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It began Sunday, November 20, when the weather turned in Moravian Karst, Czech Republic. Adam Ondra had been waiting.
“There were quite a few days when I would just show up at the crag to find out the rock was [coated in] condensation, as it is close to the cave where there’s always a cold breeze,” he says to Climbing. “If the night is really cold and then all of a sudden it gets much warmer during the day, which was exactly the weather that we had in October and November, then the rock gets condensation.” When Ondra sent, it was a crisp 32 degrees Fahrenheit.
Ondra’s new 5.15c, Zvěřinec, meaning “menagerie,” adds a hard 5.15a start to Perlorodka (9a+/5.15a), a line that he FA’ed in 2011 after about 10 days of effort—which he admits was a lot for him for the grade. “I basically didn’t give it 9b because I thought that skipping a grade at my home crag would be would be wrong.”
Ondra says he’d previously used Zvěřinec’s start for training, combining it with different linkups and even adding an 8B (V13) sit start. That experience helped, says Ondra, as he had tried parts of Zvěřinec across about 30 days in total before even putting in redpoint goes on the full link.
The first 25 moves are punchy; you can’t really stop. Ondra says it took him just over a minute to get through that part of the route. The 9a+ is followed up by a rest, then a “sketchy traverse,” which Ondra says could be 7A (V6), then another rest, and a final 8B+ (V14) boulder problem. Because the cruxes are so continuous, Ondra estimates climbing the whole route—25 meters, or 80 feet—only took him about seven minutes.
“The biggest challenge is to climb the 9a+ and not get too tired, and then recover as much as possible to do the last 8B+ crux,” says Ondra. “I thought the crux was mostly this one really hard move: a sidepull with bad, strange feet and a big move into the left-hand gaston. But it turned out if you come from the ground, the fatigue kicks in, and the real crux is this big slap off these improbable slopers. (From the left-hand gaston, you take one intermediate, a second intermediate, and bump into the final sloper.) I think these few moves are the real crux of the whole route.” In an attempt that was heartbreakingly close, Ondra fell at the top while pulling over a lip. “I just completely pumped out.”
Ondra tried Zvěřinec back in April for seven days. He tried it again in the autumn for four days. In terms of his hardest accents, Ondra said that the testpiece came second only to Silence (5.15d).
Ondra has done three other 5.15c routes: Change, in Flatanger, Norway; La Dura Dura, in Oliana, Spain; and Vasil Vasil, in Sloup, Czech Republic. In total, he’s also climbed 22 5.15bs.
Homecrag Moravian Karst is only 37 minutes from Ondra’s house, which is convenient when you’re a new dad. Baby Hugo was born in May. “Balancing training with being a dad has been awesome,” says Ondra. “It’s really convenient to combine climbing at my home crag with training in the gym.” Ondra often climbs outside in the morning and trains at home in the afternoon.
Days after Ondra’s ascent of Zvěřinec, he took down another local project: Pohár Nesmrtelnosti (Prodloužení)—or Cup of Immortality (Extension)—and gave it a grade of V15/16. He had begun the day in Moravian Karst with a quick flash of Vnitřní Svět Vítězů (V12). He drove to nearby Sloup and set to work adding a few moves from the somewhat arbitrary end of Pohár Nesmrtelnosti (V12 or V14, depending on where you start) to a logical finishing rail. Ondra had been struggling to unlock the sequence since the spring. In the end, he used a technical, slippery kneebar to get it done. The extension alone, he says, may be V11 or V12.
In addition to Cup of Immortality (Extension), Ondra has ticked four V16’s and sixteen V15’s. The last time he ticked V16, in 2020, he sent two over the course of two days: Brutal Rider and Ledoborec, in Sloup and Moravian Karst, respectively.
Ondra rounded out his week with his fourth 5.14d onsight, Water World, in the Osp Cave in Slovenia. Ondra was the second person in history to onsight the grade, after Alex Megos, who sent Estado Critico in Siurana, Spain in March 2013. Months later, Ondra onsighted Cabane au Canada in Switzerland. In 2014, he onsighted two other 5.14d’s: Il Domani, in Baltzola, Spain, and TCT, in Gravere, Italy. Perhaps more famously, in 2018 Ondra flashed 5.15a—Super Crackinette in Saint-Léger du Ventoux, France.
Next up for Ondra: more local projects. He has his eyes on a multipitch project close to home on a wall that has never before been free climbed. In December, he’s looking forward to resting in order to be ready for hard training in January. He has some plans for outdoor trips, but he will focus on qualifying for Paris 2024.
But with dad duties looming, we had to ask: Any plans of ever slowing down?
“No, I don’t think so,” he says. “You know, I still feel young and I still feel I have many years to push my boundaries. I think being a dad will not slow my wife and I down. And we are definitely very happy if Hugo will be accompanying us at the crags as well. So far, he seems to like being at the crag, or even in the gym.”