On December 20, 2018, in the giant grotto of the Tomorrow’s World sector, in the heart of the Dolomites, Italy, Darek “The Bald” Sokołowski, of Poland, completed what is possibly the world’s hardest-ever dry-tooling ascent. He established a new route named Parallel World and graded it D16. Sokołowski led it in pure Dry-Tooling Style, or DTS (shunning the use of figure fours and Yaniros). If the grade holds, it will be the hardest climb ever done in DTS .
Parallel World is an extension of War Without End, a D15+ that Sokołowski established in December 2017 and has yet to be repeated.
The name Parallel World reflects the experience of climbing such a long and difficult route. To send the 60-plus-meter route—12 meters of stepped overhangs followed by a nearly 50-meter horizontal roof—Sokołowski spent 50 uninterrupted minutes hanging by his tools. While climbing such a route, the concepts of up and down gradually lose their distinctiveness, and it truly is like entering a Parallel World.
The route’s difficulties do not come from its length, but rather from very hard moves and long reaches. One of the hardest moves comes at the end, and so reserves of power are critical. The roof is also devoid of rests: heel hooks and similar tricks do not work, so time sucks up your power reserves as you swing through the moves.
Sokołowski is no stranger to stratospheric dry-tooling grades. In addition to establishing War Without End (D15+), he has repeated many of the hardest nearby climbs at Tomorrow’s World: Je Ne Sais Quoi (D14+), Oblivion (D14), A Line Above The Sky (D15-). The latter climb was for a time recognized as the world’s hardest dry-tooling line. He has also visited other famous dry-tooling reiongs like Kandersteg, Eptingen and Deibsofen, and repeated some of the top routes. At Diebsofen, he made the first ascent of There and Back Again (D14). Sokołowski made all of these ascents in DTS.
Sokołowski was previously president of the Szczecin Alpine Club in Poland and is a member of the Mountaineering Association.
There have been two other routes proposed as D16. The first is Storm Giant, Gord McArthur’s 80-meter monster route in British Columbia, Canada. Before he established it , A Line Above the Sky was considered the hardest dry-tooling line in the world. McArthur told Rock and Ice after finishing Storm Giant, “I had to be bold with my suggested grade of D16. The Storm Giant is longer [than A Line Above the Sky], filled with a mix of everything.”
The second proposed D16 is Oświecenie, in Zakopane, Poland. Filip Babicz, of Italy, established the route in January 2018. It took him 1 hour 8 minutes to climb the 62-meter-long route. He finished on ground covered in some snow, and so gave the route an M16 grade instead of a pure dry-tooling grade. He told Rock and Ice that, in hindsight, he should not have given it a mixed grade, and was being too precise about the exact conditions he encountered on the route. “It was a matter of confusion for me,” he wrote in email. “It is a dry-tooling route. It is D16 not M16.”