Tears of Joy: Sean Villanueva in Adršpach

05. 05. 2020, Petr „Pjotr“ Vícha

Three years ago, when Sean first walked into a pub in Adršpach, people immediatelystarted to whisper: “Hey, that must be the big-wall legend! Or not? And what is he doing here alone?”

Waitress Anička went ahead and started chatting with him. He complained that he had joined some dubious climbers, who shocked him a bit. He said they were drinking even during belaying, and the routes they climbed with ropes looked more like soloing. Anička realized that he must be looking for more trustworthy climbing partners as told us: “You’re climbing with Sean tomorrow!” So, we agreed – it was that simple. Although the morning was damp and foggy, we went to Teplice and in the afternoon tried “Bod zlomu” (Xc / 7c+ fr.). I was surprised how far he got during his on-sight attempt. It was inspiring to watch him climb. I was almost sure he would send it at the second try. (And that’s exactly what happened a week later.)

Sean climging “Bod zlomu” Xc, two years ago (photo: P. Vícha)

Two years later, Sean wrote to me that he was going back to Adršpach. It wasn’t the best timing for me, though, because was supposed to stay at work. So I tried to get as many people as possible to show him the best routes. Eventually, I managed to arrive in Adršpach at the same time as him and we climbed together – one week full of amazing routes and only one rest day.

Which routes did we choose? You know Adršpach – it’s a huge maze of rock towers. At first glance, all the routes look impossibly difficult. That’s why it’s so hard to choose one to climb. You can be sure that each of the routes you choose will scare the hell out of you.

After all, we set off for the Himalayas area, which is one of the central sectors in Adršpach. I had no idea where exactly we were going. So I made a list of routes that I like and that I haven’t climbed or finished yet. Another condition for choosing the routes was clear – to stay as far away from the trail packed with tourists as possible. We didn’t spend much time planning. Sean is so flexible and enthusiastic about climbing that it’s hard to find a route he wouldn’t like.

Short documentary film about Sean’s and Pjotr’s climbing adventures in Adršpach

For the first two days, Sean’s friend Johan, who is a cameraman, joined us. He shot some footage from “Rohová” route (VI, 4c fr.) on Annapurna tower. I chose this route because of the tricky part, where you have to use the famous man-tower technique. The main reason why we chose this tower, was the route “Prckova porucha” (IXa, 6c+ fr.). Sean managed to lead that one, but I’d say he had to fight a bit… Then Matěj Svojtka showed up and told us he knows some good routes nearby. We went to the Jelení rokle (Deer gorge). This is one of the areas with many new routes. For example, there’s an amazing route “A jde se na pivko” (“Let’s go for a beer” Xc, 7c+ fr.). Isn’t that a poetic name? Before Matěj and Sean climbed it, we did two more new routes: “Fenkám” and “Hovado z lesa” (IXb, 7a fr.) – you’ll see those in Johan’s short film as well. Then the guys made the first and second free ascent “A jde se na pivko” – for now, it must be one of the hardest lines in the sector.

The next day, we stumbled upon an interesting off-width crack. I had noticed the route one rainy day when I was taking a stroll in the rock city. Surprisingly enough, it became the challenge of the day. You’ll see that in the video. Can you imagine that the classic trad climbers made the first ascent of this route in their 60s? We have a lot to learn from them.

Later we climbed paths like “Memento Mori” (VIIIa, 6b fr.), “Mrtvička”, “Lvíčata” (VIIIa, 6b fr.), “Vabank”, “Smrtonoška lahodná” (IXa, 6c+ fr.), “Bílý mustang”, “Bludný kořen” and “Pražský výběr”. Then we joined Smolo and made a first ascent together – the route is on the Střelci tower and Sean named it “Robin Hood” – it still waits for the first RP climb.

I can’t tell you which of those routes Sean liked the most. He seemed thrilled with every single one, but I felt that those bizarre and challenging routes were challenging Sean’s psyche. One of those was the bold off-width crack “Olověný hřebík” (IXa, 6c+ fr.) which you’ll see in the short film as well. Another bizarre route we climbed was “Obstarožný strašák” – a loose, crumbling, overhanging crack with a nightmarish off-width just below its top. After you climb this route, you have send a few well protected sport routes to start liking climbing again.

There’s plenty of challenges left here. Sean climbing “Olověný hřebík” IXa, 6c+ fr.
(photo: J. Kervella)

One morning, we went climbing with my friend. He woke up, rolled a fat spliff, smoked it all by himself, and went straight to warm up in Xb‑c route (7c/7c+ fr.). I was wondering what Sean thought about all that. He told me: “You crazy Czechs and your warm-ups…” We did have a lot of fun that day. We got our asses properly kicked by a grade V (4b fr.) off-width – I started off solo but the guys had to throw me a rope and Sean decided to back off that nightmare as well. Finally, we sent the route “V hašišovém rytmu” (Xa, 7b+ fr.) – Sean climbed it flash as if it were a mere stroll.

Sean’s visit to Adršpach was nearing its end. I’d say we’ve managed to show him a lot of fresh routes and just a few of the real old classics. On of the guys had a great idea told us to try “Přízemní komplikace” (VIIIa, 6a+ fr.). While climbing the route, Sean shouted at us: “That’s just beautiful! It makes me wanna cry. Hey, guys, do you think I’m allowed to cry here?” And that’s when I realized how lucky we are that we have such an amazing place – Adršpach.

Since I got to know him during his visit, I see Sean as a calm, humble and patient guy with an immense passion for climbing, music, and a great sense of humor.

This short article follows our big interview:
Sean Villanueva. When You Feel Motivation Deep in Your Chest

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