The cutting edge
I started writing this morning with the intention of praising all the major sport climbing achievements of the past 6 weeks. Then I felt the need to comment on of all of the groundbreaking ascents of the last year. But rather than succumb to the pressure and just spend all day reading about climbing history, I am stating here and now: there are just too many amazing feats to name in one blog post.
From the huge link-ups and new speed records in the Valley to the hard free routes that went up in the Patagonia; from maybe the world’s hardest technical ice climb being established in British Columbia to the amazing solo speed ascents of the Matterhorn and the Eiger; from the slew of new V15 boulder problems to the FA’s and fast repeats of 5.15 sport climbs… there are amazing things going on at the forefront of climbing right now. We even have a new free soloist to watch and just hearing his name makes me nervous but excited to see what he’ll do next.
We are witnessing a time in climbing when everything is changing. New styles are being invented, people are freeing gigantic walls that would seem blank to even the most seasoned rock climbers, and the new sport routes and boulder problems are just insanely difficult. While some climbers are crossing over into different disciplines, others are taking the next generation under their wings to show them the way in their specialty.
I know what you are thinking: “Climbing is always progressing, first ascents are being done, new grades are being proposed.” I agree, the sport is always being pushed forward. But for me, the climbers that are doing it right now are special, and it has been inspiring to watch them take climbing to a new level.
Although we may not consider ourselves to be in the same league as some of these climbers, we aren’t that far off. The climbing community is relatively small, and we are all linked by fewer degrees of separation than one might think. Many of you have walked under some pretty ground-breaking routes at the New, the Red, and all over the country. Some of you have been on these routes and some of you have put up your own!
I know a lot of climbers who downplay the professionals. Not their achievements or abilities, but just the fact that they are well known. “They are just people” I often hear. “I’m not paying just to go watch someone talk about themselves, I don’t care how hard they climb.” Maybe it makes those people feel cool to be so standoffish, but I say screw that. I follow the pros, the hot flashes, the most recent ticks; I read all of the mags. I know that they are just ordinary people… but that’s what makes it so amazing!
The term genetic freak gets thrown around a lot and while there is certainly some truth to that, I enjoy watching the crushers because it reminds me that anything is possible, and it gives me some insight into their habits. They aren’t that much different than us… they just work SO MUCH HARDER!
And we can see that in our own communities as well. I have climbed with a lot of strong climbers, and none of them climbed harder than me because of genetics. They climbed harder than me because they were getting more psyched, training harder, and mentally preparing for their projects when I was sitting around talking about mine. So take the average person posting up on the internet today or any one of your friends and multiply their psyche and determination by 100 to get a 5.14 climber. Then multiply THAT by 100 to get Ondra, Sharma, Caldwell, etc.
I guess my point is this: get out there and crank! Don’t make excuses, don’t wait ’til next season or even next weekend! If there is one thing that climbing has taught me it is that there are moments in time when you just have to get the job done, and when that moment passes it’s gone forever. Sometimes that means pulling a hard move over shitty gear. Most of the time, however, that just means that when you have a chance to push yourself, you have to sack up and see what you’ve got inside. You might not ever get that chance again… so take it!