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Gancho Perfecto 9a+ by Tom Bolger

© @esteban.ele.eme

British expat living in Catalonia, Tom Bolger, has climbed his first 9a+ with an ascent of Chris Sharma's Gancho Perfecto at Margalef's Finestra sector.

Tom Bolger on Gancho Perfecto 9a+.  © @esteban.ele.eme
Tom Bolger on Gancho Perfecto 9a+.
© @esteban.ele.eme

Tom has gradually worked his way back through the grades after incurring a serious back injury in 2012, with 9a+ in mind as a long-term goal. During his time on Gancho Perfecto over three seasons, he accrued injuries and struggled to find a balance between work and climbing in order to complete the route. Tom told UKC:

'Having picked up injuries along the way and had setbacks, work commitments, dips in strength and motivation, the quest to get back to the route in shape at some points seemed impossible.'

The line has only seen six repeats in over ten years. Tom explained the difficulties as follows:

'It's super steep, powerful climbing with a heartbreaker finish: there's a deadpoint from a shallow two-finger pocket to a slopey three-finger edge on the lip of the wall. I had fallen there once in the past season and twice the day before sending, so the element of a mental battle was definitely there!'

Due to the outbreak of COVID-19, Tom missed the spring season for Finestra and thought that it would be another year with no success, but the bonus preparation time worked to his advantage. He explained:

'The extra focused training I managed to do and then having more time off in summer to climb meant I got to the Finestra wall in September in the best shape I've probably ever been in.'

Tom set himself a training goal of a link-up of two routes on Finestra, which eventually became Perfecto Passat 9a.

'With my confidence built up and with a super motivated group of locals including my girlfriend Gabi, I felt in the best shape to get Gancho Perfecto done. In the end the route - as so often happens - went smoothly. It's crazy to think of the numerous tries fighting through sections to finally being able to do the route smoothly; it's proof that persistence and perseverance is what really counts! I'm psyched for the rest of the season out here.'

Tom adds Gancho Perfecto to an impressive list of ninth-grade routes including Catxasita 9a/+, Ciudad de Dios 9a/+ (Santa Linya), Víctimas Pérez 9a, Perfecto Passat 9a and Era Vella 8c+/9a (Margalef).

The next logical step for Tom would be to attempt Alex Megos' neighbouring Perfecto Mundo 9b+, which shares its start with Gancho Perfetco. Iker Pou's Nit de Bruixes 9a+ is also on his ticklist.


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Tom Bolger is a British expat who moved to Catalunya to focus on his climbing career. He's redpointed numerous ninth-grade routes up to 9a+ (Gancho Perfecto). He's also a former GB Climbing Team member.

Tom's Athlete Page 19 posts


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Well done Tom, excellent work. Looks like superb climbing on an amazing wall.

UKC, how come you're referring to Tom as an expat? Are all the connotations around that word not enough to just not use it anymore, and refer to everyone as migrant workers or whatever? I appreciate the dictionary definition if the word, but it's clear the reality is that it's preserved for white northern Europeans working abroad.

5 Oct

"Migrant worker Tom Bolger",

Or "Tom Bolger".

..........coming over here, taking our jobs, stealing our projects...........

6 Oct

Migrant Worker isn't the correct term though. Migrant worker implies that the primary reason for the move was to look for work, however it states that he moved to Catalonia in order to climb. Therefore, if you must stick a suffix on, 'Migrant Climber' would convey the message you are trying to convey better than 'Migrant Worker' which is misleading for the sake of political correctness. Or, if we take Expat to mean 'someone who has moved abroad for a jolly', that works pretty well

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