More from the Red: Interviews with Ondra, Woods

11/21/12 - Recently, news of hard flashes and onsights have dominated the online climbing community as some of the world’s strongest climbers, like Adam Ondra, Daniel Woods, Cedric Lachat, and more, made their pilgrimage to the sandstone Mecca of difficult sport climbing, the Red River Gorge. This season was Ondra's first trip to the area. “After working on Change (5.15c) and finally sending it, I wanted to enjoy just rock climbing," he said. "And that meant getting into the onsight business again. And there aren't many well-developed areas in Europe with a vast concentration of hard climbs that I haven't been to yet. The Red River Gorge seemed to be an obvious choice for this sort of 'relaxed' trip.”

Notably, Ondra flashed/onsighted the three Red's hardest routes: Southern Smoke Direct (5.14d), Pure Imagination (5.14c), and The Golden Ticket (5.14c). Woods also managed to flash Pure Imagination and redpointed Southern Smoke Direct, and confirmed Ondra's suggested downgrade of both.

Both Woods and Ondra agreed that it’s more important for a climber to offer an honest opinion on a climb's grade, rather than simply stick to what’s printed in the guidebook. After flashing Pure Imagination, which was originally graded 5.14d, Woods said, “I think giving honest opinions on difficulty is good. If there is reason for a downgrade, then it should be made. Adam onsighted Pure Imagination and felt it was easier than previous 5.14c’s he has onsighted—he has done 14 5.14c onsights, so he should know. I felt that this line was easier than The Golden Ticket, 24 Karats (5.14c), and Southern Smoke Direct, and comparing it to Necessary Evil [considered the country's benchmark 5.14c] solidified my reasoning for not calling it 5.14d.

"Watching Adam onsight/flash the Red's hardest routes was very inspirational," he continued. "He is very smart with his climbing. I felt like a student taking in as much info from the professor as possible... Observing him helped me do these climbs faster. Adam has positive energy to be around and knows how to get the job done. He is very smart with reading sequences and not hesitating on moves... and he executes fast and efficiently with few errors."

On the topic of downgrading, Ondra told Climbing, “I do think that everybody should say as honestly as possible what he thinks about the grade of the route after the send. I wouldn't call it downgrading—I would call it a personal suggestion or opinion. It is easy to stick to the guidebook's grade, but how does it feel when you are sure that it is not as hard? It feels totally wrong for me, and that is why I didn't hesitate to say my honest opinion.

Ondra also offered a possible reason for the "soft" grades at the Red. "[Many] people aren't used to climbing on sandstone, and they are pulling on the holds with much more force than necessary. It is definitely essential to learn how to climb on this kind of rock and realize how friction-dependent the sandstone is.

"What is a grading system worth if we are not even trying to make it objective?" Ondra said. "We’re just lying to ourselves to get the highest number possible. I am always trying to compare my ascents with other benchmarks of that grade, so climbing said grade feels the same in the Red, the Alps, Norway or Spain. It seems to me that grades were really stiff in the 1980s and 90s, but then, strangely enough, inflation occurred. And what is happening right now is trying to find a point somewhere in between hardcore grades of the past and inflated grades of modern age. That means downgrading some new climbs and upgrading the old climbs.”


Previous Comments

Too bad Ondra couldn't make it to Clark Mtn. to give his opinion on Jumbo Love while he was here in the states. I think it's going to be a long time before that route gets a repeat.

daveman - 12/04/2012 1:13:27

more blah blah blah

rolo - 11/29/2012 7:11:06

camhead, actually there's talk of downgrading Era Vella, because so many climbers are sending it, in pretty fast order, too.

mall - 11/29/2012 4:58:35

@camhead first female to climb 9a? maybe the first female from the USA to climb 9a. ever heard of Josune Bereciartu? She climbed 9a in 2002. she also climbed 9a/9a+. Sasha is good, but still not that good. Also, Charlotte Durif climbed 9a before Sasha too. get your facts straight.

escalador - 11/28/2012 6:19:06

@b...Wow, I dont know how to respond to your comment with out completely berating you and having this comment deleted. Of course not... who has ever heard of a 90 yr old climbing 13d???? You were obviousely born yesterday. I love hearing about women climbers crush... Sasha D., Nina C., the list goes on and on. Personaly, unlike you, I think women climbers are sexy as hell and love hearing about their sends. I aplaud these women for pushing the limits of our sport. After all, there are a small number of human beings who can climb at the same level as these talented climbers. I will never climb at the level of these women, but it brings me great comfort to know that they can be an inspiration to young women who are entering our sport. You tell me more self help is in order??? It is obvious from your comment that you are a women hater and have no clue what hard climbing is all sad. Good luck with that, I pray for you.

Jesus C. - 11/26/2012 10:41:38

90 years old eh? And about the female climber you obviously cant handle climbing harder than you, work on it. Less finger boarding and more self help is in order.

b - 11/24/2012 4:30:49

90 years old eh?

b - 11/24/2012 4:27:06

@ Easy E Palms....thats the gist of it...and while we are at it lets adjust the old school grades as well

joejoe - 11/24/2012 10:19:51

Sasha has also climbed Era Vella, which I do not believe has gotten downgraded, and retains her status as "First female to climb 9a."

camhead - 11/24/2012 8:47:54

If you say that V17 was deemed impossible, and if something is put up that clearly and by far surpasses the previous "hardest climb," then either the impossible was climbed and a V17 was put up or every climb ever put up is suddenly downgraded to make room for your new rig.

Easy E Palms - 11/23/2012 11:04:55

the grading system needs a "hardest grade limit" to keep everything in check...basically a grade that is considered "unclimable" ...say a 5.16 would be the limit or 5.16 would be considered "unclimable" the hardest route that a human can climb would be 5.15d and then everything would get adjusted accordingly to keep from inflating the grading potentially you could have a bunch or routes getting downgraded as people climb harder rather than expanding and watering down the grades...same goes with bouldering just cap it at V16 and downgrade as you climb harder... and call V17 "unclimable"

joejoe - 11/23/2012 9:05:11

So completely rad. Adam's respect to old-school routes shows his maturity, and his insistence on having fun is contagious. I hope Americans see this not as a situation where Euros have "crushed egos", but as an inevitable transformation of the sport. We Yankees have had our moments in history, too. Jim Holloway, anyone? Some of the stuff he did back in the 70s still spits off today's best climbers.

Andy P. - 11/23/2012 9:26:25

Man thats not going to sit well with Sasha digiulian, supposed first female (American) ascent of 14d, now downgraded to "soft" 14c...Ouch!! What is going to happen with all those Adidas ads flouting her send now? Will Adidas ask for her "sending bonus" back? I bet a lot of Americain climbers are depressed now that the Euros have put our grades in check, in my opinion, long overdue. Big props to Daniel Woods too for putting grades in check at the Red. After climbing at the Red for 4 years I agree, my 90yr old grandmother can send 13d there, soft indeed.

Jesus C. - 11/22/2012 9:32:00