Climber Breaks Foot, Then Sends 9a+: Stefan Scherz is a ‘Papichulo’ Indeed

If you don’t speak colloquial Spanish, you may or may not know that a ‘papichulo’ is an especially attractive gentleman. Translating directly as ‘sugar daddy,’ the term also describes a man with macho appeal.

Twenty-year-old Austrian climber Stefan Scherz definitely earned figurative ‘daddy’ status with his recent send of Chris Sharma’s classic Papichulo (9a+) in Oliana, Spain.

Why? First of all, the route a beast: pull through 50m of overhanging thrutch and burl, on heinous pockets and tufa pinches to clip the chains. Here’s Patxi Usobiaga on it in 2017:

No doubt, Papichulo requires a sustained effort. More impressively, though, Scherz climbed it fresh off a broken foot.

Anatomy of Stefan Scherz 9a+ send on a broken foot

Reportedly, the young Stefan Scherz pitched off his bike in September, fractured his right foot, and spent four weeks in a cast. Scherz’s determination evidently produced the Papichulo send: a week after the accident, he was back in the gym. With a handful of 9a sends under his belt, his goal was simple: climb 9a+.

As you might expect, his climbing style was a little awkward at first; all he could do with the right foot was dangle it below, being careful not to bump it on anything. By this, the young Austrian seemed non-plussed. “I did lots of one-foot climbing at this time,” he stated plainly. “[B]ut as soon as my foot got better, I switched back to normal.”

Interestingly, he even indicated to the Ukrainian site 4sport.ua that his mono-pedal training had given him an advantage on the route. Three weeks after standing on both feet again, he traveled to Oliana. A week after that, he clipped the chains on Papichulo.

Scherz now plans to get ready for the 2022 IFSC Climbing World Cup season but “hopes” Papichulo is not his last outdoor 9a+ send.

We doubt it will be — imagine the fitness he can build up using both legs.

Sam Anderson takes any writing assignments he can talk his way into while intermittently traveling the American West and Mexico in search of margaritas — er, adventure. He parlayed a decade of roving trade work into a life of fair-weather rock climbing and truck dwelling before (to his parents' evident relief) finding a way to put his BA in English to use. Sam loves animals, sleeping outdoors, campfire refreshments and a good story.


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