Maybe it was Alex Huber who made this area so hard and true to grades. In the 90s, he made several 9a routes in the area that had been waiting for years to be repeated. With a pinch of salt: “these lines were waiting for Adam Ondra to grow and send them.” If you asked Adam what his last year’s best sport-climbing achievement was, he would reply “Warmduscher”, which is a route located in the cult Austrian area, Schleier Wasserfall.
He managed to climb this hard-to-read 8c+ on-sight and this week he was awarded the “Ascent of the Year” from the Czech Mountaineering Association (ČHS) for it. (You can find the complete list of the awards at the following link) What is the story behind this extraordinary climb which he made last July? And what does he allows himself to know and learn about a route if he wants to log it as a true “OS”? You will learn all of that and more in the following interview.
Can you describe the route a bit? I was recommended this variant by a local climber, Christian Pointner. You start off with the 8c route “Fight Club” which is located right in the middle of Scheier Wasserfall, you climb 15 meters up to a ledge, from which you link to a 15-meter-long endurance climb, and then you continue slightly to the left into a relatively easy stretch. Some say that a few holds broke off, so the lower part should be 8b+/8c.
Then there is a direttissima called “Eiszeit” 8c+/9a which has a pretty hard boulder under the chains. I think it has not been repeated yet. The first ascent was made by Helmut Kotter. Just below this boulder, you can climb slightly to the right and you will hit 8b + „Black Pearl“. Linking these pieces together, you create a beautiful line which has around 50 meters. It involves the crux of “Fight Club” but then, instead of finishing the route with the easy part, you switch to the other line and finish it off with twenty meters of hard climbing, all the way up to the highest point of the whole wall. This variant ends just besides the chains of the legendary routes such as “Weisse Rose” (See our article Climbing Milestones), “Open Article” and “Black Power”.
So after climbing the first part of „Fight club“, you could choose where to go next, and since you felt good, you decided on a harder variant… Yeah exactly. (Adam laughs) It was already the end of the day, during which I managed to climb the „Orca“ 8c + by Alex Huber (read our interview), made in 2001 which was not repeated until then. (After Adam, Jacob Schubert climbed it last autumn, but he opted to climb the crux from the left side, which is 8b). So I was already happy with what I had achieved during that day, and I was a bit tired as well… However, I had spend so much time training in the gym, so I was so motivated and stoked on climbing that I decided to try “Warmduscher” as well.
How did it go? I barely climbed the lower 8c part, I had to put a real fight there. And then the upper part came. I am still so glad I managed to finish it. It is not so clear when climbing on-sight. There were quite a few moves, in which I got terribly confused. Often, I found myself in a wrong sequence with my hands tangled.
There were not many chalk-marks, were there? Well, Christian had been probably trying it for a while but it was just after the rainy season and the route was barely dry. Some holds were even a bit wet, so there weren’t any chalk marks left. I often had to stay fixed for a few moments and search for the right holds. This is what makes the on-sight so valuable for me.
Do you find it harder to climb on-sight in Schleier Wasserfall than in the Red River Gorge? (In the Red River Gorge, Adam on-sighted “Golden Ticket” 9a and “Pure Imagination” 9a. He then lowered the grade of both of these routes to 8c +) In general, I’d agree that climbing on-sight is a bit harder on the Austrian limestone than the sandstone in Red River Gorge. This is due to the fact that the chalk is much more visible on the brown sandstone. On top of it, the individual moves of the most of the routes in Red River Gorge are relatively simple. Another advantage is that almost all holds are horizontal there – so you just hang on to them and have enough time to look up and think about the following moves. On the other hand, the Schleier Wasserfall gives you mostly side pulls and underclings. And when you’re pulling on the undercling with “your biceps contracted”, you don’t have the time to look around and see what comes next. In Wasserfall, you have to risk your moves much more. You just have to go for whichever hold you see. You could hesitate but then you have to have a damn huge amount of spare stamina. For sure, I think that to red-point the “Golden Ticket” is harder than “Warmduscher” but the real value of on-sighting “Warmduscher” is even higher because you need to go full gas in the lower boulder problem and the move is really uncertain. I think that more people would be able to on-sight the “Golden Ticket” (video)
Most of the world’s best climbers did not grow up in the Moravian Karst, right? Well, actually, as far as on-sighting is concerned, I don’t have training from the Karst either. Unfortunately. (he laughs) It would be great if I could wipe my memory blank and go back to Karst to collect some on-sights. I wonder what I would climb. If I managed to send some local 10+ (8b+) OS-style, I would be lucky. I don’t think I could on-sight any 8c (11-) over there.
Is there any OS climb you see as the most valuable for you? That’s clear to me – “Il Domani” 9a. It’s one of those three 9as I ever managed to climb on-sight, and with this one, I am sure that the grade is right. The others felt way too soft for 9a and also were quite easy to read. “Il Domani”, however, is a different story. Of course, there is the slight advantage of the overhang following the ground beneath, so you can walk under it and study some of the moves… something like the “Underground” (9a in Arco), but because the rock is greyish in Arco, you cannot see the holds that well.
I’m interested in “reading” the route from below and so on… to what extent do you allow yourself to study the route if you still want to call it an on-sight? Well, as for me, I don’t care if the quickdraws are already up or you have to carry them – both counts as an on-sight for me. One of these is an “OS RP” and the other an “OS PP”. Of course, clipping all the quickdraws by yourself is more difficult but both is still an OS. Just as a FLASH can be either a “FLASH RP” or a “FLASH PP”.
Photos? I think you can see the photos because that is just inevitable – sometimes, it is even listed in the guidebook. (He laughs) But of course, studying twenty different photos of the whole crux would be a different story – not cool by me.
Videos? Watching a video, even a month before the attempt, is not okay from my point of view…
Overheard conversations under the crag? Well, sometimes you can’t entirely avoid it. (he laughs) And sometimes the guidebook even gives you a description such as: “A hard boulder to start with and then it becomes easier.” So when I read such a line in the guidebook, I still count the attempt as an OS. As for the people, I’m trying to warn them in advance: “Hey, I really want to try it OS, so please don’t tell me anything about the line. (he laughs) I’m never trying to interrogate my fellow climbers about the individual moves or the hard parts… Some climbers might be surprised that I even avoid looking at the route when I’m being lowered from one of the nearby lines. What about… climbing a tree and studying it? (Adam laughs) Well… that’s a question. Looking at the route from some lower rock? That’s cool by me. The issue of returning is also a bit controversial. According to our tradition, once you get your feet off the ground, you cannot return. However, the ethics of some English climbers is that if you downclimb without jumping back to the ground from the fourth bolt, you still have a chance to climb it on-sight. I don’t believe in that.
What about chalk marks? There’s nothing you can do about it when the marks are already there. But to ask a friend: “Could you go through it and mark it for me?” Would not be okay, though. (he laughs) Of course, you could also wait a few years and let others mark it without you knowing… It’s hard.
Let’s get back to “Warmduscher”. How come that you, who is usually accompanied by a film crew, managed to climb one of the best lines of the past season without a single photo, video, etc.? I climbed it during a national team training camp. It is true that nobody filmed or took pictures of me climbing the route. You see, I’m not always followed by a film crew.
Did you feel better outside of the focus of the camera lens? I wasn’t too nervous about this route, I didn’t feel there was much at stake – actually, I hadn’t even known about it until the last moment. So I think that somebody filming me wouldn’t change much. Of course, the feeling of being filmed isn’t always that good.
The route is called “Warmduscher” which literally translates as “a person taking a warm shower”.. what about cold showers, though, are you into that? No I’m not. According to Chinese medicine, I am the type of person for whom the cold morning showers are not so good – supposingly, my constitution would make me more prone to catching a cold then. I do think that it is good for certain people, but for me, the cold shower is a better idea in summer.
So you would not chop holes into the ice in the winter, then. Well, I did… but just to cool there after a sauna session. (he laughs) By the way, as soon as I clipped into the chains of “Warmduscher”, it started pouring down with rain. When I was being lowered down, I took a proper shower in the rain and I even got some side-splash from the waterfall. So in the end, even the “kalte Dusche” was the game. (he laughs)