Adam Ondra has made the FA of Terranova V16 at Holštejn, in the Czech Republic. This is certainly a contender for the hardest boulder problem in the world, especially in light of the fact that Paul Robinson has retroactively downgraded Lucid Dreaming in Bishop to V15. Ondra had this to say about his ascent on his 8a.nu scorecard:
“Well, it is (sic) not not the most inspiring line, it is a low 12 moves long traverse with interesting moves though, but climbs at the bottom of a cliff for sport climbing and ends up in a jug. Definitely not the way bouldering should look like. But I have been going around and looking those tiny holds for ages and always wondering if it is climbable and this autumn I devoted myself to it. And had fun! 11 days this autumn, 1 day last year”
This brings to light a number issues worth discussing. Often it seems that standard bearing climbs are also some of the best, in terms of quality. Some examples that come to mind are Lynn Hill’s ascent of The Nose, Chris Sharma’s ascent of Realization or Jumbo Love, or Fred Nicole’s Dreamtime. Ondra’s ascent of a traverse drop-off seems to buck the general trend. Interesting as well that Ondra previously has gone after the biggest and most inspiring lines, in both sport climbing and bouldering. Does this mean that the beauty of a problem may not be as important to the development of difficulty standards in bouldering? Is it imperative that the hardest climbs also be visually inspiring? How much does that aesthetic quality affect the “importance” of the climb as a standard bearer?
Interestingly, it seems like Dave Graham’s contributions (Big Paw, The Story of Two Worlds, From the Dirt Grows the Flowers, which are arguably also incredible problems themselves) in Switzerland are highly sought after, while John Gaskins problems (which have the reputation of being short or unimpressive aesthetically) in the UK remain, for the most part, unheard of and unrepeated.
Climbing difficulty standards have often improved in the past when climbers of a younger generation have disregarded the preconceptions of the previous generations to specify in one area of the sport. Is Ondra’s ascent a nod towards this? Or will climbers continue to hold quality as some sort of ambiguous litmus test to the importance of a hard climb? Or is this simply an obsessed climber looking for more points (which often seems to drive climbers to problems of poor quality)? Regardless of the reasons, it’s a great effort on his part, and encouraging to hear that he is honest about the quality of the problem.
And let’s not forget, Livin’ Large V15 in South Africa remains unrepeated.