This morning, after a rest day with dry weather and wind had allowed the The Change-project in the Hanshelleren cave at Flatanger, Norway, to dry up enough to be climbable Adam Ondra finally made the first ascent, breaking into the next realm in the process.
I don't have any details yet, and I will update this post as I get them, but Adam has suggested, 9b+, for the route, which would make it the hardest in the world. I think that is something very few would doubt.
The full 55 meter The Change can be divided into a 9a+/b, followed by a rest (one hand, bad knee) and then a 9a.
Yesterday, film maker Petr Pavlicek who has been with Adam in Flatanger the whole time, told me they had decided to go back to the project in the second half of October. Perhaps this was exactly what Adam needed to relax enough to be able to do it.
The video below shows Adam's early attempts on this project.
Here are Adam's own words about the ascent:
I can't believe it – was, if my memory is right, the first words I said after clipping the anchor of this route. It is definitely the most rewarding feeling I have ever had after sending the route. I can't stop smiling, even now, typing these words. Despite the tough process of working the route, this can't be any sweeter. Not only because it is 9b+, a number which looks so strange typed on the screen.
The route can be divided into two pitches – 9a+/b (20m), nohand-rest and 9a (25m). The first pitch is bouldery – first twelve meters can be described as 8b route into 8B+ (some of the most crazy moves I have ever done) into 7B+. Above this, there is a bad kneebar, where I pull the rope down and the belayer starts belaying again. The rest of the first pitch is pretty easy. At the chains, there is a nohands rest, where you stand on good footholds in the vertical wall leaning with your head on the roof above (I did not find rest in summer).
The second pitch has a long power-endurance sequence of about 6 meters just above the first anchor, long moves, compression style and heelhooks including hard crimping as well. From here on, it is not more than 8b+, but tiring and neverending pumpfest, which offers numerous jugs to rest, but one is not able to recover there any more...
It is the route I've put the most effort into. It took me three weeks of trying in summer, two weeks in autumn. But I must say that sometimes it was a lot about waiting for the conditions to arrive, sometimes I went up the route only to find out it is was too damp and especially in autumn, when the temperature was excellent, but two holds were seeping in the upper part as it had been raining for three weeks straight prior to arrival.
Just the day of the send they finally got almost dry. I could do the single moves despite wetness, but it would be extremely difficult on the link. I have never got that high before sending it, but during the send I realized that I would definitely fall off if got in the previous conditions.
Regarding to grade, it has been a long dilemma. After sending the first pitch for a first time (after about 5 or 6 days), I thought that the first is merely 9a+ and the second pitch felt close as I could recover at the first chains pretty well. The ascent felt in grasp, but the more I tried it, the more I realized how hard the first pitch is on itself and how pumpy the second pitch is. The more I tried, the more the idea of 9b+ was buzzing in my head. The final decision was made two days before my ascent. My self-confidence was low down, the ascent a million miles way and I was playing with the idea that chances of doing this trip are dashed. As I though about it, it felt so much harder than any 9b's I have done so far, I put so much time into it, additionally it fits my style quite well, I told myself that it was going to be too hard for a 9b...
I realize right now how extremely lucky I was to find a line that turned out to be exactly on my limit. No waste of bolts only to find something impossible, just long hours of looking at the endless sea of Flatanger granite and good decision. I must say, in the end I did not choose the first line that struck my eyes at first glance, the most impressive one. This one is still in my mind, I'll probably give a look at it next year. But Change turned out to be exactly as I anticipated. Challenging with good movements, various styles of climbing. The only thing that spoils the route is the nohand-rest and the fact that it doesn't go to the top of the cave, or at least to the lip. I had an idea of trying a line to the top in one push, but in the end I found out that it is impossible due to rope drag and climbing with two ropes and having one rope already hanging in the wall is just too artificial. And climbing another pitch only to go to the top – that would be nice for the feeling, but a lot of work and no one would ever really climb, even though it could be world class 8c, as it is too complicated to jug up there. I really focused on finding a good spot to set the anchor, not in the middle of blank wall on bad crimp, but good ledge on the top of the obvious square-shaped feature.
The recent times and the route itself definitely changed myself a lot. I live a totally different life as I am not going to school anymore. The trying of it was an ever changing process. In the meantime, I learnt a lot, but I suppose that once I will start something new, I will make the same mistakes. The fight with your mind is the one you can win only temporarily. But one thing the route did not change – my desire for opening new routes. First ascents turned out to be as enjoyable and satisfying I had thought.Adam Ondra is sponsored by: Black Diamond, Montura, Entre Prises , La Sportiva, Beal and Hudy Sports
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