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Adam Ondra has arguably pushed the upper limits of climbing further than anyone else in the last decade. In 2016 alone, he climbed the hardest multi-pitch route in the world, projected a contender for the hardest sport climb in the world, and put up his 15th 5.15b or harder first ascent, earning him our 2016 Golden Piton Award as Climber of the Year.
In 2015, we awarded Tommy Caldwell and Kevin Jorgeson a Climb of the Year Golden Piton for the first ascent of the Dawn Wall. It was one of the biggest climbing stories in history, and the culmination of Caldwell’s seven-year battle with the line. For nearly two years after, the route sat untouched. Until Ondra arrived.
Ondra made quick work of the Dawn Wall on his first trip to Yosemite—ever. He completed the route in an eight-day push, topping out on November 21 and shaving 11 days off Caldwell and Jorgeson’s first ascent. It can take seasoned climbers months to adapt to Yosemite’s delicate granite style before they begin pushing their limits. Ondra topped out Yosemite’s hardest free route a mere five weeks after stepping foot in the Valley for the first time.
But Ondra did more than just repeat hard routes in 2016. He also established lines around the world. Just before leaving for Yosemite, Ondra made the first ascent of Robin Ud (5.15b), his 15th first ascent graded 5.15b or above. Ondra has by far the most 5.15b and 5.15c first ascents of any climber, many of which he sent in only a few days of effort.
Ondra could have spent the rest of the year coasting after either of the previous acheviements, but he hasn’t slowed down. He’s now working on what he believes could be the world’s first 5.15d. The route, nicknamed “Project Hard,” is in Flatanger’s Hanshelleren Cave, where he sent Change, the world’s first 5.15c in 2012. He explained what makes Project Hard so challenging in a video: “too many funky strange moves,” including “mono finger locks” and a figure-four.
If Ondra continues at his current rate he’ll have established the first 5.15d, put up a dozen other 5.15s by this time next year, and be well on his way to an entire rack of Golden Pitons.