Weekend Warmup: Adam Ondra tackles Czech Sandstone in ‘Lords of Trad’

The big walls in Yosemite and the Alps are so iconic that it can be easy for those of us observing the climbing world from the outside to forget that there’s a whole world of climbing experiences out there.

Consider the Adrspach-Teplice Rocks in the Czech Republic — an aesthetically pleasing, almost romantic collection of hundreds of sandstone towers. The towers offer a ferocious challenge to climbers because they are slick and offer few handholds other than the hellacious series of chimneys and cracks that comprise them. On top of all that, camming devices and chalk aren’t allowed. In the Adrspach, it’s all about tradition.

A tower in the Adršpach

A tower in the Adrspach. Photo: Screenshot


Tradition is one of the themes of Lords of Trad, a short film released on climber Adam Ondra’s YouTube channel late last year. Ondra invited fellow climbers Pete Whittaker and William Bosi for an adventure in the Adrspach and a film crew tagged along.

Adam Ondra climbs

Photo: Screenshot


“This is my first time here,” Bosi says as the three men take stock at a picnic table with the towers rising behind them. “It is definitely as scary as I thought it would be. But the place is absolutely epic.”

three men talking

Adam Ondra (left), William Bosi (center), and Pete Whittaker (right). Photo: Screenshot


“It’s just as scary as I remember,” Whittaker, who has climbed twice in the Adrspach previously, chimes in. “I like bold climbing but the climbers in the Czech Republic are hardcore.”

“I fell a few times”

Watching the trio somehow levitate up the sketchy, slick chimneys is inspiring. But the group also takes time to chat with Adrspach sandstone-climbing legends Karel “Koksa” Hauschke and Petr “Spek” Slanina.

two men talking

Adam Ondra and Karel “Koksa” Hauschke. Photo: Screenshot


Koksa shares tales of climbing barefoot, climbing with a rope wrapped around his chest instead of using a harness, and other dicy 1964 adventures.

“I fell a few times,” Koksa says of his glory days. “And the falls were long. I fell down there, where we laid out a heap of spruce bushes,” the climber says, pointing to a patch of ground at the base of one of the towers.”I plumped right into it.”

For the most part, the film is meditative, low-tempo instrumental music laid on top of long shots of Ondra, Whittaker, and Bosi pinching minuscule holds and rising slowly but steadily upwards. Viewers with no climbing experience looking for drama might be a pinch disappointed, these are three world-class climbers operating at the top of their game and they rarely put a foot wrong. But viewers with knowledge of climbing will appreciate seeing a fiendishly difficult thing done with an impossible level of grace. As Koksa says in the film, impossible is often just a state of mind.

a man climbing

Photo: Screenshot


“I was happy to climb a route that seemed impossible at first. But it was enough to make a teeny tiny change in the movement. And then suddenly, it was doable! It was impossible at first. Today you can climb everything.”

Andrew Marshall

Andrew Marshall is an award-winning painter, photographer, and freelance writer. Andrew’s essays, illustrations, photographs, and poems can be found scattered across the web and in a variety of extremely low-paying literary journals.
You can find more of his work at www.andrewmarshallimages.com, @andrewmarshallimages on Instagram and Facebook, and @pawn_andrew on Twitter (for as long as that lasts).