James Pearson Repeats Tribe, World’s Hardest Trad?
The top British climber made the second ascent of what might be the world's hardest gear climb
In March 2019, Jacopo Larcher made the first ascent of Tribe, a trad route at Cadarese, Italy. He didn’t suggest a grade, but said it was the hardest climb he’d done.
His send of La Rambla 5.15a suggests Tribe might be 5.14+ or 5.15a. There’s never been a 5.14d trad route claimed.
The hardest trad climbs before Tribe were: Blackbeard’s Tears 5.14c at Redwood Coast by Ethan Pringle, Brozone 5.14b at the Gunks (sent by Andy Salo and Sam Elias), and Century Crack 5.14b at Canyonlands (sent by Tom Randall, Pete Whittaker and Danny Parker). For a list of the world’s hardest trad visit here.
British rock climber James Pearson, 34, has just made the second ascent of Tribe, but didn’t sugggest a grade. Pearson travelled to Italy with Slovenian comp champ Jernej Kruder to project Tribe.
“I’ve known about Tribe, or at least ‘the big project at Cadarese,'” said Pearson. “I’ve walked past it many times on the way to the crag, and wondered if it was possible, to climb or protect. But, despite it only taking about two minutes to set up a static rope, I had never bothered to actually look at the thing. I guess deep down I thought it probably was impossible, like so many other king trad lines I’ve looked at over the years.”
Pearson sent 5.14d this summer and was surprised to make a relatively quick second ascent of Tribe while placing all gear on lead. He used the same beta as Larcher, but Kruder was trying a more challening dyno at the finish.
Before Tribe, Pearson had climbed Rhapsody E11 7a at Dumbarton Rock in 2014, Equilibrium E10 7a in 2005 at Burbage South and Caliente E10 6c in Pembroke in 2011.
“The conditions were pretty bad, but I managed most of the moves, by the skin of my teeth, and started to believe that one day I might be able to climb the route,” said Pearson.
“While I can’t say I’ve checked out every single trad route in the world, I have been on quite a few of them, and I’ve spent a lot of time searching for my own mega-project. For me, Tribe is by far the hardest series of moves I have ever done on a trad-route, and it’s a real miracle that the thing is actually possible on gear.”
In Canada, Sonnie Trotter’s The Path sat un-sent for decades while being bolted. It wasn’t until he chopped the bolts and sent it on gear that it gained popularity.
“Tribe would already be an awesome sport route, and one I’m sure people would be queueing up to try to climb,” said Pearson. “What makes it really special however, is that no one needed to place bolts to climb it safely.”