Yes, meeting Adam Ondra in Ádr climbing with Pete Whittaker is understandable. But to see Špek just next to them, how he is belaying one of the strongest boulderers in the world? Up in the route at the French 5c? This is more from the genre of science fiction.
TEXT: STANDA „SANY“ MITÁČ PHOTO: PETR CHODURA TRANSLATION: FRANTIŠEK BULIČKA, STANDA MITÁČ | OCTOBER 2023
A dirty training cellar in Sheffield versus Adršpach. A dark cold hole versus a pleasant landscape of rock towers. At first glance, two different places, which nevertheless share a specific climbing (rather masochistic) atmosphere. There and there, a person has a choice of various sizes of cracks, sometimes something breaks under his hands, and every second visit he digs to the bottom of his strength.
“You’re the only person we’ve ever cleaned our basement for,” Tom Randall and Pete Whittaker greeted Adam in the British torture chamber. This place made a great impression on Adam, and perhaps that is why he invited the aforementioned couple for an exchange stay in Ádr.
They were also joined by Will Bosi, one of the strongest climbers of today, and to make matters even more epic, Petr “Špek” Slanina (absolute sandstone legend) joined Will on the rope the next day. How did the mentioned boys enjoyed this September weekend on the sandstone, what routes did they climb and what will they like to remember? You can read about it in this article.
ROLL OVER WITH POWER
Did you rochambeaux for the first lead on Pegasus, or did you simply grab the rope first under the “Husarský kousek” route? How was the climb? I think I was so fired up that I didn’t let Pete on the first end at all and just started climbing. My excuse to Pete is that he was felt pretty sick that day (no, we didn’t party the day before) and didn’t seem all that excited. The route was great for climbing, I especially liked the ring-bolts in it. I had a few slings with me, but anyway I didn’t place any of them under the first ring and then afterwards they are useless. Under the first ring, I felt that any stop and gear placement is psychologically crushing me and I feel safer without placing the protection. Unfortunately, this tactic means I’ll never learn to place the slings properly, especially with my frequency of sandstone climbing once every few years.
Otherwise, the route is a masterpiece, the passage above the second ring (where there is freeable aid section) was fine for me, but the traverse above the third schooled me — I didn’t find the hidden hold and had to try hard.
When you arrive in Ádr after a long time, are you nervous before starting a route? Or will you overcome it with physical superiority? Hard to answer. I have no fear on non-trad routes. Routes where placing gear is absolutely necessary is a different story, and I’m more concerned with whether to try to place something up there, or just climb on and relying on the fact that I have the upper hand. I’m actually more confident in the cracks, whereas in the faces the danger of breaking some holds is greater. In the long term point of view, it would be good to spend more time in Ádr and learn place up at least in the clear positions. I just like to climb and I hate standing in one place, so if I don’t jam the knot right the first time, I start to lose my nerve.
They say: “There are no hard cracks in Ádr, it’s just about bad protection.” Agree? A point of view. I only have experience with Indian Creek and Yosemite, where the cracks are much more straight forward- you often use one or two techniques for the whole way. In Ádr, the crack size is always changing. In Creek, I think it’s technically far easier, but in the case of an awkward size, it can be very physical and therefore have a high number. It’s harder to read in Ádr, the size is always changing, but if you have the technique, it will probably never be as physical because the hard crack size will never be long enough. But there are certainly exceptions to the rule in both Ádr and Creek. I have climbed about 20 routes in the Ádr in my entire life (and cracks even less), so I don’t even have the right to express much about such a thesis.
“The traverse above the third schooled me – I didn’t see the hidden hold and I had to try hard.” Adam Ondra
How did “Hubařská” affect you? Even in the context of the fact that Kokša (the first ascentionist) made it barefoot. Was the crack under the fourth ring wet? Were you scared? Amazing route where there is everything. An “impregnable” pretty tower, a beautiful peak, a undulating line eating the path of least resistance. The fact that Kokša did it barefoot is out of this world. He’s the man! Cracks without shoes must be savory. On the contrary, the face passages are probably pretty cool barefoot.
I thought it was ok to the first ring, while I was quite close to falling above it, I rolled over that part powerfully not using the crack, while Pete came up with a fist beta. The crack above the third was quite unpleasant, certainly the place where I was most afraid in the whole two days. I had UFOs, I put two there, but more for the feeling (they probably go well in there, but I am clumsy). The crack above the third is green, wet and relatively easy in the end, but the higher you go, the worse it is, and it’s hard to dare the next move because it’s hard to predict how the next hand-jam will be.
When you had the UK visit, were you the “biggest Ádr expert” at the time, leading the way? Or how was it? Haha, I didn’t even know where the Lovers Tower is until now, so I definitely didn’t guide the boys. Honza Šimánek and other boys chose the routes and consulted with me, Špek was with us on the second day.
TOBOGAN AND KOKŠA
How did you get on with Pete? He’s a great guy. We don’t know each other that much yet, but he’s easygoing in any situation. I like English humor and considering that he was slightly sick the first and second day, the boy is really not complaining about anything. It’s not much to lead climb the “White Mouse” when you’re in that condition.
Did you climb “Juan Géblse génius” FLASH? You must have been happy, huh? Can you describe the climb? It is said that Špek wrote it a VII-IX grade in the top book… To the first ring, I had two knots from Pete, so it was like a “PP FLASH”. The joy was great. And it was a good fight. The route is beautiful and unique. I understand that it is difficult to grade, but I don’t really understand Špek’s idea of VII. (laughs) I don’t think it’s possible to climb it as a VII. Part of it is definitely technique and proper beta, but you have no chance on it without power.
My opinion on the grade is that the similar route “Veseli Tobogan” 8a (in the new guide maybe 8a+, note Adam) in Osp is much easier. Maybe more strength in the fingers is necessary there, but the level of technique is quite elsewhere in “Juan Gébls”. You need to have strong shoulders and go for it with peculiar technique. If I somehow take sandstone and its specific classification into account, I would give RP Xa.
Which route from this trip stuck in your memory the most? Probably “Hubařská”, also thanks to the meeting with Kokša (big interview here, editor’s note)
What did you talk about together — did he tell any stories? I was certainly interested in the fact that under the entrance of “Hubarská” they brought a pile of brushwood to dampen falls in the place under the first ring. Ron Kauk and John Bachar did a similar thing for the first ascent of “Midnight Lightning” (a 1978 V8 Yosemite boulder, editor’s note), but Kokša was way ahead of time! (1964, editor’s note) Otherwise, I am always interested in what it must have been like to walk along the Ádr at a time when most of the towers were unclimbed, when you had no climbing equipment other than courage and the art of climbing…
Why don’t you actually climb on the sandstone more often? Well, I’m the only person in the country who, by climbing with a chalk on the sand (except for Labák), risks some kind of loss of reputation. And climbing without a chalk in cracks or until Xa is ok, but further up it stops being fun. In addition, there is a schizophrenic situation where I would climb something more difficult without a chalk, when no one will ever climb without a chalk anyway. So hard sandstone climbing without a chalk doesn’t appeal to me.
In Labák on the Left Bank (where it can get dusty) it’s great, but the BEST lines are already climbed. There will definitely be 9b potencial, but it would be similar to sport climbs anywhere else — somewhere on the hidden massifs. On the other hand, Teplice and Ádr may have the potential for a French 9b’s on some incredible magnificent towers.
In Saxony, climbing without a chalk certainly attracts me more, because really no one actually does chalk there, moreover, the difficult routes are more often on positive holds (so better for climbing without a chalk) than the sloped wavy holds on the Czech sand. My meeting with Robert Leistner this spring really motivated me. And Robert redpointed a regular French 8c without chalk in Saxony.
OUT OF THE CELLAR
How did you like „White Mouses“ route on Pegas? Can you describe the climbing? This route was easy at the bottom and an offwidth grovel at the top. Definitely one of the tougher french 6a’s I’ve done in my life. The climbing is very secure because it uses wide techniques, but it’s also very dangerous as you climb a long way from the last knot. I was actually quite ill on this first day of climbing on the sandstone, so I must admit the route felt like work, haha.
What was your favourite route of the trip and why? Favourite route was definitely the last route of the first day – “Hubařská”. Two reasons why I enjoyed this one.
1. the variety of climbing was very nice. there was a tricky crack sequence after the first ring; steep, delicate and a bit sandy. Then there was the slabby traverse followed by a nice but simple crack. We set a hanging belay here and then made a short face climbing traverse pitch to the top. It felt like it had everything.
2. It was really cool to meet the first ascensionist at the climb and hear about the story of his first ascent with the rope tied around his waist and climb it with bare feet. This is totally cutting edge for the time.
Did you recognize any changes in Adrspach from the last time? I mean – did it feel smaller or safer then in 2016? To me it all felt pretty similar, I knew what to expect. It’s always run out, demanding and sweaty due to no chalk. I still think a lot of climbing in Adrspach is very dangerous (it’s impossible to say its not), but I feel like I have a good understanding of how to manage that and make acceptable risk.
How was climbing with Adam? I’ve only climbed with Adam in The Cellar before, so for me it was a real treat getting to climb outdoors with him in his own country. He really is a phenomenal climber, and just from those two days it was immediately obvious why he is regarded as the best rock climber in the world at the moment. I just can’t think of another climber who would look as relaxed as Adam on a dangerous Adrspach offwidth and as a contrast on the world cup circuit. He really does have all the tools in the climbing tool box. It was a pleasure for me to climb with him.
Two days in Adrspach are not enough, are they? Wouldn’t you like to try some first ascents there? After 2 days on any climbing trip anywhere, you’re only really just getting started and warmed in to it. With some more days you can start to get in to the comfort zone a bit more. So, more days are of course always better. I’m sure I will return at some point, I always do, haha.
FUNDRAISING FOR TOM
I saw you in the orange crack „Pametni“ VIIc (6a) on Studnickova. How was the climb? Yeah it was really good!! I think a nice introduction to the knotted protection as the crack is a bit sharper and less rounded so it’s easier to make it feel more safe. I’m not 100% I was going the right way at the top though as it involved pulling on some dried mud and small plants, but I guess that’s part of the adventure!
Did you bring your own knots/slings or did somebody lend you some? No, I actually even had to climb on the first day with almost none of my own gear, including just a single one of my own shoes and one of the guy’s t‑shirt as we had a bag mix up! So actually, I was really grateful that everyone could lend me some gear. The most interesting kit was the UFO which I have never used before and I would say really improves the safety of the routes.
Which french/british grade would you give it? I think it would probably be about 6b+ at a guess? It does feel a bit harder than that when you’re a bit scared and have no chalk on your hands!
How about the other routes you’ve climbed? Were you scared in any? I’m always a little scared on all of them to be honest! One of the main issues I think I’ve had when climbing on the sandstone towers in Czech, Germany and Poland is always that it’s an extremely short trip of maybe 1–3 days each time so you never quite get to be ‘in the groove’ of the style. I must come for a longer time at some point!
What do you like about climbing in Adrspach? First off, is that it’s a very unique climbing experience with the level of adventure and commitment. Secondly, is that almost all the routes have a true summit to them so it feels like you climbed a mountain and not just a wall. Thirdly, the climbers here all feel very committed to what they’re doing and they’re very passionate about it. It’s not just some people from the climbing gym that think that this is the next ‘crossfit’ exercise. Lastly is the beauty of the area. It’s just incredible!!
How was climbing with Špek? Did you know him before? Climbing With Spek was an incredible experience, and I really enjoyed the day hanging out with him. As it was my first time meeting him it made the route we did together extra cool as I felt I got to know him on the wall as we shared the experience.
Didn’t you feel bored while climbing „Dlouhý kout“ VIIc? (5c fr.) I definitely didn’t get bored as the route was not only really good fun and the views were amazing but it was actually a real challenge for me. Firstly im not used to the crack climbing style so the moves werent easy. secondly I have done very little multipitch climbing so being on the big wall was intense too!
How was the route? The route was brilliant, Starting with two long straight up pitches which followed a few really nice crack lines to the top of the first tower. Then moving across the top of two more towers which was quite scary, before descending to the belay of the last pitch. The last pitch was the only one I lead and Im very happy I did as it was an incredible pitch climbing through these crazy chimmys. Topping out is one of the highlights of my climbing so far I reckon.
„Topping on Milenci tower is one of the highlights of my climbing so far I reckon.“ Will Bosi
How did you communicate with Špek? He’s not the best English speaker… Communication was very difficult and other than saying dobry and giving thumbs up we couldn’t really talk which definitely made it more intense.
How about the other routes you did? (“White Mouses” on Pegas top rope etc.) The other routes I climbed were also very cool and hard! I was very happy to be topropping as the run outs were crazy. I dont think I would be that keen to lead them any time soon but the climbing itself was amazing so I didnt mind topropping.
Was there anything in Adrspach, that really sursprised you? I was just completely blown away by the beauty of the place, its got to be one of the coolest and most peaceful areas Ive climbed in. Looking forward to returning one day.
HANDS IN THE CRACK, WILLY!
PETR „ŠPEK“ SLANINA, LOCAL LEGEND
How did you get involved with Will Bosi? I was asked to climb with Will. “Oh, yeah, when are you gonna get to a guy like that,” I thought. He was hinting that he’d like to try some face climb. So I told him: “Fu*k that, dude. You’re not climbing faces. You’re in Adr, not Fontainbleau.” (laughs) His eyes popped and we went for some cracks. He’s a great guy — totally cool, low-key. He was like in another world.
To climb “Dlouhý kout” VIIc (5c fr.) route on tower Milenci was your idea? No, I didn’t choose it. Someone said: “How about “Dlouhý kout” and off it went. Look, the last time I climbed it was 38 years ago. And it was awesome again.
How did you and Will communicate during the climb? You can always communicate with a climber. One time he was looking at one big sandy hold, and I was like, “Don’t take that, dude, it’s gonna break off! Put your hands in the crack!” And he obeyed. Despite I was speaking Czech. Then he led the top chimney pitch — he was looking down the chimney, then at me… It’s a grade six to the top, but you can’t put any sling to the ring and it’s far away…
“Fu*k that, dude. You’re not climbing faces. You’re in Adr, not Fontainbleau.” Špek
Did you climb anything else that day? I went to the crag early, so I climbed some three cracks by myself that I probably hadn’t climbed before. Then they came, and I watched them climb the “Gebls” route. Adamek said he needed to try very hard. He used completely different moves than I did, because he couldn’t fit in it. When I climbed it once, I was a sometimes solid sometimes feeling like falling off… I can’t really fit in it either, due to the round edges. It’s something between a chimney and a dihedral. It’s a bit of a fight — whatever works, you put it in, and you can’t slip.
What do you think of Adam sending it on the first try? That’s what he’s supposed to do, isn’t it? (Špek did it on his first try after setting the ring-bolt, too, ed.)
And what does the name of the route mean? That’s what we always said when you came up with something good: “Juan Gébls genius”. Mocek often said that. It’s a kind of patter we used when you had to think of something — like which way you make the route, where to put the rings…
You always come up with such a bullshit… You gotta listen to what’s being said. Now we’ve made three first ascents next to each other — one is called “Spare Hands”, the second is “Completely, Doctor, Completely” (a line from a Belmondo movie, ed.) and the third is “Leftovers from the Pipe” when we run out of beer.
The more bullshit, the better.
SET OF ROUTES
„Husarský kousek“ IXb (7a+) on Pegas tower (Stanislav Lukavský, I. Kobr, 1981) > Adam Ondra OS, Pete Whittaker TR
„Bílé myšky“ ! VIIIa (6a+) on Pegas tower (Jaroslav Houser, S. Lukavský, 1969) > Pete Whittaker OS, Will Bosi TR, Adam Ondra PP FLASH
„Hubařská stezka“ IXa (6c+) on Zub (Karel Hauschke, J. Krecbach, 1964) > Adam Ondra OS to the 4th ring, Pete summit pitch
„Juan Gébl génius“ IXa (6c+) on Vosa tower (Petr Slanina, S. Lukavský, 2006) > Pete Whittaker bailed, Adam Ondra PP FLASH (thinks Xa, 7b+), Will Bosi TR tries
„Něžnost“ IXb on Pilíř (Bernd Arnold, G. Lamm, G. Ludewig, J. Cruse, 1979) > Pete OS, Adam summit pitch
„Dlouhý kout“ VIIc on Milenci tower (Karel Hauschke, V. Hornych, 1963) > Petr „Špek“ Slanina RP, Will Bosi summit pitch (chimney grade VI)
„Pamětní“ VIIc on Studničkova tower (Stanislav Lukavský, J. Stach, F. Ostradický, 1983) > Tom Randall OS
Editor in chief
“Climbing is not about the grades and life is not about the money.”
He loves to write about inspiring people. Addicted to situations when he does not care about date and time – in the mountains or home Elbe Sandstones. Not being treated.