Pierre Dèlas from Fanatic climbing, who was the first to report the news, contributed with some of the questions.
First of all, once again huge congrats on another amazing first!
You flashed Southern smoke direct and you attempted flashing Biographie. Is the 9a+ flash something you have had as goal for a long time? Was it something you were actively going after and did you chose this route for this reason?
Yes, 9a+ flash was this goal that I had in my mind for a long time. I think I was 15 and I was in Ceuse, looking at Biographie and this idea came to mind - hold on, I should not try it now, what about saving this route for flash?! That was the first moment when I thought something like that is even possible.
But then I tried some years later, I failed, and I failed on Seleccion Anal and there were no more routes to try. I had already tried or climbed them. I had to wait for a few years for the new routes to appear. This line in particular blew my mind in 2015 when it was still a project. I heard from the locals it could be probably 9a, but then, a bit later, Alex Megos claimed the first ascent and gave it 9a+.
It was a great news, and most of all, it was 9a+ Alex-certified! I had this route in my mind from that moment.
What's your typical preparation before attempting a hard flash or onsight ascent?
Onsight and flash are very different of course. For onsighting, I just have to be in a good shape, make a good warm up, make an observation and then go for it. It is only up to me, my experience and intuition. And luck of course.
For flashing, you are relying on someone else's beta. And I try to visualize myself how I would do those moves. Thanks to all available information, I can visualize it much more vividly. I can visualize better the speed and rythm of climbing, thanks to the fact someone tells me how each hold is like. That helps me to visualize if a certain section has to be climbed fast or slow. But only up to certain degree - and always relying on the person giving the beta.
What did you think about your chances before the actual attempt? Is this something that even enters your mind or do you try to block it out?
It was very difficult mentally. I arrived to St Leger two weeks ago, and this was basically the only dry route. How tempting to try it straight away, but it was obvious it would not be a good idea. It is much better to get used to the local climbing. That is what I did. Trying other semi-dry projects and getting a bit frustrated. 9a+ projects with question marks and I could not do them with a few wet holds after three or four days of work… I had no reference whether I was strong and those routes were hard (and wet), or it was me who was not ready yet for the 9a+ challenge.
Then, Bernardo came to film this thing, we arranged the meeting with Quentin Chastagnier, who actually bolted the route and who knows it very well. There was no stepping back. I had to give it a try. But I actually felt very good on my warm up. That was what gave me a bit of confidence - that it is not a pointless try, at the same time the expectations were kind of low. Perfect situation.
I started climbing and everything just flowed.
How did you experience the route? Was it what you expected after Quentin showed you the moves?
My beta is about 28 moves, and some easy moves up to the anchor. The first 20 moves are independent, then you join Crackinette, 8c, which goes from the right side. All up to the 20th move, I felt way better than expected. I knew the route is relatively easy up to the 3rd bolt and then it gets hard. But when I entered this section, it still felt really easy. It was surreal, even like feeling cosmic power. I felt unstoppable, relaxed and totally crushed the first 20 moves (definitely hard 8c+ already, or even more).
But then, there were two pockets which turned out a bit too narrow for my fat fingers. I took a bit more time to lock my fingers in, and the super mindset was gone. I kept going, and the real linking crux of the route, move 28, was approaching. Luckily, I managed to forget all, and execute the move.
For you, which details made the difference and were key to success this time?
There is not much margin on this route for me, so I had to climb in a way that it was like as if I was redpointing. I wanted from Quentin to tell me about every hold, if it is incut or not, if I can make a 1 second shake out or not and stuff like this. Then I just kept going according to this manual. Not looking right or left, just like I had done this route many times. The only difference is that as I had never touched those holds myself, you kind of have to get familiar with each of the holds, whereas on your redpoint you should get every hold perfectly straight away. That is like 0,2s difference which in the end makes a big difference in power you have in your tank.
I had worked hard on my power-endurance, and ability to lock off and make a short shakeout, which is the only way to recover on this intense route.
During the attempt, and especially after getting through the bottom part, did you think about a potential success at the top of the route or did you just climb?
Yes, unfortunately, after move number 20, I was out of my mindset, and I was thinking about potential victory or failure, also because I was feeling relatively fresh.
After 9c redpoint, 9a+ flash and 9a onsight, plus having won everything there is to win, where do you go next? I'm sure you feel there's still room for improvement, but do you feel that would require more specialisation?
In terms of grades, I cannot really improve in sport climbing right now, but I can still measure the progression, for example climbing the grades much faster (less tries) than before. But in the long term, I hope there is still room for improvement. But that would require some kind of specialization. But first I have to get a better climber in general.
Would it be worth it?
At certain point maybe, but not yet.
What's the plan for the end of the French trip?
Make St Leger project-free ;-)
Thanks a lot Adam!