Adam Ondra Offers a Master Class in Onsighting

The best onsight climber in the world breaks down one of his best onsights of 2018.

On a cold snowy day last fall in the Red River Gorge, while climbing with my friend “Strong Ron,” our conversation turned to Adam Ondra. We discussed, with the sort of bewildered astonishment that one inevitably expresses when discussing Ondra, his recent spate of hard ascents on American turf.

“I think he be might an ‘event,’” Strong Ron declared mystically. I asked for clarification. “I think there might not be another climber like him for a hundred years,” he said more definitively. “It seems like there’s nothing he can’t do really well.”

It’s hard to disagree. Last fall, he came to tour the United States to do some fun, casual climbing before diving into full-on training mode in advance of the 2020 Olympics. During his tour, he damn near onsighted the Salathé Wall, then went to Smith Rock where he actually did onsight one of his goals with Just Do It, America’s first 5.14c. Then he checked out Indian Creek and onsighted one of the longest and most sustained splitters in the area: Conception (5.13b).

Perhaps one of Ondra’s most important contributions to climbing—beyond his superlative strength and skill—is his ability to transcribe the climbing experience and articulate, in a dispassionate, almost clinical way, what it is that makes a climb hard, a move difficult, movement efficient … etc.

Evening Sends ONDRA

Ondra IS an event. And his YouTube channel is giving us climbers front-row tickets. Here is some uncut, handheld video footage of Ondra onsighting Just Do It. This video, from a filmmaker’s perspective, would be barely sufficient for B-Roll in any of today’s top climbing films. And yet … this grainy, shaky footage shot from afar has to be one of the best climbing films of 2018 insofar as core climbers will find it inspiring and useful.

What makes this one unique is that Ondra annotates his 20-minute ascent, dishing up useful bits of wisdom and tips for how to onsight a route at your limit. What’s so interesting is that much of this wisdom is actually useful information that could help anyone at any level.

There’s a universality to what it means to onsight a route at your limit. Whereas redpointing can feel more like an engineering project, onsighting is an art in which your unconscious mind does much of the work.

What Ondra gets at in this video is the tenuous tug and pull of when how to be calculated and when to give in to your intuition, trust it, and go for it. That battle unfolds on this video in a really interesting way. This is a master class in how to onsight.

Hope you find it as inspiring as I did!

  • Marcel Heemskerk

    hi Andrew, “his ability to transcribe the climbing experience and articulate, in a dispassionate, almost clinical way”…. remember English is not his first language (nor second or third), so his language may sound clinical. it’s also refrained from climbing hipster streettalk such as rad/stoked/projs, but that doesnt make him less passionate! :-)