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Interview: Alex Megos Discusses the First Ascent of Bibliographie (9c, 5.15d)

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Last week, Alex Megos made climbing history by completing the first ascent of Bibliographie (9c, 5.15d). It is the second route of the grade ever, after Adam Ondra’s Silence. The line, located just right of Biographie in Céüse, Francewas bolted by Ethan Pringle in 2009 and follows 35-meters of overhung limestone. Megos began projecting it in 2017. He redpointed after around 60 days of effort.

Megos answered questions about his ascent via email:

Can you describe the climbing on the Bibliographie?

Alex Megos: The first section of the route is a powerful 5.14a. There is a rest about 10 moves before the boulder problem in the middle. The boulder problem itself is four moves, around V12. After the boulder problem there are still 25 moves to go, and I’d say that part is around 5.14d. The whole route consists of crimps and pockets and is a lot of power endurance.

Being so close to Biography, do the two routes have similarities?

Biographie is known as this amazing blue streak of limestone with perfect rock. The reality, though, is that Biographie is starting to get a little polished because it’s such a good route and so many people have been trying it. Bibliographie is, for sure, very similar to Biographie in terms of rock quality and style, especially in the upper part, but Bibliographie is also not polished at all! That made me realize how Biographie must have looked at the beginning.

Biographie has a pumpy section into a boulder with an OK rest in between. Bibliographie has a pumpy start into a boulder into a pumpy top out with a poor rest.

You mentioned on Instagram that this route took more specific training than your Perfecto Mundo (5.15c) first ascent. What did that entail?

Ray Demski/Red Bull Content Pool

For Perfecto Mundo, I just didn’t do any specific training at all. I was training for the bouldering World Cup circuit and participated in [the Switzerland event]. From there I drove to Spain to try Perfecto Mundo.

For Bibliographie I actually started doing specific preparations. My training mostly involved doing endurance circuits. But apart from optimizing my climbing training, I tried to optimize everything around [the route] too.

I only stayed in Ceüse two weeks at a time to not drain my energy too much. I asked Ethan Pringle if I could change the position of a few bolts to make the clipping positions a bit easier. And last but not least, I got a couple of e-bikes from Cube to make the approach a little less tiring, which actually helped a lot to save the energy for climbing. 

At what point did you realize you were close to redpointing the route?

It wasn’t until the second week of the sending trip that I realized I was close. Passing the boulder problem in the middle and climbing to four moves before the top gave me a huge confidence boost. I knew it could happen that trip if everything went well. The first week of the trip, though, didn’t make me believe that it could happen that trip.

What did it feel like when you clipped the chains?

I felt a huge relief that all the hard work finally paid off! At times I was not sure if this moment would ever come, so actually clipping the chains made me realize this whole chapter has come to and end—a happy end! 

On Instagram, you often seem like you’re having a lot of fun, but in the Rotpunkt documentary, you talk about how you struggle with failure and feel a lot of pressure to succeed. Did you deal with any of those mental challenges while working Bibliographie?

[Ed. Watch the film here.]

I think nobody ONLY has fun or ONLY struggles. But I think social media is a very deceiving platform with great potential to manipulate and can easily lead to wrong assumptions. That’s what a lot of people are not aware of. Professional athletes are as human as everyone else. We all struggle with stuff, and we all have to work on it. I think with getting older, I can deal with failure and pressure much better. I don’t know if it’s an age thing, but let’s just pretend it is, otherwise age really doesn’t have any advantages at all. 😉

Do you have any other projects that are of this level of difficulty or harder?

At the moment I don’t have any further projects. It’s not easy to find something that’s just on the limit, but still possible. Finding such a project will always remain rare, I think. Also, with the current coronavirus situation, it is hard to plan anything.

Finally, did you eat all of those pizzas yourself? (I hope so.)

Let’s say I sampled a piece of every one of the 12. It was nice celebrating that evening with some friends on the campground before heading back the next day.

Le Crux Pizza, Céüse