Just a few months after taking Gold at the Olympics, Janja Garnbert has onsighted not one but two 8c’s in Oliana. This looks like the first confirmed female 8c, with another just for fun.
A couple of weeks ago Janja went on the road after taking some well-deserved time off after Tokyo. In the past week she’s been in Oliana in Spain, a world-famous crag with three 9b’s and the second 9b+ in the world “La Dura Dura”.
“Fish Eye” is an 8c route first climbed by Chris Sharma in 2009 and is a classic test piece. At 50 meters it’s a full-on endurance route. Janja managed to onsight it – nearly coming off but downclimbing to a rest after a struggle near the top.
Just a couple of days later Janja then went on to onsight “American Hustle”, an 8c just to the right on the same wall. It’s another stamina route that Janja seemed to get through without any big issues. Both she reported on her instagram. Keep an eye on her stories for what’s next.
Janja has climbed as hard as 9a outdoors with “Seleccio Natural” 9a in Santa Linya. She’s also flashed (first time but with info on the climb) two 8c’s before. In 2017 she apparently also fell at the last move of “Biographie” the classic Céüse 9a+ route. Margo Hayes made history with the first female ascent of that route the same year.
It’s hard to state how dominant Janja has been in the past few years of competitions. In Bouldering and Lead, she’s almost never been out of the top 3 and is generally always expected to take 1st in at least one category of IFSC World Cup or Championship events.
Now she’s finally getting outside we could see her breaking her own records. It’s pretty late into the season but there are still plenty of good areas in Spain during the coldest worldwide temps.
Onsight Attempts and 9b+ Warmup?
Janja had also attempted a couple of 8b+ onsights in the days previous but fallen on both. With a bit of rest, she was able to jump a grade. It’s also reported that Garnbret warmed up before “American Hustle” on the lower part of Chris Sharma’s famous “La Dura Dura”, a 9b+.
Apparently, Janja used the lower section as a warmup because of the bouldery moves and the famous dyno crux, which she managed to do! That could mean Janja is thinking of taking on the famous route and would be the first woman to climb 9b+ if she decides to project it.
Update: Janja is back on the route! Read Janja Garnbret attempting La Dura Dura
First Female 8c Onsight? Some History
There have been plenty of onsights of 8b+ routes by women previously. There have also been a couple of onsights of routes that were graded 8c at the time but have since changed grade by consensus. In 2010 Charlotte Durif onsighted a route called “Le Roi du Pétrole” in Pic St Loup, which at the time was 8c, though it seems to have been downgraded by consensus to a hard 8b+.
In 2016 Kajaa Rosén also onsighted “T-1 Full Equip” in Oliana, which was at the time graded 8c. Again it seems like the grade is hard 8b+ or a soft 8c. We’ve talked about women climbing routes and them being downgraded before – it’s a tough conversation.
It can definitely be argued that hard routes are often downgraded only after a woman climbs one and that men’s grades are just assumed to be correct. There are plenty of times when that’s not the case (see Stefano downgrading 9c to 9b+). It’s also a general thing that over time routes will get downgraded or even upgraded after time and consensus, and that it’s more noticeable when women do it because their hard ascents are reported on more than a man’s at that grade.
Either way, there are arguments to be had. This seems to be the first onsight that’s had witnesses, photos, and probably some video too. With “Fish Eye” it’s a route that’s very well established as a benchmark 8c with hundreds of ascents. “American Hustle” is a newer route but it’s seen a fair few ascents with 8c suggested.
Reel Rock 15 had a section on Janja which has now been made available to public for free on Red Bull TV. “The Perfect Season” part 1 and 2 are available to watch here.