The Best Climbers in the World: Recent Ascents!

By Guest Blogger Mike Bowsher

Anyone who climbs on a regular basis and is in tune with rock climbing media has heard the reverberations of the event that unfolded on February 7, 2013: Adam Ondra (20 years old) sent one of the most difficult sport climbing routes in the world: La Dura Dura (translation: The Hard Hard…definitely sounds better in Spanish) in Oliana, Spain which is graded at 5.15c.  For the non-savvy at climbing grades, a 5.15c difficulty rating could probably be compared to a normal person climbing up a brick wall upside down.  The La Dura Dura line was originally bolted by the legendary Chris Sharma, however, Ondra was the one who claimed the first ascent (FA).  A “rivalry” type situation was started over this route and was made popular in the latest Reel Rock film tour.  There is no video out yet of Ondra’s ascent of La Dura Dura, but once available, it will be a viral hit in the climbing community.

Adam Ondra on Chilam Balam 5.15b and making the FA of La Planta De Shiva 5.15b

Chris Sharma on Witness the Fitness v15 (only a brief excerpt from Sharma’s climbing career and one of my favorite videos!)

Even though Sharma didn’t get the FA, he still was able to get the first ascent on the day prior on a route called Stoking the Fire (Santa Linya ,Spain) which goes down at 5.15b.  5.15b at 31!!  Not that 31 is old but to keep putting up insanely hard routes for over 15 years is absolutely amazing!  Sharma is already in the history books as one the world’s best climbers (if not the best already!).  His contributions to the climbing world are priceless!  However, male climbers aren’t the only ones putting down hard routes these days.

Recently named the best female climber in the world (UK Daily Mail), Sasha DiGiulian (19 years old) is known for her ascents of some of the most difficult climbing routes in the world.  Sasha DiGiulian made it into climbing history by being the first female to climb a 5.14d (Pure Imagination at Kentucky’s Red River Gorge) in 2011!  I had the honor of meeting Sasha DiGiulian at a couple of bouldering competitions and signing her scorecard during the preliminary rounds (I should have had her sign my scorecard instead!).  This young woman can climb as hard as some of the men at these competitions!  Climbing this hard doesn’t come cheap, however.  Sasha trains for 2-3 hrs/day, 5 times/week.  I normally climb 3 days a week with a day off in between to re-grow skin and for my joints to quit hurting.  If I climbed 5 days per week I think my fingers would either fall off or become permanently disfigured due to tendon and ligament damage.  Below is a video journey of Sasha’s ascent of Pure Imagination at Red River Gorge:

Sasha DiGiulian on Pure Imagination (An amazing ascent!)

Let’s not stop there with the superhuman like abilities of these world class climbers.  They get even younger! Brooke Raboutou is 11 years old and she is shattering records like a bull in glass shop!  At, 11, Brooke is the youngest and shortest person to ever climb 5.14b.  At 9, she completed her first v10 boulder problem and v11 boulder problem when she was 10.  Here is a video about Brooke’s achievments:

Video Story of Brooke Raboutou

Another 11 year old climbing prodigy, Ashima Shiraishi, has been tearing it up at the crags lately.  Late last year Ashima sent two 5.14c routes at Red River Gorge (Lucifer on Purgatory and Southern Smoke at Bob Marley crag).  Not only can she send extremely difficult sport climbing routes she can also toss down v13 at the boulder field.  Mid year of 2012 she sent the v13 “Crown of Aragorn” down in Hueco Tanks.  When I was 11, I spent most of my time milking the calluses on my thumbs from playing too much Nintendo 64 with my friends.  Looks like these kids are much more ambitious than I was at that age!

Ashima on Crown of Aragorn (Tiny, yet fierce this young one is!)

Most people ask, “How are these climbers able to do such difficult things?”  This question can easily be answered.  It’s the sheer will and determination to succeed.  That and a few beneficial genes in their DNA that lets them develop superhuman strength!  But for the most part, it is their dedication to the sport of climbing.  It doesn’t come easy for them and many sacrifices are made for training and traveling to climbing destinations to achieve their goals.  I am no where near the skill of these climbers, however I find that when I want to elevate my skills and climb harder routes and problems, I have to devote more time for training and hard climbing.

I could write much more about climbing and what someone needs to know or do to be able to climb hard but this blog post from Rock and Ice Magazine editor Andrew Bisharat (Blog Link to Evening Sends Article) sums up this area better than I could explain.  This is a must read article for all climbers who want to get an in depth look at the sport in which they participate.  If you are a serious climber looking for the mental push to get past your boundaries in the really hard routes here is another article that you should read by the same author (How to Climb 5.14).

Check back for more stories about the Greatest Climbers in the World!

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