World’s Hardest Rock Climbing Routes
World’s Hardest Rock Climbing Routes
We have been focusing a lot on thru hikes and trails lately. This morning I wanted to inspire our rock climbers out there to get out there and climb. I will be doing some rock climbing in Montana in a couple of weeks and I can’t wait to get back out there. I know I am no where near being able to tackle any of these routes but hey what are goals for if you have nothing to look forward to.
Sport: La Dura Dura, 9b+, Oliana, Spain, Adam Ondra and Chris Sharma
La Dura Dura became a focal point of hard sport climbing in 2012 and 2013, and even the subject of a film, when two of the world’s strongest sports climbers chased the first ascent.
Chris Sharma bolted the line, and encouraged Adam Ondra to try it. Ondra eventually sent it in February 2013 after about 70 attempts and called the route 9b+. Sharma sent the route six weeks later.
Bouldering: Gioia, V16, Varazze, Italy
When Christian Core put up Gioia in 2008, he proposed the rating of 8c (V15), and it stayed that way as it awaited a second ascent. In 2011, Adam Ondra spent 11 days working the problem, and finally succeeded, suggesting the problem be upgraded to 8c+. Nalle Hukkataival notched the third ascent in February 2014, and has yet to suggest a grade, only saying, “It’s certainly harder than most 8cs out there. The real question is, is it a full grade harder?”
Aid: Nightmare on California Street, A5, El Capitan, Yosemite
Still unrepeated as of 2014, Warren Hollinger and Grant Gardner’s several aid climbs fall in the A5 range, where a fall means death. Two climbs in Utah’s Fisher Towers have been proposed at A6 and A6+, but then downgraded. So there is no “world’s hardest aid climb,” only contenders. Yosemite’s Nightmare on California Street is a strong contender.
When big-wall legend Ammon McNeely finally repeated nearby El Cap route A5 route Wings of Steel in 2011, the route’s first repeat in 29 years, he wrote that it would be the hardest, but because of the 20 falls he took on the route, all of which were relatively safe. Nightmare on California Street, he wrote, had hard moves – and had dangerous falls. Which is why it hasn’t been repeated, yet, since it was put up in 1998.
The picture above shows climber John Sherman on the Thimble in 1991. John Gill made free climbing history there 30 years earlier, when he climbed the rock formation unroped, unrehearsed, and with only a wooden railing below to break his fall. No crash pads.
In the early 1960s, when climbing was principally about risk and summits, with little regard for the “how,” Gill was focused on form. That form was free climbing. Gill—a gymnast and mathematician—is the father of American bouldering: climbing unroped on smaller rocks, typically in pursuit of the hardest possible sequences. His route up the Thimble, with some of its hardest moves near the top, is rated 5.12a and went unrepeated for 20 years.
First free ascent: Ray Jardine, 1977, rated 5.13a. On what was perhaps the world’s first climb rated as 5.13, Jardine employed then-controversial tactics. He rested on the rope to work difficult moves, rather than lowering to the ground. This, called “hangdogging,” was considered an ethical transgression against the spirit of climbing, a “taint” on the notion of climbing from bottom to top uninterrupted. Today it’s commonplace for learning difficult sequences.
The aerospace engineer from Colorado also used his new invention, spring-loaded camming devices called Friends—aka, the gizmos used on practically every crack climb since. Initially also scorned as “cheating” because they made placing protection too easy, Jardine’s invention revolutionized rock climbing. Between hangdogging and Friends, Jardine’s influence rose far beyond the Phoenix.
First free ascent: John Bragg, 1973, rated 5.12b. In New York’s scenic Shawangunk Mountains, an early epicenter of climbing in the United States, the hard free-climbing charge in the 1970s was led by a quintet of climbing supermen known as the “Front Four”: “Hot” Henry Barber, John Bragg, John Stannard, and Steve Wunsch. Among “Gunks” climbers, the rating 5.12 was so difficult, it existed only in their imaginations until Bragg freed the massive, powerful roof of a climb called Kansas City. Bragg was one of the first Americans to climb both rock and ice near the highest levels of the scale, applying his skills on alpine climbs like the first ascent of Torre Egger in Patagonia.