McColl and Verhoeven, double ascent of Gaia

Canadian and Dutch climbers Sean McColl and Jorg Verhoeven finished their visit to England with a double ascent of one of the most famous trad routes in the country: Gaia. Both sent this very exposed line the day after the CWIF bouldering comp, in which both made finals.

Throughout the years both Verhoeven and McColl have proved to be very versatile climbers. Both have done done very well in lead and bouldering (indoors and rock climbing) and Verhoeven has also shown his skills on multi-pitch routes like The Nose.

What they did last week proves that point again. First they competed in a bouldering comp (the CWIF), against some other international starts. Both did really well, they made finals and McColl won the comp. The next day, after two days of indoor bouldering and tens of problems climbed, they went rock climbing with their sights set on Gaia.

Gaia is a legendary line first climbed by Johnny Dawes in 1986. It is quite short (around 8 meters high) and very poorly protected. It became famous when it was featured in the movie Hard Grit, in which French climber Jean-minh Trin-Thieu was shown taking a very scary fall from the top, going almost all the way to the ground and hitting the wall very hard (video below).

The upper part of Gaia must be climbed almost unprotected, the last piece is placed so far below that the belayer is left with a very room for error in case of a fall.

Verhoeven and McColl did some laps on top rope, learning the moves. Then Verhoeven climbed it, followed by McColl. At this point I think it is fair to say that Gaia is not exactly cutting-edge in terms of pure difficulty, but it still stands as a mythical test piece and is the kind of line every climber would love to add to their ticklist.

You can read McColl’s account of the ascent on his blog.

Here’s Trin-Thieu’s famous fall:

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