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Eight Breakthroughs in a Year, from V17 to 5.15d

It has been one of the most memorable years of climbing since Nalle Hukkataival pushed the grade-bar to the hard-to-imagine V17 grade.

Since that big send in October 2016, climbers have been pushing every style of climbing and succeeding with breakthrough ascents. There’s many more, but here’s eight big climbs from the past year.

So stoked to realize a life dream today 🙂 @jimmy_chin photo

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Nalle Hukkataival Climbs V17: In October 2016, Hukkataival made the first ascent of his Lappnor Project in Finland, which he later called Burden of Dreams. It climbs a straight line up the middle of a seemingly featureless 45 degrees overhanging red granite.

“It consists of only five hard moves in four metres of climbing,” notes Hukkataival. “Therefore it certainly represents a return to the roots of bouldering, distilling difficulty to its bare essence.”

Adam Ondra Repeats Dawn Wall: In November, Ondra made his first trip to Yosemite with his sights on Dawn Wall, the 32-pitch 5.14+ first climbed by Tommy Caldwell and Kevin Jorgeson.

The first ascent took about seven years of effort and Ondra had the knowledge the route could go and the beta. Even with all of that, his few-week ascent is considered one of the most impressive free climbs in Yosemite’s history.

Margo Hayes Climbs La Rambla: In February of this year, Hayes became the first female to send an undisputed 5.15a with her climb of La Rambla in Spain.

She told Rock & Ice after her climb, “I have so much respect for the climbers who have had the vision and the commitment to equip climbs such as La Rambla and for the many climbers in the international community who challenge and enjoy themselves, no matter the grade!”

Alex Honnold Free-Solos El Cap: On June 3, Honnold became the first climber to free-solo El Cap. His chosen route was Freerider, a technical 5.13a with low-percentage and committing cruxes. It took three hours and 56 minutes.

He told National Geographic after, “Honestly, I think this is the most satisfied I’ve ever been. It was exactly what I hoped for. I felt so good. It went pretty much perfectly.”

Evan Hau is Canada’s 5.15 Climber: Hau became the first Canadian to climb 5.15a with the first ascent of his Echo Canyon climb Glory and Honour.

Hau told us after, “Honour and Glory is more of a power endurance climb; there aren’t any seriously difficult sections. The hardest individual move is about V10 or so but it’s all the V10 sections stacked on top of each other with hardly any rests which makes it difficult.”

Gord McArthur Climbs First D16: In August, Canadian McArthur sent his multi-year drytool project in B.C. called Storm Giant.

The monster 85-metre cave pitch climbs past huge roof sections with pumpy reaches. McArthur said after, “It was very specific with a lot of endurance training, which is just time spent on tools. I spent countless hours on the route, working the moves, trying to build the movement into my muscle memory.” (click to play clip)

Adam Ondra Sends First 5.15d: Ondra climbed his Project Hard route at Flatanger, Norwayy and graded it 5.15d, the first of the grade.

He ended up naming the world’s hardest single-pitch route Silence. Ondra noted after, “At the end of the route when I knew I did it, I had one of the strangest emotions ever. I clipped the anchor and I could not even scream.”

Anak Verhoeven Climbs New 5.15a The 21-year-old Belgian became the second female to climb 5.15a, after Hayes, and the first to establish one.

Her hard new route is called Sweet neuf and climbs a limestone wall in Vercors, France. It’s the latest breakthrough climb in a stellar year, so far.

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