La Rambla 9a+ by Michaela Kiersch

© Colette McInerney @etteloc

Michaela Kiersch has made the third female ascent of La Rambla (extension) (9a+), in Siurana, Spain.

In climbing the route, she becomes the tenth woman to climb 9a+ or harder, and just the second woman - after Ashima Shiraishi - to have climbed both a route at 9a+, and a boulder at 8B+ or above. Kiersch climbed her first font 8B+ boulder, Hailstorm, in March 2022, and has since climbed a further two.

La Rambla was the first route of the grade to be climbed by a woman, with Margo Hayes making the historic first female ascent back in 2017.

Kiersch spent some time working the route with Belgian climber Sébastien Berthe, who shared news of his own ascent of the route shortly after Kiersch did. She is yet to share further details of her ascent.

Sharing the details on instagram, Michaela said:

'I first came to Siurana nearly 10 years ago after finishing high school. I was a completely different person and climber at the time — my focus was to have fun, explore, and be with my friends. The thought of trying 5.15 was laughable, at best ... It was only until relatively recently that I seriously considered the possibility that I could climb at this level'

'I arrived in Siurana feeling like I was in the best climbing form of my life. I spent weeks training at home to specifically increase my power and strength. I had a list of moonboard and kilterboard boulders that I wanted to send before leaving, and I ticked the final 4 in a last session. My strategy was to be strong enough to do all of the hardest moves relatively easily and gain the endurance while I was there - which is a natural strength of mine. I felt confident in my physical abilities but mentally I was intimidated. Was it too presumptuous to think that I could send 5.15?'

'My first day on the route went better than expected - I did all of the moves on my first try ... For the next few days I focused on linking longer sections and refining my beta. This part of the process was relatively comfortable - there was no pressure because I was just going bolt to bolt, could take if I was tired, and it was easy enough to get to the top of the route in this style'.

'Around this time I realized that I needed to change my approach. I could "work the moves" on this route forever but mentally I needed to switch into send mode. This was challenging because I was still struggling to make it through the crack crux at the bottom, which honestly felt embarrassing because of how low it is. I was battling my ego a lot on this route. Ultimately, I decided that I needed to prioritize every try. This led to my first real highpoint of making it through the crack twice in a day'.

Kiersch struggled with the low crack crux, as well as the jump move, but after some beta tweaking and a few days rest, she managed to make it almost the entire way through the crux sequence, falling on the final move.

'I was utterly disappointed in myself. I was exhausted from the attempt physically and mentally. I was ruminating on the move, ruminating on my mistakes. I went to bed rehearsing the route and wondering if I should try the following day'.

'I woke up feeling excited. I wanted to try. It was a shift in my energy - I wasn't suffering or dreading my potential failure. I wrote in my journal "I feel good warming up, having butterflies about the climb. It's a good thing. If not today, the next. If not the next, the day after. I can do it. And on this day, I did it'.

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