Adam Ondra on bouldering
Interview by Maciek Szopa
Adam Ondra (photo: Piotr Dro¿d¿)
Boulders & numbers
You had a great autumn-winter season, congratulations! Seems to me that you’re in a best shape ever?
Well, I hope so, but you’ll never know and good shape is something that is difficult to maintain for a longer period of time. When it comes to bouldering in autumn I have surely done my hardest problems ever (Terranova and Gioia, ed. note) and improved significantly in terms of pure power, dynos and campusing.
What made you take up bouldering seriously?
I was exhausted after endurance training for the IFSC World Championship in Arco. I was eager to make hard moves, completely switch the type of climbing, try something totally opposite instead of being stuck in bouldering room and doing circuits all over again. What’s more, I’ve never been interested in bouldering before, I mean in a really serious way, it was always a minor thing. I wanted to find out how much stronger I could get if I focused only on bouldering.
That season you’ve done two very hard boulders, Gioia, by Christian Core and your own realization Terranova. You suggested the 8C+ grade for both of them. Nevertheless, was any of them harder for you?
The time spent on both of them was more or less equal. Terranova fits my style perfectly, it includes some tricky moves which I seem to be a specialist of, for example the awkward heel hook. Additionally, I have got used to climbing on this particular smooth limestone since I started climbing. Therefore, I think that Terranova is a bit harder to repeat but it is not the line as such, it is more a short traverse, close to the ground, nothing very inspiring.
Gioia appeared to be much more demanding mentally for me. The stress was enormous as each time I had to make a solitary travel lasting two days in order to give it just two tries! Imagine yourself sitting long hours in the airplane and train with that one fact stuck in your head. Gioia is an awesome line, it is the line which impresses me with its enormous difficulty at the very first glance. It is very powerful on super small holds but actually this style wasn’t always my strong point. I have improved in powerful moves like these only recently. That is why I respect it more than Terranova, after the ascent I couldn't stop smiling.
Adam Ondra on Terranova (photo: Vojtech Vrzba)
In your log-book you also have many 8C boulders. Do you think that there is a big gap between 8C ang 8C+? Is it like another league?
Of course there is a massive difference between 8C and 8C+. But these two seemed to me so much harder than other 8Cs I have already done that I am quite convinced that they deserve the magical grade of 8C+. Even though many top boulderers consider 8C as some sort of holy grail of bouldering, everything extremely difficult must be graded 8C. I disagree with that because this way the grading system wouldn't be necessary at all.
Which project took you the longest time?
When it comes to bouldering, these were Terranova and Gioia, 11 days each. In sport climbing it was the first ascent of Perlorodka in my home climbing area Moravsky kras, which took me 15 days and a similar amount of work was required to send Golpe de Estado in Siurana. That was back in 2010 and it was my first 9b.
You have visited most of Europe’s top boulder spots. Which of them do you find the best?
Undoubtedly it is Fontainebleau. I had never been there before and this autumn's trip blew me away. I expected a lot but reality outmatched my expectations. It is impossible to describe, one must feel the atmosphere and incredible structure of the rock. It is definitely the must for everyone who keeps saying that he or she is not interested in bouldering. Even a short trip to Font may change one’s mind.
You’ve also spent some time climbing in Rocklands. Among many of your ascents from there the top one seems to be Monkey Wedding 8C. Is it true that there is no place with better boulders than those in the Republic of South Africa?
I really like the surreal landscape of Rocklands, the rock itself is of superb quality, but there is not as much stuff as it seems. There are tons of rock everywhere, you can't even imagine, but actually an absolute minimum is good for climbing and it is either too easy or too hard as the overhangs are often of a completely blank and glassy surface. And everything is quite scattered, thus it requires a lot hiking and the conditions for extremely difficult problems are quite precarious. But it was worth visiting and one day I will definitely go back there.
It is said that grades in your area are a bit overestimated, what do you think?
In South Africa you mean? It used to be this way but with all the foreign climbers coming there and many repetitions it is getting more European-like. When it comes to my home climbing area, I would say it is rather underestimated, the rock is quite specific and it is necessary to get used to climbing there, additionally the routes tend to be very tricky. In the end, it feels like the same amount of effort and time is required to make the actual ascent as in any other European area, but it takes many more attempts to complete your project.
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