Jernej Kruder / the Es Pontas deep water solo interview
Interview with Slovenian climber Jernej Kruder who on 01/11/2016 made the first repeat of Es Pontas, the famous deep water solo climb first ascended a decade ago by Chris Sharma on the island of Mallorca, Spain.
Jernej Kruder has made the long-awaited second ascent of Es Pontas, the famous Deep Water Solo on the Spanish island of Mallorca first climbed in 2006 by America’s Chris Sharma. After having repeated the easier 8c variation Pontax in mid-October, the Slovenian continued working the route together with Germany’s Jan Hoyer and success now comes about after almost a month of attempts. Although a decade ago Sharma never officially graded the line, he compared the difficulties through the underbelly of the freestanding limestone arch to his Realization at Ceuse, meaning that it would slot in somewhere in the region of 9a+. Kruder confirms 9th grade difficulties and, more importantly, the wild beauty of the route.
Jernej, how much DWS experience did you have beforehand and what first attracted you to this line?
I planned that this trip would last for 5 weeks. First I thought I'm just gonna climb some easier stuff for the first week and when I feel comfortable I can start projecting Es pontas. But on my first day I felt too good to not try something hard. So I on-sighted Sharma's Weather man 8a+ (18 meters with a crux on the top) and then gave Es pontas a go. I only spent one more day trying other things. I went to Porto Cristo and Cala Barques, where I flashed the famous Loskot and 2 smoking barrels 8a+, and onsighted two other 8a's. But before all this I’d only done one unknown DWS route in France’s Verdon Gorge - and that certainly didn't feel as comfortable as here on Mallorca. Since I enjoy climbing many different disciplines, I decided to try Psicobloc as well. I knew I'm good at dynos and I'm not afraid of heights. And Es pontas looked so amazing in the video so I said to myself that if I try some DWS, this would be my main goal.
You decided to work it ground-up. Why?
My first plan was to come here with Gregor Vezonik, my climbing partner from my last hard multi-pitch ascent, Hattori Hanzo. Sadly he had to work and so I had to come here alone. Jan Hojer had been here before me, so he got excited again and decided to join me. I think it was a good thing we met, because it was quite a bit easier to find solutions together. After a while though I also decided to give it a try with a rope. I didn't have that much time, so it was better to try the arête with a rope.
In the end, the famous dyno proved the easiest bit...
In the beginning the crux for sure was the dyno. And if I split the route for every single move, the dyno is for sure the hardest. After the dyno though there is a traverse which was a big mystery for me, because I only saw Chris doing some crazy drop knees. For me that was impossible, but luckily I found a better solution. The last crux was the arête itself. I knew I didn’t have much time on the island so I decided to try the upper part with a rope. The moves felt okay, just about easy enough so I knew it would be possible to connect them all together. On my last 4 days of attempts I was lucky enough never to fall off the dyno, even though I was never sure whether I was going to do it or not. So in the end the main crux for me was a long move on the arête. I stuck that 3 times, but then failed afterwards, falling about 3 moves before the big jug. There is also a bit of a strange move after the jug, but luckily I was very confident that after doing all the hard parts, getting to the top would be routine. And yesterday it was!
Tell us more
For sure the most frustrating thing about this route was not knowing whether I could do the dyno or not, and even on the actual send I didn't feel too comfortable on it. After the dyno though I was so calm, I simply floated through the moves. Standing on the top of the arch was the best feeling in the world, feeling so happy that the battle was finally over.
You're the first to repeat it. Have you thought about the grade?
I'll just stick with Chris’ words.This thing is so specific. For sure it's within the 9th grade, but there are so many different factors. Like the dyno. If there are 200 people in the world climbing 9a, maybe just 10% of them can do it. Then there is a fear factor. Then there’s the mind battle - trying it all over and over again, without knowing if you're able to the all the moves or not. So at the moment I don't feel like superman, as if I have climbed all the hardest climbs in the world, but I feel lucky to have all the skills you need for this route. Maybe I'm just one of few chosen guys who can actually climb this thing!
Importantly, what can you tell us about Sharma’s first ascent a decade ago?
I have a huge respect for Chris. It must have been so hard for him to realize that this thing was even possible. Spending 100 tries to catch the dyno, without knowing if the rest is possible?! That's also another reason why I also don't want to talk about the grade. This route is one of the hardest in the world! And for sure not because of the hard moves… but because you need to string it all together, without a rope, high above the sea...
Chris Sharma climbs Es Pontas
28/09/2006 - Chris Sharma makes waves in Mallorca
Chris Sharma has freed his Deep Water Soloing project in Mallorca, comparing it to his Realization at Ceuse.