What a tremendous couple of days for sport climbing. Yesterday Chris Sharma sent the hardest route at Santa Linya, with his FA of Stoking the Fire (5.15b). Today, 20-year-old Adam Ondra got the hard-won FA of Dura Dura (5.15c) at Oliana—a route that we can pretty much confidently call the hardest single pitch of rock climbing in the world.
Right now conditions in Spain are, apparently, good.
Anyone reading this blog will be familiar with Dura Dura, likely through last year’s Reel Rock Tour, which featured a 30-minute segment about the Herculean task of sending Dura Dura. The film showed Chris and Adam vying for the coveted First Ascent and, in doing so, it transformed Dura Dura into an unlikely stage for the biggest, most exciting climbing competition in the world.
In many ways, that portrayal wasn’t much of an exaggeration.
Though Chris and Adam have climbed together before, it was never for more than a few burns on different projects, or just to help each other with unlocking beta. Dura Dura circumstantially became the first route that these two joined forces on and put, with real dedication, all their energy into sending. That’s really what has made this climb special.
And fascinating, too, for the rest of us to watch. I loved Big Up Productions’ film “Dura Dura” for many, many reasons. Ultimately, though, the story’s ending had yet to be written by the time the Reel Rock Tour kicked off last fall. Regardless, the film had to show even though Dura Dura was still a project. We weren’t sure who was going to be the one to climb it first! We weren’t sure how the story was going to end.
When I first saw “Dura Dura” last August, I was a little sad that the film was going to run without a send. Externally I praised the film, but internally I lamented the fact that our current media landscape is such that we need to always be producing content, and cleverly contrive endings in order to meet deadlines when in reality the story being told is still a work in progress.
By all accounts, that story could’ve gone either way. In December, on his third try of the day, Chris nearly stuck the jug that marks the end of the “hard hard” crux—a huge highpoint. Adam also made some big links in December, but then had to leave. With Adam temporarily away, Chris lost a bit of steam. In fact, Chris has yet to get back to his highpoint of December.
Now that we know how the story ends, I am re-thinking my internal lamentation about last fall’s premature film. In some ways, it only added to the excitement of today’s news. There is no single Superbowl of climbing. No one day when it all culminates and we have to perform. The biggest accomplishments in climbing could happen on any given day that motivation, the right mental state, physical form, skin, conditions, etc. all come together in this one special synergetic climax when a hard route allows your passage.
Climbing is unique in how these idiosyncratic battles—which we all face in order to do any route at our limits—play out. I didn’t get sick of hearing about Dura Dura; in fact, I only want to hear more about it after seeing the film. This is why we need Big Up Productions et al.: to bring these vertical playing fields to us. Because unfortunately we can’t all be in Oliana to see sports history go down.
What makes Dura Dura such an important route for climbing—beyond just the 5.15c grade—is how it turned into a uniquely joint effort. From Chris bolting and cleaning the route, to Adam envisioning the moves and first showing Chris that they are possible, to the two of them feeding off of each other’s stoke to achieve something at the razor-sharp edge between incredible and impossible, La Dura Dura has been an amazing collaboration between the two best rock climbers of our time.
Says Ondra in this interview with Planet Mountain, “It was a really positive experience, a really friendly atmosphere, we could both learn much from each other. You know, it’s much more fun to try a hard route with someone else, isn’t it!”
Even in sport climbing, this typically individualistic, internal, self-centered thing, the climbing partnership has once again, this week, revealed itself to be one of the most important factors in achieving the impossible.
Ultimately, though, it is Adam who gets today’s glory. He was first. And that means a lot.