2013: Ed’s Choice Awards

posted by dpm on 12/17/2013

There’s still about two weeks left in 2013 but it’s already dead to me. All that remains are a few snowy and somber days before the holidays attack and I’m force fed to capacity by distant relatives until it all comes up in a drunken symbolic purging that marks the early hours of January 1st. Yes, life is grand and I’m happy to have made it through 2013. I’ve counted every year as a blessing ever since we made it through the terrifying 001101 binary code scare of Y2K. That was a close one!

Overall, it was a good year for the climbing world. Lots of people did lots of rad things and traveled to some amazing places. We all had our own adventures and we all followed along as rock stars around the globe established hard new rock climbs. For our 2013 year-in-review, I’ve decided to scrap the conglomeration concept and just focus on a few significant happenings from the year. I’m calling it the Ed’s Choice Awards.

The Ed’s Choice Award is one of the most prestigious awards a climber can be presented with. There is no panel of judges or complex formula that determines the winner, or the categories for that matter. These awards are based on a quick glance through the DPM news archives and it’s quite possible that I’ve overlooked or forgotten someone or something that probably deserved to be forgotten about. If you disagree with my choices, you’re wrong, and your New Year’s resolution should be to “accept the things you cannot change.”


Best Sport Climber of the Year: Adam Ondra

Also known as the “most unsurprising Ed’s Choice Award,” this year’s sport climber of the year is Adam Ondra! It’s become impossible to argue that Adam Ondra isn’t the best sport climber ever. Fortunately, I don’t have to hear you try to tell me, “It was different in the 90’s…Wolfgang was a pioneer!” or “But what about Sharma?!” Believe me, I know what some of you are thinking and you’re wrong. Adam Ondra is the greatest to ever live.

Click the image to watch send footage of Adam Ondra on Move (5.15b/c) one his hardest first ascents of 2013.

In 2012, he established Change, the world’s first 5.15c. This year, he got the first ascent of two more: La Dura Dura, a massive, action-packed route at Oliana, and Vasil Vasil, some turd pile in the Czech Republic with the hardest move he’s ever done on rope. He also sandbagged Move, another possible 5.15c that he ended up calling “hard” 5.15b, though he easily could have slapped the 5.15c grade on it and no one would have argued with it, probably ever. He did two more 5.15b’s: the 2nd ascent of Sharma’s Fight or Flight and his own Iron Curtain, plus four more 5.15a’s and eleven 5.14d’s. Three of those 5.14d’s he did in a single day at the Frankenjura and one of them he onsighted, thus achieving one of his long term goals.  

Honorable Mention: Alex Megos

Alex Megos gets the dark horse award for beating Ondra to the world’s first 5.14d onsight, probably the most anticipated and coveted ‘first’ in recent years. He also put up the hardest link-up boulder problem/route in the Hollow Mountain Cave, Wheelchair (5.15a), and the hardest sport route in Australia, R.E.D (5.14d). He deserves some kind of award. How about “Most likely to be even more of a bad ass next year.”

Click the image for send footage of Alex Megos on Wheelchair (5.15a).


Best Boulderer of the Year

“Jimmy so strong…” is what they say about Jimmy Webb, recipient of the Ed’s Choice Award for best boulderer of 2013. This past year, Jimmy set a new benchmark for flashing boulder problems. He flashed his first V13, Roses and Blue Jays at the very tail end of 2012 and since then he’s flashed five more. Three of those boulders were actually graded V14… until he flashed them. During Jimmy’s best year so far, he sent hard problems in Fontainebleau, Switzerland, Rocklands, and all over the US for a total of 11 V14’s, 26 V13’s, and 90 V11 and V12’s. His grand total for flashes in 2013 comes to 38 V11 or harder boulders. Also notable were his first two V15’s, both FA’s, in Colorado: The Wheel of Wolvo and Delirium. He won the deep-water solo “Psicocomp” in Salt Lake City and the La Sportiva Legends Only comp in Sweden. Both comps had him toe-to-toe with the world’s best boulderers. Jimmy was on fire in 2013.

Jimmy Webb was featured in Issue 26, available now online. Click the image to read more about Jimmy and watch exclusive video of his ascent of Warpath (V14) in Idaho. 


Lady Crusher of the Year

Every year the ladies seem to get stronger, disproving that a Y-chromosome is necessary for climbing the world’s hardest routes. In 2013, the woman that most frequently blipped up on my news feed radar was Paige Claassen. This might come as an unlikely, surprising choice. There were some other ladies that climbed harder graded routes this year, but it’s not always about the number. Paige’s induction in the 2013 Ed’s Choice hall of fame has more to do with who she is, what she climbed, and where she climbed them.

Considering her accomplishments, Paige is one of the most underrated female climbers today. Despite the not-so-earth-shattering grades of some of her hardest sends, routes like To Bolt or Not to Be (5.14a), and Grand Ol’ Opry (5.14b) carry a lot of street cred for those in the know. In fact, I’ve heard more than one pro climber state that Paige’s ascent of Grand Ol’ Opry is the hardest female ascent on American soil, ever.

2013 was Paige’s year to shine as she embarked on a round-the-world tour to seek out some true world classics. She broke the mold and didn’t follow the typical pro climber path to Spain, instead opting to seek out hidden gems across the globe. Her Lead Now tour carries the goal of raising money for different non-profits as she jet sets around the globe in search of the planet’s most beautiful and unique rock climbs. Her trip has taken her to far corners including Russia, Japan, China, South Africa, Italy, and India so far. Despite her limited time at each location, she usually comes away with a proud send like the first female ascent of India’s Ganesh (5.14a), a route she went to India specifically to climb, or the 2nd ascent of Art Attack, a heinous 5.14b slab in Italy. She also killed it in South Africa, but more on that in the next category.

Paige wins the Ed’s Choice award for her adventurous spirit, honest intentions, and for being one of the strongest lady crushers to circle the globe.

Click the image for video of Paige Claassen on Art Attack (5.14b), the most hard fought send of her trip so far. 

Honorable Mention: Muriel Sarkany

One of the most accomplished female comp climbers of all time, Belgian sport climber Muriel Sarkany achieved her high point at the age of 39 when she became the fourth woman to climb 5.14d. Punt X, at France’s Gorges Du Loup, is far from a “girl climb” with powerful, bouldery, and dynamic movement. It’s considered “hard” for the grade making it a contender for the hardest female ascent ever.


Best New Route

Every once in a while a new wall or route is discovered that reminds us just how much of our planet is still unexplored. The best new route award of 2013 goes to Digital Warfare (5.14-) on South Africa’s Wow Prow. The line was bolted by Andrew Pedley and saw its first ascent by Paige Claassen this past July. Digital Warfare takes a direct line up a huge shallow scoop of bright orange glassy sandstone littered with bullet-hole pockets just big enough for a few digits. It looks like one of the best routes in the world and it’s been hiding out all these years.

Paige tops out on her first ever first ascent: Digital Warfare, one of the world's best routes. Click the image for video.

Honorable Mention: The Fins

Though not a single route stands out, Jonathan Siegrist’s work at the Fins in Southern Idaho is notable. This past year he added three more quality 5.14’s to his line-up of full length routes on the Discovery Wall. The Fins have only gained national attention in the past two years, mostly due to Jonathan’s recent development. This incredible, and previously underappreciated, wall is now one of America’s premier face climbing venues.

Jonathan Siegrist on his new route Better Living Through Chemistry (5.14b/c) at the Fins, Idaho. Photo: DPM

Worst New Route

Now trending: double names for 5.15c’s. While La Dura Dura is a beautiful elegant line on bullet limestone, Vasil Vasil, Adam Ondra’s 2nd 5.15c FA of 2013, is a total “piece of shit.” Don’t look at me, Adam called it that himself! He also described it as “short, painful, and in a dirty place.” As if we weren’t getting the point, he called it a “one-mover” that’s “not worth being hyped,” but we did it anyway ‘cause, you know, it’s one of the hardest routes in the world. What could possibly be Adam’s motivation for climbing this “piece of shit?” He says that the “seeming impossibility of those holds irritated (him) for a long time.” You know what irritates me… 2/3rd’s of the world’s hardest routes being named the same thing twice.  


Worst Events of 2013

While we’re dwelling on a low point, it’s worth remembering some things that we wish hadn’t happened in 2013. We can learn a lot by looking back at some of these tragedies, hoping, and doing our best to make sure they don’t happen again.

The death of young rising star Tito Traversa broke hearts around the world and made us reexamine the way we teach climbing and introduce youth to the sport. Rest in peace Tito; you are not forgotten.

Violence crept too close to home for North American climbers, first when 18 Mexican band members were kidnapped and murdered close to Potrero Chico, Mexico, and again when a climber was shot in the night near Ten Sleep, Wyoming. For many climbers these events changed our views on the relative safety of our climbing areas. Hopefully these were isolated incidents that we won’t see again.

The Colorado climbing community was devastated by floods that displaced many from their homes and shut down many climbing areas. Some of Colorado’s classic boulder problems were toppled by mudslides and flooding, reminding us of the fragility of our environment and our place in the world.

Finally, the incompetent US government shut down our National Parks for three weeks in October making many of our best climbing areas inaccessible during the years most primo conditions. Seriously guys? Could you have picked a worse time?

Sorry folks, Park's closed.


Kid of the Year

Just a few weeks ago, Michaela Kirsch and Margo Hayes -two young girls from Boulder, Colorado- sent God’s Own Stone (5.14a) at the Red River Gorge, and guess what…not a single mainstream news source reported it! Yup, it took a little more for the kids to make headlines in 2013 and the standout achievements went to Ashima Shiraishi.

Last summer, Ashima took a trip to Magic Wood in Switzerland for One Summer in Paradise (V13) as well as a handful of V11’s and V12’s. While in Europe, she also visited Céüse for some sport climbing where she ticked off Dures Limites and L'arcademicien des Crepis, both 5.14b. Back in the States, she wrapped up her summer trip in Colorado with an ascent of Automator (V13) which was her fifth V13. The fall had her back at the Red River Gorge where she sent two 5.14c’s: 24 Karats and Fifty Words for Pump.

For kids, and women of any age, Ashima is climbing at the highest levels in both sport climbing and bouldering. Read more, and watch videos of Ashima in Issue 26. Click the image.

Honorable Mention: Kai Lightner

Kai went on a tear through East Coast 5.14’s this year sending a few 5.14a’s and Southern Smoke (5.14c) at the Red. I got to climb with him a bit and interview him for an article which was in Issue 24. He’s the nicest, most grounded young man I’ve met in the climbing world so he gets the Ed’s Choice award for “most likely to be the next Pope/Dalai Lama/President/ or peace-inspiring world leader of his choosing.”

Read the Ed's Choice pro-file of the year with Kai Lightner. Click the image.


Scandal of the Year

2013 was the year that we realized just how mean people can be on the internet. This realization came to light after we posted a video online that showed pro climber Ivan Greene engaged in the act of altering the rock on a potential boulder problem in New York State. The fallout in the comments field quickly went from disapproval to outright crucifixion. One friend referred to climbers as ‘cannibalistic,’ eager to eat their own at the first sign of weakness. 

The article and video "Just Cleaning?" certainly stirred things up in 2013. 


Most Insignificant Ascent

For the first time in the history of rock climbing, an ascent of an indoor boulder problem made international headlines. Daniel Woods sent the longstanding Bubble Wrap project at the Cats training center in Boulder, Colorado and for some reason, it got reported in the news. Sure, it might be the hardest boulder problem ever done inside and it’s a damn fine accomplishment, so why doesn’t it matter? Why does climbing to the top of something that’s not under a roof matter more than climbing to the top of something under a roof? I don’t know, I’m not here to answer life’s greatest mysteries. It just doesn’t.

Click the image for video of Daniel Woods sending Bubble Wrap and join the 37.4 thousand others that watched it, making it one of the most viewed climbing videos of all time.

Dishonorable Mention: King Snake: The Eternal Mystery

Two chuckleheads in New England dubbed themselves “The Sideboyz” and did a 23-pitch girdle traverse of Farley Ledge in Massachusetts. The insignificance of their ascent was narrowly overshadowed by the insignificance of Bubble Wrap. The only thing that made their ridiculous ascent “less insignificant” is the fact that they did it outdoors.

Sideboy Paul Handlen on the first ascent of King Snake: The Eternal Mystery. Click the image to read the full article.


Most Shocking Revelation of 2013

Bradley Manning is a she? I did not see that coming. Photo: Salon.com


Happy holidays everyone! DPM is now celebrating our fifth year and we couldn’t have done it without the support of the community. Here’s to another great year of fun-filled adventure, living life to the fullest, and above all…rock climbing.