The Project - A Unique Competition in Stockholm

© Bjorn Pohl

Ahead of the launch of The Project - an innovative and inclusive new 'competition' format - at the Klättercentret Telefonplan climbing wall in Stockholm this weekend, we caught up with UKC international news editor and organiser of the event, Björn Pohl, to find out more about it...

Magnus Midtboe in action  © Bjorn Pohl
Magnus Midtboe in action
© Bjorn Pohl

What is The Project?

Kajsa Rosén working The Project  © Bjorn Pohl
Kajsa Rosén working The Project
© Bjorn Pohl
The Project is a permanent route at the Klättercentret Telefonplan climbing wall in Stockholm, Sweden. It's without a doubt the hardest project in the world inside or out. At the same time it's set in such a way that it's possible to try for any average Joe.

It can roughly be divided into sections of ~5 moves which get increasingly more difficult, starting with ~6A and ending with ~8C. Not sure what that adds up to, no one does, but probably French 10 something.

This means Adam Ondra and a 6c climber can have the same project. The idea is to constantly strive for progression - one more move.

I think our route setters, Robert Rundin and Jocke Berglund, have created something spectacular which demands very different skills. 

Nordic Lead Champions Hannah Midtbø and Hannes Puman test-climbed it last week and they loved it! Although Hannah said "This is the first route I have tried where the reward for doing a move is an even harder move, again and again and again".

As the route is permanent it will now for the first time in climbing history be possible to have a world record, which everyone can try to beat. It will of course be possible to have all sorts of records based on countries, regions, cities, gender, age and so on.

Some pro climbers worked the project yesterday (Thursday 16th February). There was no set time limit and they could work it as much as they wanted. Tomorrow (Saturday 18th), they get one go plus another attempt. First they have one go each and then, should they feel they can do better and have enough juice left, they can have another go.

Whoever holds the record on the last day of the year gets €1000 and should anyone top it, the reward is €5000, a sum that will keep growing every year.

How did the idea come about?

Well...we already had the Legends Only competition for bouldering and I figured we should breathe some life into lead climbing as well, so I began thinking about it. I wanted to come up with a format where we wouldn't limit what we thought was possible... I mean in normal comps, the ideal is that one climber reaches the top, and the route setter's job is to guess exactly where to place the bar, so to speak. 

I wanted a format where the bar wouldn't be reached in a while. Ideally it should also be something that wouldn't just suit competition climbers. 

This is what I came up with.

Who's taking part?

Everyone is taking part ;) 

The event we have here on 18th February is only the launch of The Project. We have a strong field though:

Nalle Hukkataival, Stefano Ghisolfi, Kajsa Rosén, Magnus Midtbø and Jorg Verhoeven will all climb in the redpoint show, and before that Jacopo Larcher, Daila Ojeda and, of course, Liam Lonsdale will try it during the day.

Alex Megos will be here as well, but due to a finger injury, he won't try The Project this time. He'll be back though.

So that's the launch. As it's a permanent thing, the plan is to have several smaller events throughout the year. For example, Adam Ondra and Patxi Usobiaga will come here on 22nd-23rd April.

Stefano Ghisolfi, World Cup regular  © Bjorn Pohl
Stefano Ghisolfi, World Cup regular
© Bjorn Pohl

You organise a lot of climbing events and competitions. What is changing in the competition scene - what do competitors and spectators expect from events now?

That's a good question. I think competitors and spectators alike expect to have a good time. The competitors want a challenge but not all the pressure they're used to from the World Cups. 

On the other hand, we usually try to mix competition specialists with outdoor climbers, and I guess any kind of climbing show puts more pressure on the latter than what they are used to.

So...yeah, we're in the entertainment business I guess!

Nalle Hukkataival attempts The Project  © Bjorn Pohl
Nalle Hukkataival attempts The Project
© Bjorn Pohl
Is it hard to attract top climbers to take part in one-off events, when they are so busy with the world cup circuit and outdoor projects?

No, not really. My experience is that they always want to come, but sometimes, due to for example sponsor or federation commitments, it's not possible. But of course, the more invitational competitions, the more difficult it will become.

In the future, I believe more and more companies will realise this is a great way to reach their customers and to create content, and I expect more events will happen and they'll be bigger.

How much time and planning goes into such events for you as an organiser?

A lot! Very difficult to say how much as it's something I work with constantly to some extent. To create these kind of events from scratch, without a network in the industry...that would be a challenge for sure. 

However, I'm far from the only one involved in planning and organising this and other events. My contribution is mainly coming up with ideas, finding sponsors, inviting and taking care of the athletes, marketing the events and working with media. The local producer, responsible for all the staff and activities during the whole day, is Minna Almqvist while David Höglund is responsible for everything involving sound and light, from planning to rigging. He is also the DJ.

Will there be a live stream? 

Yes, we are going to live stream it on Facebook on Saturday 18th from 5:45pm UK time. Both on the Klättercentret page and on Black Diamond's. Don't ask me how that works!

Who do you think will win?

The Project will win this round ;)

Watch the video series following The Project on YouTube:

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17 Feb, 2017
What a cool idea! Would love to have a go someday
17 Feb, 2017
"6A and ending with ~8C" Has this sports route actually been broken down into bouldering grades or should that be 6a/8c?
17 Feb, 2017
They have actually graded them as bouldering sequences, I think. I've seen them referred to that way in other places too.
17 Feb, 2017
"(The professional climbers) love to come" ... because you pay them. The "hardest project indoor or outdoors". Assuming that your route setters climb 9a+ and not 9b+, how would they know if the rig is 9b+ or harder? Also, if the routes in the gym are comp style, it is normal that they get harder with every move, so for anyone not getting into the 8B region, this route is going to be like many others. And last but not least - if quality of the climb and not marketing had been a concern, you would have hired world class route setters, people like Godoffe or Laporte, and let them use any hold brand they want.
17 Feb, 2017
There are 6 videos about the route which show the amount of effort in setting and testing the route. Don't be such a (insert)
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