Alexander Megos interview after world's first 9a onsight
Interview with 19-year-old German climber Alexander Megos after the historic first on-sight of a 9a climb, Estado Critico at Siurana in Spain.
Even if it had been on the cards for a while and everyone was expecting it, the news was, quite rightly, astonishing. Also because the world's first 9a on-sight wasn't achieved by strongman Adam Ondra - who on three occasions got extremely close - but by 19-year-old German climber Alexander Megos. Put in other words, by a nigh unknown young and extremely talented sports climber whose ability, until a few days ago, was recognised almost exclusively by the select few of best climbers in the world. In truth, Megos had started to leave his mark recently, above all with his 8c+ flash of Pure Imagination at Red River Gorge in the USA. But let's be honest, with few 9a redpoints to his name a handful of 8b+ on-sights, who would have hedged their bets on this young, tranquil 19-year-old? But instead, along came the astounding news of the world's first 9a onsight and confirmation of his superb class.
To better comprehend it all we asked Megos some questions about his performance. But not only. In fact, we asked for information about this historic onsight of Estado Critico at Siurana from someone who perhaps knows more about 9a's than anyone else: i.e. Adam Ondra in person. This is what magic Adam, as an athlete and true first-class person, told Planetmountain: "Obviously when I first read this news on the 8a.nu website, I stood still for an instant, I couldn't believe it. But thinking about it for a moment, I knew that it must have been true. All I can say is that Alex's performance is truly unique and stands out. He chose the right route (one of few routes that the world has to offer) and he just went for it. With a perfect mindset, he did everything perfectly and clipped the chains of what is probably (in terms of grade certainly) the hardest onsight ever! It is not only question of luck (even though this plays an important role); you definitely have to have the level and you have to MASTER the onsight style. In addition, what discipline: he hadn't seen any videos of this route (Progression for example with Chris Sharma trying Golpe de Estado ), or maybe he is just not interested in watching videos at all. In terms of grade, no matter what it is, it seemed hard to me. When I did it back in 2007 in a couple of tries, it seemed a soft 8c+ to me. But shortly after Chris Sharma made the first ascent of Golpe de Estado, which shares the second half of the route, the hold broke in bouldery sequence just above where the two routes join up. I have never climbed Estado Critico after this hold break, but it seemed to me as it could have made it a notch harder, sufficient to break the 9a barrier. For Golpe de Estado though, this didn't make any difference, or at the most it transformed it from soft 9b to normal 9b."
Alexander, tell us how this onsight came about?
In truth my plan was to try La Rambla, but since I didn't know the line precisely and I didn't have a guidebook, I decided to give Estado Critico a go. I didn't really plan to on-sight it. I simply wanted to see how high I could climb. And luckily I managed to reach the top :-)
So what can you tell us about your ascent?
Estado Critico shares the same start as Kalea Borroka (8b+) up an overhanging crack. I almost fell there but somehow managed to reach a good rest. After Estado Critico branches off from Kalea Borroka the climbing suits my style perfectly. Overhanging, up small crimps and no large moves.
Were you ever worried that you might not succeed?
I only started getting nervous at the last bolt below the chain, when I realised that I could actually make it.
What did you know about the route?
before climbing it I only knew that my friend Felix Neumärker hat repeated it. I didn't know who else had climbed it, I didn't know who had done the first ascent and I knew nothing about a broken hold. So I didn't really know anything apart from where I needed to climb.
You didn't know anything, but anyone interested can find loads of videos online... What's your view about this?
Videos can certainly be a problem if you want to try to on-sight something. But if you want to try it, then you shouldn't watch videos beforehand. It's as simple as that. Naturally I'd never climbed Kale Borroka which shares the same start as Estado Critico beforehand and I hadn't watched any videos, otherwise I couldn't say that mine was on-sight. It's really important to be honest about these things.
Any thoughts about the grade?
I cannot and do not want to say anything about the grade. During my on-sight everything ran perfectly and nevertheless it was really difficult. I don't feel I can say anything about the grade.
When did you realise what you had just achieved?
I only fully comprehended what I had just done when I was back on the ground, when someone asked me if I had just climbed that 9a onsight and I answered yes. Slowly but surely it dawned on me and I realised what I had done.
So what can you tell us about other things you've done?
In the past my best on-sight was 8b+. I'd sent five 8b+ onsight, two 8c flash and one 8c+ flash (Pure Imagination).
But with results like this, why have we heard so little about you in the past?
I reckon it might be because normally I don't publish on the internet what I've just climbed. Usually this is posted by others who have seen me at the crag. Immediately publishing something online really isn't that important for me. It's not my style.
Where will we see you in the future?
I don't have any concrete plans and really don't want to make any. I'll just let myself be surprised by what the day brings, because those who plan the night before, plan twice ;-) Having said that, I'll obviously try to on-sight and redpoint some hard classics here in Siurana, but I haven't got any specific routes in mind. I'll just decide on the spur of the moment, depending on what looks good.
Alexander Megos thanks his sponsors: DMM, Patagonia, Tenaya