Adam Ondra: "Someone Will Climb a 10a-Route - but Not Me"

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The climber Adam Ondra is considered one of the best sportsmen in the world. By being the first to conquer a route with a difficulty of 9c, he pushed the boundaries of what is possible not only for himself, but for all climbers. At ISPO Munich Online, he is the special live guest at the screening of the film "The A.O." about himself. The Czech spoke with about how to motivate yourself as an athlete when it has become very difficult to become even better.

Adam Ondra auf der ISPO 2020
Adam Ondra is considered the best climber in the world.

Adam Ondra interview

Adam Ondra will be a live guest in the free public stream on Wednesday, February 3, 2021 from 7:50 p.m. as part of ISPO Munich Online. In the film screening of "The A.O." we learn more about the forces that drive the climbing talent to new heights.

Silence climbing route You are the first climber in the world to have completed a route with a difficulty level of 9c. In order to climb the Adam Ondra Silence route in the Hanshelleren cave in Norway, you spent two years analysing the route and trained like obsessive. How important is it for you to do something that no one has ever done before?
Adam Ondra: For me it's more like the icing on the cake. It's not about doing something that no one has done before - but about doing something that I haven't done yet. And if this happens to be the hardest route in the world - so much the better. At a certain point it becomes demotivating when you compare yourself with others. One must always want to improve oneself.


„When I climb, I am my true, inner self.”

You have given the rating 9c to the route itself, thus creating a level of difficulty that has never been seen before. So far, no one has been able to climb the route to confirm this. Who should do this?
I really hope that somebody will try it sometime. 9c as a difficulty level is my suggestion, it is not confirmed. And it's not written in stone that it's a 9c. But I did most of the 9b+ routes and 9bs and I still had to work so much harder than for any other route I've done in my life. That's why I had the courage to rate it as a 9c.

You once described the perfect state of mind when climbing as "being in the zone". How does this zone feel?
When I start climbing and really feel in the zone, it is as if everything is automatic. When you start thinking about what to do next, you can't do things in the right flow. I feel incredibly good at climbing because I've been doing it for so many years and have worked so hard on my intuition that I can trust it, even when I climb routes for the first time. In the Zone, I feel present while my rational mind is simultaneously switched off. Then I am my true inner self.

What brings you into the Zone?
There's no prescription. Sometimes it happens, sometimes it doesn't. The more I look forward to climbing, the better it is. The less nervous I am during a competition, the better. What definitely helps is when I am impressed and inspired and think while viewing a route:Wow, I've got to try this route.The decisive moment is when I lift my foot from the ground and start climbing and everything works out. Only then do I lose the pressure.

Hardest climbing route

By achieving a 9c climbing grade, you have not only pushed the limits for yourself, but for all climbers. Do you think you can go further?

That's very difficult. If we talk about the numbers, there is perhaps a small chance that I will climb 9c+. Someone will surely climb a 10a one day, but not me - I am quite sure of that. Maybe my children!

Why not you?
At the moment I can't imagine that I will ever achieve such a great improvement. It looks as if there is only a small difference between 9c and 10a, but in reality it is very big. Here is an analogy: If you run 100 meters in 14 seconds, it is easy to improve by 5 percent. But if you run the distance in 10 seconds, it is very, very difficult to get better.

Climbing is not only about physical fitness, the mind must also be in top form. Are you ever afraid?
Sometimes. But I have experienced so much and climbed so much that most of the time I know that it is safe. If I know that it is a safe route, I am not afraid of a fall - even if it would be a 20 meter fall. But there are two types of fears: the fear of falling and the fear of failure. I often fear failure. I try very hard in training, so everything has to be perfect. When you fail, it's painful.

You have become a role model. What responsibility does this entail?
I feel a great responsibility to preserve what our sport is. Climbing should remain a sport with so many different areas. It's great that there are climbing gyms and cracks that are safe. But it is also important that the adventure continues for those of us who seek it. Our cracks and mountains are big enough for both types of climbing.

Adam Ondra at the Meet & Greet with fans at the ISPO Munich 2020
Image credit:
Messe München GmbH

Ondra: We Must Enlighten Newcomers to the Rock

Climbing and bouldering have developed from niche sports to a popular sport. Are you afraid that this development could end up with overcrowded and littered routes?
Sure, climbing is very popular today, but only in some areas. Indoor climbing has become very popular, also bouldering and sport climbing. But it will continue to attract few to go into the mountains to find a remote route. But we as a climbing community have a responsibility to show the people who come out of the climbing halls how they should behave outdoors and that they are now in nature - and that they should treat them well.

Climbing has now become an Olympic discipline. How will Tokyo change the sport in 2020?
I believe it will make climbing even more popular and, above all, will change indoor sports considerably. In the last five years the number of climbers in the bouldering halls has increased massively. We have to be careful that the sport doesn't grow too fast and especially teach newcomers to rock climbing, but I don't think it will change the outdoor part of the sport. When climbing outdoors, the change is very small.

You are considered the best climber in the world. How do you motivate yourself when you have no one left to look up to?
Don't worry, there is always someone in each area who is at a very similar level. And when we talk about the Olympic Games in Tokyo, there are even some competitors who are even more likely than me to win gold.

Your screams during climbing are your trademark. Are there situations where you scream when you don't climb?
No, I don't like fighting. I think I really only scream when I'm climbing.