The past, present and future of climbing is fed by first ascents. From Herman Buhl to Royal Robbins to Wolfgang Güllich to Tommy Caldwell, generation after generation of climbers have been drawn to first ascents and first free ascents, compelled by the unknown, driven to redefine the historical narrative of climbing, and narrow the line between impossible and possible.
Here at Black Diamond, we are a company of climbers. We trust the gear we make because we use the gear we make—and we have for more than 50 years, on first ascents from Alaska to Austria to Argentina to Algeria. Every piece of gear we design, engineer and build is part of a rigorous and evolutionary continuum of solutions and refinements. Just as first ascent standards and possibilities have continued to evolve—fostered by new thinking and new skills—so has the gear we proudly make.
With that in mind we have chosen First Ascents as the theme for this, the Climbing 2013 digital catalog. Through photos, videos and narrated slideshows, we've highlighted first ascents and first free ascents from recent years as well as the crucial pieces of Black Diamond gear that helped make them a reality. In addition, we've included historical images from past first ascents—chosen by our athletes—that have fueled their own personal FA pursuits.
We hope this Climbing 2013 digital catalog inspires you to seek out the unclimbed, the untried, and to discover the challenges and rewards of your own first ascents. See you out there.
— Black Diamond Equipment
BD Athletes Nico Favresse, Olivier Favresse and Daniel Jung are always on the hunt for first ascents, and their most recent search led them to Norway where they found a stunning, overhanging wall laced with cracks. The trio's FA pursuit involved skin-shredding jams, mega whippers, and daily shenanigans, including scooter jumping and swapping tooth-brushing tips.
First Ascent InspirationBD Athlete Brittany Griffith
"The photos of Lynn Hill making the first free ascent of The Nose have always been an inspiration to me to challenge myself far beyond what I perceive are my limits. And she's still crushing it and still inspiring me!"
BD Athlete Mason Earle has logged countless miles hiking the clifflines of southern Utah looking for undone cracks. The fruits of his labor are a slew of prime first ascents, typically splitter, thin and stout. At Lower Mill Creek outside of Moab, his most recent new route, Real Talk, is one of his best—and one of his boldest.
It's safe to say that BD sales rep J.P. Ouellet has climbed more single pitches of hard crack than anyone, many of them first ascents. We sent photographer Andrew Burr down to Moab to document J.P. battling on his latest first ascent crack project, Mexican Snow Fairy, a fierce route that required J.P. to employ several of his specialized tricks of the hard-crack trade to tip the scales in his FA favor.
From bold trad to sketchy rime to hard sport, BD Athlete Dave MacLeod has something of an obsession with first ascents in his native Scotland—a land not known for its ideal climbing weather. A little sleet and rain, however, has done little to dampen Dave's passion for scouring the island for new climbs. His latest FA, Fight The Feeling, is an interesting tale of an FA legacy being carried on from one generation of climbers to the next.
First Ascent InspirationBD Athlete Adam Ondra
"You can see Wolfgang's passion in his eyes, his dedication to climbing and how much joy it brought to him. This photo is from the first ascent of the world's first 8b+, Punks In The Gym, and serves me as an inspiration to live my dream of a climber. It is very emotional to think how much I would like to shake his hand."
First Ascent InspirationBD Athlete Pietro dal Pra
"When I saw this picture, many years ago, it was such a strong emotion. The place and the climber tasted so wild. And the rock so clean, the closest to an ideal of perfection. Not many pictures before or later have made me wishing more than this one to be in the place."
BD Athlete Alex Honnold wants to be left alone. No, not really, but he did take the unusual approach of climbing alone on fixed lines as he worked to free a route on Yosemite's Leaning Tower, a 1500-foot prow of overhanging granite, that Todd Skinner had originally tried more than a decade ago. This past fall Alex managed to free the lower portion of the route, but the 5.14/5.15 business on the headwall waits unredpointed. Here is a preview of the two-part video series—that will be released in April—documenting the first ascent challenges that Honnold encountered.
First Ascent InspirationBD Athlete Nalle Hukkataival
"A couple of the most influential figures in the sport of bouldering, making the first ascent of one of the most iconic boulders ever in the birthplace of bouldering. Enough said."
Peppered with iron-hard crimps and delicate scoops, the massive Hollow Mountain Cave in the Grampians of Australia is the most stunning roof bouldering arena in the world. In 2011, BD Athlete James Kassay repeated the cave's 70-move mega-line, Wheel Of Life, a V15 boulder problem that's longer than most routes. But James' affair with the line was far from over. His real goal was to add a more difficult direct finish, which he managed to pull off, with the cameras rolling, in November 2012.
Cliff Cabana Double Portaledge
Zion Haul Bag
First Ascent InspirationBD Athlete Conrad Anker
"This is Charlie Porter on the first ascent of The Shield on El Cap. I remember this photo would make my hands sweat, just looking at it. This was what climbing is all about: risk, adventure, friendship and wild locations!"
There is alpine style, and then there is disaster style, where gear and food are pared down to the absolute minimum—and then they are pared down again. If the slightest thing goes wrong, the ramifications are disastrous. Such was the high-risk style BD Athlete Dodo Kopold and Michal Sabovcik employed on their unsummited first ascent of Out Of Reality (WI6 M7 5.11 A3) on the 2000-meter northwest face of Pakistan's Great Trango Tower. It wasn't the heinous weather or the grievous ledgeless bivies or the icy offwidths that stopped them short—it was a pot. The duo dropped their snow-melting pot at a bivy 400 meters below the summit, and, after a failed attempt to melt drinkable water in an empty fuel canister, they were forced to bail. No pot = no water = no summit. Disaster style, indeed.
First Ascent InspirationBD Athlete Will Gadd
"Jeff Lowe was a first ascent inspiration on so many routes—Bridalveil, Wind, Sand and Stars, Octopussy, and on and on. But, yeah, the pictures from Octopussy, those were the ones that really opened my eyes to the future of mixed climbing first ascents."
There's steep ice and then there is STEEP ice. Tucked away in Wells Grey Provincial Park in British Columbia, Canada, Helmcken Falls offers the wildest, steepest and most difficult ice climbing in the world (some climbs are nearly as overhanging as they are long). BD Athletes Will Gadd, Raphael Slawinski, Klemen Premrl and Tim Emmett, as well as other climbers, were on the Helmcken scene this past winter and collectively worked to develop and decipher a new route, Wolverine, which Premrl and Emmett eventually made the first and second ascents of back-to-back.
First Ascent InspirationBD Athlete Raphael Slawinski
"There was a lot to the image that grabbed me: but more than anything it was Lowe's eyes. In them you can read the fear of having passed the point of no return, but also the determination to do whatever it takes to get up. As an aspiring alpinist I've spent a lot of time looking at the photo and daydreaming. Hell, even now, looking at it, I feel a shiver down my spine!"
Express Ice Screws
First Ascent InspirationBD Athlete Renan Ozturk
"The Great Trango Tower massif. All-time greatest spikey summit inspiration shot!"
BD sales rep Jack Tackle first climbed in Alaska in 1976, and since then he has made 31 expeditions to AK's iconic mountains. During those expeditions Jack has established 15 major first ascents from Mount Foraker to Denali to Mount Hunter to Mount Barille—an impressive tally that few climbers can match. He's had grand successes and terrible failures, he's felt reborn and he's nearly died—he has experienced climbing in the Alaska Range to its fullest. Here are his most memorable first ascents.
First Ascent InspirationBD Athlete Rolo Garibotti
"What better way to describe 'grinta' than this. Grinta is an Italian word that describes the ability to keep moving forward in spite of adversity, to clench your teeth and push on, to commit."