BD athlete Adam Ondra reports on his astounding same-day 9b redpoint and 8c+ onsight at Oliana, Spain
Black Diamond athlete Adam Ondra made sport-climbing history in northern Spain this spring with a stunning string of ascents, including onsighting five routes grade 5.14c and establishing two new 5.15b’s. While Ondra’s onsight spree may have been head-spinning (only Ondra’s fellow BD team member Patxi Usobiaga had managed a 5.14c onsight, and that was just one), the most impressive of all of his accomplishments has to be his 5.15b first ascent and 5.14c onsight—in the same day.
Below is Ondra’s email report he sent us about his historical spree in northern Spain, as well as photos from Bernardo Gimenez and Vojtech Vrzba.
[Chaxi Raxi (9b), Photo: Bernardo Gimenez.]
From: Adam Ondra
Sent: Freitag, 22. April 2011 17:20
Subject: Re: Chaxi Raxi!
The same as every year, I decided to spend late winter in Spain. The reason is not so difficult to reveal—there is just a ton of climbs to do. At first, I had one project in Siurana in my eye, which I had tried last year but had no time to give it some serious effort. This route called La Capella is short, powerful, uncompromising. Thus I spent the whole January mostly bouldering in order to gain sufficient power for this target. I spent 10 days in Siurana and after the awkward and long process of working on the route I managed to send the route the last try of the last day of the trip. I believe La Capella is one of the hardest routes I have done—9b or so.
After returning home, I had two weeks to write all the tests I missed at school and gain all the endurance I needed for the sustained climbs. When leaving home I had wanted to take some warming up days in Extauri to get used to onsighting on the rock again by trying many 8b´s and 8a´s, but already back at home I felt in a good shape. I decided to try an 8c (Fuck the Police) and surprisingly I managed to do it in the direct sun with relative ease. [Onsighting Fuck The Police (8b), Photo: Ondra Collection.]
I changed my opinion about warming up then and went for an 8c+ (Kidetasunaren Balio Erantsia) in the the cool breeze of late afternoon. The route was almost vertical, crimpy and that is exactly what suits me. I fought through the crux section and then just didn´t fall. I couldn´t believe it, happy times!
[Onsighting Kidetasunaren Balio Erantsia (8c+), Photo: Ondra Collection.]
The next day, I was quite nervous, because there was still the main goal for me, Bizi Euskaraz (8c+), the one Patxi onsighted a few years ago (hope he will be able crush soon again, good luck in the treatment, man!). I can tell you I was nervous, though strong all the way except the final part where I messed it up, hesitated long before making the dyno, but fortunately not too long to fall off. I can´t tell you much about grades, since I can´t compare them with anything else, but I guess they can be more or less OK.
During a rest day we removed to Vadiello in Aragon, where I managed to onsight Powerade (8c+) in the morning, and in the afternoon we were already in Alquezar where I suceeded in Templo del Cafe (8c+) on my first go. It was basically an onsight, although I had climbed route called Tsunami (8c) before, which has the same topout, though four years are long enough to forget everything. I felt, especially in the morning. like machine, making no mistakes, running my way to the top.
[Templo del Cafe (8c+), Photo: Ondra Collection.]
After all these onsights, I wanted to find some serious project for redpoint and start working on it, though the weather have changed radically. I tried one Neanderthal (9b) in Santa Linya, but after a rest day the sky opened with pouring rain. And this cave is not really the one that is drying out quickly—once the water is inside rock, it leaks through the tufas for days. Therefore we removed to Santa Ana, where I managed to make first ascent Obrint el Sistema (9a+).
I had been motivated for the other projects from Dani Andrada that tackle the whole cave all the way from the left to right, but found out that there are definitely better lines in Catalunya to try, and the weather only made my decision easier, as the rain kept pouring in huge torrents and even Santa Ana got wet in some parts. We took two days rest while it was raining and removed to Oliana, which is one of my favorite areas in the whole region. Stunning 50-meter long wall of orange and blue limestone with complex climbing. The wall dries out rather quickly, so I had the opportunity to try out one of projects that Chris bolted called Chaxi Raxi already the first day after the period of rain. It felt very difficult at the beginning, especially the very first crux. I could do every single move, but to link two of them seemed incredibly difficult. The top part seemed more possible—I could link the moves without serious problems except two of them, where I found terrible extra-powerful beta skipping two holds, until Chris told me to try it differently, a much more crimpy and static way. Though crimps are what I excel at and Chris prefers big moves on reasonable holds, our initial betas had been completely the other way around.
As Oliana was drying up, I decided to give one try into Mind Control (8c+), to try it onsight. I had expected there would be still a few humid holds, but in the end it turned into fight with completely soaked black streak (you'll see on the video). But I stayed focused, confident and made my way to the anchors despite all the water. I am getting really confused about the grades, but I don't believe that I am able to do 8c+ in such conditions, 8c/8c+ might be more appropriate.
Getting back to Chaxi Raxi, I stunned myself that I managed to send the easier variation, skipping the first bouldery section via a detour of 7b, which could be around 9a+ on its own right. There was the time now to work a lot on the lower boulder problem and then I might be able send. But that was hard. I didn't go very well, but I steadily kept progressing, and the sixth day I manged to get through the first crux, which could a hard 8B+ boulder problem on its own. I took a rest on the tufa and continued. I made it through the crux sections, but in the end of the last difficult, being 100% confident of success, my left heel slipped. And I did not manage to get through the bottom again that day. I got through it once on my 7th day, I fell a few moves below my highpoint, as I didn't hit the hold right while making dynamic move. I got pretty nervous, since I knew I was able to send it, but I had mere one day left and there are so many sections to make a tiny mistake which might ruin my attempt and also the day, because it is very hard to link the bottom twice in a day. On the first go of my last day, I made it through the first crux somehow, got to the rest and stayed there for a few minutes. This rest is actually enormously useful for the whole route, without the place to shake out it would be undoubtedly 9b+, but it is also a place where you can easily get nervous and think about potential failure. That is what happened to me. The way I continued climbing one can't call efficient at all, but the route was tiny bit below my absolute limit after eight days of work, and despite getting pumped, I got somehow to the anchor and could enjoy the feeling of victory on the last day of the trip yet again. This is probably my hardest route I have ever done.
[The crux sequence of Chaxi Raxi (9b). Photo: Vojtech Vrzba]
Being very motivated, an hour later I tossed a rope 40 meters further under Blanquita (8c+) and fired it off onsight! Well, it wasn't an easy job to do, I considered this as probably my hardest onnsight ever, but after previous success it was easy to fight, to get into the zone when I don't think about anything but next move.[Onsighting Blanquita (8c+). Photo: Vojtech Vrzba]o]
To sit into the car and move back into the hectic city, towards all the duties I had neglected at school, was not that hard in the end with so many ascents in my bag and especially when I am coming back to Spain soon...
[Note: Since he wrote us the above report, Adam has returned to Spain, this time to the southern region of Andalucia and a crag called Villanueva del Rosario, where he redpointed two more 9bs, both epic endurance routes and one a first ascent: La Planta de Shiva and Chilam Balam (unrepeated since the first ascent was controversially claimed by Bernabe Fernandez in 2003). Equally astounding is that he also onsighted three 8cs in a day at Archidona. We again had Bernardo Gimenez down there to capture the action and will be releasing a video and report in the near future.]