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Back in 2020, during the early phase of the pandemic, Jorge Díaz-Rullo parked his van outside La Cova de l’Ocell, near Barcelona, and set his sights on Chris Sharma’s classic V14 boulder-route: Catalan Witness the Fitness. Having spent the previous several months training in lockdown, Díaz-Rullo put the climb down quite fast, then set his sights on a bigger objective: El Bon Combat, a 5.15b established by Chris Sharma in 2015.
Sharma initially graded the line 5.15b/c, which made it one of his hardest routes to date (he’d sent La Dura Dura, 5.15c, two years earlier), but later Austria’s Jakob Schubert repeated the line in 2018, shortly after winning that year’s World Cup lead and combined seasons, and suggested that it might be as easy as stiff 5.15a. A year later, Brazil’s Philip Camargo sent the route and said that, to him, it felt more like low-end 5.15b. All of the ascensionists agree on one thing, however: regardless of the grade, the 80-foot conglomerate route is absolutely classic.
Díaz-Rullo spent sixty days camped alone in his van above the cliff. Some days, he found climbers willing to belay him. Other days, he went bouldering. After more than 30 days on the route, and just days before his twenty-first birthday, he finally stuck the stopper crux move from the ground and took it to the top. A film documenting Díaz-Rullo’s process, La Perfección del Movimiento, was made by Adri Martinez and has just been released. (Video below.)
Prior to his send, Díaz-Rullo had already established himself as one of the world’s leading sport climbers, with roughly 15 routes 5.15a or harder under his belt, including classics like Biographie (5.15a) in Céüse, Joe Mama (5.15a) in Oliana, and Adam Ondra’s Planta de Shiva (5.15b) in Vallanueva del Rosario, Spain.
Since 2020, Díaz-Rullo has continued crushing. In addition to sending Chris Sharma’s savage First Round First Minute and making the first ascent of Café Solo—both 5.15bs in Margalef–he’s onsighted White Zombie, 5.14b, in Baltzola cave, replicating Yuji Hirayama’s historical 2004 onsight. He has also free soloed (or highball bouldered) Darwin Dixit, a 5.14a/b in Margalef first soloed by Dave MacLeod.
We supplemented the video about El Bon Combat with a brief interview with Díaz-Rullo.
Climbing: First of all, congratulations! It looks like such an epic route.
Díaz-Rullo: Thank you so much. It is a really nice route and after my first try, this turned into a dream.
Climbing: It sounds like you didn’t mean to stay in the area after you sent Catalan Witness the Fitness (V14). You were stuck there during Covid?
Díaz-Rullo: Yes exactly, I was in quarantine in Catalonia, and it was a time when you couldn’t move from the province. I did the Catalan Witness the Fitness surprisingly quickly, and since I had time to be here for this situation, I stayed to try El Bon Combat. It is an incredible route and it seemed like a very nice challenge.
Climbing: What’s it like to project such a hard climb without a dedicated partner?
Díaz-Rullo: Well, it is true that sometimes it’s hard because you are trying alone and some days you can lose your motivation. But in general, I felt very motivated in all moments, and I felt more focused with the route. But sure, after this, I am choosing projects where it’s busier and where my friends like to climb. I enjoy sharing moments with people.
Climbing: Did you do any specific training for the route?
Díaz-Rullo: Nothing, just climbing on the route. It was a time when I did almost no dedicated training. Now I have changed, and I train some seasons in the climbing gyms, and that’s why I feel stronger and I can send harder projects.
Climbing: What was the filming process like?
Díaz-Rullo: [While in] La Cova de l’Ocell, I met Adri. I was climbing for a few days with him, and he is dedicated to recording and editing videos. That’s when the idea of recording something on this route came up. Adri was motivated to capture the whole story, because he was one of the people who saw me the most during this difficult and long process.
Climbing: How do you deal with the mental challenge of a long-term project—especially one when you’re living in the same place for so long and falling on the same move repeatedly?
Díaz-Rullo: I think it becomes difficult, especially for me because I was not used to trying routes for so long, so I was learning and getting to know myself. At first, I only thought about the victory, when I was going to get it or what would happen next. I wasn’t entirely enjoying the process. But one day, I realized [this] and tried to change that. I tried to think about why I was there, why I was trying the route and why I climbed. Then I began to enjoy the failures and not get nervous about the project. I think the most important thing is to enjoy, although it is also difficult to cross that line and start to obsess and get overwhelmed….
Climbing: It looks pretty hard after the crux. Did you ever fall there from the ground?
Díaz-Rullo: Yes, it is still very hard, people say between a very short 8c or 8c+ [5.14b–5.14c], but I did so many tries and I was so confident after the crux. I never fell after. But it’s true that I can say I was a little bit lucky.