New Sends We Cared About: A WI 6+ Free Solo FA (and more)
This article originally appeared on Climbing
What is the news?
If you asked me that question fifteen years ago, I would have harnessed the confidence of youth and declared that if someone climbed a V14 or flashed a V12 it was newsworthy. Likewise with 5.14d and 5.14b sport. I didn't know enough about trad or ice and big mountains back then to have opinions, but if you'd asked me about them, I'd surely have found a way to express an opinion about what was newsworthy in that world, too.
Nowadays, however, V14 is child’s play. It seems like everyone can climb it. Hell, some crazies can even flash it. The result? Over time, climbing's media has moved the bar. "A V15 send isn't news anymore but a V16 is." "V16 isn't news anymore but a V16 FA is." And so on. Yet with an increasing pool of climbers now performing at the highest levels of the sport, these distinctions are (a) growing hard to keep up with, and (b) increasingly unsatisfying to read about, since they pin the story on a number, not an experience.
What do we make, for example, of Katie Lamb's recent first female ascent of Spectre, a classic and often-repeated Dave Graham line in the Buttermilks? It's been done scores of times (it has 34 ascents on 8a.nu alone), and the vast majority of ascentionists consider it a measly V13. It wouldn't even have been news fifteen years ago! And yet the climb is notoriously morpho, known for giving shorter climbers like Carlo Traversi and Daniel Woods significant trouble, and Lamb, who's not tall, considers Spectre one of her greatest accomplishments. "Freaking out," she wrote on 8a.nu. "With the jump method--hardest single move I've done and proudest ascent to date."
So is that news? What about Shawn Raboutou's 2021 flash of that same boulder? (Before you answer, remember that he's not tall either.) What about 14-year-old French phenom Erwan Legrand's barefoot (yep) first ascent (yep) of Devers Severe (5.14c) last October? Or the fact that Drew Ruana recently claimed the third ascent of a 2016 Daniel Woods line, Everything Gneiss, one-upping Matt Fultz's humble upgrade to V14/15 by saying that it felt like V15+? Or the fact that last week Quentin Roberts did the FA of a WI 6+, arguably the hardest pure-ice grade in the world? What about the fact that he did it free solo?
Well, that last one certainly feels like news. But we think all the rest are at the very least worth chatting about. And so, in an attempt to make space for stories like that, we're launching a new weekly series in which we try to celebrate a few outstanding ascents (or--who knows--outstanding attempts) that for one reason or another caught our attention recently. We hope you enjoy it.
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