This year ranks among the most memorable ever for performance rock climbing. Women and men worldwide pushed to new levels of difficulty, both physically and mentally (think Alex Honnold and his mind-bending free-solo of El Capitan).
What makes 2017 even more extraordinary, especially for Front Range climbers, is that local women and men accomplished some of the year's greatest climbing feats. Here are three standouts:
Margo Hayes Shatters 5.15 Barrier
With her Feb. 26 ascent of La Rambla (5.15a) in northern Spain, Hayes, of Boulder, became the first woman to climb 5.15. She not only set the bar for female ascent even higher, she motivated climbers in a way that transcends gender and generations.
In Spain, Hayes climbed with Boulder boys Jon Cardwell and Matty Hong. Cardwell said, "I've climbed with Margo previously and have seen her level of determination, but this time around was completely different. Her focus and willpower was stronger than pretty much anyone I've ever climbed with."
The last time a woman breached a new number grade in climbing (on the American scale) was in 1990 when Lynn Hill, of Boulder, climbed Masse Critique (5.14a) in France.
Hong, who also climbed La Rambla, filmed Hayes as she worked the route. "Climbing with her was totally inspiring," he said. "Not just because of her strength on the rock, but also for her relentless drive to get the job done."
But Hayes wasn't finished. On Sept. 24, in Céüse, France, the 19 year-old made the first female ascent of Biographie (5.15a) — a route some consider even harder than La Rambla.
Hong produced a wonderful film featuring Hayes and her 5.15 ascents for the Reel Rock 12 film tour that debuted in November.
"She is going to achieve great things in the future," said Hong. "I hope I can be there again to witness these moments in climbing's history."
Jonathan Siegrist cranks extreme routes again and again and again ...
This spring Siegrist, of Boulder, climbed three 5.15s in a couple weeks — something few climbers in the world have achieved. "It was the best climbing of my life," he said.
He was bouncing back from a rough 2016, a year he called his "worst ever." At the end of last year he spent a month trying Pachamama (5.15a/b) in Oliana, Spain, without success.
In March, he returned there with a fresh mind and a singular focus on that route. Siegrist overshot that goal by a mile and never looked back.
A few years ago he was inspired by Japanese climber Sachi Amma and his goal of climbing 10 routes 5.14d and harder in a year. "I distinctly remember that seeming so beyond possible for me," Siegrist wrote on his blog ( jstarinorbit.com).
But with four out of 10 under his belt in April, Siegrist silently decided on this audacious goal, which took him to crags in Nevada, Colorado, Wyoming and Spain.
In November, he ticked his 10th route: 20 Años Después (5.14d) in Siurana, Spain. With this, Siegrist completed one of the most successful years of sport climbing ever.
Brooke Raboutou and Team ABC dominate podiums
Last month, 16 year-old Raboutou, of Boulder, became the Pan-American Combined Overall Champion in the Youth A category in Montreal, Canada. She won gold in the bouldering and lead events, as well as in the Olympic Combined Category (including Speed) on the last day of the competition.
These major wins in November marked the zenith of a full year of podiums for Raboutou, who also placed second at Bouldering Youth Nationals, third in Bouldering Open Nationals and third in Sport Nationals earlier in the year.
Margo Hayes, also of Team ABC, won Bouldering Youth Nationals in her age division and took second place in Sport Nationals. As a Female Junior in the Pan-American Championships, Hayes took gold in bouldering, silver in lead and silver in the Combined Overall category.
Finally, 14 year-old Colin Duffy, of Broomfield (and Team ABC), became the Youth B Lead World Champion in Innsbruck, Austria, in September.
With this year's momentum for hard climbing still snowballing, I can only imagine how high Front Range climbers will aim in 2018.
Contact Chris Weidner at email@example.com