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Hardest Single Pitch Trad route on gear?


Original Post
Ted Pinson · · Chicago, IL · Joined Jul 2014 · Points: 190

Hey everyone.  So the discussion in the Sasha/Edu thread got me searching, but I couldn't find a definitive answer: what is the hardest trad pitch that has been done on gear?  The Dawn Wall crux (14c/d?) appears to be the hardest trad pitch, but it looks like it was mostly bolt protected on preplaced draws (nothing wrong with that).  So what has been the hardest gear route?  Some contenders that I could find:

1) Meltdown 14c.  Climbed by Beth Rodden, unrepeated.

2) Rhapsody 14c (Macleod, repeated by Sonnie Trotter and Steve McClure)

3) Walk of Life (14c?), James Pearson

To further complicate things, these were all set in different grading systems (damn Brits!), but it seems like they all are falling around 14c.  Nobody has climbed all of them, and Meltdown hasn't even been repeated despite many attempts, so it's hard to say which is technically harder than the other.  Am I missing any?  Do you see a clear contender?

Jake Jones · · Richmond, VA · Joined Jul 2011 · Points: 1,480

What about that thing in Canada that Will Stanhope and Matt Segal did?

Skye Swoboda-Colberg · · Laramie, Wyoming · Joined Oct 2013 · Points: 115

Cobra Crack?

It's seen less than a dozen ascents.

[Edit] This is definitely the most established 5.14 crack in the world right now, here are the 11 climbers so far:

2006 – Sonnie Trotter (Canada)
2008 – Nicolas Favresse (Belgium)
2008 – Ethan Pringle (USA)
2008 – Matt Segal (USA)
2009 – Will Stanhope (Canada)
2009 – Yuji Hirayama (Japan)
2011 – Alex Honnold (USA)
2013 – Pete Whittaker (UK)
2013 – Tom Randall (UK)
2016 – Ben Harnden (Canada)
2017 – Mason Earle (USA)

Skye Swoboda-Colberg · · Laramie, Wyoming · Joined Oct 2013 · Points: 115
Jake Jones wrote:

What about that thing in Canada that Will Stanhope and Matt Segal did?

Also solid 5.14

http://www.alpinist.com/doc/web15x/newswire-will-stanhope-tom-egan-bugaboos

Todd Anderson · · Seattle, WA · Joined Jun 2011 · Points: 160

Blackbeard's Tears is another 14c with only one ascent (Ethan Pringle, Sept 2016).  Not sure how often it gets tried though.

addicted2alpine · · Unknown Hometown · Joined Dec 2007 · Points: 45

To my knowledge this is currently considered by many to be the world's hardest single gear protected pitch: http://www.planetmountain.com/en/news/climbing/nicolas-favresse-climbing-the-recovery-drink-in-norway.html

Dave Holliday · · Unknown Hometown · Joined Feb 2003 · Points: 1,416
addicted2alpine Weiss wrote:

To my knowledge this is currently considered by many to be the world's hardest single gear protected pitch: http://www.planetmountain.com/en/news/climbing/nicolas-favresse-climbing-the-recovery-drink-in-norway.html

Who considers it the hardest? Who has repeated it or attempted to repeat it?

John Wilder · · Las Vegas, NV · Joined Feb 2004 · Points: 1,530

Then there's the crucifix project in Utah that Tom and Pete were working on. I heard the shorter one got freed at some kind of 5.14, but the long one is still waiting... 

Can't say I've ever heard of anything harder than mid 14 on gear. I think the Recovery Drink pitch is supposed to be quite hard, but I don't think it's leagues ahead of Meltdown, which still hasn't seen a second ascent. 

Nick Niebuhr · · Santa Fe, NM · Joined Aug 2013 · Points: 465

I think Cobra Crack is 14b and the Bugaboos route is 14- but I could be wrong on those

Alan Zhan · · Seattle, WA · Joined Jul 2013 · Points: 65

It seems that Meltdown given it's location and stature should have a repeat by now. Once in a while there will be news of some hardman trying it and failing...

Maybe (hopefully?) Lonnie will get psyched and do it and confirm it as something

Jon Po · · Mahwah, NJ · Joined Oct 2013 · Points: 160

BroZone 5.14b in the Gunks should be mentioned.

Jared Murray · · Oakland, CA · Joined Sep 2015 · Points: 70

How about Magic Line .14b in Yosemite? 

FA Ron Kauk in 1996, unrepeated for 20 years until last season when Lonnie (son) ticked the 2nd ascent.

Nick Henscheid · · Tucson, AZ · Joined Feb 2013 · Points: 290

Hard trad climbing has to be difficult to grade objectively - there are so many factors, not least of which is finger size.  You can build muscle groups for specific hard sport climbs, but it's pretty difficult to make your fingers just the right size.  For instance with Meltdown, it's possible that it hasn't seen a repeat because the jams are so tiny...the only person I know who has put in serious attempts is Carlo Traversi https://www.instagram.com/p/_IK30hSP_A/.   TC said his fingers didn't fit in the crux holds.  I wonder if Ondra gave it a go when he was in the Valley?  Seems like it would be up his alley.  Another thing that can be hard to quantify on trad climbs is the scare factor...I know of a few 5.12X climbs that probably won't be repeated because they're just too damn terrifying.  But that's another thread.  

Also, I seem to recall Stanhope and Segal saying that if someone were to send the whole crack pitch on Tom Egan from stance to stance that it would be 14+...but I could be making that up.

Ted Pinson · · Chicago, IL · Joined Jul 2014 · Points: 190

Ondra doesn't seem to be that into hard crack climbing, but then he sent the Dawn Wall so I don't think there's anything he CAN'T do.  I doubt his fingers would fit if Tommy's don't, as he's fairly taller.

I thought about Cobra crack, but the consensus seems to be on 14b and the number of repeats makes me wonder if it's a tad easier.  The Macleod routes are also X, although that hasn't stopped other crazy ass Brits like Steve McClure.  I agree that it's really hard to compare different styles...Century Crack (14b) might actually be the toughest; I can't imagine climbing roof Offwidth.  Tom and Pete took a stab at Meltdown and said it might even be harder than 14c...

Ti Watts · · Boulder, Colorado · Joined Oct 2013 · Points: 30

Jacopo Larcher also repeated Rhasphody 

Chris Dunn 510 · · Unknown Hometown · Joined Jun 2016 · Points: 0

Century crack at 5.14b I believe, wide boyz.

· · Unknown Hometown · Joined Jan 1970 · Points: 0

How about the hardest sport route?  Surely that would be hard to do gear-only.

Mike Mellenthin · · San Francisco, CA · Joined Nov 2014 · Points: 70
Alan Zhan wrote:

It seems that Meltdown given it's location and stature should have a repeat by now. Once in a while there will be news of some hardman trying it and failing...

Maybe (hopefully?) Lonnie will get psyched and do it and confirm it as something

Tom Randall supposedly tried it a few seasons ago and said it was hard.

Will S · · Joshua Tree · Joined Nov 2006 · Points: 1,053
Jared Murray wrote:

How about Magic Line .14b in Yosemite? 

FA Ron Kauk in 1996, unrepeated for 20 years until last season when Lonnie (son) ticked the 2nd ascent.

Did Lonnie actually redpoint, i.e. place all the gear on lead? Ron pink-pointed as you can see here:

Mike Mellenthin · · San Francisco, CA · Joined Nov 2014 · Points: 70
Todd Anderson wrote:

Blackbeard's Tears is another 14c with only one ascent (Ethan Pringle, Sept 2016).  Not sure how often it gets tried though.

That crag is fairly out of the way. I wouldn't be surprised if no one has tried to repeat it.

baldclimber · · Ottawa, Ontario, Canada · Joined Jul 2015 · Points: 0
Ted Pinson wrote:

3) Walk of Life (14c?), James Pearson

Walk of Life isn't E12 7a.  Dave McLeod did the second ascent and downgraded it to E9 6C (~5.13- R/X).  See here http://davemacleod.blogspot.ca/2009/01/therapy.html

A doc on James Pearson's self-exile from the UK after his three hardest FAs were massively downgraded: https://www.redbull.tv/video/AP-1MQQXU9AH1W11/redemption

Guideline #1: Don't be a jerk.

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