1989 was a year of dramatic change. At the forefront of the climbing world, it seems that the standards of difficulty rose yet another notch. At the start of the year, the first 8c was done in France by the British climber, Ben Moon. It also seems that more of the top climbers such as Didier Raboutou, Yuji Hiryama, Jibe Tribout, Jerry Moffatt, Simon Nadin and several others, have been able to do 8a’s on-sight and it has been rumored that a few may have succeeded in doing an 8a on-sight.
In mountaineering, an impressive solo ascent of the North Face of Jannu was done by the Yugoslavian climber, Tomo Casen.
In the arena of competition climbing, this year brought climbing one step closer to being recognized as an organized sport with the introduction of the first World Cup event. While some of the more well known climbers performed worse than expected, two “Dark horses” emerged to win the World Cup: Simon Nadin and Nanette Raybaud. Sport climbing has finally begun to capture widespread attention in the media (even in America!), and many new competitions were introduced at the local level for climbers of nearly all ages and ability in many countries around the world.
The natural rise and fall of the human tide has brought death to some of the people we knew, Bruno Cormier, editor of Vertical magazine and Jurek Kukuczka, the famous Polish Alpinist.
This year I had my own close encounter with death when I took a 75 foot fall to the ground in Buoux, France and miraculously escaped with only a dislocated elbow and a sore butt. The highlight of the year was coming back from this near fatal accident six months later to win the final stage of the World Cup in Lyon, France, where I was also finished third against the top men on the super final route and earned the number one world ranking by the Association of Sport Climbers International (A.S.C.I.)
From a global perspective, this year marked an increased level of humanistic and environmental concerns. 1989 has brought more legislation preventing further destruction of our environment. More people are aware of problems such as the depletion of the ozone layer, acid rain, the destruction of the rain forests, pollution (With the new smog emissions control law, I may finally be able to drive in Europe with my windows rolled down.)
On the political side of things, the most significant, positive event of the year was the fall of the Berlin wall. This was a surprising turn of events considering the many struggles the smaller communist countries experienced in their efforts to change their existing government toward a more democratic system. Who can forget the horrifying display of brutality that took place in communist China earlier this year when students died because of their fight against a repressive, intolerant political structure.
For me, being involved in international climbing competitions has brought this complex, politically polarized world into perspective. When I first began competing in Europe three years ago, the scene was much more impersonal and there seemed to be a thread of nationalism separating the competitions. This year, it seems that the feeling among competitors is much more friendly. These international competitions have brought together a diverse group of people from various different countries, not to fight against each other, but to share a common passion for climbing and life.