Interview : Adam Ondra talks about Silence, the world’s first 9c
Adam Ondra talks about his last groundbreaking ascent in Norway. And why he named the world’s first 9c Silence. He also explains what it took to climb the World’s First 9c.
Watch most any video of phenom climber Adam Ondra and you may want to turn the volume. His scream is his trademark. It echoes through groundbreaking ascents like his 2014 onsight of the 9a route Il Domani (Tomorrow) in Balzola, Spain and 9b+ redpoints like Change and La Dura Dura. The guttural roars releases from his lungs as he engages through the cruxes.
“I shouldn’t’ scream more than 10 times per route,” he said with a smile over Skype. “But I try to reduce the screaming until I get to the crux. I think about which moves I will scream, and which ones I will not.” He grinned through the entirety of our one-hour conversation.
Conversely, he didn’t release his legendary shrieks while completing the 45-meter Project Hard, on September 3, which he has named Silence. The route required four years of work spread over seven visits , including five weeks this summer. By the way, the crux of the line ascends a radically overhanging 10-move V15 crack feature.
Adam, the prodigy
Ondra, from Brno, Czech Republic, climbed 9a at age 13. He’s now climbed more than 140 routes at that grade or higher. And more than 25 rated 5.15a or higher. He’s won Gold three times at the World Championships. And in 2012 was the first to climb 9b+, with his route Change. Many consider him the best climber in the world.
Strøm, Flatanger in northwest Norway, home of the Hanshelleren Cave (Han’s Cave), has more than 50 granite routes. And contains some of the hardest lines in the world. Development of the area has gone on for 20 years. Due to its proximity to the Arctic Circle, summers here have 24-hour daylight. The main cave contains a 260-foot overhanging wall with a 160-foot headwall.
Have you decided on a name for Project Hard yet?
I decided yesterday. It’s called Silence. I had to look for a name that would be simple and easy to remember. If I came up with something complicated people would still call it Project Hard. I was surprised how quiet I was. And I was so much in the rhythm and the harmony that it kind of felt silent. I usually feel at war when I am my limit.
Tell us about your cadence while climbing this route.
It’s very difficult on this route to have a rhythm. Those 10 crux moves are very demanding. I never thought I could climb through the crux so fast. It’s 25 meters of pretty easy climbing [5.13+], with a sprint up to the knee bar. You have to relax 100 percent on the knee bars, which are bat hangs. It’s climbing mode, then relax mode.
And then at the last knee bar to the crux you have to switch to fighting mode. But at the crux I forgot to turn on the fighting mode. I have no clue how I did it that way. In fact I thought there was no way I could do it that relaxed. Precision is everything. I think I tried this section 2,000 times for sure. Every time it felt so different. A lot of foot jams and finger locks.
The route Change, also in the Hanshelleren Cave, was the first 9b+ (5.15c). Silence is the first 9c. What other routes did you bolt there?
Change was the first one I bolted there. I came back and bolted 10 different routes including Project Hard and Project Big. In fact, Project Big is not the line I’m trying next. Project Big is massive, maybe not harder than Silence but it is stacked with boulder problems. And Project Hard had one super hard boulder problem in the middle of the route.
Read the full interview