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With strength and efficiency

Climbing in Tirol

With strength and efficiency

Interview with climbing star, Adam Ondra

“Innsbruck is the perfect place for targeted training”.

Text: Daniel Feichtner, Picture: Hannes Mair / Alpsolut

Climbing legend Adam Ondra stopped by in Innsbruck shortly before the Climbing World Cup in Arco at the end of August, where he secured second place. sport.tirol talked to the eminent Czech athlete about the sport, the challenges and his relationship with Tirol.

Adam, what brings you to Tirol? Are you training for a special event? Adam Ondra: Innsbruck is the perfect place for targeted training. It is pretty much the only climbing hall in the world where the routes look exactly like a real competition route. This is perfect for a final training run - to simulate competition conditions before a big event like in Arco, so to speak. It helps me to familiarise myself with this style of climbing again, which boosts my self-confidence.

What opportunities to climb do you take advantage of when in Tirol? I spent a lot of time here in the new climbing hall and in the old Tivoli hall. The hall at Tivoli was already good, but here it is much, much better. Be that as it may, I also enjoy outdoor climbing. And the places in Tirol are nothing less than fantastic. I spend most of my time here at the Schleierwasserfall climbing area in Going and in the Zillertal Valley.

In your opinion, what makes Tirol so special for climbers? The landscape is simply fantastic here. And the incredible variety and diversity of outdoor climbing routes. You can climb on limestone here at the Schleierwasserfall, around Kufstein, the Rofan Mountains or at the Chinese Wall in Leutasch. Or on perfect granite conditions in the Zillertal or Ötztal valleys. The diversity is astonishing. You will also find perfect routes at all levels of difficulty - from beginner to pro level.

Several international climbing events are now taking place in Tirol.  Are you planning to participate in the 2018 World Championship in Tirol? And will you be training here at the European base of your partners, Black Diamond? Yes, I definitely want to be at the World Championships next year. I'm sure it will be THE event in the new climbing hall, which I definitely want to be part of. It makes sense for me to train in my small boulder gym at home, to work on my core competencies and achieve the necessary volume. I only simulate competition conditions during targeted training, like here. And in Central Europe there is almost no other climbing hall that meets these requirements as well as the one in Innsbruck.

“Innsbruck is the perfect place for a final training session. It is pretty much the only climbing hall in the world where the routes look exactly like a real competition route”. Adam Ondra

Climbing has gained enormous popularity over the past ten years. Why do you think that is the case? Climbing is definitely a growing trend - not least thanks to the climbing halls, of which there are a steadily increasing number.  The question is what came first - more climbers, or more climbing halls? No so many people climb in the great outdoors - which is a shame. But that's probably a question of personal preference. I like everything about climbing and I try to do everything. I create my own mixture of indoor training, competition climbing and outdoor climbing accordingly. That is what I enjoy most.

Climbing appears to be a very physical sport. How big is the mental aspect? Your head definitely plays a major role. It is hard to say, however, where the mental part ends and the physical bit begins.  And of course you need a certain amount of strength, but it depends very much on how you use it. You may be very strong, but not know how to put your strength to proper use. Or you might be too nervous to perform as well as you could. There are two mental levels. One is to have the skills and the right feeling for the rock and the wall, and to know how to move up a climbing wall efficiently. And that is very, very important. But there is a second level, which comes to the fore in competition conditions or particularly difficult projects. Then add the nervousness and anxiety, which can cause you to hesitate for a second. This can cost valuable energy, which you would need later on and is the reason why you should try to eliminate such mistakes. This fear and doubt remains, however, at the back of your mind. You have to get rid of that, which is a huge challenge in itself. Especially when you're under pressure to make it to the finals of a World Cup and know how hard you've trained for that moment. You then have only five minutes to demonstrate what you are capable of. 

Not only have you climbed some of the most difficult routes in the world, but you are the first to have planned and conquered several of them. Do you think you'll run out of challenges someday? I can definitely lose motivation when it comes to competitions. If you have already won the World Cup or the World Championship once or twice, there is the potential for your interest to wane. But I just love climbing. Not just sport climbing, or bouldering, or multi-pitch routes, but all of it combined together. Especially outdoors, it is not a competition against others, but against the challenge, against the route, against something that nature has created. I already have a mental list of many inspiring routes and projects that I want to complete one day, so I'm pretty sure that I'll never run out of exciting routes. That's why I know I won't give up climbing for as long as my health allows it.

Adam Ondra had already climbed a route rated 9a by the time he was 13 years old. His most important successes:  He won World Championship gold three times (2011 in overall, 2014 in lead and bouldering), three times World Championship silver (2009 in lead, 2011 and 2016 in bouldering) and twice World Championship bronze (2011 and 2012 in lead). He became overall World Cup winner in 2009 (lead), 2010 (bouldering) and 2015 (lead). The native Czech has also made a name for himself away from the competitive climbing scene. In 2012, Ondra sent what was perhaps the world's most difficult climbing route at the time, “The Change” in the Hansehellaren Cave in Norway, which was the first route to receive a proposed grade of 9b+. In September 2017, he also succeeded in climbing “Silence” in the same cave.  A route, for which Ondra suggests a rating of 9c.

Do you find "normal" routes boring? I just enjoy climbing - even on very easy routes. From time to time, however, I have to find a challenge. Then I start to take an interest in a project and begin to invest lots of work into it. But once I have achieved this success, an easy route can be even more fun. When I see an easy and a very difficult route, however, the temptation and interest in the difficult one is usually greater. Once you have experienced what it is like to climb with such ease, when you feel the perfect flow, as if there is no gravity, it is hard to be satisfied with your climbing performance if you are not 100 percent fit. The feeling of experiencing these moments, when you feel so strong, light and fluid, is almost addictive.

Do you have any advice for people who want to try this sport? Climbing is a physical sport. But there's a lot more technique involved than it seems. That is why you should just climb, climb, climb, in as many places as possible, especially as a beginner. Outside. Inside. This is how you learn the most and how to climb with the greatest efficiency. I am convinced that it is better not to be the strongest, but to climb in the best style and most efficient manner. That is so much more satisfying than pulling yourself from one hold to the next with brute force.

© 2017 Tirol Werbung