VIDEO: BD athlete Adam Ondra making the first ascent of Change, the world's first 9b+
Last summer, Black Diamond athlete Adam Ondra made a highly productive trip to Hanshelleren, a massive granite cave outside the small town of Flatanger, Norway. Adam not only made short work of the cave's established hard routes (including onsighting two routes graded 5.14c/8c+), he made the first ascent of Thor's Hammer (5.15a/9a+) and bolted a futuristic project out the steepest section of the cave. On October 4, Adam managed to link this 55-meter-long beast, establishing Change, the world's first route graded 5.15c/9b+. Along with his recent first ascent of La Dura Dura in Spain, Change stands as one of, if not the hardest route in the world. Below is exclusive, never-before seen footage and photos of Adam working and sending Change, which is a teaser from an upcoming film by filmmaker Petr Pavlíček, along with a in-depth write-up from Adam.
For more photos, videos and stories of first ascent action around the globe, check out our recently released 2013 Climbing digital catalog, which showcases new route inspiration from Black Diamond athletes over the last 50 years.
I have had many significant changes in my life recently. The end of school turned my life and climbing into completely different perspective. Loads of time, total freedom to travel wherever I want is something I had been dreaming about for years. Finally I have the time to travel abroad along with a drill and create something inspiring enough to put a massive effort into. To find the first proof of this change, instead of heading south as always when we go climbing, we headed north instead. Change is life.
Norway. This country had always been a bit mysterious when I was reading about it. I knew I would visit the country one day even though I didn't even know about the possibility of sport climbing or bouldering up there. When the photos of Flatanger struck my eyes two years ago, it was decided. Summer 2012. The enormous cave of Flatanger definitely didn't let me down despite high expectation when I first saw it. I could stare forever into endless sea of brown and orange granitic gneiss, trying to find some line to bolt. I felt like a kid having a sand playground in front of him, tempted to create something as kids like building castles out of sand. My eyes were lost in this playground, confusingly scanning the features of the rock again and again, trying to find the perfect line. I climbed a couple of days on established routes and then finally made the decision of bolting.
After two days of bolting, the route was ready to climb. I couldn't wait to check out the moves, to find out whether the holds, which seemed good enough while hanging in the rope, are good enough in reality. Though I was sure that it was incredibly hard, it seemed climbable. Absolutely ridiculous bouldery sequence at the beginning, athletic middle and pumpfest to the top, it included all my requests for the great project. A true testpiece of various climbing abilities. It was like my baby, I was looking forward to every single try. With this attitude, I made pretty fast progress. After 5 days of working the route, I managed to climb the first pitch (20m) up to the no-hands rest. It was an incredible fight, I couldn't climb more on my limit. I was very happy, I felt that the success was close as I managed to recover quite well in the rest and continued a bit. I thought the route couldn't be more than 9b, as the first pitch felt like 9a+ and the rest is so good.
But after many days on it in summer, despite feeling much stronger in the lower boulder problem, I didn't manage to climb through the first pitch any more. A good attitude to project and the joy of trying, turned into a different story. Pressure, nervousness, loss of self-confidence. After three weeks of trying, I had to give up, admitting that I lost my shape and training for the World Championship in Paris was a better thing to do. And a return with full power afterwards.
Well, but not everything goes according to plans. I returned stronger indeed, but it had been raining three weeks before our arrival and the route was seeping. I tried anyway, but climbing at my limit with humid holds, that takes the whole thing beyond my current limits. After the temps improved a bit, I crushed the first pitch easily. I started climbing through the second pitch, but my sore legs from the no-hands rest couldn't squeeze two compression heel-hooks and popped off. Damn! Despite two wet holds above, where I would probably fall anyway, I gained self confidence again. After two humid days and falling again in the first pitch, my self confidence was low again. After failing two times more in the first pitch with improved conditions, my self confidence was close to point zero. It seemed I was out of shape, getting pumped after a couple of moves, the belief and faith despite making all the effort to not lose it, was disappering. I needed some kick, something to raise my self confidence and belief that I could do it. In the end, it was nothing more than horrendous wind behind the windows during the restday. I could see the temps would be awesome the next day.
The wind gave me the hope, but didn't blow the pressure away. I couldn't fall asleep, having the nightmare moves in my mind played again. Morning was just as random as always. Every day had started with hope and ended up with no or mininal success by that time. The wind has almost stopped, clouds were down, I wasn't too sure about good conditions. Paradoxically, that blew the pressure a bit away. Having driven 5 kilometres, having hiked 15 minutes to the cave, I stood underneath again. I could see the conditions had improved. I warmed up and I set off. The pressure was away, until I was up in the crux of the first pitch again. Despite feeling strong as hell, a little mistake almost cost me a unique chance, but I stabbed two fingers into the pocket somehow and continued. A no-hands rest and I am getting through the most difficult part from the psychological point of view - switching into the fighting mode, forget the pressure, forget the doubts, just flow. And flow is exactly what I manage. The higher I climb, the more pumped I get, but without a single mistake.
As I reach a good rest, I can hardly breathe, but it is still about 8b+ to go. This wasn't supposed to be big deal, but it is clear to me that this is not going to be easy. I fight, I can't get the lactid acid away, but hold on. After 26 minutes of fighting, I clip the chains and can't really believe if it is true. A stream of emotions are present, slowly filling my empty mind, tongue is sticking to my gums, I am extremely thirsty.
Even a couple of days after the ascent, it is hard to stop smiling. I have never had such rewarding feeling after having done a climb, probably it is because it was a first ascent. The name of the route symbolizes the changes of my recent life, a step into new level of climbing (after thinking about it, I conviced myself to go for 9b+), changing of various styles in the route itself and definitely the change of the Flatanger climbing area which is a world-class area. I need personal change as well. Move on. Find a new challenge. But definitely it is not the last time in this beautiful country.