Golden Piton 2013: Breakthrough Performance

Alex Megos on Retired Extremely Dangerous (aka the Red Project), Australia’s first 5.14d. Photo by Simon Carter

Until about 18 months ago, only climbing-news junkies knew Alex Megos, a 20-year-old from Erlangen, Germany. Like many superstars, Megos started young (age 5) and quickly moved through the competition scene. By 2012, he’d redpointed up to 9a (5.14d) and pulled off a string of impressive flashes, including Pure Imagination (8c+/5.14c) in Kentucky’s Red River Gorge.

“After finishing high school, I could fully focus on climbing and traveling,” Megos says. The result has been an unprecedented leap in standards. In March, Megos onsighted Estado Critico in Siurana, Spain, the first 9a onsight in history. (Adam Ondra had onsighted two routes graded 9a, but he downgraded both of them; he then onsighted a 9a four months after Megos.) The young German said he never expected an onsight when he started up the climb. “I just told myself I would climb as far as possible,” he says. “It was the biggest surprise of my climbing life.”

Other proud achievements include a repeat of Corona (9a+/5.15a) and the new route Classified (9a/9a+), both on his home turf in the Frankenjura. In Australia, he established the country’s hardest sport climb (9a), as well as a 5.15a bouldering link-up in the Hollow Mountain Cave.

Expect more: “At the moment, I am a full-time climber,” Megos says. “I decided to take another year off from school, because I am doing quite well right now, and I want to continue a bit before starting my studies.”

Of all the places in the world, where would you most like to climb? “For bouldering, Brione, Switzerland. For multi-pitch climbing, Madagascar. And for sport climbing, Céüse, France.”

What climber most impresses you? “Probably Adam Ondra. Some weeks ago he came to the Frankenjura, and I gave him beta for a 9a he wanted to flash. It impressed me how well he could memorize everything I showed him. During his attempt, it looked like he was trying it for the third time. Everything I told him he was able to put together perfectly. That was the most impressive thing I have seen—and really motivating!

More Golden Pitons: Climb of the Year: La Dura Dura

Look for the full Golden Pitons feature article, including dozens more climbs and climbers, in the February issue (Climbing 322).