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10 Climbing Highlights from 2020

Here's a look back at some of the headline-making climbs since January

The past 12 months were full of hard sends, new routes and bold leads around the world. From new 5.15s and V16, to multi-day alpine adventures, 2020 was a good year for the world of climbing.

The Olympics were postponed until 2021, which left Olympic-qualified climbers with time on their hands to project close-to-home routes. It resulted in some historic climbs. Here are 10 of the countless highlights from international climbing this year.

Stay tuned for 20 Canadian highlights from 2020 tomorrow. Below is the most-liked Gripped Instagram photo of 2020 with over 13,000.

Alex Megos Sends New 5.15d

Olympic-qualified climber Alex Megos, who opened the first 5.15 in Canada in 2016 with Fight Club 5.15b in Banff, completed his project Bibliographie in Ceuse, France, and suggested the grade of 5.15d. It’s only the second route ever climbed at the grade. The first was by Adam Ondra with Silence in Norway. Silence has never been repeated. Both grades, for now, are suggested until repeated. Megos, 26, has sent many hard sport routes including Perfecto Mundo 5.15c, First Round First Minute 5.15b and over a dozen 5.15a lines many being first ascents. This May, he made the first ascent of Upgrade U, the hardest boulder in Frankenjura at V15.

Angy Eiter’s New 5.15b

Angy Eiter made the first ascent of Madame Ching in Tirol, Austria, which was bolted in 2018 by her husband, Bernie Ruech, in mid-December. In 2017, she became the first woman in history to climb a 5.15b with La Planta de Shiva at Villanueva del Rosario, Spain. The 34-year-old crusher, who’s won four World Cup titles, four World Championship golds and one European Championship gold, said her new 5.15b is similar to La Planta de Shiva. Madame Ching, which is named after a famous Chinese pirate, has over 100 moves. Eiter began to project it earlier this year and worked it on and off in 2020.

Melissa La Neve Sends Action Directe

Melissa Le Nevé became the first woman to climb Action Directe 5.14d in Frankenjura this spring. In 2014, she became the first woman to send Wallstreet 5.14c, also in Frankenjura. The classic 5.14d was first climbed by Wolfgang Gullich in 1991 as the first of its grade. It’s been repeated over 20 times, but still stands as one of the hardest 5.14d routes in the world. Le Nevé, 30, is one of the best climbers with 5.14 multi-pitches and V14s to her name. She grew up in the Vosges and began climbing at age 15 at a gym near Bordeaux. She was the French women’s bouldering champion in 2010 and 2013, placed fourth in the Bouldering World Cup standings in 2011, and has placed second at World Cup events in Slovenia, 2013, and Switzerland and Japan, 2016. She retired from competitive climbing in 2016, after finishing third in that year’s bouldering world cup.

Marc-André’s Visión on Torre Egger

Brette Harrington has completed a line up the East Pillar of Torre Eger in Patagonia with Quentin Roberts and Horacio Gratton called Marc-André’s Visión. Leclerc passed away in a climbing accident in Alaska in the spring of 2018 with partner Ryan Johnson. “The line curves delicately up the lower East Pillar of Torre Egger, connecting into Titanic,” said Harrington. “Marc had seen this line while soloing Torre Egger in 2016 and together we were hoping to return and climb it. This was a line I couldn’t do alone, so I called up my friend Quentin Roberts and he joined me in establishing the lower pillar this season which connects into Titanic.” The new route is VI 5.12c and took five days to complete. After their first ascent to the summit, Harrington said, “Cold and icy conditions made the climbing quite challenging, often by use of one crampon on the left foot and one rock shoe on the right foot, one ice axe, and bare hands. Four days on the wall has left me feeling so very content with our effort and patience as we waited for the wall to clean itself of ice. This would not have been possible without the endless inspiration from Leclerc.”

Oriane Bertone V15 FA

French climber Oriane Bertone made the first ascent of Satan I Helvete Low V15 in Fontainbleau at only 15 years old. She’s the fourth woman to climb the grade following Ashima Shiraishi, Kaddi Lehmann and Mishka Ishi. Bertone became the youngest climber to send a V14 with she was 12. In 2019, she started competing in international youth sport climbing events where she won multiple gold medals in both lead and bouldering.

Silvia Vidal’s 33-Pitch Solo Big Wall

Top big wall climber Silvia Vidal spent 33 days alone from Feb. 7 to March 10 climbing a new route up the west face of Cerro Chileno Grande in Patagonia, Chile. She called the 1,200-metre A3+ 5.10: Sincronia Magica. It took her 16 days to transport her gear through a forest and up a glacier to the base of the wall. Vidal was fully isolated from the rest of the world for over a month with no form of communication. Vidal has climbed new big wall routes, solo, around the world. She fixed the first 180 metres before her 33-day push.

Alex Honnold on Epniephrene

Alex Honnold climbed Epinephrine, a classic 13-pitch 5.9 in Red Rock, in 34 minutes and 51 seconds, beating the late Brad Gobright’s record of 38 minutes and 15 seconds. Honnold talked about his climb on social media: “I’ve been thinking about Brad Gobright a lot lately – something about hiking briskly in fall temps always reminds me of him… After he died, I thought maybe he should just keep the record indefinitely as a nice tribute. “But as the season has changed this year I haven’t been able to resist taking a few laps up the route, just to see. Today I did 34:51, and I feel an urge to thank Brad for the continuing motivation. I appreciate him getting me up early one more time to go outside and try my hardest on something big.”

Stefano Ghisolfi 5.15c

Italian climber Stefano Ghisolfi, five-time world cup winner, made the second ascent of Change 5.15c, first climbed by Adam Ondra in 2012 in the Hanshelleren Cave of Flatanger, Norway. It was the first 5.15c ever climbed. Ghisolfi spent over an hour to piece the nearly 200-move 55-metre overhanging cave together. Last month, he sent the first pitch at 5.15a/b, but the full route links the first with the second. This is his second 5.15c after his repeat of Perfecto Mundo in Margalef in December 2018. Ghisolfi’s hard sends: Change 5.15c, Perfecto Mundo 5.15c, La Capella 5.15b, One Slap 5.15b, First Round First Minute 5.15b and Lapsus 5.15b.

Akira Repeated

In 1995, top climber Fred Rouhling made the first ascent of Akira at Le Périgord in France and graded it 5.15b. At the time, there were no routes graded 5.15, but in 1996 Alex Huber climbed Open Air 5.14d, which was later upgraded to 5.15a as the first of the grade. Sébastien Bouin and Lucien Martinez finally repeated Akira before winter and both suggested it’s 5.14d. It climbs a 12-metre roof and heads into an eight-metre face. The route was clouded by controversy when first climb due to the 5.15b suggestion. “Any way this route is hard” commented Bouin “and quite unbelievable for the 1990s.” Rouhling said after the repeat: “I was very happy that they climbed it. For me, Akira was another level.”

Harder, Faster

In December, James Pearson climbed a bold gritstone testpiece called Harder, Faster at Black Rocks in England. He’s only the third climber to send the E9 7a. It’s considered one of the most dangrous climbs in the U.K. Harder, Faster climbs a direct line next to the classic Gaia, which was first climbed by Johnny Dawes in 1986. It’s a run-out climb on technical slopers. A fall could be deadly. The first ascent was by Charlie Woodburn in November 2000, belayed by Tim Emmett, and was repeated only once, back in 2003 by the late Lucky Chance.