OK, I admit it. I have been putting off writing about climbing. Not because of the latest compliment/putdown by Andrew B. And it's not because I have been trying desperately to get in just one more decent session on European Human Being before the snow entombs it until next July, though that has been an issue. It could be apathy, could be laziness, it could be burnout. Whatever, as people used to say before whatever became, well, whatever.
Then the World Cup rolled into town last week and I began thinking a bit more about what this implies for climbing moving forward. Or to be more precise, what Ramon Julian Puigblanque's onsight of the Crew at Rifle, a few days after the event, implies. Comp-wise, Puigblanque placed 8th in the World Cup, primarily stymied, as was the similarly height-challenged Sean McColl, by a peculiarly long dyno move relatively low on the final route.
The event by the way was a blast to watch at home via a web feed that worked very well. Well done Jon Glassberg and the IFSC. Though the men's final looked as though a compass and GPS would have been handy for finding your away around, the comp went very well in my view, and the push for inclusion as an Olympic sport seems justified. But back to the Crew.
This ascent was rapidly spread about the Internet and with considerable justification. But there has not been much comment in US media on what it implies about the state of European climbing. First, the Crew has long been a rite of passage for Rifle climbers since its establishment by Chris Knuth, the hardest route there for ages, worked over weeks if not seasons for many. Furthermore it is a top route in a place that prides itself on hard grading. And furthermore again, it was the first onsight of the grade for Puigblanque. The ascent was made without kneepads or esoteric kneebar beta, both considered mandatory for the Crew. The question has to be asked. Is there any climber from America remotely capable of such a feat anywhere else in the world? And that is setting aside the myriad other hard routes Puigblanque onsighted in Rifle, including Living in Fear earlier in the day.
I am going to go ahead and say no. I am not going to pontificate on whether that's a good or bad thing. After all climbing is a lifestyle, not a sport, or something, which is what people would say when they left comments on this kind of thing before. But regardless, it is an ascent that should certainly leave American pro climbers wondering what's next. Olympics indeed.