An astonishing effort, the first onsight of an 8b by a woman.
The young climbing phenom Katie Brown was at the Motherlode and I told her the cave had a new route she should try. We never discussed the grade…she just didn’t ask. Eventually she got on it, and everyone stopped what they were doing and watched. Porter Jarrard and I watched from right below, staring up with our mouths agape as she cruised higher and higher. At the crux, she climbed up and back down to the “rest”, trying different things, and I wondered how her barely five-foot frame would make what had been long reaches for me. Eventually she performed some sequence that made no sense to me, using holds that made no sense to me, but got her on the final headwall. While she was climbing, her mother was belaying, completely oblivious to what was happening, sometimes short-roping Katie when she tried to clip – it was totally insane. Katie got to the anchor and the Motherlode erupted with applause. As she lowered down, I walked over and told her I had rated it 13d, and that she had probably just made history as the first woman to onsight that grade. She was excited, and we later found out her ascent was indeed a first. Since then, several holds have broken and it is now 14a, but contrary to popular mythology, it was never downgraded because of her ascent. In reality, all of us at the Red were awestruck by Katie and thrilled to see her outperform us with such ease. She was like a comic-book hero, a tiny and unassuming young girl, but one with superpowers who completely dominated a macho, kick-ass scene.