscrew on Cerro Torre
On February 21, Marc-André Leclerc, a 22-year-old Canadian alpinist, soloed the 4,000-foot Corkscrew (5.10d, A1) on Cerro Torre—the hardest route ever soloed on the granite tower—in a single day.
Rolando Garibotti, who wrote climbing guidebook to the Chaltén Massif, called it “an ascent of earth shifting proportions,” and compared its magnitude second only to Renato Casarotto’s first ascent of Fitz Roy’s north pillar in 1979.
Leclerc’s feat is all the more impressive given the terrible conditions he encountered. He says, “It had been raining through the night, I had gotten soaked, as I had no tent or bivy sack and the cracks were running with water.”
He battled wet rock on the lower sections of the route and, higher up, verglas that he “often had to scrape off with [his] fingernails before committing to footholds,” he says. Once he was above the clouds, the rock was too frosted to climb, so Leclerc listened to music for 30 minutes until the sun melted the ice off enough to keep going.
Leclerc climbed “98 percent free-solo,” only using a rope to protect a five-foot section of the climb.
"Soloing in the alpine is one of my favorite styles of climbing,” Leclerc says. “So to make a solo ascent of what I consider one of the world's most beautiful peaks was inevitable for me.
“The Corkscrew seemed like the perfect challenge as soloing it would require me to employ all the skills I have learned both at the crag and in the mountains.”Watch this interview with Leclerc on soloing Cerro Torre:
READ Marc-André Leclerc Free Solos Aguja Standhardt in Patagonia
Adam Ondra Flashes Jade (V14), Don’t Get Too Greedy (V13)
Adam Ondra flashed Jade (V14) and Don’t Get Too Greedy (V13) in Colorado’s Upper Chaos Canyon, Rocky Mountain National Park, the day after his bronze medal finish at the Vail IFSC World Cup.
In the video of Ondra's send, Dave Graham, who discovered the boulder problem, says, “That was really, really sick man. I can’t believe it.
“The hardest flash in the world, it’s gotta be.”
Graham discovered the line in 2001 but the FA fell to Daniel Woods six years later.
Even though Ondra placed third in the World Cup the day before, appeared frustrated with his performance in the competition. He let that frustration out on Jade with what could be the hardest boulder flash ever done.
“Surreal moment of flashing this problem,” Ondra reported on 8a.nu. “Despite two days of World Cup before, I felt strong and with perfect skin. Super happy. Thank you Dave [Graham] for the beta.”
Watch Adam Ondra Flash Don’t Get Too Greedy (V13) and Jade (V14):
First Ascent On Mt. Waddington, B.C.
For two days, Paul McSorley, Mayan Smith-Gobat, and Ines Papert forged a new mixed line up the remote Southwest Buttress of Mt. Waddington (northwest summit) in British Columbia.
They reached the summit on August 18—claiming the first ascent of an 800-meter, 20-pitch route, which they graded 5.11+ WI3 M5 ED1. The team bivied below the summit and descended to base camp, via Angel Glacier to Dais Couloir and Dais Glacier, the next day.
“As far as I know, there have been two other attempts on the SW Buttress,” McSorley told Rock and Ice.“Though this may be the most technically difficult route on all of Wadd, I am sure that there are plenty of burly routes up to the main summit.”
Check out the footage from their ascent:
First Ascent of the Southwest Buttress of Mt. Waddington, B.C. from Rock & Ice on Vimeo.
The Dawn Wall Goes Down!
The Dawn Wall—the climb and story that made mainstream media and had the world watching. Why was it so impressive? Well, they climbed only using their hands and their feet, of course.
Jokes aside—after seven years, and a final push that lasted a solid 19 days, the Dawn Wall was finally freed by Tommy Caldwell and Kevin Jorgeson at VI 5.14d. The route, 32 pitches total, boasts seven pitches of 5.14 (two clocking in at a desperate 5.14d), and is touted as the hardest rock climb in the world for its combined length and difficulty.
The Dawn Wall was a pivotal moment in climbing, not only for its progression of the sport, but also for how it has brought climbing into the spotlight. All eyes were on Caldwell and Jorgeson when they topped out El Cap on day 19. The Dawn Wall surpassed 1 billion impressions from all media, making it the most read about, seen and talked about climb, ever.
For better or worse, the Dawn Wall has launched climbing into a new era of popularity—an era where everyone's grandma knows the names Tommy and Kevin and El Cap (deciphering the difference between free climbing and free soloing is another story...). It's an era that is likely to see booming numbers of climbers, crowded crags and a growing footprint. Once for a cast of misfits and dirtbags, climbing is already a high school sport in many places, alongside football and baseball and soccer. It's even on the shortlist to make the 2020 Tokyo Olympics. And climbing gyms are popping up around the country faster than ever before, or as Chris Christie says, it's an "epidemic!"
Dawn Wall Syndrome alone isn't the cause of this evolution—but it may be a harbinger of where we're heading.
The Dawn Wall Push: Grand Finale! Day 19