Golden Piton 2013: Climb of the Year

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

Thanks to Big Up Productions and the Reel Rock Tour, La Dura Dura was one of the world’s most famous sport climbs long before it was redpointed. The 2012 film, also called La Dura Dura, highlighted the friendly competition between Chris Sharma and Adam Ondra to set a new level of difficulty. “The two strongest climbers in the world go head to head in Catalunya, Spain, vying to establish the planet’s first 5.15c,” promised the promo copy.

Never mind that Ondra, the 19-year-old Czech phenom, was already hard at work on a route that actually would become the first 5.15c: Change in Flatanger, Norway, which Ondra redpointed in October 2012. By then, the rivalry had hit more than 400 theaters worldwide, and when Ondra and Sharma returned to La Dura Dura in early 2013, their every move lit up the Internet.

Sharma, 32, had discovered, cleaned, and bolted the 40-meter line in Oliana, Spain, years earlier: a deliberate effort to take the next step in sport climbing’s evolution. But Sharma soon came to feel the climb might be too difficult. When Ondra showed up in Oliana, Sharma encouraged him to go for it, and then got re-inspired to work the climb himself.

Ondra was first to do La Dura Dura, sending on February 7 (he had just turned 20) after five trips to Oliana in 18 months. He said it was definitely harder than Change, but still 9b+. Would Sharma now lose interest? No way. As he told Planet Mountain, “I’d practically written the route off, and when [Adam and I] decided to work it together, he brought it back to life. We fed off each other’s motivation.” With Sharma’s send on March 23, the climbing world had its Hollywood ending.

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