Weekend Warm-Up: Definitely Ondra, But Quieter

What’s this new look on Adam Ondra?

He’s not grunting like an angered primate, screaming volcanically, contorting his joints into alien angles.

He is talking about what’s important in trad climbing, popping off 7b moves, and pensively walking through quiet morning streets in quaint Annot, France.

Why does this person suddenly have a normal-looking haircut and at least a roughly relatable approach to rock climbing?

smiling climber closeup on rock face

Smiling, not snarling: a new Ondra? Photo: Screenshot


As I watched Ondra attempt James Pearson’s Bon Voyage (E12/9a, maybe the world’s hardest trad climb), I thought maybe he’d lost a step. When he fell off the climb and didn’t visibly seethe in his harness, red-necked and ashen in the rubble below, I felt certain of it.

It’s the special privilege of every rabid climber to covet a certain factor. If you were Chris Sharma, you’d call it core climber-y psych; if you were Sasha DiGiulian, you’d correctly label it inspiration; if you were Gucci Mane, you’d call it sauce.

“If a man does not have sauce, then he is lost. But the same man can get lost in the sauce,” Gucci proclaimed sagely.

So, I wondered at this new, demure Ondra, is he lost or does he still have the sauce?

Then the man calmly and collectedly took four goes to bag the first repeat of the hardest trad climb in the world with barely a sound.

I went back and watched this clip, a personal favorite from Ondra’s teenage years — and pulled a frame from the post-send celebration for a side-by-side.

side by side pix of Ondra as a teen, and today

Photo: Screenshots


The sauce comes and goes, sure. But also, the more things change, the more they stay the same.

Sam Anderson

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.