talk of the crag



With an on­sight or a flash, one slip of the foot or botched se­quence and it’s over. You have to climb with con­fi­dence. And if it’s a flash, with beta from another climber, then you need to make sure the se­quenc­ing suits your body. It’s a pre­ci­sion per­for­mance at any level, from 5.10 to 5.15. On Fe­bru­ary 10, the Czech Adam Ondra, 25, be­came the first climber to flash 5.15, fir­ing the 9a+/5.15a Su­per­crack­inette at Saint-Léger, France.

The 65-foot route is a flurry of power-en­durance “mi­cro” man­age­ment, a 28-move sprint fol­lowed by eight eas­ier moves. The route was equipped by the French climber Quentin Chastag­nier, and freed in Oc­to­ber 2016 by Alex Me­gos. Ondra be­layed Chastag­nier twice to watch the moves, quizzing Chastag­nier about each grip, then cast off on its in­cut crimps and tiny pock­ets.

Ondra has been try­ing to flash 5.15a for years. The first in his sites was Biogra­phie/Re­al­iza­tion (5.15a) at Céüse, France, a route he held in re­serve for some time. In a 2012 in­ter­view with plan­et­moun­tain

.com, Ondra said he was fi­nally spurred to try it while chuck­ing a lap on the 5.15a Papichulo in Oliana, Spain, in 2012, a route he’d sent pre­vi­ously: “It was the end of the day and I didn’t re­mem­ber much of the beta; nonethe­less I did it with a cou­ple of falls and I felt as if, had I known the per­fect beta, it would have been pos­si­ble to flash. It was then that I de­cided to try and flash Biogra­phie.” On June 8, 2012, be­fore on­look­ers, af­ter soak­ing up beta by watch­ing videos, Ondra tried Biog

ra­phie. He fired the 5.14c bot­tom half only to fall at the in­fa­mous up­per crux, a stab to a thin pocket. “But I was far from be­ing close,” Ondra said. “I was way too pumped to stick the move.”

That Oc­to­ber, Ondra flashed South­ern Smoke Di­rect, then given 5.15a, at the Red River Gorge, Ken­tucky, though he down­graded it to

5.14d. Then, in 2014, he tried Selec­ción Anal (5.15a) in Santa Linya, Spain, but pumped out. “Flash­ing 9a+ [5.15a] is im­por­tant for me be­cause it’s a log­i­cal step in pro­gres­sion in climb­ing,” Ondra said in an EpicTV in­ter­view. Af­ter these two climbs, he “pretty much ran out of con­ve­nient routes” of the grade to flash, de­spite nab­bing three 5.14d on­sights ( see side­bar for the world’s top on­sights). In 2017, Ondra FA’ed the world’s first 5.15d, Si

lence, in Nor­way. To prep, he trained six days a week, up to five hours a day, cul­ti­vat­ing a su­per-fit­ness that helped on Su­per­crack­inette. But, adds Ondra, “I think Si­lence helped me most of all men­tally. Send­ing 9c helped me build the con­fi­dence that a 9a+ flash would be pos­si­ble.” (To up your flash game, Ondra ad­vises climb­ing as many routes as pos­si­ble in dif­fer­ent ar­eas and prac­tic­ing vi­su­al­iza­tion, even on gym routes. “Vi­su­al­iza­tion should help you to feel that you have it wired,” he says.)

But re­ally, it be­gan when Ondra was a kid who’d spend hours coach­ing him­self in the gym. As Ondra told Climb­ing, “When I was eight, I thought climb­ing was the best thing ever. That’s when I de­cided that’s what I wanted to be [a climber], and ever since then I’ve done ev­ery­thing I can pos­si­bly do to fol­low that dream.”

On Su­per­crack­inette, as he ap­proached the last dif­fi­cult move—a big move from a two-fin­ger crimp to another crimp—en route to re­al­iz­ing a life­time goal, Ondra felt ner­vous. “The fi­nal, last hard move was heart­break­ing, but in the end, I had a tiny mar­gin and did not let go,” he says.


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