1. The greatest / craziest / most impressive thing that happened this year was Alex Honnold's solo of Freerider (.13a) on El Cap. Although Freerider goes at a fairly moderate V7 grade, the highball factor really adds to the experience, I feel. All joking aside, Honnold's solo of Freerider essentially dropped a bomb into the world of adventure, with ripples that extended far beyond climbing. I've soloed a handful of routes, but I can barely watch the video of Honnold on El Cap (EL CAP!). Crazy, and my hat is off to you, Alex! There are articles about the ascent everywhere, but here's a link to the one in Climbing Magazine.
2. Just as impressive is Adam Ondra's ascent of Silence (.15d) in the inverted granite amphitheater of the Hanshelleren Cave near Flatanger, Norway. I've been climbing for more than 25 years now, and only a few years ago the grade .15d wouldn't have even made sense to climbers. But it clearly does to Ondra, who also ushered in the .15c grade. Ondra is dedicated to climbing in a way that perhaps no one else is. He's climbed more than 25 routes that are .15a or harder (again, a statistic that barely makes sense, especially given the small number of routes of this difficulty in the world). To redpoint Silence, he worked it for four years, with months of training dedicated to be able to individual moves (for example, there were months of training just to get his calves strong enough for the inverted kneebar rests, for goodness sake. You can gain some insight into his process in the Rock and Ice interview here.
3. I've been in the game a while now, and so it is (extremely!) gratifying that I climbed one of the most important problems of my life this year. Ogopogo (V5) is the type of unopened problem that the itinerant climber spends years looking for; perfect rock, interesting and sculpted holds, a little overhanging, and an amazing landing. Added to this is the fact that the problem is dead-center on the tallest face of the infamous Nerf Boulder at the Boulderfields. I'd looked at the problem for years before I finally turned the mental corner from "it looks amazing" to "I'm going to seriously try this." Once it was cleaned, it didn't take too long to work out the moves and send it, but the voyage from seeing to the line to climbing it was amazing. You can see Ryan Frecka's great video of my send here. I also added another classic (with some of the funkiest moves I've done in a while) to the Serenity Boulder, calling it Sunny Side Up (V5). I love the Boulderfields!
4. For me, climbing can be even more amazing when you travel to new places with great people. A year ago, on a lucky whim, Kyle and I checked out an area we had heard about - but never visited - in southern Idaho. Oddly, for a climbing area, the cliffs of The Channel are underwater half of the year, but dry once the water is diverted (in the winter) for agricultural use. The shapes of the rock at the Channel are amazing, and so it was an absolute treat to be able to head to Idaho this year for an extended trip to the Channel. Despite the fact that I was dealing with the aftermath of a weird tendon injury in my left hand (courtesy of The Evangelist at Frank Slide), I had a blast climbing at the Channel with a great group of people. You can check out my blog post of the trip here, and one of the many videos of the area here. I'll be back there again soon!
5. One of the coolest things in my climbing world this year was how fresh Frank Slide seemed this year. Almost every trip I made to the Slide I tried new problems, sometimes on boulders on which every problem we did was a first ascent. The Pilgrimage just kept providing new problems visit after visit. The Tetris Boulder (now firmly established as one of the single best boulders in all of the Slide) was a major find, and provided us with several trips of pure bouldering pleasure (including the absolutely standout lines of Rook (hard V2), 2-Pock (V2), Tetris (V4), Domino (V3/4), Gunrunner (V8/9), and Smoke Show (V6). Now if I can just get strong enough to get to work on some of the harder problems in The Pilgrimage!
5.5. There were a lot of hard problems that went down this year, although injury certainly reduced the pace that new hard problems appeared. Josh B.'s incredibly aesthetic Voyageur (V8ish) was a notable addition, as was Davin's Gunrunner (V8/9). Josh B. also added several new highballs high on Turtle Mountain, that I am certain will repel suitors for years to come. There were a few notable non-sends this year; Mark D. did not repeat the infamous March of Time (V9...not!), though he came very close, and Josh B. did not do the amazingly gymnastic 'Sunny Corner Project' (certain to be by far the hardest line in the province, and one of the hardest in the country), mostly because one leg is insufficient to climb the line.
6. Hueco Tanks! After decades of hearing about Hueco, I finally made the trip down to west Texas with Kyle and Davin. We had an absolutely standout trip (with the exception of the drive down; I hope to never again commit to a soul-destroying 30-hour drive). There were so many moments of awesomeness, but perhaps the single best moment was flashing the legendary Moonshine Roof (V4). To climb such a legendary / amazing / world-class problem felt like an absolute privilege, and made all the bureaucratic red tape worth it.
7. Definitely my hardest send this year (from my personal perspective) was Evan's Seven (V7). Evan's Seven is my anti-style (bad feet, lots of lockoffs), and even though I committed to working it in the hottest part of summer, I kept at for probably three or four sessions before I could finally stick the first (for me, incredibly low-percentage!) move. Even though I climbed several problems that are theoretically as hard or harder, I had to climb absolutely perfectly to climb Evan's Seven, and I was fairly happy with my send. It was supposed to be one of the ticks on my way to the Frank Slide Seven Sevens List, but I would be stopped soon thereafter when I tried to "throw a lap on The Evangelist".... which brings me to Number 8.
8. What would a 2018 Highlights List be without my describing my injuries? After dodging the injury-bullet for years, 2018 was the year when injuries would really reappear in my life. Early in the year what I refer to as my "weird bicep thing" would flare up (though I beat it down again with some physio), but my season really took a beating in early September when I stressed the long tendon that runs from my left ring finger through my wrist into my forearm trying the strange 'upside-down/false-grip' first move of The Evangelist (V7) in a poorly thought-out headlamp session at the end of an already long day. That led to a month off to recuperate (which for me is virtually unheard of), and then I tweaked my right elbow working a hard (and high!) V8 or V9ish project at the Channel in October. I seem to be mostly healed (KNOCK ON WOOD), but we'll see how my early 2018 training goes!
9. Ninth on my list is the fact that this is my 25th (26th?) year of climbing! I'm always a little surprised when the new year rolls around, and not only am I still climbing, but I'm seemingly climbing almost as well as I ever have! I've decided to not worry about the "impending" end of my climbing career; frankly, I thought it would have ended years ago! So in 2018 I'm going to keep training, keep hunting for new problems and new areas, keep developing, and keep traveling to new areas! Seeing new rock and meeting new climbers is really such a big part of my life, I can't really imagine quitting at this point in my life.
10. But really, a huge part of what made climbing great this year was the people I got to climb with. From spending summer time sessions bouldering the Karage with Kyle and the Karage Krew (sounds like a band), to exploring Frank Slide with Kyle, Mark, Davin, and Dan, to everyone at the Ascent Climbing Gym, to the Boulderfields Posse (Andy, Staci, Jay, Braden, Garrett, Quentin, and so many more), to all the people I met on trips both in Canada and the USA (especially - but not limited to - Peter, Chelsea, Alex in the Boulderfields, and Emily and Shane at the Hueco Hacienda), it is really the people that help make climbing memorable and enjoyable. Some of my good climbing friends were injured this year (notably Josh who apparently exploded his leg), and I wish them all the best in the upcoming months. So my hat is off to everyone who keeps the climbing spirit alive, and I look forward to a great 2018!