|Ben Moon on Hubble|
To me what was interesting was not the merit of the specific case of Hubble, which is probably valid, but the tendency for these kinds of ascents to emerge over time as breakthrough grades. There has been a fair amount of this recently. I begin by citing the case of Dan Goodwin, whose 1984 route Maniac was just recently repeated after over two decades and confirmed at 5.13c/d. This would have made it the hardest route in the country by far at the time and one of the hardest in the world.
|Story from Climbing last year|
Then there was the likely first 9a+ (5.15a) of Alexander Huber in 1996 with Open Air, a real beast of a pitch with a likely V11 finishing crux. The ClimbingNarc discussed this one pretty thoroughly but read also the interview with Alexander Huber where he sets his own routes in perspective against the "9as" of the present. It is worth mentioning that Huber's 1992 route Om was repeated only in 2009, also by Ondra. For even deeper perspective, check out this image from Climbing 47, from the spring of 1978 showing Ray Jardine on the iconic Valley route, The Phoenix. The caption describes it as one of the current 5.12's in Yosemite."
|Does this look like "5.12" to you?|
The issue with Hubble, in my view, was that the route was completely out of step with the vision of sport climbing that dominated the continent of Europe at the time. Long, stamina-oriented pitches were typical, occasionally with chipped holds to even out the difficulty. The likelihood of someone from abroad investing the time and energy in building up the power to do V13/14 on a rope and then finding the right conditions for a tiny route on a notoriously finicky crag was slim. Nevertheless Hubble was given an 8c+ grade, still regarded as a breakthrough but only by a letter grade. Only now is the record being rethought as hard bouldering has been maturing and a climber like Ondra has proven to be the equal of someone like Moon and Moffatt in bouldering hard and climbing on a rope hard.
Are we dealing here with the blinding effects of whatever is/was the current paradigm, a mode of seeing the world that hinders the understanding and inhibits knowledge? I think the question takes on importance with the rise of "professional" climbing. In other words, does professionalism imply subscribing to the dominant present paradigm and by implication, stifling innovation and creativity? A deeper exploration of that specific question belongs to another post but as I notice the recent crop of reevaluations of the historical record of sport climbing and bouldering, I am struck by the inconsistency of that record and the ways in which it has denied or delayed recognition of the real pioneers