The hardest route in the world may not reside in a Norwegian granite cave and be called Silence (5.15d), sent by Czech phenom and 2020 Olympian Adam Ondra. The world’s hardest route may be on a 46-foot wall at the Klättercentret in Stockholm, Sweden.
The route, known as “The Project,” was set early in 2017 by two experienced competition setters, Robert Rundin and Joakim Berglund, to offer climbers a challenging indoor project. Since The Project’s inception, top climbers including Adam Ondra, Alex Megos and Stefano Ghilsofi have all tried it, and it has repelled all suitors to date.
“The Project definitely feels very hard,” Ondra told Gym Climber. “The idea is that it gets gradually harder and harder, so the first couple of clips actually aren’t that difficult. I’d say two-thirds up, like reaching the first big roof, it’s maybe 8c/8c+ (5.14b/c), and then it gets really, really hard. Not only are the moves hard, they are really low percentage. There is a very challenging toe hook and you have to be able to keep the body tension, which is really difficult. I haven’t even tried the upper headwall, but I think all of the individual moves have been done.”
Creation of the route, in part spearheaded by Black Diamond, stemmed from a desire to bring the act of projecting indoors.
“This would obviously mean an extremely difficult route,” said Björn Pohl, another of the masterminds behind The Project and the organizer of its inaugural event. “We decided we shouldn’t try to second guess what was actually possible for a human being to climb.”
The Project is a series of incrementally hard boulders, from 6A (V3) to 8C (V15), set using only Kilter holds.
“The idea we wanted to convey was, and still is, that it’s always possible to do one more move,” Pohl says. “If you at first manage to do 10 moves, you should strive towards 11. We are all in this together as we all want to do one more move, regardless of where on the route we happen to be.”
For comparisons, Pohl noted: “Adam Ondra’s Silence, 9c (5.15d), the most difficult route in the World, is an 8B (V13) followed by a no hands rest, into an 8C (V15), into an 8B (V13).” There are no rests, however, on The Project.
Megos, who qualified for the 2020 Olympics during the Hachioji World Championships and has climbed 5.15c, has the current high point, just half a move ahead of Ondra and still about 15 moves below the top. He was halfway through the 8B (V13) section, with the 8B+ and 8C (V14 and V15) remaining.
While Megos has had the high point every year since the route was set, it wasn’t without a bit of ol’ fashioned rivalry. Italian comp climber Stefano Ghisolfi, a regular on the Lead World Cup final’s stage, had the high point at the route’s inaugural event, in February of 2017. But Megos returned shortly after the event to beat him. A few months later, Ondra and Patxi Usobiaga came to town for one day, and Ondra set a new high point, but again, Megos later returned to reclaim his title.
Kajsa Rosén, a Lead World Cup climber from Sweden, tried the route at the inaugural event in February, but as far as we know no woman has made a concerted effort—yet.
Nor, so far, has the “indoor projecting” trend taken off.
“I’ve always viewed the gym as a place to train or to go to for competitions. For me, to have a proper project in the gym is hard to imagine,” said Ondra. He doesn’t have any plans to return to the route in the near future.
“I think indoor route projects could definitely catch on, but we are probably ahead of our time,” said Pohl, laughing.
There’s booty on the line, with Klättercentret supplying the funds. Whoever holds the high point at the end of each calendar year—and so far that has been Megos every time—is awarded $1,012. For the send? Initially the reward was projected as $5,560, but it has grown every year since 2017. The purse is currently $7,228.
In the only major change since it appeared three years ago, The Project has now been given a project season so that the gym can focus on its current expansion. The route is currently down and will be back up for a three-month period, yet to be determined. Setters are also considering replicating some of the route sequences on boulders for members to work in the meantime.
Follow Klättercentret on Instagram @klattercentret and Facebook “Klättercentret,” and check the website www.klattercentret.se for updates.
This article appeared in GC 5
Feature image by Bjorn Pohl