Era Vella 9a for Will Smith

© Frances Bensley

22 year-old Warwick-based climber Will Smith has climbed his first 9a with an ascent of the pumpy testpiece Era Vella (9a) at Margalef - Zona del Panta North​​​​​​​ in Spain. The 45 metre long route - first climbed by Chris Sharma in 2010 - is renowned for being the ultimate endurance line and is the most repeated 9a in the world.

Will on the crux of Era Vella   © Frances Bensley
Will on the crux of Era Vella
© Frances Bensley

9a had been a life goal for Will since he began sport climbing. Will told UKC:

'I chose Era Vella due to its renowned quality and its style – endurance on pockets – which suits me pretty well and I first tried it briefly in April 2013.'

After a period of structured training, Will then went back twice in 2015 and, in his own words, 'got fairly spanked!' He added:

'I did the route in three sections but on Era that doesn’t mean much – it’s so sustained that doing it in sections is a whole different ball game to doing it in a one-er. In hindsight I think I’d over trained, which is easy to do when you’re psyched for a big project.' 

The trip wasn’t wasted, though. Before he left, Will took a pen and paper up the route and measured out the holds through the crux section with a quickdraw!

'It sounds ridiculous but this allowed me to train on more accurate replicas for a return trip.'

Will on Era Vella in 2015  © Will Smith
Will on Era Vella in 2015
© Will Smith

It wasn’t until November this year that Will had a chance to return to the route:

'After lots of climbing on crux replicas it all seemed a lot easier, although ironically I completely changed my beta for the crux on my first session! I reached my previous high point quickly and began inching it upwards through the crux. It wasn’t until getting through the crux for the first time that I knew the route was possible, from there to the top is about 8a+ but with very few rests.

'With the realisation of it being possible came a lot of nerves and the route became more of a mental battle than a physical one. Additionally, the weather forecast started to look sketchy and the bottom of the route already required on-route drying. The pressure sent me backwards for a bit but soon I was back up on the top wall falling from the last tricky move a few metres below the chain (which is pretty gutting on a 50m route!).'

Will on an 8a at Espadelles - 'El Ladròn de Orquideas'  © Frances Bensley
Will on an 8a at Espadelles - 'El Ladròn de Orquideas'
© Frances Bensley

On the next go, after a month of attempts on this latest trip, Will ticked the route:

'I've never been so satisfied, relieved and happy to clip a chain! Not sure what’s next, find another project I guess?'

Will had previously redpointed one 8c+ at Gorges du Loup in France, Ultimate Sacrifice. 

Will is sponsored by: Monkey Fist

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22 Dec, 2016
Well done Will, fantastic effort.
22 Dec, 2016
Amazing effort, he's clearly the fresh prince of British climbing.
22 Dec, 2016
This is so inspiring!! Great effort Will
22 Dec, 2016
Inspirational stuff. Way to go Will.
23 Dec, 2016
that photo is incredible
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