The Top 10 Climbing Stories of 2010

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From the beginning of January up until the year's final weeks, climbing news has been chock-full of bar-raising ascents across all disciplines. We've seen V16 boulders, big wall speed records, and new-school ascents on ice. The sport as a whole has advanced too—climbing may have an Olympic appearance in its future.

With all the bleeding-edge ascents and other happenings this year, it was hard to pick favorites, but we managed. Here are our picks for the 2010's biggest climbing stories.

10. Sport Climbing Clears Olympic Hurdle
Climbing took one step closer to becoming an Olympic sport in February, when the International Olympic Committee granted it full recognition. The IOC confirmed the International Federation of Sport Climbing as competitive climbing's official governing body, making the sport eligible for inclusion in the games.

The soonest that the sport could appear would be at the 2020 Summer Games, the lineup for which will be decided in 2013. In an interview with Planetmountain, IFSC President Marco Scolaris said that the 2011 and 2013 Climbing World Championships would play an important role in making the organization's for climbing joining the Olympics.

9. Adam Ondra Repeats Golpe de Estado
While some eight sport routes around the world now bear a grade of 5.15b, none of them had ever been confirmed until this year. In March, Adam Ondra finally took away the asterisk when he made the first-ever repeat of Chris Sharma's Golpe de Estado in Siurana, Spain. It took Ondra, who was recovering from a finger injury, two weeks and 29 tries to redpoint the route.

8. Gadd and Emmett Establish Spray On, Futuristic Ice Route
Exciting though it may be to do, waterfall ice climbing doesn't produce many newsworthy ascents these days. That changed this January when Canada's Will Gadd and Britain's Tim Emmett established Spray On, a futuristic, severely overhanging route that climbs stalactite-like icicles out of a cave in Wells Grey provincial park in British Columbia, Canada.

Since the ascent, Gadd and Emmett have drawn flak from traditionalists, both for protecting the climb with bolts and for giving it the unheard-of grade of WI10 (most ice-climbing scales end at WI7). Gadd told Planetmountain that if ice covered the cave, it could have the potential for “100 routes that were three or more pitches up overhanging icicles the whole way”; he and Emmett plan to return to Wells Grey this winter to explore the possibilities.

7. The Red Tag Scandal
Yeah, we're sick of it too, but this flap over one of Chris Sharma's projects in Spain captured the climbing media's attention for a while this spring and sparked discussion among climbers about the ethics of “red-tagging” or closing projects.

The polemic started in march, when Finnish climber Nalle Hukkataival showed in up Spain, planning to try Chris Sharma's well-known First Round, First Minute project in Margalef. Unfortunately, he didn't check with Sharma, who found out from Hukkataival's blog and asked him to stay off. When Hukkataival expressed his displeasure in a comment on his blog, an internet scandal ensued, eventually drawing in Dead Point Magazine, Big UP, and even Sharma himself.

6. Potter and Leary Nab Nose Speed Record
In November, Dean Potter and Sean Leary set a new speed record on the Nose route of El Cap, speeding up it in just two hours, thirty-six minutes, forty-five seconds and beating Hans Florine and Yuji Hirayama's previous record by just 20 seconds. It was the first time Potter had held the Nose record in nearly a decade, since breaking it in 2001 with Timmy O'Neill.

Florine, who maintained a well-known rivalry with Potter throughout the 1990s, told the San Francisco Chronicle that he would definitely try to regain the record.

“I WILL train to beat the record because to do so would be an end in itself,” Florine wrote. “It would be rewarding.”

5. Angie Payne, Bouldering Hard(wo)man

Colorado-based climber Angie Payne took women's bouldering to a new level in August when she became the first woman ever to climb a consensus V13 problem, Dave Graham's The Automator in Rocky Mountain National Park. Payne worked the problem for a total of seven days, climbing mostly at night after finishing with classes at CU Boulder and work and a veterinary clinic. Shortly after redpointing the problem, she described the send in an interview with Outside:

“I actually climbed through the crux once and fell on the next move when my foot blew off. I was incredibly angry because I felt that I had climbed through the hardest part, and fallen where I shouldn’t have…I knew that if I didn’t do the problem soon thereafter, it would become a real mental battle. I rested for about twenty minutes, tried again, and managed to do it. The top-out was a little bit more desperate than it should have been because I was exhausted at that point. But I did it nonetheless.”

4. The Rise of Wolverineland

Anyone who followed climbing news this summer probably noticed the steady stream of first ascents coming out of Lincoln Lake, a newly-popular bouldering area at Colorado's Mt. Evans. Daniel Woods and Dave Graham spent the majority of the summer at Lincoln Lake, nicknaming it “Wolverineland” and adding a slew of V14 and V15 problems like Warrior Up, Evil Backwards and Let The Right One In. In the process, they more-or-less singlehandedly transformed Lincoln Lake into one of Colorado's newest bouldering hotspots.

“Towards the end of the season, more people stopped going to Rocky Mountain National Park and started going to this area,” Woods told Outside in an interview. “So it's kind of cool to see the evolution of a virgin area being blown up. Everyone's talking about it on the internet, everyone's talking about it at the gym.”

3. Alex Honnold's Solo Linkup

Alex Honnold has had the kind of success this year that most climbers would be psyched to have in their entire careers. Among Honnold's achievements this year were the first repeat of Kevin Jorgeson's massive highball Ambrosia, the first one-day ascent of Logical Progression, a 28-pitch, 5.13 sport route in Mexico, an ascent of the infamous Half Dome route Southern Belle (5.12d R) and three ascents of El Cap in one day.

Honnold's brightest moment this year came in July, when he soloed Half Dome and The Nose in one day. With a rope, a light rack, and some goldfish, the 24 year old sped up both in a combined time of just over 11 hours, breaking solo speed records for the link-up and for El Cap. In an interview with Outside, he shared how he came up with the idea:

“I was hiking out to go shoot something with this friend of mine, who was shooting a shoe advertisement. We were just going to go solo this really easy route. We were talking about how cool it would be to solo The Nose, and I was like, man, I'm kind of in perfect shape for it. I have it all memorized and dialed down. And then I did it the next week.”

2. The Dawn Wall Push
The biggest news off of El Cap this fall centered around Tommy Caldwell and Kevin Jorgeson, who headed up last month in an attempt to send their long-standing Dawn Wall project. First tried by Caldwell in 2007, the route primarily follows the aid line Mescalito, and includes multiple pitches of 5.14 and, at one point, an eight-foot dyno.

During the six days the pair were on the wall, climbers from around the world were able to follow their progress via updates and messages posted to Jorgeson's Twitter account. Tommy Caldwell's wife Rebecca Caldwell also joined the pair for part of the push, writing about it on her blog Life With the Caldwells. Unfortunately, an early-season storm forced the pair to come down and abandon the project for the winter after freeing 11 pitches, or just over half of the route.

1. The Game and Lucid Dreaming

When the year began, there were only a handful of V16 bouldering problems around the world. One, Mauro Calibani's Tonino '78, was on private land; most of the rest were either contested or long traverses whose difficulty was mainly endurance-based.

In February, Daniel Woods opened the US' first V16 when he sent The Game, a steep, powerful line in Colorado's Boulder Canyon. Woods, who broke a crucial hold on the problem while warming up and had to find alternate beta to send it, said that The Game was “definitely another level” compared to his previous first ascents. The States got a second V16 in March, when Woods' friend and sometimes-rival Paul Robinson made the first ascent of Lucid Dreaming in Bishop, California's Buttermilks. Robinson spent several years working the problem, a lanky, technical climb that ascends some 45 feet up the crag's Grandpa Peabody boulder.

So why are these problems the biggest climbing story of the year? While not the biggest or the baddest, The Game and Lucid Dreaming are likely the physically hardest climbs in the world. Unlike link-ups like The Wheel of Life, The Game and Lucid Dreaming get their difficulty from the sheer toughness of their moves. Looking at these ascents on the bleeding edge of bouldering, we get an idea of the skills that climbers will be bringing to routes and big walls in years to come. For that, they take the crown.

 —Adam Roy

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