Tom Bolger has made the first repeat of Ramón Julián Puigblanque's Maya (9a+) 9a+ at Margalef - Zona del Panta South in Catalonia, Spain. First climbed in 2016 (UKC News), the line waited seven years for a repeat ascent.
A British expat living in Spain, Tom has climbed in the ninth grade since 2011 and ticked over 20 lines graded 9a or above. He has dedicated himself to bolting and projecting hard new lines of his own up to 9a/+.
We asked Tom what he's been up to, and whether he'll ever come back to the UK to try the hard classics...
You've now redpointed five 9a+s. It seems as though you're consolidating the grade!
I think my recent ascents of Pink Patatas and Maya have been the hardest. Some of the other routes that I had done at that grade now have new sequences or the use of knee pads has changed the grade on some, with the others being given slash grades.
When and why did you first consider trying Maya? Ramón Julián Puigblanque's routes have a reputation for being tough for the grade. How did you find it compared to other routes you've done? Did this impact you mentally?
I considered trying Maya as when I climbed the neighbouring route Widowmaker 9a, I looked over to the stunning steep line of Maya, and yes — with the history surrounding the first ascent being by Ramon Julian...everybody knows what a strong climber he was and is and his hard grading is internationally famous …
This route had sat unclimbed for over 7 years and that definitely adds to the intimidation level when trying a route like this.
There was no video footage of the route, but to be honest that's the way I like to try routes!
How did your first attempts feel?
Trying something for the first time like this is a blank canvas without chalk and tick marks is really a total luxury , no insitu quickdraws , I think it's the best way to work out the best sequences for yourself and also train your mind to be able to solve the problems that you are faced.
What's the line like?
The route itself is a monster: 40m with 25m being the real meat of the route. The first section of four quickdraws is like an intro, after that you're faced with powerful moves over pebbles and two-finger pockets up to the final crux boulder off a slopey mono into a perfect pebble undercut. Here you reach a couple of good holds, but it's mega steep up there and then you've got to keep it all together and climb fluidly through the last pumpy and technical section to the top.
You do a lot of FAs and bolting etc. Do you prefer projecting existing routes or making first ascents?
Yes I absolutely love bolting and putting up first ascents — I find it's the most adventurous and creative way to enjoy sport climbing and it's something that highly motivates me.
Have you got any 9bs on the horizon?
I have one really hard project that I bolted that definitely motivates me and is 9b, so I would be psyched to do the route for sure, but even more psyched just to close the cycle of having found the line, bolted it and then climbed it rather than for the grade.
Do you have any climbs in the UK that you'd like to come back for?
In the UK I would like to try some of the super classics - I've toyed with the idea for years, but never found the right moment. The problem is that here in Catalunya the combination of endless rock and sunshine makes it all the more difficult !
I'm developing routes in three different areas at the moment and that is something extremely special and something that is keeping my full attention at the moment.
Tom has just launched a new YouTube channel - follow him here: Tom Bolger, A Climbing Journey.