Adam Ondra makes his Change!

The interview with Adam Ondra who on 04/10/2012 freed his mega project at the Hanshelleren - Flatanger cave in Norway. The 55m route is called Change, is graded 9b+ and is certainly one of the hardest sport climbs in the world
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Adam Ondra on his new project at the Flatanger cave in Norway.
Ove Magne Ribsskog

Good news travels fast! At around midday today Adam Ondra managed to send his route at the ultra-steep Flatanger cave in Norway, that mammoth project he discovered and bolted this summer and which proved so difficult even he was forced to abandon, before returning this autumn. The line understandably shot to fame in July, also because it is one of the few routes which had seriously shut Ondra down, with an intense boulder crux at the start followed by gradual progression of resistance which takes no prisoners until the bitter end. 
Until now Ondra has bouldered up to Fb8C+ and redpointed 5 routes up to 9b (in short, this is the max!) and banking on this immense experience the 19-year-old climbed at his complete limit to create - it seems superfluous to say - what is certain to be one of the hardest sport climbs in the world. On a par, or perhaps a step further even, than some of Chris Sharma's creations such as First Round First Minute at Margalef and Jumbo Love at Clark Mountain. Both are still unrepeated, just like most of Ondra's own hard routes... As usual confirmation will be required by other top climbers and only time will tell, but by breaking into this new level of difficulty this is no doubt an extremely important moment in Ondra's personal career. A new chapter which he himself has underlined by calling the route… Change!

Adam, wow, you finally sent your project! Tell us about the route…
Thanks! Well, the line is about 55m long and divided into two distinct sections. The first pitch is about 20m high, of which the first 12m are really intense because they contain the really hard boulder crux.

The one we saw in the video earlier this year?
Yeah, it's six moves long, about 8B+ boulder in its own right. I reckon doing this and continuing to the top of the first section is about 9a+/9b.

And then what happens?
You reach a no-hands rest, it's pretty decent, and from here the route continues for another 25m which might be circa 9a. It has another bouldery section above this nohand-rest, which is intense and quite long (6 meters), then it's resistance all the way to the chai from here. The higher you get, the easier it becomes, but as I continued upwards I got more and more pumped and almost fell off at the penultimate bolt, which would have been a disaster. I'd say that on many sections of this route I was completely at my limit…

Today you succeeded, but where were you failing previously?
Usually I fell off the first crux and I'd only managed to send the 1st section twice previously, at which point I fell trying to link the second crux. In truth I thought that climbing the second crux would be the hardest thing because I was sure I'd be able to recover higher up, but actually I found myself fighting the most above this, as I made my way to the top.

Talking about the top and for those who don’t know the cave: where does the route end?
Well, from my anchor the route could continue for another 15m to the lip of the route and then on up vertical ground, but I stopped it where I felt was the obvious place. It reaches a prominent piece of rock, an orange square, which from far away looks alike a ledge - although it isn't - and since at this point the rope drag becomes unbearable I stopped the route here.

So if we've understood correctly the route could continue on?
Yes, I suppose so, perhaps to the lip it would be 8c, but to me it doesn't make sense, you'd need a second rope hanging there at the belay because of the rope drag I mentioned earlier. I consider this cave a huge climbing gym, a sea of endless rock where everyone can think and do as they like. For me this is the logical finish and I'm just so happy to have found such a long line up the most prominent part of the cave which has a logical ending and can be climbed in a long single push!

Is this the longest you've ever worked a route?
Yes, for sure! I spent three weeks this summer, and then another two this autumn before sending it today.

What were conditions like?
Today? Excellent. In fact, today was the first day I had a real possibility of sending the route. I rained for almost 3 weeks just before we arrived this autumn and since the crag seeps, 2 holds high up on the upper section were wet. Although it is possible to do the moves with these wet holds, when you're completely at you limit this isn't the best and today they were almost dry and so I went for it. And succeeded. But wow, I was so completely at my limit!

Rumour has it it's 9b+...
Yes, I think 9b+. The grade question is interesting: when I first bolted it I was blown away by its difficulty and thought it would easily be 9b+. But after sending the first section and feeling fresh on the second section crux after only two weeks of effort I thought perhaps it was 9b. But in the end I kept falling off that first section so often, it became such a demanding process both physically and mentally that I believe it is significantly harder than all the other 9b's I've done. In addition, it’s worth bearing in mind that even though the route fits my style I really had to put in so much effort to succeed!

So it’s now time to celebrate
I had almost quit believing that I'd succeed this season, I kept failing and as I said, it was beginning to become really hard psychologically, because of these conditions, because I was beginning to lose shape. And now I'm just so happy!

Well congratulations Adam, enjoy the moment! Ah, one last question: what about the route's name?

03/2010 Golpe de estado, Siurana, Spain - first repeat after Chris Sharma (2008)
02/2011 La capella, Siurana, Spain - first free ascent
03/2011 Chaxi raxi, Oliana, Spain - first free ascent
04/2011 Chilam balam, Villanueva del Rosario, Spain - first repeat after Barnabé Fernandez (2003)
04/2011 La planta de shiva, Villanueva del Rosario, Spain - first free ascent
10/2012 Change, Flatanger, Norway - first free ascent


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