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Il Domani, 9a onsight

My hardest onsight ever for sure

Only a few years ago, 9a onsight might have sounded totally impossible. I remember when I was 9 years old, I was interviewed for the first time ever for one Czech climbing magazine and I said I was saving Underground 9a in Arco for an onsight. I think people took it as a joke at that time but I meant it.

Some years later...

While onsighting, you often do not really get the best beta available which is why one should be strict when it comes to grading an onsight. Most probably there are even easier ways to climb it which would make the route even easier.

...I had changed my plans for Underground 9a and went for a flash instead (I got really close to flashing it in 2011, my foot slipped just few moves from the finish), I still knew 9a onsight would come one day.

I did my first 9a in 2006 when I was 13. I knew I still had a few years to go before having a chance to onsighting 9a but the temptation to try certain routes was just too strong. That is why I had tried or done most of the 9a's which are onsightable in the years after my first one. Most of them are located in Spain. The thing is, if you want to onsight at your limit, the criterias are pretty narrow. It must be a route that sees a lot of traffic, that is not too complicated to read and that does not share any part with any other route I have already done or tried.

Then I did my “guidebook 9a” in 2012 in Red River Gorge, USA. I did actually two of them in a day - Pure Imagination and Golden Ticket. But in both cases I just felt the routes did not deserve their grades. While onsighting, you often do not really get the best beta available which is why one should be strict when it comes to grading an onsight. Most probably there are even easier ways to climb it which would make the route even easier.

Then, the news of Alex Megos...

...onsighting 9a – Estado Critico in Siurana Spain - spread all around the climbing community in spring 2013. That was definitely super motivating for me to achieve it too. Even though I knew the history will always remember Alex as the first person to onsight 9a and even though I know there have been speculation whether the route is actually 9a or not. According to some it is not but only time will tell.

So some month later, in summer 2013, I was in Switzerland in Rawyl with one goal – trying to onsight Cabane au Canada 9a. At that time, the route was not very famous so I was afraid it might be too dirty. Also, it gets the sun all day long which was another thing to worry about. 

I got up at 5 AM in order to be ready at the crag by 7 AM and to give it a shot at 8 AM. And I did it. But I had some doubts about the grade though I just couldn’t tell for sure that it is not 9a. That is why I decided to stick to the grade of 9a but I still have some doubts, and so do some those who repeated the route and expressed some doubts as well.

I just didn’t feel I can be entirely happy with this achievement so I  was still searching for a route which would be the first real 9a onsight for me, for 100 % without any doubts.

My attention turned to Il Domani in Balzola, Spain.

Onsighting is a tough game, and it is a pity to burn the only onsight try you’ll ever have on a bad day, no matter how strong or ready you may feel. I knew I had to come back.

I made one trip down there but the conditions turned for the worst and even though I wanted to give it a try, I had to step back in the end and wait for another time. Onsighting is a tough game, and it is a pity to burn the only onsight try you’ll ever have on a bad day, no matter how strong or ready you may feel. I knew I had to come back.

Then in May 2014, after the first few months of having a coach (Patxi Usobiaga) for the first time, I thought this route would be a great test of our work. Feeling confident and stronger than ever, I wanted to go for it when I went to visit my coach Patxi, as Baltzola happens to be the homecrag of my coach, hidden in the hills of Basque country.

The line of II Domani is amazing…

….traversing left across the cave with a hard crux in the middle. Even though it is long, the ground goes almost parallel and it is pretty easy to observe the route as you see the crux 10 meters within a reach.

I warmed up, felt strong and the rock felt sticky. Even though I had this route in my mind for a long time, I knew the seriousness of the moment, I felt calm yet ready to fight. Which is pretty rare. Usually, the more I train for a certain goal, the more I want to achieve something, the harder it is to concentrate, not to let any fear and doubts to ruin my climbing. But that day, everything was perfect.

I set off, and I felt like I was flowing up the route. As if the route was my old good friend, as if we knew each other for years and I just stopped by for a casual visit. I took a little rest just below the crux, and then kept going. The moves got hard and the feeling of confidence was suddenly all gone. Still I stayed calm because I knew there was no room for hesitation. I just went for the first method that came to my mind and went for the dyno. As I took the swing, I almost kind of expected to fall, but my biceps held on. And I could keep going on.

Confidently, all the way up to the last moves... but there I got stuck. Which is never a good thing. The victory was so close but I just didn’t know what to do next. I hesitated a lot and lost a lot of energy. In the end I decided to make this insecure move into the flat crimp fortunately stayed on the wall and made it to the chains. This time, I was sure that this route is a real 9a, and I was very happy.

Il Domani, 9a onsight - Baltzola, Basque country, Spain
date: / grade: 9a (5.14d) / lenght: 30 m / pitches: 1

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Bernardo Gimenez Bernardo Gimenez Bernardo Gimenez Bernardo Gimenez