INTERVIEW: Adam Ondra about grades & future plans

After Adam Ondra's recent success in Spain, where he made the first ascent of La dura, dura, 9b+, repeated Fight or flight, 9b, Power inverter, 9a+, and Palestine, 9a, (which he came very close to onsighting), and onsighted a few routes in the ~8b+ to ~8c range, I decided it was once again time to ask him some questions.

Do you now feel that you have once again established yourself at a new level?
One thing is sure. I have never felt that strong. I don't think that 'Fight or Flight' is an easy route, because I tried it last year a couple of times and it felt hard, yet now I did it quickly with relative ease. It is a perfect feeling, I would lie if I didn't admit it.

Adam Ondra on La Dura Dura, 9b+, Oliana © Vojtech Vrzba
Adam Ondra on La Dura Dura, 9b+, Oliana
© Vojtech Vrzba

Is 9b now defined as a grade in the sense that you can tell where it begins and ends?
Neither can I define perfectly at 9a range, nor can I do it perfectly at 9b range.
There is a too long time span in between the ascents of 'Golpe de Estado' and 'Fight or Flight' for example, in order to compare these two different routes. But there are definitely low- or high-end 9b's. The low end would be 'Chilam Balam', the higher end would be 'Planta de Shiva' (both in Villanueva del Rosario, Spain). But the difference didn't feel that significant, so I stayed with the 9b. But 'Change' and especially 'La Dura dura' felt way too different to the other 9b's I have done.

If you were to guess, where in the 9b+ grade do you think 'Change' and 'La dura dura' place?
Hard to say right now. I do think that both deserve 9b+. The bench mark has been set. But it depends on the following 9b+'s and on the process towards 9c, whether these two route will end up in the low- or high-end category. It depends how big gaps in between the grades will evolve. But I would prefer to keep the gaps rather big. Because as the climbing gets harder, it gets even more specific and less objective to grade.

As we're talking grades, you've been chasing the first 9a onsight and been really close several times. Are you running out of routes to try to onsight?
Yes, the number of routes possible to onsight is decreasing. There are still a few 9a's around I still haven't tried, but most of them don't seem like a perfect route to onsight, as they might be tricky etc.
For some of them, I ruined my onsight attempt by watching videos many years ago, when I didn't really think about onsighting 9a+...

Adam Ondra fighting through the upper crux of Change, 9b+, Hanshelleren, Flatanger, Norway © Petr Pavlicek
Adam Ondra fighting through the upper crux of Change, 9b+, Hanshelleren, Flatanger, Norway
© Petr Pavlicek

A question I know many is asking is how it is possible to know the right grade when you are onsighting. I mean, it must be impossible to climb the exact right sequence when you're climbing onsight, meaning "9a onsight" must feel very much harder than "9a redpoint".
Well, it depends on the route, as I can never climb the route with the exact efficiency, but I can climb the route with the right sequence, with a great portion of luck and climbing skills and experience.
Nevertheless, it is still the efficiency that makes the onsight much harder. You have to climb slower, you don't know whether it is possible to dyno or go static as you don't know how the next hold looks. There are many little breaks I take to think about what is coming up. It is always just half a second, but half a second multiplied by twenty, that takes a lot of energy. The only way to be able to onsight 9a is to increase your level, make an 9a redpoint easy and having the level to climb 9a with some energy and effort extra. Some make a much harder effort compared to redpoint, I think the whole-life experience made it possible to cut down the difference between redpoint and onsight to a minimum.

I know that you don't like to talk too much about what you plan to do exactly, but in which direction are you going this year (redpoint, onsight, bouldering, trad, multi-pitch, competition)?
Full focus on sport-climbing, no comps nor multi-pitches.
Bouldering only as a training tool.
Two destinations - Spain and Norway. These two countries have enough potential to keep me busy many generations to come... And I just LOVE it there.

You say you're going back to Norway. Do you already have any specific projects in mind? Are you mentally ready to once again get involved in a long term project like 'Change' and 'LDD'?

Whatever crosses my way and I will be impressed, I will go for it, no matter how long term project it will be. If it won't go down this year, it will be prepared for the future.
I already have some project in Andalucia, Spain ('Somos Cromosomos', see Desnivel).

Regarding Flatanger, there is an insanely good project I would like to take down, for sure 9b, but so many good lines to bolt left.
There is one that I saw right when we entered the cave for the first time. The question is whether it is possible or not. Last year I reckoned it was not, this year I think I will check it out and bolt it, no matter how crazy it looks.

Thanks Adam, it certainly sounds like we have an interesting future ahead of us!


Adam Ondra is sponsored by: Black Diamond, Montura, Entre Prises , La Sportiva, Beal and Hudy Sports


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26 Feb, 2013
Ooh ! i think he's coming back to Rosario. When he was here for Chilam Balam he said he had not been anywhere with more potential for mad hard routes. Then he went to Norway unfortunately for us. I missed him last time but i'm going to hang around like a lost puppy this time if he comes back ;0)
26 Feb, 2013
Great interview, answered a few questions I'm sure we all have. I like his simplistic plan for this year!
26 Feb, 2013
"For some of them, I ruined my onsight attempt by watching videos many years ago, when I didn't really think about onsighting 9a+..." That's a pretty strict onsight ethic!
26 Feb, 2013
‎"There are still a few 9a's around I still haven't tried, but most of them don't seem like a perfect route to onsight, as they might be tricky etc." I too find that those 9a routes might be tricky to onsight...
26 Feb, 2013
I know! It must require a lot of discipline to engage with a lot of other top climbers while avoiding beta about the handful of routes left to onsight. I always cave in and look at pictures and comments on the internet. Just as well there are plenty of 7a's left for me to try!
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