• Mayan Smith-Gobat: What I've Learned
  • Josh Lowell: What I've Learned
  • Steve Hong: What I've Learned
  • Steve House: What I've Learned
  • Daniel Woods: What I've Learned
  • Steph Davis: What I've Learned
  • Nick Duttle: What I've Learned
  • Thomas Huber: What I've Learned
  • Art of Freedom: The Life and Climbs of Voytek Kurtyka
  • Alex Megos: The Hatchling
  • Ryan Vachon: Top Ice Climber and Climate Scientist
  • John Long: What I've Learned
  • Topropers Unite!
  • Steep Learning Curve: Alex Honnold On His Early Free-Soloing Days
  • Andy Kirkpatrick - Words Like Morphine
  • Margo Hayes and the Power of the Mind
  • Snapshot: Michaela Kiersch - The Chicago Hustle
  • Out of Nowhere - Nathaniel Coleman Jumps Onto the Podium
  • Jeff Lowe: What I've Learned
  • The Cheater - Learning to Climb for Myself, the Hard Way
  • John Bachar: What I've Learned
  • Art of the First Ascent: The Bold Climbs of Marcus Garcia
  • The Professional: Hilaree O'Neill
  • The Inventor: Alan Douglas
  • The Advocate: Nicholas Rothenbush
  • The Guide: Kris Erickson
  • The Craftsman: Jimmy Chin
  • Curious Case: Brette Harrington Breaks New Ground
  • Stefano Ghisolfi - One of The World's Best Makes Time For Fun
  • Dean Potter: What I've Learned
  • The Great Unknown - Graham Hunt
  • The Wizard - Dean Potter
  • Kai Lightner Reflects on Competitions, Bouldering and the Future
  • The Locomotive: Roy McMurtrey – 87 and Still Climbing
  • No Expectations: Joe Kinder Sends 6 5.14c's in Spain
  • Spotlight: Megan Mascarenas - The Logician
  • Alpine Warriors - History of Alpinists in Yugoslavia
  • Q&A: The Willpower of Mar Álvarez
  • Q&A: Ethan Pringle on Thor's Hammer (5.15a)
  • A Youth Wasted Climbing
  • Bouldering Bub - Isaac Caldiero
  • Spotlight: Alexander Ruchkin - Russian Locomotive
  • Alex Johnson - The Pro Life and Growing Up as a Climber
  • Rock Climbing Saved My Life: A Veteran’s Struggle with PTSD
  • The Beatnik of the Alps: A tale of FA's, Rescues, Love, and Suicide
  • Kev Shields – High Solace: Demons, Depression and Solo Climbing
  • Dean Potter On Laws, Modern America and Soloing Delicate Arch
  • Climbers We Lost in 2014
  • Spotlight: The Double Life of Chris Webb Parsons
  • What I've Learned: Sonnie Trotter
  • What I've Learned: Mark Udall
  • Heinz Mariacher: What I've Learned
  • The Sasha DiGiulian Profile
  • Chris Sharma: What I've Learned
  • The Seeker: Said Belhaj
  • Tommy Caldwell: What I've Learned
  • Reinhold Messner: What I've Learned
  • Sonnie Trotter's Favorite 5.10: Exasperator (5.10c)
  • Unbroken: The Alex Johnson Profile
  • Listening for the Echo: The Klem Loskot Profile
  • Climbers We Lost in 2013
  • Kilian Jornet Breaks Speed Record on Mont Blanc
  • Layton Kor Dies
  • Climbers We Lost in 2012
  • Life on Hold: The Ian Powell Story
  • Rope Jumping with Dan Osman
  • The Centurian: Ricardo Cassin
  • Mike Foley: Never Enough
  • Naomi Guy: What I've Learned
  • Hayden Kennedy: Superballistic
  • Dave Macleod: What I've Learned
  • Q&A: V15 Maestro Nacho Sanchez Unleashed
  • Francesca Metcalf: Meant to Compete
  • Maurice Herzog Dies
  • Mason Earle: Crack Ropegun
  • Kurt Albert: Free Wheel
  • Mayan Smith-Gobat: Climber for all Seasons
  • A Close Encounter With Dean Potter
  • Nik Berry: Obsessive Crusher
  • TNB: Tony Scott, Climber, Movie Maker, Lived and Died Large
  • Charlie Fowler - American Alpinist
  • Jimmie Dunn
  • The Upstart - Colin Haley
  • Who's Next?
  • Tom Patey: The Tiger of Yesterday
  • Todd Skinner: The Renegade
  • The Stonemasters Climb at Pirates Cove
  • Patxi Usobiaga: The Bionic Man
  • Michael Reardon
  • Max Turgeon and Louis-Philippe Ménard: Alpinists and Ice Climbers
  • Kurt Albert: The Climber Who Invented Redpointing
  • Josh Wharton: The Alpinist
  • John Rosholt: Climber and Gambler Disappears in Las Vegas
  • John Bachar's Last Interview
  • John Bachar Remembers Michael Reardon
  • John Bachar Remembered by Duane Raleigh
  • John Bachar by Henry Barber
  • John Bachar by Doug Robinson
  • John Bachar and the Bachar-Yerian First Ascent
  • Colin Kirkus: Climbing's Greatest Unknown
  • Alex Puccio
  • The Prophet
  • The Guy Whose Nuts Revolutionized Climbing: R.P.
  • Randy Leavitt
  • Galen Rowell: The Vertical World
  • Brian Kim Spotlight
  • Rob Raker
  • Ueli Steck - The Swiss Machine
  • Kemple and Lindner Almost Free El Nino
  • Crack Attack
  • Climbing World Mourns Todd Skinner
  • Ammon McKneely
  • A Tour of Magic and Mystery
  • Tanja Grmovsek
  • Rob Miller
  • Climber Hugh Herr Honored by Esquire Magazine
  • Climber Eric Brand Dies
  • Chuck Fryberger, Climber and Filmmaker
  • Chris Schulte Profile
  • Beth Rodden: What I've Learned
  • Joe Kinder
  • Hazel Findlay
  • To the BASE Layer
  • Pete Ward
  • Mad Max
  • Chris Boskoff
  • Bradford Washburn
  • Revenge of the Nerd
  • Chris Lindner
  • Tim Clifford: Escaping the Quantum Hole
  • Renan Ozturk
  • One-Track Mind
  • Traveling Light
  • Colette McInerney
  • The Banner Years
  • Pakistan: The Big and Free
  • Kris Hampton
  • Jules Cho
  • Extreme Eleven and Beyond
  • Bob Bates, 96, Takes His Final Journey
  • Jody Hansen
  • Home Girl
  • An Encounter with Fred
  • The Average Hero Sir Edmund Hillary, 88
  • More Than One Trick
  • Dave Graham
  • Red River Sugar Mama
  • Phillip Schaal
  • An Advanced Beginner
  • The Last Samurai:
  • Sonnie in Scotland
  • Offwidth Hombre
  • Moonlight Solo-Nata
  • Jasmin Caton
  • Crag Clown
  • Unlikely Candidate
  • Lone Star
  • The Calculator: Alex Kordick
  • Rise of the Machines
  • Dave Waggoner 1955-2009
  • Blood Spider
  • The Audacious Legacy of Tomaz Humar
  • The Original Desert Rat: Kyle Copeland | 51
  • J-Star
  • Italian Legend: Lino Lacedelli | 83
  • Committed: Matt McCormick
  • Cold Justice Paul Cormier
  • The Suffer King
  • The Need for Speed
  • Nick Martino Gives All
  • G-Money
  • Climbing Out of Academic Trouble
  • Charles Houston, 96
  • Bobby Model, 36
  • "Open Bivy" Willy
  • The Genius - Jeff Lowe
  • The Gamer
  • Shock Rock
  • Ryan Triplett | 31
  • John Bachar and the Cosmic Surfboard
  • Hand Crafted
  • Return of the Verm
  • Amped
  • Regime Change
  • Man vs. Snake
  • Living Legend
  • Layton Kor honored by AAC
  • Cold Justice
  • Cowboy Anguish
  • The Rock Jester
  • Mixed Rehab
  • Laura Fletcher
  • Bill Stall
  • Benjamin Strohmeier
  • Joe Six-Pack
  • Freedom Path
  • Manboy
  • Up and Down
  • The Duelist
  • A for Achiever
  • Paul A. Duval
  • Kelly S. Bell
  • Close But No Cigar
  • Video Spotlight
    First Repeat of Jeff Lowe's Metanoia on the Eiger North Face
    First Repeat of Jeff Lowe's Metanoia on the Eiger North Face
    Whipper of the Month
    Weekend Whipper: Alastair McDowell's Los Indignados (M7) Screamer
    Weekend Whipper: Alastair McDowell's Los Indignados (M7) Screamer

    Regime Change


    Golpe de Estado (5.15b), in Siurana, Spain, has some of the hardest moves Sharma's ever done on a rope.

    Say it isn’t so! Chris Sharma is now into … aid climbing?

    “I’ve just been addicted to it,” says Sharma, who is currently living in Lleida, Spain, about an hour and a half inland of Barcelona. “Climbing and bolting. Putting up routes. Using hooks, removable bolts. Doing whatever it takes to get a new line in.”

    The result is dozens of new A0’s for most of us, but for Sharma, 27, and the booming contingent of strong international sport climbers, these bolts protect some of the hardest and longest free-climbing sequences ever put together.

    In 2008, Sharma bolted over 20 new routes, some easier, but most 5.14d and harder. Last year was not only his most productive as a route developer, but with two 5.15b first ascents within a couple of months, it was a milestone for difficulty. First, Sharma redpointed the 250-foot Jumbo Love (5.15b) at Clark Mountain in his home state, California. Then in Siurana, Spain, he redpointed his second 5.15b, Golpe de Estado, which is the Spanish phrase for “coup d’état.”

    Lesser known are the handful of 5.14d and 5.15a routes he established, such as Papichulo (5.15a) in Oliana, a 150-foot line up blue stone reminiscent of Céüse, and Gancho Perfecto (5.14d) on the conglomerate rock of Margalef.

    Golpe de Estado is a direct start into a route called Estado Critico (5.14c/d). The all-around badass Stefan Glowacz rapped down the line 15 years ago, put two bolts in, and stopped. As enticing as the line had looked, it appeared to be too hard—this was during a time when 5.14d was top of the scale, and there were fewer than a dozen routes of that rating in the world. Then Dani Andrada—perhaps the most motivated and accomplished developer of sport climbs in Spain, if not the world—finished bolting the rest of Estado Critico. The pocket-sized 5’2” 105-pound Ramonet Puigblanque nabbed the first ascent in 2007.

    Sharma bolted the direct start at the end of 2007, and managed to “one-hang” the route by the next spring. After returning to the States for the summer, and putting down Jumbo Love in September, Sharma returned to Golpe de Estado and redpointed it in December. He rated the climb 9b, which translates to 5.15b, saying it was definitely harder than all the 5.15a’s he has done.

    What did you do today?

    I bolted a new route at Oliana. It’s 5.13d or so, and 50 meters long. Pretty epic.

    Tell us about life in Lleida.

    It’s kind of a weird place; you’re always wondering what you’re doing here. But it’s a really strategic place to be. Within an hour’s drive we can reach many different crags. Siurana, Terradets, Oliana, Rodellar, Margalef.

    You said a hold broke on Golpe de Estado after you sent it. Is it harder now?

    I went back and checked it out. It wasn’t a hold on a key sequence. I’d like to repeat the route again, but I don’t think the broken hold is going to make it any harder, so I’m not super motivated. I’ve got 10 other projects I’d rather focus on.


    Ten projects seems like a lot.

    Yeah, but it’s good to have them all here in this one region. I feel more centered. After having projects all over the place, it’s nice to just be in one place, and allow myself to be more patient. Take the time to bolt routes, work out the moves, take enough rest, and not be in a hurry. It’s a longer process than just repeating a route. It’s so much work, but when you get it all completed, it’s really satisfying.

    Describe where you are.

    I think this area of Spain has undoubtedly become the epicenter of global sport climbing. There are so many people, of all abilities and from all over the world, traveling through here all the time.

    I’ve been climbing a lot with Dani Andrada, and he’s a machine. He’s taught me a lot about how to bolt. Dani is super organized. He made a list of projects that can be done—as in, all the moves are there, but just haven’t been sent yet. In Catalunya, there are 50 doable projects of 5.14b and above. There are maybe 25 in Santa Linya above 5.14c. There are entire crags in the south of Spain, but not enough people to develop them.

    Are all these routes natural? The impression many Americans have of Spanish crags is that they are mostly chipped.

    In Catalunya there aren’t really any chipped routes. Attitudes have definitely changed, and chipping is not OK. It seems to be a thing of the past, not just with Americans, but with the Spanish climbers, too. Internationally, the chipped routes of the early 1990s seemed to be a necessary phase for climbing. I don’t really know why exactly it needed to be like that … maybe for people to realize it’s not cool. Nowadays the natural features in the rock inspire people.

    What style do you enjoy more: onsighting or redpointing?

    I like them both. I enjoy projecting routes that are at my limit and take a lot of effort. I also like trying to onsight something at my limit. Routes that might only take a handful of tries—things I can do quickly, but not on the first go—don’t really interest me.

    I almost onsighted a 5.14c yesterday—which would’ve been a first for me. I fell at the top, and that wasn’t even the hard move. If I go back to try that route, I’m sure I will fall many, many times before that final point because the motivation isn’t there anymore.

    You’re climbing well right now. Any other ascents?

    Hmmm … [thinking]. I did a first ascent in the Verdon [France] with Dani recently. It’s a nine-pitch 5.14b called Passage de Guy. Dani bolted the route with Daniel Dulac, and together they redpointed all of the pitches except for the 5.14b crux pitch.

    Dani brought me to the route, and we climbed it ground up. Seven of the pitches are 5.13b or harder. I flashed all of them except for the crux, which I did on my second try.

    I’m really psyched to do some longer routes there. There are these amazing 500-foot caves in the Verdon with beautiful tufas. It would be cool to put up a long multi-pitch route. That’s the motivation right now: bolting new routes. I’m just in heaven here.

    —Andrew Bisharat

    Reader's Commentary:

    Don't want to use Facebook, but still want to comment? We have you covered:

    Add Your Comments to this article: