Adam Ondra, interview after La Capella 9b at Siurana
Interview with Adam Ondra after his first ascent of La Capella at Siurana, Spain, which the 18-year-old from the Czech Republic has tentatively graded 9b
In mid-February Czech super climber Adam Ondra came up trumps in a tiny sector in Spain's Siurana and nailed the first ascent of La Capella, a short, intense, crimpy outing which Ondra believes warrants the staggering grade 9b. Ondra's progression over the years towards this result is pretty much second-to-none and culminated last March in the first repeat of Chris Sharma's Golpe de estado, another 9b which, as it happens, lies just a stone's throw from La Capella at the very same crag.
While Golpe acted as Ondra's stepping stone into the 9b level, the 18-year-old has now taken things one logical stage further and produced his own 9b, his hardest first ascent to date after a total of seven days effort this year and two days days last year. Fast? Slow? We don't know. But what we feel we can state - and here we're sticking our neck our a bit - is that while 9a is now in the hands of many, 9b still remains elusive and exclusive to a select few. Hence Ondra's thoughts about the ascent and his recent climbs.
What can you tell us about La Capella?
La Capella was an 15-year-old project bolted by David and Carles Brasco and it is a completely independent line, the most prominent route in the middle of the small cave. It's roughly 15 meters long but the crux is located in the the first half, the second part above the lip of the cave is not more than 7c+, meaning that it's got some extremely bouldery climbing with two intense crux sections.
Can you give the cruxes a boulder grade?
It's hard to give them a bouldering grade, but I think both could roughly be around Fb8A+, the upper maybe slightly harder, the lower slightly easier. Both are about five moves long, with two half-pad crimps to chalk up and clip.
You sent the route on your last try during the last day of the trip... the pressure was on?
Well, the pressure was on of course, but I was a bit calmer than the days before and that the morning I didn't seriously believe in a successful outcome since it was my third climbing day in a row. My skin was sore, despite the fact that I had only done two attempts a day the previous two days and I hadn't done that many moves. My first attempt that day was good, I got close, but then I fell. This gave me spark of hope, though the pain on my skin was terrific. I got a bit nervous again, but as I started climbing I realised I was ready for the fight. I entered my own world, was completely focused and ignored the pain.
Many of the world's hardest routes tend to be very long – Chris Sharma's Jumbo love, and Realization for example. But Capella is short and hard as nails.
It is just different, it is cool combination of bouldering and sport climbing. You don't have to climb long sections that usually act as pumpy entry filters to the cruxes, these can get really tedious when you try a particular route for a long period. I've come to the conclusion that, regardless of the style, you cannot try a sport route which is at your very limit significantly more times a day. While trying La Capella, the third go of the day was always worse.
In the end you suggested 9b
I really hope it is my hardest first ascent so far, although it is impossible to compare it with Marina Superstar 9a+/b because of their completely opposite styles. I suggested 9b for this climb because of the effort I was forced to invest and also because it seems to be my style. Having said that, I am still not sure if this is right decision and the route is not “merely” 9a+ since I have no idea about my shape right now and I haven't tried any other routes of similar difficulty recently to compare. Those who repeat it will be able to provide a better idea.
The route was bolted 15 years ago and is completely natural
On this route it is immediately obvious that it is climbable since you can see the holds. The problem is you don't how to hold them and which footholds to use. I believe that only the starting jug might break and this should be reinforced in future for the safety of climbers and the belayers.
What does the element rock represent to you?
It's always fascinating to discover what nature has prepared for climbers and the conservation of new lines is very important therefore, especially in places where the rock potential is not as enormous as in Spain.
Can you ever see arguments for modifying the rock?
My personal point of view is - chipping should be a part of history, full stop. But if someone really wants to chip, they should chip as little as possible into the blank rock. Chipped pockets can always be skipped in the future in order to make the line natural, but once you've change the shape of a natural hold, there is no way back. I believe that reinforcing holds with sika is acceptable in places with bad rock, such as in Santa Linya. It is always better to make a route safe rather than to fall off with huge block weighing tons of kilos.
In February you visited Varazze, the boulder problem Gioia was top of the agenda. What can you tell us about Core's 2008 problem?
The problem didn't disappoint me at all. On the contrary, it looked even more spectacular and bigger than in the pictures which is very rare, usually it's the other way round. I managed to send the stand start quite fast even though it is not fully my style and then I immediately started trying the sit-start. The beginning is less physical and extremely crimpy and this suits me much better, but nevertheless I struggled to do all the moves.
So how did it go?
At the end of the day I managed to do all the moves except for one. But doing all the single moves is nothing in comparison with linking the full project. There are so many hard moves in a row, you have to try again and again to get right, fast flow. I don't think there is anyone in the world capable of sending this problem slowly. Judging from one day of trying it, I think it is comparable with The Story of the Two Worlds in Cresciano, which according to everyone should be FB8C+, except for careful grade proposal by Dave Graham. So I'm psyched to return to Gioia, to this perfect problem in autumn.
Who or what has impressed you most recently?
Ramon Julian Puigblanque's incredible power during last year's Lead World Cup. I would really like to see him transforming this ability into some really hard rock climb which would take him a lot of effort. And obviously Tito Traversa, the Italian who has recently sent 8b at 9 years old. This is really impressive, I hope he is really psyched for climbing and will continue this way.
This winter you had your first-ever break. Why and what was the result?
I had three and a half weeks off, completely without climbing during the month of December. Many people told me to do this to prevent injuries and also as possible way to get stronger. Obviously I was weak during the first three weeks after the break, but I soon got better and better and now I'm feeling really strong. But this feeling is subjective, I am about to leave for Spain to test it out.
We know you never reveal your projects in advance, so all that is left to say is “good luck”!
Adam Ondra - 05/02/1993 Brno, Czech Republic
08/2002: Funky shit 8a Paklenica. First 8a redpoint
05/2003: Slimline 8a Frankenjura. First 8a on-sight
04/2004: Mrtvaski ples 8b Misja pec, Slovenia. First 8b redpoint
12/2004: Mascherina 8c Sperlonga, Italy. First 8c redpoint
02/2005: Veper Lady 8b Osp, Slovenia. First 8b on-sight
01/2006: Alien Carnage 8c+, Castillon, France. First 8c+.
09/2006: F.A. Vymena Manzelek, 8c at Moravsky Kras, Czech Republic.
11/2006 Martin Krpan 9a, Mmisja Pec, Slovenia. First 9a redpoint.
08/2007: Silbergeier 8b+, 200m, Rätikon, Switzerland. First one-day ascent of 1994 Beat Kammerlander route.
02/2008: La Rambla 9a+, Siurana, Spain. Fifth attempt.
02/2008: Digital System 8c Santa Linya, Spain. First 8c on-sight
05/2008: Action Direct 9a, Frankenjura. 10th ascent of 1991 benchmark Wolfgang Güllich route
09/2008: winner Arco Rock Legends
10/2008: Hotel Supramonte 8b+, 400m Sardinia. First on-sight.
11/2008: Open Air 9a+, Schleierwasserfall. First repeat of 1992 Alexander Huber route.
05/2009: Two 8c on-sights in a single day, Covolo, Italy
09/2009: Ravage 8b+/8c, Basler Jura, Switzerland. First on-sight of 1986 Antoine Le Menestrel route.
10/2009: F.A: Marina Superstar 9a+/9b , Grotta San Giovanni, Sardinia
11/2009: wins Climbing World Cup Lead 2009 in his debut year
01/2010: F.A. A Present For The Future 9a/9a+, Madonna Della Rota, Italy
01/2010: Two 8c and one 8b+ on-sights in a single day, Claret, France
03/2010: First repeat Golpe de estado 9b, Siurana
04/2010: F. A. Goldrake 9a+, Cornalba, Italy
10/2010: First free ascent in a single day of Tough Enough (8c, 380m), Tsaranoro, Madagascar
12/2010: Big Paw Fb8C, From The Dirt Grows the Flowers Fb8C, Cresciano, Switzerland
02/2011: F.A. La Capella 9b, Siurana, Spain