Vadim Vinokur sends Underground (5.14d)

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This wasn't supposed to be a redpoint trip. But with the World Cup in Imst, Austria over and a few days till his flight back to New York, Vadim Vinokur decided to give Underground one more try. Three previous short visits to the famous testpiece in Arco, Italy had ended in just-one-more-move failures. This time around Vinokur had a different attitude: no pressure, no expectations. On a sunny afternoon, fueled by espresso from one of Arco's favorite climber cafes, he descended into the chilly cave and roped up. A few long starting moves lead to a good rest and then a V10 boulder problem that is complicated by a difficult clip. The ground is never more than 15 feet below throughout the 70 feet of near-horizontal climbing. Tomasz Mrazek, the Czech World Champion, actually skipped that clip - but he probably has better health insurance. Yuji Hirayama was the first to complete the route, and Vinokur used his "bat-hang" rest. "I wonder if it hurt Yuji's feet as much as it did mine?" A dubious repose before the real biz that doesn't let up till the anchor. "One cool move after another," says Vinokur of this 25 foot section. A V8 boulder problem segues into a V10. There is no room for error, only the perfect body position and meticulous execution of rehearsed moves will work. And these boulder sequences are only interrupted by two sketchy dynos to limestone slopers. And then, when your heart is pumping hardest, you emerge from the cave to a rush of warm air and the technical crux. "I fell on the top so many times," admits Christian Bindhammer, the third climber to conquer Underground. Vinokur had spent many hours in World Cup isolation dissecting these sequences with the German uber-climber. "I tried to keep the pump out of my head and not focus on the fact that I had blown that section a dozen times, even after a good rest." But this time Vinokur stuck the moves over the lip, did the match and a few tweaky moves later clipped the anchors; the fourth person to have done so. "I gave it everything I had, and then some."