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Flashing 5.12+ can be hard. It takes patience and you gotta get lucky. I’ve climbed with 5.15a climbers who try hard to do 5.12d first go. However, in the past two weeks alone, Alex Megos has flashed two 9a’s (5.14d).
Not too long ago, if you climbed that grade, you’d get sponsored immediately.
First up for the German and ex-Olympian was Intermezzo XY gelöst, at the limestone crag of Plombergstein, Austria. Megos flashed the three-bolt (and chains) route. A flash means you had beta, watched vids, and likely had someone at the base shouting up all the things you are doing wrong. That was indeed the case. In an interview with 8a, Megos said: “I got beta from a local, (Roland Wagner) who climbed the route some years ago. He went up, brushed the holds and gave me very detailed beta.”
That’s the norm by the way, so don’t judge, though having the holds brushed for you is a treatment most of us don’t get.
In watching the footage on Megos’ Youtube channel, he climbs Intermezzo XY gelöst with near-zero hesitation. Only a few times does he shuffle his feet. It looks like a redpoint and something he’s been working for a while. Really, it’s a masterclass in visualization, adaptation and execution. He pulls through sequences that 100% felt awkward, because how could they not on first go around.
As a veteran World Cup competitor, Megos is no stranger to onsighting, but with comp onsighting you at least have a sense of how the hold is going to feel. When you are outside, it is largely blind trust and not panicking, because when you are at your limit onsighting the slightest mis-calibrated expectation can send you off the rails. Onsighting is an art, and not all hard climbers are good at it. In 2013, Megos even stole a first from under the nose of Adam Ondra for the world’s first 9a onsight, Estado Critico, in Siurana, Spain. Estado Critico was first sent in 2004, by Ramón Julián Puigblanque.
Intermezzo XY gelöst is a Klem Loskot route, dating from 1997. It’s not very aesthetic looking, and it’s even contrived a bit, but it looks nails. If you don’t know who Klem Loskot is, time to do some homework. Loskot was climbing V14 in the late 1990s and had this signature style of trying to break every hold he used. Loskot was loud, creative, a character, and climbed with reckless determination. He was a pure power climber and a pioneer in the scene at his time. For a while, Loskot and Fred Nicole were the strongest boulderers on the planet. It would not have been lost to Megos that he was doing a Loskot route. Anything by Loskot, though an Austrian, is a rite of passage for Germans, like ticking old Sharma routes for Yankees.
Loskot came to fame courtesy of Udo Neumann, arguably the most creative climbing filmmaker in history. Watch the vintage Neumann vid Nanuk of Loskot on another ugly but nails-hard boulder (V14) with sound on and savor the early techo beats. The vid, from 1997, is a timecapsule of the German underground scene.
Coming of age as a climber, I must have watched Neumann’s Emotional Landscapes a hundred times, a short film documenting Loskot’s battle with a bloc of the same name. Vid here:
Recently, in 2014, boulder crusher Nalle Hukkataival visited Emotional Landscapes and sent, but not after days of struggle. Nalle confirmed the grade of V15. When Loskot first did it, the year was 2002, which would likely make it the third or fourth V15 in the world. The first, authored by Nicole, was Dreamtime, sent in 2000. In any case, Loskot is the second person to boulder V15. He was also likely the second person to boulder V14 with Nanuk in 1997. Nicole authored Radja in 1996, the world’s first V14, and the first V13 with La danse des Balrogs, a video in which, also by Neumann, Nicole deploys a strategic knee bar. And a kneebar in 1996 was a rarity.
After Intermezzo XY gelöst, Megos flashed Chromosome Y, in the alpine of Charmey, Switzerland. Chromosome Y was first climbed by German climber Pirmin Bertle in 2012. The route is steep and unrelenting. On Insta, however, Megos remarked, “I do agree though with most repeaters and I also think it’s rather 8c+.” Good for him. Not all climbers give and accept downgrades easily, but Megos is one of them. Recently, Megos had his multi-year project Bibliographie downgraded by Stefano Ghisolfi. Megos proposed 5.15d for the Ceuse rope stretcher, but agreed with Ghisolfi that it was likely 5.15c.
On the same trip, Megos sent Meiose, another Bertle FA and one which has a convoluted history. On Insta again, jrblack_boulder comments about Meiose and sums it up nicely: “So to recap: Pirmin gave it 9b. Ondra downgraded to 9a+. Pirmin objected to Adam’s downgrade (based on kneebar that shorter climbers can’t do) insisting on 9b. Megos repeats saying 9a+ with Pirmin’s beta, 9a (!!) with Alex’s beta!”
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Francis Sanzaro is the Editor-in-Chief of Ascent and Gym Climber. Find him HERE.