Over this last year, Canadian Allison Vest and American Alex Johnson climbed what became their strongest season. Although Vest decided to take a quick sabbatical from competition, and Johnson refocused on outdoor climbing, the two women are progressing at unprecedented rates.
She began her season with numerous V12 repeats and managed to tick her first 5.14 sport climb. In the fall, Vest began to spend more time in Joe’s Valley slowly working her way through the classics. She began with Black Out, a famous V13 that Ravioli Biceps spent time on earlier in the year. The edge-pulling test-piece asks climbers to move through some tenuous board-climbing moves before pulling through a classic Joe’s Valley top out.
The feature of this article came next. Masterpiece is perhaps one of the most beautiful V13 boulder problems in Joe’s Valley and Vest’s first climb published on Mellow. While there is a degree of curation that goes along with Mellow selection, it is good to see Canadians on the international platform. Vest became the second athlete after Ontario’s Ethan Salvo to make it on to Mellow.
Not only did Vest climb this problem, but she also managed Prince of Thieves a little later. This V11 is another classic Joe’s bloc and an exciting addition to the otherwise successful day. It shows that V13, while limit, may not be the maximum extent of what Vest is capable of.
Vest’s final 8B of the season came in the form of a Matt Fultz low-start called Army of the Dead. This less popular V13 has seen a couple of ascents over the years, but the spooky highball is one that keeps many climbers from trying in the first place. All three of these climbs are in Joe’s Valley and it will be interesting to see if this is where she remains over this next season.
In 2019 Vest became the first woman to climb V13 in her ascent of Terminator in Squamish, BC. The traversing granite endurance climb is a classic for the area, but it has also seen numerous repeats questioning the difficulty. While it remains unclear just how difficult Terminator may or may not be, Vest is certainly the strongest female boulderer in Canadian history and has cemented her place as Canada’s first V13 climber.
What’s more, Vest did not stop at V13. She broke into 5.14 on a rope this year climbing the stout Todd Skinner route Throwin’ the Houlihan. This mangily mono-pocket test piece is exemplary of the style and representative of Vest’s continuing development. She continued this progression with a repeat of Rodeo Free Europe, another 5.14a the preceded her reintroduction to bouldering for the season.
Alex Johnson has long been a champion of American rock climbing. Even after her time competing, taking pause, and coming back out of retirement, Johnson continues to progress on rock.
Johnson kicked off this year by climbing her long-term project The Swarm V13/14. This illustrious, crimpy, and spectacular climb is on many climbers’ dream lists and she managed to take it down this last Spring.
Johnson also went on to tick her 100th V10 with a repeat of Gunga Galunga. She had Las Vegas locals vote on which climb should be her 100. They delivered this multicoloured climb.
She ultimately had a strong season in Nevada, taking down Vantablack, a cruxy V13 just outside Las Vegas. To finish the year, Johnson joined Ravioli Biceps on The Nest. This beautiful resistance-based problem that climbs through loafing edges to an immaculate V13. The stand is that V13, while the low adds another V9-11 depending on who you ask. The entire line is considered one of the prettiest lines in the United States.
While it is exciting to see Johnson work on another project, it is exciting that she chose this one. It speaks to potential 8C aspirations. This difficulty rating that has only been achieved by two or three women, depending on whether you accept the downgrade of Oriane Bertone’s Satan I Helvete low start.