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Failure is Always an Option: Watch Adam Ondra Battle 5.15b’s in Canada

Part III of Reel Rock's "Age of Ondra" asks how one of the world’s best rock climbers chooses his goals, deals with setbacks, and insists on progress.

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“Age of Ondra” is available to all Outside+ members, part of an extensive library of climbing and adventure sport films found in the Outside App. Watch the full film, or download the app here.

Part One of Reel Rock’s “Age of Ondra” follows Adam Ondra from his early years to his FA of Silence (5.15d). Part Two takes us through Canada, Spain, and France as he tries to flash a 5.15a. Part Three picks up with Adam in Canada, after his failed flash attempt of Honour and Glory (5.15a), and focuses on his battles against two 5.15b’s.

His first objective is Fight Club, one of Canada’s toughest routes. Though it took Alex Megos five days to complete the first ascent, Ondra, in maniacal Ondra fashion, decides to try to send it in just one day.

His vision is impressive. Ondra takes his time trying to dial in each move, then attempts the climb again and again, tweaking his beta as he goes. (Spoiler alert: the insane drop knee does not turn out to be the most difficult bit). We’re with him as he carefully inspects thumb-catches and tiny three-finger pinches. We’re with him, too, as he doubts himself.

“Failure is part of climbing,” he says, “and it’s part of every climbing progression. Because failure is how you learn.”

After Fight Club, Ondra shifts his attention to a new project: a short, vertical 5.15b that initially seems almost as uninspiring as it is featureless. Ondra admits that the climb is “definitely weird,” in part because all the holds seem to be facing the wrong way. Ondra calls it a V10 boulder problem up to the crux, which becomes even more heinous once he breaks off an important crimp. But it’s all about the complexity of the moves for him.

Age of Ondra Part Three is a masterclass—an opportunity to watch an elite athlete leverage beta in all its minutiae to achieve his goals. Will Ondra out-beta flat concrete? Or will he fail yet again? How does the world’s best climber cope with setbacks and doubt?

Watch Age of Ondra Part Three.