Possibly World’s Most Aesthetic Route Sees Repeat; and Tristan Chen Makes Rare Ascent
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 series 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
David Lama's Avaatara (Finally) Sees Second Ascent
Last week, French climber Victor Guillermin, 17, made the second ascent of David Lama's Avaatara (5.14d), a 115-foot line snaking behind the Baatara Gorge Waterfall, in Lebanon.
I've personally dreamt of this route since first seeing it in Red Bull's 2015 short feature of then 25-year-old Lama, who explored the untouched sinkhole alongside local climber Jad Khoury. Lama, who was killed in an avalanche on Howse Peak in 2019, established Avaatara straight out the belly of the undulating limestone cave, a mouth framed by no less than three natural arches. The blue and orange rock takes the path from a swell in the cave--which is wide enough to form a footpath--through a severely overhanging roof. Framed by a waterfall that drops off another hundred meters below, Avaatara might just be the most aesthetic route I've ever seen. Fittingly, Lama commented, "I guess when it comes to climbs that are just this hard or that are this close to your limit, climbing is almost more of an art than a sport."
Lebanon is abundant in high quality, untouched rock, and I'm glad to see the country getting some well-deserved attention. It very well may be a top climbing destination once more pioneers of the sport, like Lama, sink a few more bolts. --DM
Tristan Chen Makes a Rare Boulder Ascent of The Fly
Tristan Chen, who was diagnosed with Leukemia 12 months ago and whose harrowing treatment and recovery I've written about several times this spring, has made a rare ropeless ascent of Dave Graham's 2001 testpiece, The Fly, a 25-foot two-bolt (or nine-pad) 5.14d (or V13/14) located in Rumney, New Hampshire. Chen's ascent is interesting to me on a number of levels--not least because it's very cool to see Chen (who lost and regained more than 15 percent of his bodyweight last year) crushing again. But I also think his decision to go ropeless gives us an occasion to look back on the evolution of highball bouldering over the past 22 years.
When Dave Graham first did The Fly, the idea of committing to V13 or V14 sequences 20 feet above an atrocious double-tiered landing was entirely out of the question--thus the bolts. And this concept was quite slow to change, despite the fact that, in 2003, just two years after Graham's ascent, Jason Kehl ferried his Bishop-honed headpointing practices to the East Coast and made The Fly's first boulder ascent. In the decades since, The Fly has by my count been bouldered only once more (by Kevin Jorgeson in 2008)--but its roped ascents far outnumber the ropeless ones. In part, this is a function of accessibility. The landing is awful and requires a number of pads, and using a rope is simply easier. But Chen argues that the problem (which he considers V13), "demands to be bouldered," and adds that "if it was put up today," using a rope would be out of the question. Which is certainly something to think about. --Steven Potter
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A Few Vids That Caught Our Eye
Black Diamond Presents: Supreme Jumbo Love:
Last November Sebastien Bouin made the long-awaited first ascent of Jumbo Love's direct start at Clark Mountain, Nevada. He named it, appropriately, Supreme Jumbo Love, and called it 5.15c--the hardest rock climb in the United States.
In a press release, Bouin described Supreme Jumbo Love as a "really long" effort: the initial 5.12d pitch of Jumbo Love is replaced with a 5.14d; then comes the crux of Jumbo, demanding precise and bouldery pocket pulling; then the meat of Jumbo, "which is really physical and pumpy"; and, finally, 65 feet of inobvious, technical slab that Bouin had fallen on twice before.
Today Black Diamond has released an excellent 30-minute flick profiling Bouin's time on Supreme Jumbo Love and it's younger sibling, and I wholly recommend checking it out as you neglect the day's obligations. --Anthony Walsh
Antigrav Presents: A Little Life
Another (palm-sweat inducing) one from Mellow. Keenan Takahashi makes the FA of A Little Life (V14), in the Buttermilks, which reaches a whopping 35 feet and has crux moves right at the top. Takahashi describes climbing it as "perhaps my best moment ever," which is saying something for a man who has spent the majority of his career taking down hard shit way off the deck. Located just right of Terminus (V12), which Takahashi FA'd in 2016, A Little Life moves from slab to vert to overhanging, culminating in a committing move from what looks like a truly god-awful gaston to a thin slot right below the lip. Forced to shoot his shot early by the weather, Takahashi danced perilously close to disaster, which, of course, makes for an excellent short film. --DM
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