Adam Ondra: Salathé on-sight attempt and training for the Olympics 2020
Czech Top Climber Adam Ondra, who is getting ready for trying to achieve the third-in-a-row World Champion Title at the Innsbruck Lead Climbing competition of september 2018, talks in this interview with Czech Radio Station Radiozhurnal about his new incredible project in Yosemite and about the preparation path which will lead him to the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games.
Hello Adam, and congratulations for the achievements during you recent climbing trip to Romania. What are your plans for the future?
I’m about to leave for Canada, where I will stay for one month. After that I will start training specifically for the Innsbruck World Championship Lead competition. Next, there will be a short film in the Balkans for Czech Television. In November I plan to go back to Yosemite, where I hope to be able to complete another important ascent on El Capitan. When I’ll come back from USA I will start the preparation for the 2019 season.
Current season has been less intense and more relaxing insofar. I have decided not to take part to any competition, other than World Championships in mid-September 2018, and to keep climbing outdoor. But in the second part of the year I will have to train more and focus on competitions and indoor climbing.
Last year you have discovered multipitch climbing on Yoesemite walls, with an extraordinary achievement on the Dawn Wall. Do you already have a specfic project in your mind for this year’s trip?
On El Capitan nobody ever managed to make an on-sight ascent of a route. I thought that Salathé could be the perfect route for such an attempt, given that I have no prior beta or information. We should be able to organize the trip during this fall, probably in November.
How many days will be necessary for completing the route, considering that it took 8 days for you to summit the Dawn Wall?
These are two totally different routes and I would like to make a free on-sight ascent of the Salathe in 12 hours (laughs)! Easier routes on El Capitan can be free climbed in 12 hours. More difficult routes, like the Dawn Wall, will require much more time. I managed to climb it in 8 days, but it took 19 days for Tommy and Kevin to complete the first free ascent of the route.
The most difficult pitches of the Salathé, when free-climbed, are of 8b. They do not sound that hard on paper, but you never know what can happen after 10 hours of non-stop climbing. Furthermore you just basically have one shot and mistakes are not allowed. Last year, after having completed the ascent of the Dawn Wall, Alex Honnold offered to belay me on the Salathé, for an on-sight attempt, but the trip was over and we run out of time. Let’s hope that this year things will go better!
Five hours / day on the climbing wall at the gym
And then there is training for the next season. How is that like?
Usually I go t the gym in the morning and start with a campusing session. After that I do a bouldering power session, followed by endurance traning in the afternoon or in the evening. That’s either roped climbing or long circuits during which I try to stay on the wall as long as possible.
How long does it take?
I usually split things into three sessions, which means a total of 5 hours spent on the climbing wall every day. I do this routine 6 days per week. One day is rest day.
And how is bouldering in the gym? Do you climb on boulder problems set by somebody else?
Bouldering in the gym is the most fun and less boring training I know. The climbing wall of the Brno gym, where I usually train, has thousands of holds. I route-set boulder problems and sequences each time. I can climb some of these problems very easily, while others turn out to be impossible. Usually I figure out about 15 boulder problems. I can flash the easier ones, spend 10 or 15 minutes on each of the difficult ones and leave the impossible problems for the next day (laughs). Training and climbing in the gym is something I like very much and which I am never tired of. It’s hard work but it’s also a creative and fun process.
How often do you train in other Gyms?
I generally prefer to stick to my home Gym in Brno, which, with its huge variety of holds, allows me to change climbing style and to add countless variations and combinations of moves. The current trend, in most gyms, is to offer pre-defined boulder problems classified by colors. This allows far less combinations and possible variations. For example when I go to the gym in Prague I am generally able to finish all the hard problems and then it becomes complicate for me to route-set a different variation or combination of new moves. Sometimes, when I am training really hard, I prefer to go to the Innsbruck Gym, which has the best climbing wall in the world.
As far as I understand the Innsbruck Climbing World Championships is your major goal in 2018.
Yes, the September comp is a key challenge for me this year. I will compete both in lead and bouldering categories. I won the lead competition for the last two years in a row, so I will have to defend the title. I will compete in the bouldering comp as well, and probably that will not be easy, but I’ll try to be ready. I must say that I look forward to it, and this is good. Stress hasn’t kicked in yet, but there are still 3 more months to go, so let’s see.
You are the only climber in the world who made a 9c route. Are you able to envision a further progression in the rock climbing difficulty? Do you think that climbing harder and more difficult routes is within your reach?
The route Silence 9c has represented, in that moment, the limit of my ability and skills. I can envision harder routes, and this does not mean a totally blank and holdless wall. If, for example, we eliminate the few restpoints from Silence we already have a route which is harder than 9c. I can imagine some climber at some point being able to do it, but that development, at the moment is not within my reach. Nevertheless I am sure that there is still room for improvement in climbing. I can think to new, different and more effective ways of training or to new and more efficient ways to move the body on the rock. Rock climbing is made by a number of different factors and elements. I hope I will be able to improve some of them.
You mentioned new and more effective ways of training. Is this the reason why you are currently working with a Ballet Master? Why would you need him for?
Yes, at the moment I am working with doctor Čumpelík. He is not only a Ballet Master but also a Yoga teacher and physiotherapist. He is teaching me a new concepts for a different way of climbing. Despite the fact that he never climbed, just by watching some videos he was able to identify some weaknesses and provided suggestions on how to improve them. He is teaching me a new climbing tecnique which consists of not simply putting the feet on the footholds but rather of relating to your own body like to something very complex and interconnected. Hands and feet are strongly related. If you do not train legs and feet properly, then also hands and arms will not work as they are supposed to be, and vice-versa.
How long have you been working with him? Do you get something out of it?
He is helping me a lot with my legs. When I was a child I suffered flat foot, which now has definitely improved. I am totally confident that this method will work. Every climber has his own climbing style and I think that I am genetically aiming at faster climbing. The downside of it is that the faster I climb, the higher the risk is to lose precision on my feet. I have been working for quite some time on this foot/leg tecnique, and I feel that I greatly improved this aspect.
You like fast climbing. But which will be the climbing format of Tokyo 2020 Olympic games? Are you already training for speed climbing?
I like climbing fast on difficult routes, which means climbing a 15 m difficult wall in 3 minutes while other climbers climb it in 5 or 6 minutes. Current speed climbing world record is 5.60. I’ve never been really inspired by speed climbing and I always thought that there was no creativity in it, since the route is always the same everywhere. The combined ranking in the three categories (lead, boudering and speed) will be introduced at the Olympics and therefore I have come to accept that I need to start training for the speed competition as well.
At what stage is your current preparation for the Olympics? What will be the selection criteria?
Selection criteria have not been specified yet. Most likely selection will happen in 2019 and will be based on rankings of 2019 Tokyo World Climbing Championships.
Combined ranking will be present already in Innsbruck this year. Will you make the speed climbing comp as well?
I will train and focus on lead and bouldering comps. There will also be the speed climbing competition and the best six athletes will be ranked by combining the various results, similarly to what will happen at the Olympics. I will also make the speed comp in Innsbruck but will not train specifically for it. My time will probably be mediocre at best, and I rely more on the results of the other two categories.
Have you changed your mind regarding the Olympic Games?
I am still really against this combined formula, but I can’t help it, since everthing has been already decided. Also the Czech Climbing Federation cannot withdraw from the Games at this point. I have been in doubt for quite some time, but at the end I realized that it would have been a pity not to take part to the most important climbing competition in the word. I am still trying to figure out how to organize and manage the specific training required by the speed climbing, and also everybody else is in the very same situation of deciding how much of their lead and bouldering preparation is to be sacrified for the speed comp. That’s something new for all.
Have you exchanged opinions on this matter with the other climbers?
Since there is still a long way to go before Tokyo 2020, nobody has really started a specific training for it. It seems that the majority of my opponents are keen to devote one third of their time and energies for preparing the speed competition. Personally I do not think this is the correct approach, at least for me. But I guess we will see in Tokyo. I tried myself the routine of splitting training volume in three, but the results and times which I was able to achieve were, by no means, satisfying. For this reason I think that my specific training for the speed climbing will be of five or ten pencent of my total training volume for the Olympics.