Meltdown 8c+ trad by Jacopo Larcher

Meltdown 8c+ trad by Jacopo Larcher

Jacopo Larcher, one of the very best multi-discipline climbers in the world, has made the 3rd ascent of Beth Rodden’s Yosemite trad test-piece Meltdown 8c+ from 2008. At that time it was the hardest graded trad route in the world and then in 2018, Carlo Traversi made the first repeat, confirming the grade.

Jacopo first tried the route in 2016, when he spent 2 days trying the moves. During this current trip, he spent one evening brushing the holds and 7 days working the route on head-point. During his ascent, he placed all gear on lead. The Italian is spending the month of November in Yosemite, filming for a new documentary series about the world’s hardest trad climbs. ‘How Hard Is Hard?’ is due out in 2023. (c) Andrea Cossu Onsen productions

"There are many hard trad climbs around the world, but very few have become iconic. For me, Meltdown was definitely one of those. I don’t know why, but it somehow had this mysterious aura. I remember watching the movie of Beth’s incredible first ascent, back in 2008; at the time I didn’t know much about trad climbing, and I couldn’t really understand the significance of the route and her achievement at that time. The route just looked so beautiful, yet completely desperate to me. Something unthinkable for me to consider climbing, at the time.

Some years later, when I started to get more and more into this aspect of climbing, I began to realize that her achievement was ahead of its time. Since her first ascent, not much about the route had been heard, which was not so common for a well-known climb situated just in the middle of Yosemite valley. There were rumors about some of the world’s best trad climbers having tried the route over the years, but no one found success. People even created the myth that the route had such thin jams, that it was impossible for climbers with normal fingers. All that added some mystery to the route, until Carlo Traversi, in 2018, finally claimed the second ascent of Meltdown, confirming Beth’s incredible achievement and proving all the “excuses” were wrong.

I had my first taste of Meltdown in 2016, when Babsi (Zangerl) and I checked out the route for two days in between some “El Cap action”. We were both surprised by the beauty of the line, as well as its difficulty. It definitely wasn’t about thin finger jams, but about some very powerful lay-backing on extremely bad and glassy footholds. After those 2 days, I was even more impressed by Beth ascent back in 2008!

We regularly visited Yosemite in the following years, but our focus had always been on the bigger walls, so we hadn’t gone back on Meltdown, even though the line has always been in the back of my mind. As I’m currently working on a documentary about the different styles and ethics in trad climbing, this season I finally committed to go back to the Valley without my big wall gear, in order to climb some classic single pitches and to get on Meltdown again. Luckily, this time I immediately had some more positive feelings working on it. The footholds were still terrible and the route hard, but I somehow felt like a more mature (trad) climber. I was very surprised yet motivated when I managed to top-rope it clean on my 3rd day trying it this year. After that, I naively thought it would go fast on lead, but placing the gear adds some extra spice to it and it definitely makes the route significantly harder.

On my fourth day of lead tries I had to pull out a big (!) fight and dig deep in order to reach the anchor. The easier upper parts always felt good on top-rope, but it definitely felt different when coming from the ground! Usually, while head pointing hard trad routes, the actual send go feels smooth, which is obviously a nice feeling... but on this one, I had to fight very hard and was very close to falling in the upper part, which somehow made the experience even more unforgettable 🙂 It was definitely one of my favorite moments in climbing!

I would like to highlight once more what Beth did in 2008, which was way ahead of the times, both in women and mens climbing history! I honestly believe the shorter you are, the harder this route gets...and yes: fingers size doesn’t matter! Chapeau Beth, thanks for the inspiration."

Era Vella 8c+/9a (9a) by Anghelo Bernal

Era Vella 8c+/9a (9a) by Anghelo Bernal

Anghelo Bernal has done Era Vella 8c+/9a in Margalef, after projecting it for 80+ sessions. Era Vella is the 2010 Chris Sharma classic 5-star route that was the most repeated 9a in the world until 2016 when it was downgraded. Later it has seen much less traffic and there has been a rumor of a broken hold bringing it back to 9a again?

It has been a common project with Tim Emmett and the first time we tried the route was in 2017 a couple of weeks, then in 2019 a couple of months, and this year it has been approximately two months. When Tim returned to Canada I did work on it as I wanted to do the project with him. Yesterday it was me and now I’m waiting for him to do it too. It is more than a route, it is a bond of friendship on the same road.” (The picture is from 2019)

Tim did not send but has continuously posted reports on Insta describing the roller-coaster emotions about the journey. The 49-year-old has returned back to Canada and is already looking forward to the next chapter of his journey.

Is it true that Era Vella has become harder?
Bernal: A couple of years ago, Tim broke one foothold, although the handholds are the same.

Emmett: I use a different sequence now and so does Anghelo. It might be a tiny bit harder but not significant.

Could you describe the route?
It is a path of great resistance. The route is divided into three parts; the first meters before the roof are easy, then you make the roof, and there you can rest, for me the route in general begins in that part, the second part is 15 meters of an overhang of about 45 degrees very intense and you do not rest until you pass the crux, the third part is about 20 final meters to hold on. What has become more difficult for me are the distances of the bolts, they add a psychological point.


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Lapsus 9a+ (b) by Giorgio Tomatis (19)

Lapsus 9a+ (b) by Giorgio Tomatis (19)

Giorgio Tomatis has done Lapsus 9a+ (b) in Andonno, which is a link-up of three routes he has done before. Stefano Ghisolfi made the FA in 2015 as the first 9b in Italy but later he and the three repeaters (Ondra, Bombardi using one knee pad, and Sigriest) have edited their opinion calling it a hard 9a+. Tomatis, who previously has done five 9a's, thinks it merits 9b. He started working on it seriously at the end of October. "I wanted to do it without kneepads because Stefano's FA was done without kneepads and without, it's 9b."

Can you give us the lowdown on Lapsus?
It is a truly magical route. The connection of all the hardest routes of the most famous wall of Andonno. The process was really incredible and very stimulating. It was a very fun route to try for me because every time I improved something or I could make one extra move.

The 19-year-old is also a successful competition climber having made the podium in Euro Youth Cups eight times, including winning one event in 2021. Already at age 14, he did Noia (8c+) which shares the start of Lapsus. (c) Carlo Penna

Noia 8c+ by Gianluca Vighetti (14)

Noia 8c+ by Gianluca Vighetti (14)

Gianluca Vighetti, who did his first 9a at age 12, has done Noia (8c+) in Andonno. In total, the 14-year-old has now done five routes 8c+ and harder. (c) Diego Borello

Can you tell us more about your ascent?
I tried Noi (8b+) for the first time in October, the line was amazing and I was super motivated. After two weekends I made it and I started thinking about Noia. I knew it was a bit my style and the route was incredible. I also found a bad knee bar before the crux that helped me a bit. I fell on the traverse between Noi and Cobra three times and on Noi. Last Saturday, everything was perfect and I made it.

Estado Critico 9a by Darius Rapa (16)

Estado Critico 9a by Darius Rapa (16)

Darius Rapa, who last year did his first 9a and won one Euro Youth Cup, has done Estado critico (9a) in Siurana. "Sooo damn happy to clip the chain on this 35 meters masterpiece and to tick my second 9a. It was such a big fight all the way to the top😮‍💨 The route was done in 6 tries, 3 days"

Can you tell us more about your trip and the ascent?
I went to Siurana for 9 days and my plan was just to check the area and eventually find a project. On my first go on Estado Critico I couldn’t make it past the first crux (the dynamic move to the small crimp). On my second go, I passed the crux but still didn’t make it to the top but made some links (I struggled a lot on the upper part). I made it to the top on my third go and found my final beta so that meant it was just a matter of time until I would clip the chains (which I did surprisingly fast and unexpectedly on my 6th try). I am so happy with this one and I will try to push myself to the limits in the future.

What else have you been doing in the autumn and what is the winter plan?
This autumn I was mostly training in the gym after the Youth World Championships in Dallas and I’ve also done the FA of L'integral du decadance (8B) in Romania. Now I will train hard with my coach, Robert Cohn, for the upcoming competitional season.

Cup of Immortality extension 8C (+) by Adam Ondra

Adam Ondra has had a great day in Moravský kras where he first flashed Vnitřní Svět Vítězů (8B), giving it a personal 8A+ grade. Later he did the FA of Pohár Nesmrtelnosti (prodloužení) 8C (+) (Cup of Immortality extension). "8C/8C+, maybe 8C+, last moves are very specific and hard to grade."

The extension is 8A or 8A+ which is added to the original 8B+. Full description, comments, and a video of the very steep problem on his Insta. In total, the 29-year-old has now logged 17 8C's and 4 8C+ to his scorecard, which overall includes 2 248 ascents.

Dreamtime 8B+/C by Pietro Vidi (19)

Dreamtime 8B+/C by Pietro Vidi (19)

Pietro Vidi, who was #7 in a Euro Cup this summer, has done Dreamtime 8B+/C in Cresciano. During the last month, he has previously done three 8B's and three 8B+.

How have you been able to raise the bar so much the last month?
I feel really good on rocks lately. For sure all the training for the comps has made me stronger than last year. For me it has been really important to gain finger strength, tension and re-learn some tricks by climbing a lot on rocks. My first goal of the season was Squalo Bianco (8B+) which went down in early October (it still feels like my hardest bloc😅). Then after two more 8B+ ascents, I wanted to test myself on Dreamtime.

It suits me really well as it is pretty technical on heel hooks. The stand went down in a bunch of tries (I briefly tried it last year with no chances), so I decided to check the moves on the sit and managed to fall on the stand sensationally fast. Then I needed three more sessions to link all the moves to the top!

La Rambla 9a+ by Chaehyun Seo (19)

La Rambla 9a+ by Chaehyun Seo (19)

Chaehyeon Seo has done the second female ascent, after Margo Hayes, of La Rambla (9a+) in Siurana. (c) Bernardo Gimenez

How many sessions did it take and what was hardest for you?
I did it in 5 days and the hardest was the last cruxy part.

How long will you stay and what is next?
I’ll stay here by 11/28 and I want to try Realization (9a+) (Biographie) in Céüse!

Seo made her first 8a headline at age 11, when she onsighted her first 8a. Three years later she did Bad Girls Club 8c+/9a. 15-years-old, she won the overall World Cup after having won four straight WCs. In 2021, she won the World championship and this year she was second in the World Cup.

Furi de Jabali 9a+ by Minyoung Lee

Furi de Jabali 9a+ by Minyoung Lee

Chaehyeon Seo shares the good news that also her teammates from South Korea have sent hard in Siruana: Minyoung Lee, who was #12 in the Boulder World Championship in 2021, has done Furia de Jabali 9a+. Sol Sa, #2 in the Combined World Championship in 2018, did La pequena Mowgli (8c) and Jihyun Lim (16) did Kale borroka (8b+).