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Watch Pearson and Larcher Talk Tribe, World’s Hardest Gear Climb

Jacopo Larcher and James Pearson talk about why the grade doesn't matter for the hard trad line

In fall 2020, British climber James Pearson made the second ascent of Tribe, arguably the world’s hardest gear climb located in Cadarese, Italy. It was first climbed by Jacopo Larcher in spring 2019, after years of projecting. Larcher didn’t grade it, but said it might be 5.15 given his recent sends of 5.15 sport climbs.

“I’ve known about Tribe…for about 10 years,” said James Pearson. “I’ve walked past it many times on the way to the crag and wondered whether it was possible to climb or protect. But although it takes only about two minutes to set up a static rope, I never bothered to actually look at the thing. I guess deep down, I thought it probably was impossible.”

It didn’t take Pearson long to unlock the sequences and climbed the 30-metre lie. “Everything was really, really wet [when I arrived],” he said. “For the first couple of days, I got an hour to an hour and a half at the end of each day to try the route, once the seepage from above had dried enough. I climbed the route on my seventh lead attempt. I’d fallen pretty close to the top numerous times before that. The fickle nature of the final boulder problem often spat me off.”

Like Larcher, Pearson modestly didn’t assign a grade, but said it forced him to make the hardest moves of his life. “I can’t say I’ve checked out every single trad route in the world, but I have been on quite a few of them,” he said. “For me, Tribe is by far the hardest series of moves I have ever done on a trad route.”

It surprised Pearson that the line was even possible on gear. “It’s rare to find a piece of rock compact enough to make a series of sustained, hard movements, but with just enough decent gear placements,” he said.

“Tribe would be an awesome sport route, and one I’m sure people would be queueing up to try,” said Pearson. “What really makes it special, however, is that no one needed to place bolts to climb it safely. Mother Nature gave us everything that we need: an amazing line, a cool series of holds and gear placements right where you need them.”

Historically, trad climbing is one a climber goes ground-up with a rack of gear up a natural feature like a crack. Gear climbing, or head-pointing, is when a climber rappels a route and memorizes where the gear will go when leading. Top climbers like Sonnie Trotter, who’s one of Canada’s top gear climbers, said the two styles are very different.

The 5.14+ Gear Routes

Tribe 5.14d? / Jacopo Larcher
Meltdown 5.14c in Yosemite / Beth Rodden, Carlo Traversi
Blackbeard’s Tears 5.14c in Redwood Coast / Ethan Pringle
Rhapsody 5.14cR in U.K. / Dave Macleod, Sonnie Trotter, Steve McClure, James Pearson, Jacopo Larcher
Into the Sun 5.14c in Switzerland / Bernd Zangerl
Pura Pura 5.14c in Italy / Tom Randall
Recovery Drink 5.14c in Norway / Nico Favresse, Daniel Jung
Magic Line 5.14c in Yosemite / Ron Kauk, Lonnie Kauk

Tribe Sends by Larcher and Pearson

More Hard Trad Climbs

Blackbeard’s Tears 5.14c (8c+), Redwood Coast, U.S.A. by Ethan Pringle
Brozone 5.14b (8c), Gunks, U.S.A. by Andy Salo, Sam Elias
Century Crack 5.14b (8c), Canyonlands, U.S.A. by Tom Randall, Pete Whittaker, Danny Parker
China Doll 5.14a (8b+), Boulder Canyon, U.S.A. by Mike Patz, Matt Segal, Ethan Pringle, Joe Mills, Heather Weidner, Molly Mitchell
Cobra Crack 5.14b (8c), Squamish, Canada by Sonnie Trotter, Nico Favresse, Ethan Pringle, Matt Segal, Will Stanhope, Yuji Hirayama, Alex Honnold, Pete Whittaker, Tom Randall, Ben Harnden, Mason Earle, Logan Barber, Said Belhaj
Das große Knübbeln 5.14a (8b+), Pfalz, Germany by Felix Lehmann
Dihedron 5.14a (8b+), Joshua Tree, U.S.A. by Randy Leavitt
Direquiem 5.14a (8b+), Dumbarton Rock, United Kingdom by Sonnie Trotter
Dunn-Westbay Direct 5.14a (8b+), The Diamond, U.S.A. by Tommy Caldwell, Joe Mills, Jonathan Siegrist
East Coast Fist Bump 5.14a (8b+), Oak Creek Canyon, U.S.A. by Joel Unema
Echo Wall 5.14b (8c), Ben Nevis, United Kingdom by Dave MacLeod
Enter the Dragon 5.14a (8b+), The Fins, U.S.A. by Jonathan Siegrist
Family Man 5.14b (8c), Skaha, Canada by Sonnie Trotter, Ben Harnden
Father’s Day 5.14a (8b+), Donner Summit, U.S.A. by Alan Moore, Nico Favresse, Urs Moosmuller
Ill Fire 5.14a (8b+), Adirondacks, U.S.A. by Peter Kamitses
Iron Monkey 5.14a (8b+), Eldorado Canyon, U.S.A. by Matt Segal, Ethan Pringle, Brian Kim
La Zébrée 5.14a (8b+), Mont-King, Canada by Jean-Pierre Ouellet, Sylvain Masse, Em Pellerin, Jérôme St-Michel, Julien Bourassa-Moreau
Lapoterapia 5.14b (8c), Osso, Italy by Jacopo Larcher
Leve Leve 5.14a (8b+), Pico, Cão Grande São Tomé and Príncipe by Iker Pou, Enoko Pou
Longhope Direct 5.14a (8b+), St. John’s Head, United Kingdom by Dave MacLeod, James McHaffie, Ben Bransby
Magic Line 5.14b/c (8c/+), Yosemite, U.S.A. by Ron Kauk, Lonnie Kauk, Hazel Findlay
Magic Mushroom 5.14a (8b+), Yosemite, U.S.A. by Tommy Caldwell, Justen Sjong, Babsi Zangerl, Jacopo Larcher
Meltdown 5.14c (8c+), Yosemite, U.S.A. by Beth Rodden, Carlo Traversi
Oppositional Defiance Disorder 5.14a (8b+), Adirondacks, U.S.A. by Peter Kamitses
Ozone 5.14a (8b+), Gunks, U.S.A. by Cody Sims, Peter Kamitses, Andy Salo
Planet Claire 5.14a (8b+), Gunks, U.S.A. by Scott Franklin, Char Fetterolf, Andy Salo
Prinzip Hoffnung 5.14a (8b+), Bürser Platte, Austria by Beat Kammerlander, Jacopo Larcher, Babsi Zangerl, Nadine Wallner, Maddy Cope, Lena Marie Müller
Proper Soul 5.14a (8b+), New River Gorge, U.S.A. by Brent Perkins
Psychogramm 5.14a (8b+), Bürser Platte, Austria by Alex Luger, Fabi Buhl, Jacopo Larcher
Pura Pura 5.14c (8c+), Valle dell’Orco, Italy by Tom Randall
Pure Pressure 5.14a (8b+), Escalante Canyon, U.S.A. by Ben Rueck
Recovery Drink 5.14c (8c+), Jossingford, Norway by Nico Favresse, Daniel Jung, Pete Whittaker
Rhapsody 5.14c (8c+), Dumbarton Rock, United Kingdom by Dave MacLeod, Sonnie Trotter, Steve McClure, James Pearson, Jacopo Larcher
Sewer Rat 5.14a (8b+), Sundown Ledge, U.S.A. by Dave Sharratt
Silently Does the Sun Shine 5.14a (8b+), Red River Gorge, U.S.A. by Andrew Gearing
South Face (Washington Column), 5.14a (8b+), Yosemite, U.S.A. by Matt Wilder
Stranger Than Fiction 5.14a (8b+), Moab, U.S.A. by Mason Earle
Sugar Daddy 5.14a (8b+), Squamish, Canada by Sonnie Trotter, Ben Harnden
The Almighty 5.14a/b (8b+/c), Teton Canyon, U.S.A. by Ty Mack, Jonathan Siegrist
The Bull 5.14b (8c), Squamish, U.S.A. by Jeremy Smith, Ben Harnden
The Dawn Wall 5.14b (8c), Yosemite, U.S.A. by Tommy Caldwell, Kevin Jorgeson, Adam Ondra
The Nose 5.14a (8b+), Yosemite, U.S.A. by Lynn Hill, Tommy Caldwell, Beth Rodden, Jorg Verhoeven, Keita Kurakami, Connor Herson, Seb Berthe, Jacopo Larcher, Babsi Zangerl
The Path 5.14a (8b+), Back of the Lake, Canada by Sonnie Trotter, Ethan Pringle, Miles Adamson, Matt Wilder, Peter Kamitses, Tommy Caldwell, Read Macadam, Tim Emmett, Doug McConnell, Babsi Zangerl, Jonathan Siegrist, Jacopo Larcher, Mike Kerzhner, Nathan Hadley, Simon Yamamoto, Dexter Bateman Danny Poceta, Nich Rochacewich
Tom Egan Memorial Route 5.14b (8c), Bugaboos, Canada by Will Stanhope
Tribe 5.14+ (9a)?, Cadarese, Italy by Jacopo Larcher