Friday, January 7, 2011

New Year's Predictions

Well the New Year has started and it is time to think about the future direction of rock climbing again. A few thoughts as I take some time between completing my book on bouldering.

First, in bouldering it is clear that we are mostly in a phase of consolidation. Numerous rapid repeats and downgrades have happened recently but little innovation outside Daniel Woods's ascent of the Game and Angie Payne's pioneering effort on Automator. Attention is being garnered for ascents that would have been minimally interesting 5 years ago or more. More media focus on the tactics and mindset that allow for real breakthroughs would be nice, not just repeats or minor variations, and by media, I don't just mean magazines.

Lincoln Lake
will be big again next summer and there will be some fallout as a result. I can't speculate on what the Mount Evans rangers will think when every parking space on the road above the area is filled up day in, day out, but there may be some concern expressed about human impact at some point. The other issue (for some) will be whether the problems there hold their grades much longer, especially at the upper end. Some fresh faces and new attitudes may have that result, time will tell.

In sport climbing in the US, someone besides Joe Kinder has got to start bolting hard new routes. Amazing to note that virtually no major new sport climbs have been done in the Front Range in Colorado in close to a decade. By major, I mean 5.14c or harder and independent lines. Link-ups at Rifle or the Primo Wall do not count. This is mostly the case elsewhere in the US as far as I can see. It is telling that the strongest Front Range sport climber right now, Jonathan Siegrist, gets the job done in Kentucky, not Colorado.

In trad climbing and soloing, nobody is remotely in the same league as Alex Honnold whose endurance and steady head are unmatched by anyone else I know of. Again, holding pattern seems to be the paradigm right now. Whether new routes done in the headpoint style, whether crazy tall "boulder problems" or gear protected, continue to be popular is an open question. Some impressive lines have been done for sure but I sense that the wave is beginning to subside.

The impression I have is that the scene, especially in the US, is wide open for whoever wants to make an impact, especially in a legitimate way.


Jonathan Siegrist said...

Nice post Peter, I always enjoy reading your site. My hope is that with broadening access in the Flatirons some new cutting edge routes will emerge, otherwise it's been tough to find much of interest and difficulty around Boulder.. it's not that I haven't looked or am not interested - have any ideas? I'd be psyched!

Peter Beal said...

Hi Jonathan, I agree that the Flatirons are likely to hold exactly the route I mean. So much rock up there. But compared to the projects at the Red, it's going to be hard to match the access and number of options. I feel sure that Clear Creek has some untapped potential as well. Good luck! I am sure we'll talk soon.

bj sbarra said...

It does seem that there is maybe more of a lack of terrain for hard climbing than a lack of motivation? I can't speak for the front range as much, but around here I can think of about, oh, 1000 routes or so that could be developed within an hour of Carbondale, but of that only a small fraction would be high end.

There is an incredible amount of untouched limestone on the western slope, but much of it isn't steep enough, though there are a few relatively unknown places that could hold some proud lines.