On September 11, Chris Sharma, one of the world’s best rock climbers, stunned the climbing world with the first complete ascent of a 250-foot route that he calls Jumbo Love on Clark Mountain in California. Sharma gave the long sustained pitch the atmospheric grade of 5.15b (French 9b)—only the fourth route in the world to receive this extreme grade. Of course, the route will have to be repeated and the grade confirmed by other top climbers for it to hold.
But for now, Jumbo Love is the hardest route in the United States and possibly the world. It’s also a landmark in American rock climbing. As filmmaker Josh Lowell noted on his Big Up Productions blog: “It's the most impressive thing I've seen in sport climbing, and I think over time it will stand, along with Action Directe, and Realization, as one of the iconic accomplishments in the progression of our sport.”
Jumbo Love ascends The Monastery, a spectacular overhanging limestone wall perched high on Clark Mountain above Interstate 15 near the California and Nevada border. Randy Leavitt, who discovered and developed the cliff, drilled the bolts for Jumbo Love ten years ago, but thought it would be a three-pitch route. Chris Sharma, after inspecting it, decided the challenge was to climb it in one long push from top to bottom and changed some of the bolts to do this.
This monster enduro-climb begins with 60 feet of warm-up climbing (5.12d), then heads up an overhanging face with sustained bouldery moves (5.14c) for 100 feet to a severe crux at 160 feet. Above is more hard climbing (5.13c/d) to the cliff-top anchors. Sharma, who worked for months on the project, regularly took 100-foot falls since it was too hard to clip all the bolts. The route also has only one jug handhold—all the rest are crimps, pockets, and edges. Very impressive—a monumental achievement.
To see Chris Sharma climbing, check out a bunch of video clips from Big Up Productions.
Photo above: Chris Sharma on the first ascent of Jumbo Love.
Photo courtesy Big Up Productions