ADAM ONDRA: The Sheer Joy of A Genuine Complex Climb.

#interview #AdamOndra #TMF2018 #ReelRock13 #climbing

There are things that seem impossible and someday, someone does the impossible. That is in short Adam Ondra’s bio, the genuine rock climber who holds so many firsts – the first to climb a 9b+ and a 9c route, the first to flash a 9a+ route, the first to win both lead and bouldering World Cups and Championships – that we cannot but wonder what could be his next challenge, his next big dream!

Adam Ondra – portrait, 2018. Photo by Petr Pavlicek.

While the AGE OF ONDRA from the Reel Rock Tour 13 was screened for the first time in Romania, in Cluj-Napoca at the new born Transylvania Mountain Festival, one could feel the excitement of the audience – climbers and mountaineers – while watching Adam giving it his all to flash for the first time ever a 9a+ (5.15a) on the Super Crackinette route.

How does he do it? What triggers him to always push further? How does he decides what to onsight or what to flash or what to even climb?  – with all these questions in my mind, I am happy that Adam agreed to personally answer each of them and to share his experiences, his preferences and upcoming challenges.

You will discover a climber who truly enjoys climbing and is always open to learn and share.

Adam Ondra flashing the Super Crackinette 9a+, in France, 2018. Photo by Bernardo Gimenez.

[D.C. – Diana Ciorba]: Since we are under the strong impression of the movie, how did  actually “Age of Ondra” come to life?

[A.O. – Adam Ondra]: I was contacted by the guys from Big Up  that I already knew for quite a while since we were filming the Progression (2009) for which I was climbing Gancho Perfecto and Papichulo, two 9a and 9a+ in Catalunya Spain. Since then, we have met a few times; I was also featured in their Reel Rock movie a couple of years ago as a part of La Dura Dura (9b+) movie and I think they produce really good films so we agreed on making a new clip. When talking about what could we include, I told them that for this season I’ve set the goal of trying to flash a 9a+, because that was – in terms of great progression – the only possibility of how I could progress; because, I did not not really see it possible for me to send a 9c+ or a 9a+ onsight. So, we decided to document my effort in order to tackle that. – To tackle the dream of climbing a 9a+ at first go.

[D.C.]: After these impressive climbs, which you had in recent years,  what do you still find most inspiring?

[A.O. – Adam Ondra]: As a climber, I put the most effort in the Silence, the 9c, and that is why I value it the most. I think it is my proudest ascent. But, definitely, flashing Super Crackinette (9a+) is pretty close to that! It’s really hard to compare what is harder… or to compare with climbing a Dawn  Wall… or with becoming world champion… but, if I would have to pick one it is still Silence. It is just an incredible route for me! I do not say that’s the king line and it is definitely not like there will be queues waiting for this line to be climbed, but, I am still very impressed by this crack sequence, because these are the weirdest, awkward moves that I have ever seen on the rock and it is really inspiring for me! I kind of feel like that the more awkward the moves, the more fun I am having while I am climbing that. Because I do not really climb to climb a ladder. If the route is only about having the power and not letting go, I might be interested, … but not as much as by as complex climbing as Silence is.

Adam Ondra on Silence, the 9c, Norway, 2017. Photo by Pavel Klement.

[D.C.]: What is your current challenge?

[A.O. – Adam Ondra]: My challenge for the next season is dedicating myself to competitions. I am going to compete in both of the World Cup’s disciplines – lead and boulder – so there are going to be lots of competitions and lots of training in the gym – and all of that as a preparation for the Olympics 2020.

[D.C.]: How do you pick the routes, you want to flash? 😊

[A.O. – Adam Ondra]: It is pretty hard! I have already tried quite a lot of them (- tried or climbed) and I definitely rely on the opinion of my friends. So for example, this route – Super Crackinette – that I – in the end –managed to flash, was recommended by my friend who tried the route, he knows my style and he suggested it could fit me really well. And that was true! But my choice of routes is quite random; sometimes I just see a video or I see a photo, I might contact the guys who tried it or have done it and yes… it works simply as that. At the same time there is not much of a choice, so it is pretty obvious.

[D.C.]: For our Romanian readers and climbers, how did you find  Herculane climbing area?

[A.O. – Adam Ondra]: I loved it a lot! And it has quite a lot of potential for all grades! But, the waterfall area has a potential for really hard routes. Especially the left wall, which kind of starts from the ledge… which is this amazing 50-60 meters super clean wall, and the most amazing thing is that it has not been climbed to the top yet! All the routes, including the Black Mamba 2nd pitch, only finish up at two thirds of the wall, therefore this wall still waits for its first ascent. There are couple of projects to choose from and I definitely like to be back and make some harder climbs for Romania. The waterfall sector itself is very interesting because it has so many different styles within one sector: right in the middle it is pretty steep and powerful, more to the right it is rather technical, crimpy style and on the left it is slightly overhanging with a nice combination of endurance, technique and power – and that is probably my favorite part of the wall.


Adam Ondra climbing in Romania, in Herculane, 2018. Photo by Pavel Blazek.

[D.C.]: What was the worst injury you had and how did you deal with it?

[A.O. – Adam Ondra]: I am very lucky in terms of injuries. I’ve never really had any problems with my fingers or at least nothing that would stop me from climbing for more than five days. It is really important to be always cautious about it. My approach is that when I feel a little pain, I take a couple of days off. Then, I wait to see what happens. Always these “couple of days off” helped to heel this “little pain”. I think that injuries usually happen when you already feel something and your body is much more prone to get injured.

It was a big advantage that I started climbing when I was little and my progression as a climber was slow but very steady. My body just got really adapted to pulling in small holes, most notably my fingers.

[D.C.]: Which is your favorite climbing area, and why?

[A.O. – Adam Ondra]: What I like about climbing is that there is this diversity. You do not have to climb all the time in the same climbing style and at the same time, I think it is very important to climb in different styles, in different areas because that is the way you learn the most. If I really had to pick one then it is Flatanger (Norway). It is probably the most interesting rock I have ever seen. It is super solid, you just bolt your line and you start climbing right away (!) without any cleaning of the routes. It just comes in really nice shapes. That is why climbing there is really complex and not really obvious. That is something that I like a lot.

Adam Ondra on Change 9b+, Flatanger, Norway 2012. Photo by Petr Pavlicek.

[D.C.]: A point on innovation: what is most innovative in your method  of climbing? Do you use innovative technologies in your trainings and climbs? 

[A.O. – Adam Ondra]: I don’t think I’m that innovative. I think that every climber should choose the climbing style based on his/her strengths and weaknesses. I have my own characteristics and after many years of climbing I simply based my climbing style on my strengths and weaknesses. That is why I climb pretty fast and simple, and I try to keep precision – that literally means that sometimes I climb so fast that my precision is not high enough and therefore sometimes I have slipped, but it is a conscious risk taking. Without that you cannot really climb, or I cannot really climb on my limit. That does not mean that for someone else that is the most efficient way of climbing (!).

All the other things that I am using, I do not think they are too innovative. Yet, it is very important to have flexible hips. Every climber should work on that because flexible hips can let you rest where it is not that obvious. Even where the holes are very bad, flexible hips allow you to get closer to the wall and put some pressure off your hands. That is so important!

Every climber should understand that climbing is about climbing to the top. Whenever you are on the wall, you are either climbing or moving up or resting. Or… you can actually move up doing a relatively hard move and still shake out the other hand. But, the most important thing is to avoid a situation where you are holding on with your two hands and doing nothing. Maybe you are just trying to decide where to go… but all the decisions must be done in a flip of a switch.  That is pretty important.

Adam Ondra at the World Championships Innsbruck 2018. Photo by Lukas Biba.

[D.C.]: A message to all those who want to improve their climbing? :)

[A.O. – Adam Ondra]: One thing that may be a little surprising: do not take training too seriously! 😊 Most probably I am talking to the people that want to improve and climb maybe less than an 8b. Well, for climbing 8b you do not have to be that super-strong. It is just enough to climb! Climb with the consciousness of your body, always trying to improve your technique and you will achieve that by enjoying climbing.

Up to a certain point, I think it is important to maybe have a training program to think about but not to take it too seriously. Yes, indeed I do have my own training program and I do follow it strictly but (!) I am able to train hard while at the same time having a lot of fun while climbing! No matter how hard I am training, I am always conscious about my body, the way it works and whether I climb efficiently. It is always better to first climb very well, that is climb efficiently and only afterwards to become stronger. If you get too strong too quickly, then, it is literally impossible to really learn how to climb well.

And I would dare to say it is even MORE FUN to do a route when you know that you climb perfectly and super efficiently, rather than just powering up through the route and feeling you have waisted your power and your climbing was not perfect.


Thank you Adam Ondra for sharing the joy of climbing with us. You are definitely an inspiration and you are always welcome to make some harder climbs in Romania!  Keep it fun!


Diana Ciorba

Cluj-Napoca, 17/12/2018