Adam Ondra is Winning the Numbers Game

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Climbers are fond of saying that there's no such thing as a “best climber”, and in a broad sense, they're right. But in terms of pure difficulty, it's becoming harder and harder to deny Adam Ondra's dominance.

On Tuesday, the 18-year-old Czech climber made the second ascent of Gioia, an eight-move boulder problem opened by Christian Core in Varazze, Italy, in 2008. Ondra confirmed the line at V16. It was his second problem of the grade in as many months, following his first ascent of the traverse Terranova at Holstejn in November. And while both Lucid Dreaming and The Game, the two V16 problems established in 2010, have since been downgraded, Ondra’s conservative attitude towards the numbers suggests that his grades will stick. 

“If you were to give this 8C [V15], then the bouldering grades wouldn't make much sense anymore, Ondra told PlanetMountain in a post-send interview. “You'd have to downgrade all the 8B+ [V14] and most of the 8C's [V15] as well.”

Sending a single V16, let alone two, would be enough to make most climbers’ seasons. But for Ondra, it’s just the cherry on top of a groundbreaking twelve months. Consider the following stats, which I culled from the year's news:

-Out of the six 5.15b ascents this year, four were by Ondra.
-Out of the eight 5.14c onsights this year, seven were by Ondra.
-Besides climbing the only proposed V16 boulders this year, Ondra did four V15s, two of those in a two-day stretch.
-Ondra also won the overall gold at the World Championships in Arco, Italy, despite competing relatively little this season.

So does this mean that Adam Ondra is the world’s “best” climber? That’s a tricky, largely subjective question. But when it comes down to the numbers game, he’s definitely winning.

—Adam Roy