The Czech climbing phenomenon onsighted 8 out of the 10 pitches, and climbed the other 2 pitches on his second attempt.
The route, a blank vertical wall of perfect granite, is highly technical and finger intensive, and has no easy pitches for its entire length.
Three days later Ondra free climbed the original version of the 8th pitch at a grade of F8c.
He later turned his attention to an unfreed line on the nearby Tsaranoro Atsimo. Mora Mora (see topo on the right) was climbed almost free on the first ascent back in 1999, and the first ascensionists thought the line would go free at F8a. Ondra freed the pitch at F8c, showing how difficult it is to estimate grades on these technical and vertical walls, very different from overhanging limestone endurance routes.
Many top climbers have visited Madagascar and attempted Tough Enough, and all the individual pitches had been free climbed before Adam's visit, but not the route as a whole. Linking the pitches together in this way is a huge achievement, especially climbing many of them onsight. The high temperatures coupled with the crimpy holds and rough granite mean that finger skin is one of the main limiting factors.
The wall faces south east and is in the strong African sun until just after midday. Ondra opted to climb very early in the morning in the cooler temperatures. He then waited on a portaledge until the sun went off the face:
Ondra was the 2009 lead climbing world cup winner and 2010 bouldering world cup winner. With this ascent the young Czech has further cemented his position at the top of the tree in world climbing, proving once again he is able to operate on all styles of rock and plastic at the very highest level.
More info on Madagascar:
- UKC Destination article to Tsaranoro, Madagascar: UKC Article
- Out of Africa (F7a) the classic route of Madagascar: FREE Rockfax Guide
EXCLUSIVE INTERVIEW: Adam Ondra on Tough Enough and Madagascar
UKC International Editor Bjorn Pohl speaks directly to Adam about his recent trip:
1. How come you chose to go to Madagascar and try this route(s)? When did you first hear of it?I first heard about this route when the French team around Francois Legrand started trying it. That was 2006 or 2007. It was an obvious challenge, it was clear that it is possible since all the pitches had been freed but very hard to send in one day. Additionally, it looked really tremendous from the pictures.
2. What were your impressions when you got there? (Wall, country, culture, weather... anything!)When we arrived to Camp Catta, I was not sure if we would be able to climb in that heat. And the rock seemed to be so rough. Luckily, weather got colder just the very next day and the rock isn't as sharp in the walls as on the blocks beneath. Other impression we got that it was really beautiful place with nice people, completely different from our hectic Europe.
3. In what way do you approach such a big climb? How is this different to how you approach a sport route or a boulder problem?Since I had the best belayer and hard-worker Pietro dal Pra with me, I could concentrate only on climbing and nothing else, which is BIG advantage. Part of my ascent belong to Pietro as well. There is the sun the whole morning until 12 AM and thanks to the length of route there is no way you could start that late. I hadn't expected to send the first day, I had expected to need to days of work in the wall before the final day. Pietro with one Italian guy Berni managed to get through the first six pitches and placed the portaledge just under the crux pitches. The next day I went to try it and surprisingly did it onsighting/flashing all the pitches except 7th and 9th which were second go. On the way down, we stopped on the portaledge, stayed there at night and the next morning I could try the moves in the original way of 8th pitch. Then we had to take two restday and then I fired it off. Having portaledge in the middle of the wall was great, we climbed the first six pitches from 5 to 8:30 AM, then waited on the portaledge hidden from the sun and continued in the shade. Yeah climbing such long route is much more work and especially for belayers, even though this route is well equipped and relatively close to the camping and requires different approach.
4. Did you do any specific training for this?
No, I had been training mostly for the comps hoping that I could remember some skills of vertical climbing. The only preparation was putting the essential Antihydral on my skin.
5. Dani Andrada and Chris Sharma have mentioned they would like to put up some really hard multi-pitch when they have the time. Something with pitches of 9a's and 9a+'s... do you think it's possible to push the standard this far in the near future?Very difficult... To me, it sounds harder to climb 5 pitches of 9a than climbing a 9c single pitch. Even harder will be to find such line (have you seen 300meters as steep as Santa Linya? Most of the 9a's are steep and vertical ones freaking hard) and open it ground up in a good style.
6. Now what? Any plans or projects for other multi-piches? Other disciplines? (alpine, trad, ice?) I will do only sport climbing and bouldering for some time now, but in furthe future I would like to try everything you have mentioned, but no specific plan yet.
7. Anything you want to add?Thanks to all guys who had the vision to open Tough Enough and Pietro for the belay and all the work he made for me up there.