Game Changers in the Shadows of Sharma
Chris Sharma has dominated the climbing world for the past 15 years. He began the 21st century by establishing a route heralded as the first 5.15a in the world. At 21, Sharma’s ascent of Realization was neither the pinnacle of, nor the beginning of his climbing career. He had taken the top seat of the climbing world at 14 when he won the Bouldering Nationals and was already shattering any concept of what was achievable.
By the time Chris won X-Games Gold in 1999, the world was getting a taste and they were loving it. A longtime mentor of Sharma’s would comment that ”Climbing was now spelled Sharma.’ No longer was the climber seen as the
dirtbag van bum living on Top Ramen and chalk; rather, the pinnacle of athleticism interacting with the elegance of nature. Mellow, shy and humble, Sharma squashed the negative, competitive attitudes that marred the sport in the 80’s and his climbing career has led to some of the greatest ascents ever seen, without his success ever going to his head. From his First Ascents of the Es Pontas Arch to his conquest of the 175 foot Jumbo love, his mark has elevated the sport to an entirely new dimension and he is already working on projects suggested to be at 5.15c.
Nearing 31, Sharma has a legacy of being the ‘greatest rock climber of all time’. He remains the gold standard of climbing to our generation. However, as he gets older, he is going to run into limitations and he is beginning to recognize this.
I feel really fortunate to be in this position where I am basically supported by the community of climbers. I kind of see it as my responsibility to push it as far as I can push it, to try to raise the bar as high as I can raise it. As a result, the next generation is going to be able to push it that much farther. Excerpt from King Lines
I’m super-psyched to keep pushing it as long as I can, but I think I’ve tried to be aware that there’s gonna be a time when I’m not the best climber. Excerpt from Half Life Interview
A recent article Changing the Game published on DPM.com calls 2011 a “year [that] ushered in a new standard in climbers worldwide.” The year began with a 5.15a FA by Sharma of Catxasa followed immediately by an assault on the grade with 20 ascents of routes at 5.15a+ by an extremely talented and young group of climbers. The youngest of these climbers – Enzo Oddo was 16 when he climbed Audabe Direct (5.15a) in May 2011.
This new generation of elite climbers have yet to come of age. They are sending hard, creating their own legacies and poised to push the limits of the sport beyond what is imaginable. They have already began to take some of the attention away from Sharma. Here is how:
Adam is making headlines at a rate that will soon surpass those of Sharma’s. This whiny Czech fenomen turned 19 years old on February 5th and already has a ticklist that rivals his predecessor. He has redpointed 15 routes in the 5.15a/b range and has successfully onsighted 7 routes at 5.14c. At sixteen, Adam had already began his assault of the 5.15a grade with ascents of La Rambla, Open Air and at seventeen he ticked off Sharma’s infamous Papichulo. More recently, Adam has Flashed Gekko Assis 8B+,the equivalent of a V14.
Sasha is establishing herself as the premier Female Sender of the 21st century. This past year, Sasha made headlines for her ascent of the classic Red River Gorge 5.14d Pure Imagination. As the first female to send this route, the 19-year-old is setting the stage for women’s climbing to enter the realm of 5.15’s. She recently completed a trip to Catalunya, Spain home to the largest concentration of difficult sport climbs in the world and Chris Sharma. If pipeline is a proving grounds for Surfing, Spain is the proving grounds for climbing and Sasha is going to take on the bull by the horns. She currently has 18 sends between 4.14a and 5.14d, including three onsights.
Enzo is a prodigy in his own right! Born into a family of Climbers and Mountain Guides, this 17-year-old wunderkind from France is making headlines with his multiple ascents of climbs at 5.15a. These include the infamous La Rambla 5.15a, Aubade 5.15a, Realization 5.15a ( heralded as the worlds first 5.15a; FA by Chris Sharma) and a First Ascent of a Moustahce qui fache 5.15a.
Ashima, not even old enough to have her own Facebook page, has made it onto the national stage via the 2011 Reel Rock Film Tour , and this ten (10) year old sender has no limits. Ashima is not stopping with her double-digit bouldering ascents in Hueco Tanks (v10-V13). On a September 2011 trip to the Red River Gorge, she successfully redpointed Table of Colors Direct 5,13b, Swingline 5.13d, and onsighted The Return of Darth Moll 5.13b. Her sights are already set on a Gold in the Olympics and Ashima is likely not going to stop with that.
Brooke is the one young gun who will be able to give Ashima a run for her money. She is the same age as Ashima and has been her main competitor during the ABS Junor Nationals coming up short of the top spot on the podium. However, Brooke became the youngest climber to ever have climbed 5.14a with her redpoint of God’s Own Stone, just two preceeding Cameron Horst’s attempt just two weeks later.
Cameron is following in the footsteps of his father Eric Horst who is an accomplished climber and author of the guide to Training for climbers. There was never any doubt that Cameron and his younger brother Jonathan, nicknamed the “Send Bros,” would become accomplished and successful climbers. At 11 years old, Cameron has clipped the chains on his first 5.14a God’s Own Stone and will not be reaching his peak for at least another 15 Years.
With all this potential coming from these young senders, Sharma is still not ready to be unseated just yet. He has settled in Lleida, Spain with his girlfriend Daila Ojeda and is working on a number of projects in the area. Some of these projects are expected to be 5.15c’s and if he is unable to send these, he will contniue to set the stage for the Game Changers to rise up to his challenge.
I do not imagine Sharma will be leaving the stage anytime soon and we will have plenty to talk about in the years to come.