Adam Ondra, the 8c+ on-sight interview!
An exclusive interview with Adam Ondra from the Czech Republic after his outstanding 8c+ on-sights in Spain, including Bizi euskaraz 8c+ at Etxauri.
A few days ago he admitted he felt on form, now he's delivered the goods: during a remarkable trip to Spain, 18-year-old Adam Ondra has achieved a startling on-sight run which includes no less than three 8c+! As such is certainly stands the hardest on-sighting period ever.
Ondra set the ball rolling on Sunday 6 March at Etxauri by on-sighting Fuck the police (8c) and Tekken (8b+) and culminated in Kidetasunaren balio erantsia, originally graded 8c+. A day later, Ondra pulverised Bizi euskaraz, the 8c+ rendered famous by Patzi Usobiaga when the Spaniard ascended into sport climbing history in 2007 with the first ascent and contemporaneously world's first 8c+ on-sight. And then yesterday Ondra achieved the unthinkable, on-sighting two 8c+ on the same day, at two different crags...
Multiple 8c+ on-sights in a handful of days... it's enough to make your mind wander and wonder where sport climbing is heading. While it is difficult not to describe these achievements with hyperbowls and superlatives, it is important to put the climbs into perspective.
Firstly, as can be gleamed from the interview below, Ondra feels that Kidetasunaren does not warrant the 8c+ grade - much like Gora Guta Gutara at Kalymnos which he had on-sighted, and then suggested a downgrade for, in May 2009.
Secondly, while Kidetasunaren isn't 8c+, Bizi euskaraz is. In on-sighting Bizi euskaraz, Ondra not only upped his personal ante he also confirmed the awesome nature of Usobiaga's ground-breaking ascent which took place in a moment of pure inspiration in December 2007. Three years have passed since that climb, in some respects an eternity.
Thirdly, and perhaps most importantly, by on-sighting the two other routes a few days later he demonstrated that 8c+ on-sight is no longer a one-off affair but that it is the standard by which all others will have to judge their performances.
Talking of standards: Yuji Hirayama broke into the 8c barrier in 2004 with his on-sight of White Zombie at the Baltzola Cave in Spain, while Usobiaga broke into the 8c+ barrier in 2007. Ondra himself first on-sighted 8c in 2008 and needed three years to make the leap from 8c on-sight to 8c+. If the extreme end of other sports are anything to go by, then the gap from 8c+ to 9a should be even more gigantic and take even longer to bridge. We have a strong suspicion though that the 9a barrier will fall far sooner - which would indicate that, as yet, we are nowhere near the physical limits. We are limited only only by the mind and what the rock offers.
This is an interesting final point. Rock is finite, and there are only a limited number of routes which are suited for such escapades. Ondra himself knows far better than anyone else where his chances lie and it is worth noting that at Extauri the other day he opted to leave Begi puntuan for another trip. And that he has consistently resisted temptation and steered clear of the iconic Realization at Ceuse... While he wisely keeps his objectives a secret, as he progresses his list of options - unlike his strength - is dwindling!
Currently Ondra is at Santa Linya and we managed to catch his thoughts in between one attempt of Chris Sharma's 9b Neandathal and the next. He plans to stay in Spain for a fortnight so there may well be more to come, but in the meantime enjoy the interview which confirms that 8c+ on-sight is here to stay.
Adam, tell us about the routes at Extauri
I think that Bizi is 8c+. It's continuous, pumpy and difficult all the way to the top. Some locals even believe its harder, perhaps 8c/9a, so that's why I confirm the grade 8c+. Finally I've done it!
What about the unpronounceable Kidetasunaren balio erantsia?
Kidetasunaren is slightly shorter, roughly 25m instead of 30m It's a really delicate route, completely my style, very bouldering indeed. I was really lucky because on the crux I held the crimp in just the right way. After that I basically walked to the top, for me it could be easier than 8c+ therefore.
Before doing Kide you also on-sighted an 8c
Yes, 3 hours earlier I on-sighted Fuck the Police. I know that the local climbers say that there is difference between them, some can do The Police but struggle on Kide, but for me they are comparable in style and grade.
You just said "Finally I've done it!" How many times have you attempted to on-sight 8c+ before this success?
In truth not that often, there aren't really that many 8c+ left to on-sight. Most of the 8c+ which are on-sightable here in Spain I've usually tried before. I suppose I've done three really serious attempts before, and here I've finally got lucky.
Yes, luck is really important in on-sighting.
Of course there are other factors.
Yes. On No Future in Ceuse there weren't any quickdraws in place. The route is 70m long and I had to set off with 22 quickdraws! Imagine how I felt! But things went well for the first 55m, but then I fell due to a silly mistake. I reached a jug and rested, you know, after 55m of climbing you can get really bored and so I only rested for a couple of minutes. This was a mistake, I should have rested longer because the crux was just above and it shook me off.
You weren't shaken off two other routes yesterday!
No. First we travelled to Valdiello where I on-sighted Powerade. For me this 25m route could be 8c+, too.
That was in the morning
Yes, then we drove to Alquezar which lies 50km away and I on-sighted El Templo del Café, a former 9a. Although I don't think it helped me, I had done the 8c Turami circa 4 years ago and this share the same finish with El Tempo. I reckon El Templo del Café might be soft 8c+.
How would you judge these days?
Yes, I think this is the hardest on-sighting period ever done. I'm obviously really happy and quite surprised at the same time. I originally thought this would be a warming-up period, but I soon realised that I'm in the best shape I've ever been!
How long did the climbs take you?
I'm not entirely sure, at Etxauri I spent perhaps 20 minutes on the climbs, at Valdiello roughly 8 minutes, while at Alquezar 25 minutes. It's a long roof with lots of rests.
When you reached the finishing holds, did you think you might go even harder?
At the moment it would be very difficult to go even harder. First of all I'd have to find a route which is just my style. On-sighting a bouldery 15m route is practically impossible. Take the Frankenjura for example - it's almost impossible to do hard on-sights there. The routes are comprised of 12 - 15 hard moves one after the other, you simply can't stop and chalk and even the smallest mistake costs you the on-sight. On long routes with rests you have time to think about what to do next, you can make small mistakes - provided you have enough power to reach and then recover on the rests.
So what can we look forward to?
On these routes I didn't feel as if I was at my absolute limit. There are some routes which are possible candidates for even harder on-sight attempts, but at present I prefer not to try them, I want to leave them for the future, to try them in a couple of years time. I think that it might be possible to go harder, but I would need a large amount of luck!
Adam Ondra on-sighting at Etxauri, Spain