The formative years of cutting edge rock climbing: 1983&1984

1983 arguably ushered in the term ‘power’ – thought by some to have previously not existed until then. Routes like Jerry Moffatt’s The Face (8a/8a+) – the first of that grade in Germany – clearly required a new level of bouldering strength.

Steep limestone was the new ‘in thing’ – and bolts began proliferating the crags – though mainly on the continent. The first 8a’s were introduced in France with Reve de Papillon (8a) in Boux and Le Coeur est un Chasseur Solitaire (8a) in Mouries, both by Marc Le Menestrel; Ca Glisse au Pays des Merveilles (8a) by Patrick Edlinger; and Crepinette (8a) by Fabrice Guillot. Unknown at the time, Dave Cuthbertson from UK did the route Requiem as the world’s first 8a+, then graded E7 6c.

Marc Le Menestrel on Chimpanzodrome (7c+), 1983 in Boux.

Australia kept up (just) with the likes of Slopin’ Sleazin’ (originally 7c – now 7c) and the aforementioned India.

The first recognized 8a in Britain came in at the hands of new kid on the block – Ben Moon. A fully bolted sport route, Statement of Youth (8a) indeed made a statement in the more ‘traditional’ line of thinking Britain. This was overshadowed soon by fellow compatriot Jerry Moffatt’s offering – that of Revelations, which at solid 8a+ was recognised as the hardest route in the world at the time.

In a period of intense development, such a title wouldn’t hold on for long. the big news was to be had at the end of the year – when a new name hit the press with the boulder problem extension route of Kanal Im Rucken – and a new grade – 8b. The man responsible was Wolfgang Gullich.

France got introduced to the 8b grade with Tribouts’ Le Bidule (8b) and Edlinger’s Le Boule (8b). Carrigan finally solved the mystery of Masada – giving it 8a+/b as well (later downgraded to 8a).

Also of note at this time was a first ascent by an American women – who over the next decade was to become the top female climber the world had ever seen. Tourist Treat (7b+) was at the time a fine effort by a young Lynn Hill.

Moffatt meanwhile demonstrated his virsatility by onsighting The Phoenix (7c), Pol Pot (7b+/c) and Chimpanzadrome (7c+), the latter on the day of his 21st birthday.