Alexander Megos, interview after his ascent of Biographie at Ceüse
Interview with German climber Alexander Megos after his recent one-day redpoint of Biographie 9a+ at Ceuse in France.
The news that Alexander Megos had repeated Biographie in just one day last Saturday struck us. Neither the climber nor the route need introducing – almost everyone knows that this 9a+ at Ceüse was freed in 2001 by America's Chris Sharma, and that five years earlier the line bolted by Frenchman Jean-Christophe Lafaille had been climbed to half-height by Arnaud Petit – but sending this monumental sport climb in a single day certainly left its mark. Not that we thought a feat of this sort wasn't possible, on the contrary: with the world's first 9a onsight Megos helped us comprehend that the limit is evolving very rapidly indeed. So much so that in the last few months his various 9a+ ascents have been so quick that he's even started to measure them with a stopwatch. But most of those routes were in the Frankenjura, at his home crags and not a thousand kilometres away and offering a completely different style of climbing. Furthermore – and in some respects this seems even more astounding – at a crag that Megos had never been to before. But evidently these factors all pale into insignificance when dealing with the 20-year-old German who has demonstrated, once again, that when it comes to repeating difficult routes quickly, he's currently one of the world's very best.
Alexander, the first question may seem a bit silly. You'd already been to Ceüse, right?
No, this is the first time I've come to Ceüse. I've never been here before. But it definietely won't be my last!
So let's take a step back. What does this route mean to you, how important is it?
It obviously means a lot to me! It's the world's first 9a+ and definitely also the most famous. And, as it happens, it's a really good route that's fun to climb.
Chris Sharma freed it when you were 7 years old, Arnaud Petit climbed the first half in 1996 while Jean-Christophe Lafaille had the vision to bolt it back in 1988. 26 years ago...
I was only 3 when Arnaud climbed the first section in 1996. These are obviously extraordinary performances and all these were definitely luminaries and pioneers! By now I've got a fair idea of what it means to try a project. There's always a degree on uncertainty, about whether the route is possible and about how hard it is. But if a route's been climbed before, then things are far easier. You have a grade, the beta and the certainty that it's possible.
Why didn't you try to onisght it? Or flash? Surely that would have been interesting? And what do you think about Ondra's flash attempt two years ago?
I believe many people don't know exactly what it really means to really try a route flash or onsight that's at the very limit. To give it a serious attempt you need a lot of preparation, in particular mental preparation. And this requires a lot of energy.
That's why it's even the more impressive to watch Adam as he prepares himself. He approaches things with so much willpower and professionalism and then waits for exactly the right moment. One can certainly learn a lot from this. His flash attempt was really impressive. Although I didn't watch it, I now know exactly where he fell. To get there in a flash attempt is a superb performance.
So you knew you didn't want to try Biographie onsight or flash. But what was your aim? Perhaps secretly?
There was no secret aim. I only decided what I wanted to do after having checked-out the moves first. It was then that I decided I wanted to climb it that same day.
Tell us about that day.
Actually it was very much like all the others. It was the day after a rest-day and we reached the crag at about 13:30. I warmed up by checking out the moves on Biographie, this took circa 1 hour. Then I started to make the attempts, and had circa 30 – 40 minutes rest between each go. Conditions were very good and my first feeling was: I'm going to send it today.
What was the hardest bit? And then how did the successful redpoint go?
The hardest section was certainly the boulder problem at the start, these are the hardest moves on the entire route. I changed the beta slightly before my final attempt and then things ran fairly well actually. I wasn't right at the very limit.
Definitely! Who wouldn't want to climb Biographie?! It's certainly one of the best routes I've ever climbed.
You're still in Ceüse for a couple of days and there are plenty of superb routes to do. The magnificent and unrepeated Three Degrees of Separation first climbed by Chris Sharma in 2007 springs to mind...
Yes, there are are loads of routes to climb here. I also checked out a project and almost sent it but I broke a hold as I pulled through the crux. Perhaps it's no longer possible. As to Three Degrees, yes, I've tried it, but with that dyno I don't stand a chance...
Alexander Megos thanks his sponsors: DMM, Patagonia, Tenaya, Entreprises and Blue Water Ropes