On the up-and-up: Czech rock climber sets new record scaling Dawn Wall

Adam Ondra, photo: CTK

Those who hadn’t heard of Czech climber Adam Ondra before most likely will remember his name now: the 23-year-old this week became the second person in the world to complete a free-ascent of the Dawn Wall, an almost kilometre high mountain face on El Capitan in Yosemite National Park in the United States. What’s more, Ondra did so in just eight days, an improvement of 11 on the previous record.

Adam Ondra,  photo: CTK
In recent years, rock climbing has become more and more popular in the Czech Republic and even newcomers with a growing a passion for the sport will likely be familiar with the feats of Adam Ondra, an athlete who began climbing at the age of six. Today, Ondra is considered one of the strongest climbers in the world, being the only competitor to have won the World Championships in two disciplines: lead and bouldering – both in 2014. He has a similar record in the World Cup, which he also won in both disciplines but in different years.

Now, Ondra is in the record books again, having scaled the Dawn Wall. Although he is not the first to have free-climbed the rock face (that honour belongs to US climbers Tommy Caldwell and Kevin Jorgeson), he did so in record time: just eight days compared to their 19. During the ascent, he and his back-up, Pavel Blažek, slept in a tent hitched to the cliff face. Prior to embarking on the attempt to conquer the wall, Adam Ondra gave this interview to Czech TV. Here is how he described the situation ahead of the climb:

Adam Ondra,  photo: CTK
“Climbing something like the Dawn Wall is different from competitions where it is all solely about one’s strength. I spent three or four weeks on the spot to get used to the California granite: it has its own specificities and doesn’t have a lot of grip. You have to rely on somewhat different holds.”

Ondra also told Czech TV more about the discipline of free-ascent: essentially, ropes are used only for safety, to catch one’s fall, not to aid upward progress. Everything else is strength balance intelligence and practice. The climb had 32 pitches, or sections. He told Czech TV more about the climbing process as he and his partner prepared for the ascent:

El Capitan,  photo: CTK
“It is relatively warm here so we [climbed] mostly in the afternoons when the sun is behind us, and even at night. At night you sleep in a tent which is on what is called a porta ledge, which is of metal and fabric and is relatively comfortable. If you’re not lying down, you’re climbing.”

Adam Ondra added that he and Blažek had a solar panel along to be able to charge up their cell phones, to be able to post the progress of their climb on the social networks, filming videos even from their perch before the final push for the top.