On May 29, Mark Anderson established the hardest route at Independence Pass, Colorado. The 37-year-old computer engineer told Rock and Ice that Insurrection (5.14c), located on the popular Lower Grotto Wall, took him 14 days over two seasons to complete.
"Yes, it's my hardest route," wrote Anderson in an e-mail.
Anderson first spied the line during a trip to Independence Pass from his nearby home of Evergreen, Colorado, in 2012.
"My brother Mike and I have always made a hobby out of staring at cliffs and theorizing different lines," wrote Anderson. "It's generally been more of a game than anything real, but over the last couple years I've tried to put more of an emphasis on doing first ascents, so I've been able to make some of those theoretical lines a reality."
In October 2013, Anderson's curiosity culminated in a scouting mission that ended with him placing seven bolts along the thin, granite face. Yet, Anderson was still a little worried that he had "wasted" his time. As a father of two kids, and a full-time supervisor for a team of computer engineers, Anderson is often squeezing in his climbing between a hectic schedule.
"Time is pretty precious to me, and I would say the biggest barrier to doing FAs (for me) is the fear that I'm wasting my time on something that will turn out to be not worthwhile," wrote Anderson.
However, after a little cleaning, Anderson says he realized he had found a gem, and a very hard one at that.
"There's some of that orange patina granite on it that you very rarely find, and the rest of it had really clean, crisp rock for the most part," he wrote. "I was fairly confident it would go, but I tend to over-estimate my ability when I'm on rappel."
Anderson began working on the route late last fall. Describing the route as "deceptively steep," linking the crimpy boulder problems proved difficult. At the end of his third session, Anderson had yet to unlock all of the moves, which he says is usually when he throws in the towel on a route. But he felt extra committed to this project.
"I feel like if I bolt the thing, I'm committed, and I have to give it my best effort," wrote Anderson. "I would hate to leave something I bolted unfinished."
Eventually, Anderson's progress on the route came to an abrupt halt, however, when the road accessing Independence Pass shut down for the season. Despite hiking in for a few more burns, Anderson felt he had lost his window for the year, and decided to let the project rest until 2014.
After a successful winter season sport climbing in Clear Creek Canyon with notable ticks, like his third ascent of Mission Impossible (5.14c), Anderson was ready to test himself on the Indy Pass project. Luckily, the road opened ahead of schedule, and Anderson was able to reacquaint himself with the route on May 24.
"The first burn was pretty rough, but I went through the same thing very recently on Mission Impossible
, so I was pretty confident it would come together quickly," he wrote. "My second go went much better, but I was still pretty far behind where I left off."
To make matters worse, during his second day attempting the route on May 28, Anderson snapped a hold on a "trivial" beginning section of the route to add another "slightly desperate" boulder problem.
But on his third day of attempts, something clicked for Anderson.
"I just felt really solid," explained Anderson. "Moves that were usually pretty 'iffy' were in control."
Anderson clipped the chains of Insurrection
(5.14c) on his fifth attempt of the year.
After the send, however, Anderson says he felt a bit melancholy about completing the project.
"It's really just the idea of letting go of something that you created," he wrote. "I think we all like different things about climbing, and I really like being in the midst of that redpoint process."
Anderson speculates that Insurrection
is 5.14c based on the number of days the total process required.
took me 10 days, and Insurrection
took 14 (including a bolting day), so I figure they're similar in difficulty," he wrote. "I usually grade things based on the total time required to complete it. First ascents are tricky because you don't have any chalk or rubber clues to follow, so I try to account for that when comparing number of days."
now stands as the hardest route on the granite of Independence Pass. But Anderson says there's plenty left to do.
"Hopefully this will inspire some more hard lines up there. There's definitely plenty of potential."