Roland Wagner, who did his first (and hitherto only) 9a in 2015, has repeated Klem Loskot's Sehnsucht 9a/+ in Salzburg Land. (c) Flo Scheimpflug
”first tried the route in 2018, and then again in 2019. Momentum was really starting to build in 2020 and the last couple months my life basically revolved on and around the route. As I wrote in my scorecard, somehow putting it all together felt incredibly hard - both physically and mentally. I never tried so hard for anything before.
It took me a total of 30 days to send Sehnsucht, which translates to something like 'longing, desire, or yearning'. In the end, I 'only' had to wait for perfect conditions and just like that, months of longing came to an end. The 30m route was first ascended totally under the radar (like lots of other hard routes and boulders) by legendary Klem Loskot in 2013. Trying the route was an amazing process that reminded me why climbing always was and hopefully will be such an important part of my life. I felt in shape in 2018, but couple injuries and setbacks in 2019 really made me doubt whether progress was possible at 40. Now being 41 I'm certain it is! I also wanna shout out many thanks to Maddie for her support - she's always there with me, rain or shine. Many thanks also to all the other people who came out, shared their motivation, and made this an awesome time.”
So how can you explain sending your hardest route 40+? 1) I think there's always so many aspects to climbing a hard route. First and foremost, I believe it's about motivation, an obsession if you will. It's crazy what's possible once you really set your mind on it. And I really, really wanted to climb the route. It's a beauty.
2) I'm always amazed by people ticking 8Cs left and right supposedly by climbing barely two days a week without any structured training. For me, that's certainly not the case. A typical day in the last weeks leading up to the send would look like a mellow 10k run plus some callisthenics exercises, followed by an hour and a half of yoga (I started practising 10 years ago), then an hour and a half of near max bouldering at my climbing wall (partially with a weight vest), and finally some weighted pull-ups, hangs, and core exercises. The next day I would spend on the project, and in the evening I would do more strength exercises (though at a reduced volume). Then repeat the circle for a total of 5-6 climbing days per week. Sometimes I would even go back to the crag on rest days and climb a ton of easy pitches just to get a better feel for the rock (I must have spent hundreds of days up there). It's important to say that I really build-up to this regimen. So I felt in some sort of balance or equilibrium, gaining just a little bit of fitness with each and every day. It was also paramount for me that other aspects of my life were in order (I feel that's certainly not entirely in our hands and needs a bit of luck and the right timing - see below).
3) Staying injury-free was key. It for sure needed a little bit of luck and I do believe it needs a bit of luck in general to send your hardest route. In the summer I had some elbow issues and I stumbled upon a nice vlog from Dave MacLeod were he concludes that systematic and daily strength exercises solved the problem for him. And it actually solved it for me as well.
4) Being at the right place at the right time. It ties in with what I mentioned about the extra bit of luck I needed. We had a bomber fall, followed by an exceptional winter. Sunny days on end, with cold and dry conditions. We barely got any snow in the mountains so far, and that's very unusual. It also seemed like perfect timing cause it's supposed to snow all week.
5) Inspiration: I just recently watched the pipe masters (surfing is another passion of mine) and saw Kelly Slater being 48 making it all the way to the semis. A word-class performance enabled by exceptional talent, but also by a never-ending will to improve, experience, and a healthy lifestyle. I also enjoy watching all sorts of climbing movies, for example, Magnus' incredible displays of strength. Or all the young local crushers! I mean they are doing one-arm pull-ups with 50 pounds extra. That really helps against becoming complacent and thinking that one's strength levels couldn't be improved.
Drew Ruana, finishing #13 in the Combined World Championship of 2019, had ascended one 8B+ when he stopped competing in last October. That meant he skipped the Continental Olympic qualifying event. Now, 15 months later, he has done 30 boulders 8B+ and harder including four 8C+, although starting full-time University Chemical engineering studies in September. The 21-year-old was awarded the title of 8a male boulderer of 2020. (c) Alton Richardson
How can you explain the extreme progress you made in 2020?
I didn’t really make progress I think, I was always that strong. It was just the first time I had time to invest on boulders. I’m just not that good at comp climbing compared to outdoors.
How important was the Olympic comp training?
I got physically stronger in a weight room but that was about it. Pressure training on sending a comp boulder in 5 minutes doesn’t translate to working a single move on a crux Boulder for weeks on end.
How did a normal week look like in 2020, including training?
Wake up, if I feel good I go outside to whatever I feel like. Usually, I’d just pick a project that looked cool and try it till I did it. I stopped training in general actually. I just liked being outside more than in a gym.
Which was your most memorable send in 2020?
Probably Sleepwalker (8C+) because I didn’t fully believe that I could send v16. Then I did it in 7 or 8 days and It didn’t feel all too hard so I knew that I could do way harder boulders.
How were you and your climbing affected by Covid-19?
I was lucky enough to not be too affected by Covid. I kept to myself and tried to stay isolated from other groups of people. Only went to boulders that I knew nobody else would be at.
What are your plans and ambition for 2021?
I’d like to just keep doing more new fun boulders, I just like being outside.
Any advice you can give to youngsters who want to progress?
Think long term. I switched my thinking habits from monthly progress to yearly progress. Also, nobody ever does enough. You can always push just a little bit harder.
Pol Roca Lopez, who has previously done two 8C's and eight 8B+', reports on Insta that he has done the FA of Purple Panther (8C) in Taradell. (c) Chris Sharma
"It was a long process. Chris Sharma and I saw this project and he was motivated to clean it up and leave it ready to test. After a long time, we found the method, the next part of the battle began which took about 3 months! It is a very physical and explosive block but at the same time technical for the feet! The first five moves are really intense but not very hard. The second part is the crux including two moves out of which one very hard. The third part is also intense, where it is easy to make mistakes. Putting all this together is hard!
Chris is close to send it. We have previously put up ten boulders in the 8th grade. There are still a lot of projects in the same area and some even more difficult!"
Martin Stranik has the last week done two 8B+ FAs: Leda Kost Low in Moravský kras and Teorie Tygra in Vesec . The latter is seen in the picture above. Stranik, who's also silver medalist in the World Championship of 2007, comments to 8a:
"It was minus 3 degrees, but no wind, so not cold. It took me three sessions. One session figuring out the moves, second session close to send and yesterday first go from the start. It was heavy snowing but fortunately, there is easy top out. I am just breathing into my hand for some 30sec, then I climb. I have more problem with my feet and stiff shoes. Friction in these temperatures is unique."
In total, the 30-year-old Czech has now done 65 boulders 8B+ and 8C. In the 8a annual ranking game, he is #4 including having done 17 FAs 8B and harder. Last year he also did his first 8c+ and 9a, so one might wonder how he could be so productive recently. "Just keep my training and motivation;) and maybe I am a bit more relaxed with my climbing goals because of little twins, they are the most important now."
Marine Thevenet reports through a video on Instagram that she has ascended I Portici (8A+) in Osogna. She finished #7 in the World Cup of 2014, and has in total ascended 61 boulders 8A to 8B+, mainly in the last two years. (c) Clement Lechaptois
"We went to this isolated boulder when the sun came back on Ticino! After 3 days in the snow, it was so exciting to find a dry boulder! We warmed up in the boulder trying the easiest movements at the beginning, then by linking some sections. And I sent it on the first go from the ground. The psyched was high :) It was really cold, so to keep me warm I have a full of tricks! Climb a lot / no big rest / put on and put off climbing shoes really often to feel the toes / have tea and chocolate and... last but not least: bring a sleeping bag to the spot :) I used it like a plaid when I rested. It was -2* ❄️🥶"
Stefano Ghisolfi has after 20+ days of projecting done the FA of Erebor 9b/+ in Arco. In total the Italian has now done nine routes 9b and harder including two 9b+'. (c) Sara Grippo
"It took me a lot of time, but I finally did it. Erebor is no more a project and became reality last Friday, with super cold weather and numb fingers I was able to climb the very first route I bolted in my life!
It has been a crazy process, begun after the first lockdown, bolted with the help (and the drill) of @sevescassa and tried for the first time last June, I immediately realized it was nearly impossible. After summer I started trying some attempts but only in the new year, I was able to clip the chain, after falling at the last moves more than 10 times.
In my opinion, I never climbed in Italy something as hard as this route, but I still think it doesn't reach the full 9b+ comparing it to Change (9b+) or Perfecto Mundo. Therefore my grade suggestion is 9b/+ that makes it the hardest route in Italy and my proudest first ascent, and I'm looking forward to someone will come and repeat it soon!
Last but not least, this is the "easier" variant of the route, and I already bolted a much harder version. This is another story (but I already thought "The Lonely Mountain" project would be a great name for that one."
What are your current 2021 plans?
Training for competitions and projects. Just lead climbing this year. I'd like to try Bibliographie or Silence and see if one of them is possible for me and try the harder version of Erebor.
Théo Blass, who last became the youngest ever to have reached 8c, has done one more, Guère d'usure in Claret. His father Vladimir comments, "Claret is a beautiful and rather old school crag in the South of France famous for its hard grading and big but relatively safe (if you have a good belayer) runouts. Most route names are well thought through, funny and original and involve a degree of double meaning or play on words. "Guere d'usure" phonetically means "war of attrition" but the grammatical meaning is something like "hardly any wear".
(c) Laurent Dormont
Here are some further thoughts from Vladimir from last year when Théo had done his first 8c.
"Theo started climbing more regularly when he was 8 (he was climbing before, but quite irregularly). His progression was quite interesting: it took him a few months of projecting to send his first 6b+ (on top rope) and then he progressed from 6b+ to 8b in less than a year and a half. His training is a bit chaotic and highly dependent on motivation, time of the year and availability of other more fun activities (such as mountain biking, skiing or building a shack in the garden). At the beginning of the lockdown he trained a lot at our small home bouldering wall but then he lost motivation and did not train for a month.
From the dad's perspective, there are two key takeaways from the experience of belaying, watching, encouraging, counselling, supporting and occasionally arguing with Theo about beta: (1) adult grades are a bit of a nonsense when it comes to kids - two of the hardest moves on the route for Theo are among the easiest for adults - so not worth getting too excited about grades (especially when you are under 1m40); (2) even if fear, frustration and failure are part of the game, climbing kids of the world, enjoy every moment of climbing, projecting, trying hard, sending and try to have fun, and confidence - the future belongs to you."
Giorgio Tomatis has done his fourth 9a, Estado Critico in Siurana after some 15 days projecting over two trips. In regards, Covid-19 Tomatis says he had to do tests before and after returning back home to Italy. Also during his stay, they made precautions.
"I had started trying this route on Christmas holidays last year with my friend Marcello Bombardi who had already done it a few years ago. This year thankfully the climatic conditions were a little better and I managed to close it after about 15 attempts. I think it's the most beautiful route I've ever done.
I think the helmet is a very important thing because a bad fall could lead to serious damage if you hit your head somewhere something that with the helmet would not involve any risk, I will certainly always continue to use it because safety is first and a good helmet does not compromise the performance. "
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