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.
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.'
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!).'
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