posted by dpm on 10/05/2013
Visiting Frenchman Francois Legrand put up the route Ghetto Booty (5.14c/d) at Mt. Charleston, Nevada way back in the year 2000. At the time, it was pretty close to being the hardest route in America, coming in just shy of the 5.14d grade which had been established in America the year before with Tommy Caldwell's ascent of Kryptonite at the Fortress of Solitude. You'd think that such a significant route in climbing history, coupled with the beauty of the line and close proximity to the urban area of Las Vegas, would have seen quite a few repeats by top-shelf American climbers, but it hasn't. In fact, it took over a decade to see its first repeat which came in 2011 by Mexican Mauricio Huerta.
Now Steve Lapen has claimed the third ascent which raises the question, "Who the hell is Steve Lapen?" He's certainly not some over-sponsored pro climber that complains about how much work it is to update his blog, 8a scorecard, twitter account, Facebook athlete profile, etc. I know because it's my job to read all that stuff. And if you follow DPM, you'll know that we absolutely love it when relatively unknown, hard-working locals send America's hardest routes. I'd heard of Steve through our mutual friend Paul Dusatko so I checked in with Paul for the inside scoop.
"He may sound like a nerd, but he looks and climbs more like an X-Man... Steve Lapen, aka Wolverine, (check the chops) is a true underground cranker. Unknown to many, Steve has dispatched multiple 5.14s over the years, primarily of the pocket variety. He works full time as an engineer in southern California with his rad wife Deanna and their little baby. Whether he's driving six hours every other weekend to the Vegas limestone, making slight detours to the infamous Owl Tour near Santa Barbara, or quietly housing fools in local comps, Steve has always let his climbing speak for itself. It's hard not to notice him as he heads up the hardest routes, smoothly cruising the power crux you've been working for the past five years... and he does it in SOCKS! Yup, Steve wears socks with his climbing shoes, not to be bring attention to himself, but to climb in quiet comfort. He also climbs with an ATC on his harness, always, no matter how short or how pre-fixed a sport route is. Witnesses claim that during his ascent of Ghetto Booty, Elmo's theme song was playing at the base of the crag to keep his baby psyched and free up mom to belay. That sums up Steve right there, unassumingly firing the hardest line at the crag with, socks, ATC, baby, and Elmo. Elmo bro, Elmo."
Steve worked hard to send one of America's proudest routes and documented it in the great video below. Click the image for video.