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.