Chris Sharma has made the first ascent of Black Pearl, a 9a+ Deep Water Solo route, in Mallorca, Spain.
At 42, Sharma is the world's foremost developer of hard DWS routes, with three first ascents at 9a and above. In addition to his ascent of Black Pearl earlier this week, Sharma established Es Pontas (9a+) in 2007, which has seen just three repeats, and Alasha (9a S1) in 2016, which has only been repeated twice.
Es Pontas, featured in the 2007 Reel Rock film King Lines, is particularly well known for its double dyno, where an unsuccessful attempt means a nine-metre fall into the sea.
Sharma's new route, Black Pearl, shares a location with his 2017 8c+/9a route Big Fish, and has been a project of his for the last four years.
According to Sharma's interview with climbing.com, the route can be broken down into three sections. First comes a section of 5.13a/b (7c+/8a) climbing, followed by a rest. Then comes the crux, a fifteen move sequence which ends with a dyno to a three finger pocket, a sequence Sharma described as feeling like 5.14b/c (8c/8c+) into V9 (f7C). Finally, the route climbs 5.13b/c (8a/8a+) terrain to the top of the cliff.
'It's basically right up there with Es Pontas and Alasha', Sharma told climbing.com, 'It's hard to compare... But it could possibly even be a bit harder than both'.
'I felt just really lucky to find this pathway up the wall. It has these little crimps and you dyno to that perfect pocket in the middle of the wall, and there's nothing else around it. If one little piece of the puzzle was missing, it would be completely impossible'.
'Deep water soloing is so much more than just climbing a hard grade, and the complexities of having to do a project over the water, it really changes the whole nature of the experience. This climb is maybe 5.15a (9a+), but it's still very cutting edge for me to do a route of this style'.
After five years of relative inactivity at the highest level, 2023 has seen a return to form for Sharma. In addition to his ascent of Black Pearl, which may yet prove to be the hardest DWS in the world, in March Sharma made the first ascent of his long-term project Sleeping Lion, 9b+. Check out our report of the ascent below: