Adam Ondra just sent his 95th, 9th-grade rock climb.
Let me repeat that. Adam Ondra has climbed 95 routes with a rating of 9a (5.14d) or harder.
Raise your hand if you didn’t even know there were many 9a’s in the world and you’re probably not alone. Though it’s a hyperbole to say that Ondra has climbed every hard route in the world … it’s also not that much of an exaggeration. Just five more 9a’s and Ondra will have hit a pretty incredible milestone. When it comes to super difficult rock climbing, Ondra has more experience than anyone else by far.
So, how does Ondra’s ticklist break down in terms of repeats and FAs? Of his 95 9a’s or harder, 34 have been first ascents, and 61 have been repeats. Of these routes, Ondra has actually bolted 10.
Ondra’s 95th 9a-or-harder climb is called Iñi Ameriketan. Located at the famous crag of Baltzoala, in the Basque region of Spain (where Ondra has made multiple visits in search of new challenges), Iñi Ameriketan is a super stout 9a that Ondra thinks might actually be 9a+. The route was established by Rikar Otegi in 2002 after two years of attempts. The only other person to climb Iñi Ameriketan is Patxi Usobiaga, who also needed to put in an enormous effort to redpoint.
“When Patxi sent Biographie (Realization) the next summer,” says Ondra, “he thought this route [Iñi Ameriketan] could be just as hard.”
Ondra first tried Iñi Ameriketan just after onsighting the neighboring Il Domani (9a)—which was, of course, the big news of that week. Both Iñi Ameriketan and Il Domani share the same start, and Ondra was hoping he might be able to “flash—but not a valid flash” [due to the common start] Iñi Ameriketan. He went through the moves but thought they were super hard. He rested and arrived back at the cave a couple of days later. His foot slipped on his first burn, but then sent it again despite “rather humid conditions.”
Ondra clarifies the evolution of beta in regards to this route, explaining that “Both Rikar and Patxi did the crux totally straight, but one year ago Iban Larrion came up with different, tricky beta via left. The direct beta is ridiculously hard, to the left it is slightly easier.”
Ondra continues: “I do think Iñi Ameriketan could be 9a+. It is definitely harder than Il Domani, which is well established 9a with a couple of ascents and nobody has called it soft so far.”
I reached out to Adam to ask a few more questions about his climbing plans this year and beyond.
(Be sure to follow the excellent photographer Bernardo Gimenez on Instagram.)
Tell me about your recent 9a onsight of Il Domani.
The route is 25 meters long and tackles a huge overhang in a horizontal traverse and goes up via crimps and tufas. It overhangs more than 45 degrees, but because it traverses left, it doesn’t feel that overhanging while you climb. Pumpy climbing at 8b or 8b+ leads to a rest on rail. Halfway up, just after the rest, the crux is awaiting. I have no clue how hard it could be, but let’s say 7C+. It consists of 4 moves on vertical crimps and tufa blobs. I arrived at the crux feeling pretty fresh, did the crux completely different than the others—especially the last cross-over dyno was quite epic. I didn’t think I would do that move, but as I had no clue what else I could do, I just went for it and tried my luck. And somehow my bicep still worked to stop the massive swing.
From there I got very nervous. There were some wet tufas and good kneebars , but I was too scared to release my hands and be comfortable. I kept going and at the very end there was one move where I had no clue where to put my feet. I hesitated, downclimbed a couple of time and got gradually more tired. I decided to go from lower feet in the end and barely stuck the next crimp, I got it! And I did the whole route.
You mentioned to me last year that in 2014 you would be just focusing on training for the World Cup. Are you still training, or have chosen to spend more time climbing outside?
I am still training, but I wanted to make some test to see how the training is going on. But now it is the time to get back into the gym and start training again.
What does your training schedule look like each day/week?
I go to school 4 days a week, and in the meantime I train. My routine was training 6 days a week, two or three times in a day. So my days pretty much consists of training and school. And just the last 4 weeks I focused on quality and climbed 2 days followed by a day of rest.
What are you going to do when you run out of 5.15s?
It is impossible to run out of potential 5.15 grade climbs, there is just too much rock everywhere. With more travels I do, the more I understand how pointless this question is.
UPDATE: Turns out, it’s now 96. Yesterday Ondra sent “Ira,” a 9a/9a+ project that was originally bolted by Patxi in Balzola. Another FA.