Alex Megos Goes on a Norwegian Tear & Mat Wright Establishes one of the Headiest Routes of the Year

This article originally appeared on Climbing

In an attempt to make space for the newsworthy ascents that occur with ever-increasing regularity, our weekly news roundup tries to celebrate a few outstanding climbs (or interesting events) that for one reason or another caught our attention. We hope you enjoy it. --The editors

Mat Wright Nabs Another Dangerous E10 7a FA

Last month, Mat Wright established Black Thistle, a runout and technical E10 7A (5.14- R/X) at Glen Nevis, in the U.K. It was his second FA of the grade this year, after climbing Magical Thinking at Pavey Ark in July.

Black Thistle climbs easy, slabby ground for 20 feet up to a prominent ledge, before the angle kicks way back, overhanging above the low-angle terrain.

"From the ledge, the difficulty ramps up with a desperately hard, runout, and insecure boulder problem [around V11]," Wright told UKC. "The gear beneath is good, but the area to fall into is tight. I realized that if I was to fall perfectly downwards, it’d be just about okay. But any loss of control sideways or outwards and you’re guaranteed to hit things on the way down."

Wright said he didn't think falling off the crux was a reasonably safe option.

In typical UK fashion, the route, on Wright's proposed lead day--the day where he invited two videographers to document his ascent--was unreasonably wet. In between top rope burns Wright literally dried off holds.

"I was tied in, ready to go, cameramen in place and ready for action," he told UKC. "Admittedly feeling way out of my depth but psyched to tackle the bull by its horns. Only to have to keep stopping to dry the footholds.

"I eventually plucked the courage and decided to give it a go. It all went surprisingly smoothly and after climbing through the first six moves, I took a quick glance down to check whether my shoes were still dry. They were... and I felt physically amazing, light and strong. That made it much easier for me to commit to the hardest part. Move seven, the crux drop knee, felt the best it’s ever felt and the rest of the climbing couldn’t have gone any better."

Well kudos to you, Mr Wright. Black Thistle has got to be one of the headiest routes of the year. --Anthony Walsh


Connor Herson Continues his rampage by repeating Blackbeard's Tears

Fresh off the single most impressive sending spree Squamish has ever seen, Connor Herson, 20, has made the second ascent of Ethan Pringle's Blackbeard's Tears (5.14c) on California's redwood coast.

Originally aided by Matthias Holladay in 1986 and freed by Pringle in 2016, Blackbeard's Tears follows a crack through a stunning black streak on a progressively more overhanging panel overlooking the Pacific Ocean. In their recent Climbing article about the undeservedly obscure Redwood Coast, Ollie Hancock breaks the climb down into three distinct parts: "a slightly overhanging 5.10+ that serves as a warm up; an ever-steepening 5.13c splitter up clean, burnished stone; and a 5.14c outro with, reportedly, a wild V11 bulge." Ethan Pringle described the line as "pretty much the sickest-looking single pitch crack climb I've ever seen or touched."

Herson worked Blackbeard's Tears along with Carlo Traversi, who's climbed numerous 5.14 gear lines, and frequent Climbing contributor Nat Bailey, who's done Cobra Crack, so we wouldn't be surprised if it saw another ascent in coming days.

--Steven Potter

Ondra and Garnbret Win Arco Rockmasters

Ongoing since 1997, Arco's annual Rock Master Festival--a duel speed event featuring head-to-head races--took place last weekend. The competition was stiff and the routes were tough, going at 5.13d for the men and 13b for the women. Unsurprisingly, Adam Ondra and Janja Garnbret took home gold.

"So today I took my seventh victory at the legendary Rock Master here in Arco," Ondra told Climbing. "This year, the crowd was just amazing. It was packed and in the final round of this rather specific discipline was my very usual opponent and friend Jacob Schubert, from Austria. We both did a really good run. I didn't make that many mistakes, Jacob made a few, and in the end, I was a little more lucky. With the time one minute one second, I could take the victory, which I’m pretty happy about. It was an exciting comp and it made it really special for me to climb in front of the Italian crowd; I think the Italians quite like me. I feel really good in this place, as we don't only go here for the competitions, but we also spend quite a lot of time at the neighboring crags."

Following the competition, Garnbret did a victory lap at a neighboring crag herself: she sent Underground (5.14c/d) at Massone, a route she'd "always wanted to do," as she wrote on Instagram.

--Delaney Miller


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Josh Wharton makes a FFA on the historic Windtower, Canadian Rockies, at 5.13b

Almost a year ago exactly, I rappelled into the chossy Northwest Face of the Windtower, above Canmore, Alberta, to document the first free ascent of a new rap-bolted sport route called The 36th Chamber. That route became quite controversial as word got around: at the time, it shared the face with just one other route--the historic (and incredibly bold) Iron Butterfly (VI 5.11 A4; 1,500ft)--and a cohort of Canadian traditionalists were outraged. One called it "the funeral of the mountain."

The 36th Chamber wasn't continuously redpointed that day, but we've just learned that Colorado's Josh Wharton traveled to Canmore last month to make the route's first free ascent, supported by Harrison Teuber.

A 1,500 foot limestone cliff in Canada: it's steep, chossy, and dark. It's also got a route map highlighted in blue.
The Northwest Face of the Windtower, above Canmore, Alberta, with “The 36th Chamber” highlighted. (Photo: Mark Carlson)

On Mountain Project, Wharton wrote: "Hats off to Mark [Carlson] for an impressive effort to create this route. Rare to have such a long overhanging sport route, particularly in North America. Like many of the bigger walls in Rockies, the rock often leaves something to be desired, but the route is generously equipped. The climbing feels 'engaging' at times, but the experience is in reality completely safe. Despite the rock quality there are some stretches of excellent climbing. Especially on the opening pitch, and on the crux pitches. I encourage other people to sample the route. With more traffic it's only bound to improve."

After working the route for one day, Wharton freed the 1,500-foot face in a single day later that week. "Free climbing the route in a day felt like a proper challenge, and some rain and wetness late in the day kept success in doubt until the tippy top," he said. "The route seemed a fair bit harder overall than say Blue Jeans [5.13b; 1,200ft] on Yamnuska."

To learn more about The 36th Chamber and the history of the Windtower, check out my feature about the mountain here.


Alexander Megos racked up a hell of a tick list in Norway

A fun thing happens toward the end of each competition season: the world's best climbers, freed of their grueling indoor obligations, bring their fitness outside and wrack up mind-boggling tick lists. Just a few weeks after taking third in the Lead World Championship at Bern, Alex Megos took a 12-day bouldering trip to Norway, where he climbed in Vingsand and Hell (yep: that's the real name) and focused on volume, sending three V14s and a 5.14d, flashing three V13s and a V12, sending four more V13s and four more V12s, and polishing off a number of other double digit problems. Some of these were first ascents. Others, like Bernt Zangerl's Shantaram (V14), were so classic that Megos decided to climb them twice. Must be nice to be so strong.


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Watch Nina Williams Style One of the Best 5.14b's in the Country

Call me biased (I am), but I think this week's Mellow release is one of the best yet. It's about China Beach, the king line at my old stomping grounds, Rumney, NH; about the lore and community that's built up around that route; and, of course, about Williams making the first female ascent.

BJ Tilden has done yet another 5.14d first ascent

When I asked Jonathan Siegrist two years ago why there weren't more 5.15s in the United States, I expected to hear him blame geology and say that, compared to places like Europe, the United States simply has fewer of the limestone cliffs best suited to hard sport climbs. But Siegrist surprised me. Though he acknowledged that the geology thing was true, he also noted that part of this shortage was a function of culture.

The U.S., he said, simply didn't have that many people putting in the time to find, bolt, clean, and climb truly hard sport routes. Indeed, he said that current development of 5.14 and harder lines in the U.S. was largely being spearheaded by three people aside from himself: Joe Kinder and Andy Raether--who've made numerous hard FA's in Rifle, Colorado; Southern Utah; and the Las Vegas area--and BJ Tilden, the construction worker who brought both the 5.14d and 5.15a grades to Wyoming.

Two years on and little has changed. Last week, Tilden, now 42, did the first ascent of The Ritual (5.14d) at the Temple wall in Tensleep. It's his tenth route graded 5.14d or harder.

Speaking to, Tilden said he started trying the route in earnest last summer and put ten days into it this year, all of them day trips from Lander to Tensleep, which involves five hours of driving round trip. "The route definitely turned out to be harder than I originally thought," he said. "The upper boulder is very high percentage in isolation. I was pretty much 100% on it from anywhere on the route, but it was a different story from the ground. The rest in the middle is really not that great, and the route stays on you all the way to the anchor hold."



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The American Alpine Club is reopening the Hueco Rock Ranch--And Hiring for it.

This just in: This week the American Alpine Club announced that they're re-opening the iconic Hueco Rock Ranch, a longtime climber sanctuary (built by Todd Skinner in the nineties) just outside Hueco Tanks State Park. This is great news for those of us pebble-wrestlers planning trips to sunny El Paso this winter--but it's even better news for those of you looking for a fun seasonal job. The AAC is hiring both a manager and an assistant manager who will live seasonaly at the Ranch and oversee its operation. You can find details about the manager job here and the assistant manager job here. Don't procrastinate. Priority will be given to applications received before August 11.

Also in the news this week:

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