While the most exciting sport climbing send to close out 2018 was likely Jakob Schubert’s second ascent of Chris Sharma’s Neanderthal (9b/5.15b), Santa Linya, Spain—an interview with Schubert is forthcoming!—there were a few other ticks that had us geeking out over here in the Rock and Ice office.
Check ‘em out below!
Climbing a 9a (5.14d) on your first climbing day of the year? Laura Rogora of Italy couldn’t have asked for a better way to celebrate and start the Earth’s new trip around the sun. She reported on Instagram two days ago,“First climbing day of 2019 and first chain … Esclatamasters 9a.”
Though she came close to finishing the line at the end of 2018, it wasn’t until the calendar changed that she was able to put it to bed. Ramón Julián Puigblanque made the first ascent of the Esclatamasters, in Perles, Spain in 2007. The route was originally considered 8c+ (5.14c), but after a critical hold broke, repeat ascentionists agreed the difficulty was 9a.
After sending the route in 2007, Dave Graham wrote on 27crags.com, “The most beautiful, blue, perfect rock, fun 9a there is.”
Rogora, 17, has sent a number of of routes as difficult to Esclatamasters or close to. Her first 9a was Grandi Gesti, Sperlonga, Italy, in March 2016. She followed that up with Joe-Cita (9a), Oliana, Spain, in 2017. That same year she made the first ascent of La Gasparata (8c+/9a 5.14c/d)—at the time, the hardest-ever route established by a woman, until Anak Verhoeven suggested 9a+ (5.15a) for Sweet Neuf, Pierrot Beach, France, in September 2017.
In 2018, the 28-year-old Slovenian Jernej Kruder became the Bouldering World Cup season champion, made the first ascent of just the second 8C (V15) in his home country, sent a 9a, won Adidas Rockstars, and snuck in a few beautiful DWS first ascents on the Mallorcan coastline. On December 31, he added an exclamation point to his banner year by making the first ascent of Dugi Rat (9a+/5.15a), Vrulja, Croatia.
“Year 2018 couldn’t [have] finished better,” Kruder wrote on Instagram. “4 years project on Vrulja turned into new, probably the hardest route in Croatia. I decided to keep the working name “Dugi rat” and propose 9a+. It was a very special moment yesterday in this small climbing area.”
Watch a video of Kruder working the 30-meter-long Dugi Rat earlier in 2018 below:
[Also Check Out Photo Gallery: Mallorca – DWS for Days]
An American amongst the sea of European senders! Sean Bailey nabbed his second career 9a+ with a send of First Ley, a link-up of the beginning of First Round, First Minute (9b/5.15b) and the end of La Ley Innata (8c+). The route is in Margalef, Spain.
The 22-year-old’s first 9a+ was none other than Chris Sharma’s benchmark for the grade, Biographie/Realization. Bailey sent that in August 2016.
Since Biographie, Bailey has concentrated primarily on competition climbing, competing on the World Cup circuit and on the USA Climbing circuit. In 2018, he finished second at the Vail World Cup, and was the 2018 USA sport climbing national champion—a title he won in 2016 as well.
[Also Read Vail World Cup: Faces and On-the-Spot Q&A]
The old guys got in on the action, too. Iker Pou finished off a six-year project and the hardest route of his life. The route, Artaburu, climbs a horizontal roof full of dynamic moves between shallow mono- and two-finger-pockets, and is highly reminiscent of Demencia Senil, a Chris Sharma 9a+ nearby in Margalef.
“I had a dream and finally it has come true: I’m very happy and I still can not believe what could have gotten me up there,” Pou wrote of sending Artaburu, which means “brute” in Basque language. He explained further, “It has been the greatest physical and mental struggle I have ever faced. The process has been long and hard, full of ups and downs, but I have finally been able to climb the most futuristic path I have ever equipped. In my life I had [never] spent so much time trying a project. Undoubtedly, it is the most difficult thing I have ever managed to do, infinitely harder than everything [I’ve] done so far. It has been six long years since I equipped this jewel.”
Pou later elaborated on the grade in a separate post, reiterating that it was without question the hardest route he’s ever done. It is likely in the 9b (5.15b) range—or harder, even—but Pou was non-committal on the grade, saying that since he hasn’t climbed a route of that grade he doesn’t have anything to compare it to.
Check out the video of Pou on Demencia Senil for more of an idea of the heinously difficult kind of climbing Artaburu doubtlessly has