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On September 15, 27-year-old German phenom Alex Megos flashed Underground (5.14d) in Arco, Italy. Megos had been saving that particular route for a flash attempt, and despite the hot conditions that day and the fact that he’d already sent a 5.14c, he grit his teeth and went for the flash.
“I did many trips to Arco but I was always saving this one for a potential flash try,” Megos wrote on Instagram. “I thought maybe I would feel ready one day. Turns out sometimes you just have to go for it! After doing Claudio Caffè (5.14c) second try this morning I thought I might as well just go for Underground today.”
Megos has made a name for himself as one of the strongest climbers on the planet, having sent over 80 routes 5.14+ and harder. He made history earlier this year when he redpointed his years-long project Bibilographie in Céüse, France, and proposed the grade of 5.15d—only the second route ever climbed at the grade, after Adam Ondra’s Silence (5.15d).
In regards to his flash of Underground, Megos wrote: “Big thank you to Cesar Grosso for giving me perfect beta and showing me all the moves and to Dicki Korb for standing in that hole to belay us.”
Underground is a steep limestone route that climbs through three cruxes, the first being the most physically challenging and difficult to read, with hooks, jams, gastons, and weird body positioning. The line was established by Manfred Stuffer in 1998, and originally graded 5.14c. Underground has seen about 30 repeats since then. Subsequent ascensionists upgraded the route to 5.14d, though in recent years some have suggested a downgrade.
Being one of the leading authorities on hard climbs, this is what Megos had to say about the grade: “I think it’s very easy for 9a [5.14d]. 8c+/9a [5.14c/d] is definitely more appropriate. And to be honest I have already climbed lots of 8c+ [5.14c] that felt harder. It felt hard though to get all the weird moves right on the first try. I think there are probably other 8c+ [5.14c] and other 9a [5.14d] which are more straight forward.”