Petr Pavlicek on Filming the World’s Next Big Climber
For the past two years, we've been hearing rumblings of a new documentary about Adam Ondra, the 18-year-old Czech prodigy widely considered to be the world's strongest sport climber. Besides a handful of clips released online, little information has been released about the as-yet-untitled film.
To find out more, I caught up with Petr Pavlicek, the Czech adventure filmmaker behind the project. Since 2009, Pavlicek has traveled around Europe filming Ondra on the rock, accumulating some 80 hours of footage and capturing milestones like the first repeat of a 5.15b route and the first flash of a V14 boulder problem.
Though Pavlicek had planned on finishing the film by last Christmas, he is still editing it and has yet to determine a release date. He hopes to announce more details on the movie's website in the near future.
How did you get the idea to do this movie? Did you know Adam before you started shooting?
Of course I knew that there was a “wonder kid of climbing” in my country, but I didn't know Adam personally. I wasn't very interested in rock climbing before our first meeting. I was focused on adventure movies about mountains and polar expeditions.
I met Adam one afternoon in May 2009 at his favorite home crag near Brno. Adam made the first ascent of the route Kostitřas Nesmrtelný (8c+/9a) that day, and I filmed it. I immediately recognized that Adam is a really big-hearted, normal boy with amazing positive energy. So we met a few months later in Zillertall in Austria. The result was the well-known climbing video Bad Day of Adam Ondra.
Adam told me his big plans for the next months, but nobody with good skills and perfect filming equipment was able to follow him on his long journeys, there was simply no money in it. I had all the necessary things and money, and I felt that it could be a nice new challenge. So we decided to start real cooperation.
You must have seen Adam climb a lot of rock. Out of all the routes and problems you've shot him on, which is your favorite?
Definitely Marina Superstar (9a+/b), a first ascent in Sardinia. An amazing, very overhanging and very long route in a cave. We who were there with him believe that was Adam's first real 9b [5.15b], not Golpe de Estado. Adam was looking at the route a year before, but it was too wet. He was so sure about the grade.
The “problem” was that Adam was in such top shape that he started to make progress very quickly, as usual, and was sad that it was easier than he expected. But after a few important holds broke, the route became really, extremely hard. He was sure about 9b again, but he made it anyway and his doubts started again. He gave it only 9a+/b. He said “Now I am sure it can never get downgraded.”
So his first official 9b was repeating Chris Sharma's Golpe de Estado. We had to go to Spain twice–10,000 km in two months. Everything seemed to be against it, it was really a mental fight for us all.
After watching Adam climb for so long, what do you think makes him such a strong climber? Is it the way he trains, or does he just have good genes?
Adam was given a big talent, no doubt about it. He is also very intelligent and has an amazing memory. This allows him to go to a very hard high school and be one of the best students there, even if he is the most-traveling climber in the world.
But what is more important is the fact that the talent of Adam was supported from the beginning by his parents. Adam comes from a climbing family, and very soon people around him started to realize his disposition and natural passion for climbing. He started to climb very hard routes, even though he was a little child. So his parents started to go with him to many different crags in Europe.
What makes him so exceptional is the big fighter inside him. When he is climbing, he is “inside a bubble” where only he and the rock exist and communicate. He simply gives everything, as you can see from his videos. It is not anger at all when he is screaming like an hurt animal while climbing or falling. It is just his enormous effort and the joy of the movement. This is the key I think.
What do you think is going to be the biggest surprise in the movie for audiences?
Oh, it is hard to say. I hope that many people who do not like Adam because of his screaming, hair, enormous success, and other stupid reasons will realize how normal and very honest and kind Adam in reality is.