Here's Ten Cents, my Two Cents are Free!

posted by dpm on 05/06/2009

Here's Ten Cents, my Two Cents are Free!

Adam Ondra Interview by Anthony Laponardo

Although only 16, Adam Ondra sprays like a weathered climber who is celebrating their 50th.  You will not find an over dramatization filled with pubescent rants, simply the straight truth, and sometimes the truth hurts.  Take it or leave but Adam Ondra is laying down his two cents and setting the record straight about Worlds, chipping, and grading.

DPM:  World Cup is looming how do you gear up for that?  Any specific training or is it climbing as usual?

Adam: I would like to participate in all lead stages and just two of the bouldering stages. I just got back from first bouldering World Cup without any training (well, I practiced twice on plastic and before I had been mostly rope climbing) I took third place! But my main target is lead. The first competition starts in July with World Championship in China, so I will have plenty of time to train in June to get ready for it. Last weekend during bouldering WC in Hall, I took it more like a fun trip, I just wanted try it. But the lead will be serious.

The routes which are set nowadays are mainly just about endurance, so in June I will train endurance on plastic during mid-week and many routes on the rock at the weekends. I think it is also very important to get used climbing on plastic holds, because when I get back from long trip and go on the plastic, the surface of the holds feels very strange, you never know when you slip off. Otherwise I am not planning to do any other special training besides climbing.

DPM: You recently made a trip out to Italy how does the routes you climbed on compare to the cliffs of Spain where you have been dispatching numerous 8c+s and 9a's?

Adam: I think that the grade in Italy or Austria is slightly harder than in Spain in general, but during my last visit of Spain I felt Dani (Andrada) and Chris have become stiffer in grading recently. There is big difference between 9a put up by Dani 5 years ago and couple of 9a's put up by Chris. Action Directe (FA in 1991) should be a benchmark nowadays for 9a, even though it was labeled an 8c+/9a, when it was freed. In the 90's, everybody hesitated to give their routes the grade 9a, because they considered Action Directe to be only 8c+/9a. So if somebody did a hard FA, he asked himself: Can it be harder than Action Directe? Just very few answers were yes.

After 2000, the grade 9a became less "impossible" for climbers to comprehend, and first ascensionist did not hesitate to call their new routes 9a, even though the route took little effort to send it. That led to inflation, especially in Spain. Today, I think we realized that 9a's from 90's are somehow harder in comparison with the new era 9a's and grading is getting stiffer again.

DPM: Controversy is everywhere in the climbing world and one of the biggest problem is "chipping."  Lately you and Chris chose to either skip manufactured holds or report the use of them.  How should we look at chipping? Are we were orally irresponsible or do you think that was the way of the times in certain areas?

Adam: The headless chipping, which you can find in many "old school" crags are much less common today, which is very positive. But, I think the number of totally natural first ascents are not increasing. Why? Because it is very difficult to find an overhanging wall without using SIKA (glue) to reinforce the holds. Even in Spain. Rodellar, Santa Linya, the rock is not perfect... Sometimes you make much better holds after hammering out the loose stones, sometimes you make it harder.

In any case, I do not think it is a problem to use SIKA in bad rock to reinforce the holds, even if it is manipulation with the rock in some way. In my opinion the worst thing is when somebody chips a few holds in order to make it a homogenous 8b instead of a bouldery 9a. OK, many climbers will be satisfied with another pumpy and monotonous 8b, more climbers can climb it, but would not it be better to leave it in totally natural state than satisfy average climbers? Climbers should be happy for what nature gave them and accept that everything is not ideal.

DPM: Were you once fined for using chalk?  What is the story behind that?  Who is funding your travels?  Sponsors, or, do you also claim grant money? And, do you think that is an area where climbers should see more support?

Adam: It is very complicated story. In my country, chalk is forbidden on sandstone officially. But, the real situation is different. 95% of people who climb more than 7a use chalk there. Chalk on hard routes does not matter to most traditional climbers, but they are scared of finding some white (chalked) easy climbs, which might happen, because these routes are the most climbed. In the last 30 years, all hardcore climbers have climbed with chalk, and it has been more or less tolerated. But, officially it was prohibited. So, I was that one who everybody could see because I was the most famous. The Czech Mountaineering Association punished me by "prohibition of climbing with parole". That means, if I climbed there again with chalk, my association would not let me compete in official competitions, where you represent your country (World Cup, World championships etc.). Fortunately, this year chalk is not forbidden by the association itself, but in most of areas the prohibition remains because the environmentalist do not want to allow it.

As far as funding goes, my sponsors and parents pay for my travel. Czech Mountaineering Association pays some for some traveling to competitions, but sometimes they do not have enough money, so I must pay myself.

DPM: Any plans in the near future to make it to the United States?  Anything out here either a boulder problem or route that has you psyched?

Adam: Yeah. Maybe in the next 10 years I will check out Yosemite and the Buttermilks! There are too many places and projects to go still in Europe!