The rule of thumb is that most climbers can flash one number grade lower than their maximum redpoint grade, give or take. Alex Megos is proving the rule: After making the first ascent of the world’s second ever 5.15d in early August, Megos has flashed one of the most iconic 9a (5.14d) routes around, climbing Underground, at Massone, near Arco, Italy, on his first attempt.
[Also Watch Weekend Whipper: A 5.12dX Flash Attempt]
“I did many trips to Arco but I was always saving this one for a potential flash try,” Megos wrote on Instagram yesterday. “I thought maybe I would feel ready one day. Turns out sometimes you just have to go for it! After doing “Claudio Caffè” [8c+/5.14c] second try this morning I thought I might as well just go for Underground today.”
View this post on Instagram
Underground literally has a subterranean start and climbs into the light near ground level. Manfred Stuffer made the first ascent in 1998 and graded it 8c+. Yuji Hirayama later upgraded the route to 9a when he repeated it in 2000, according to planetmountain.com. Underground has become one of the most popular 9a testpieces in Europe. Later ascentionists include Kilian Fischhuber, Cédric Lachat, Jakob Schubert, Gabriele Moroni, Jacopo Larcher, and, most recently, Laura Rogora, among others.
Megos finished his Instagram post by thanking those who helped him: “Big thank you to @cesar_grosso for giving me perfect beta and showing me all the moves and to @dickikorb for standing in that hole to belay us.”
This is Megos’ third onsight or flash of a 5.14d. He was the first person ever to onsight a climb of the grade, when he climbed Estado Crtitico in Siurana, Spain, in March 2013. He was just 19 years old. He onsighted a second 5.14d four years later when he climbed TCT in Gravere, Italy, sight unseen.
Adam Ondra is the only other person to have flashed or onsighted harder than 5.14d. He set a new standard in February 2018 when he became the first person to flash a 5.15a. He climbed Supercrackinette—which, coincidentally, Alex Megos made the first ascent of—in Saint-Léger, France.
Megos seems on track to follow in Ondra’s footsteps, judging by his one-attempt 5.14ds, his 5.15d first ascent, and several 5.15s that he has finished in shorter times than it takes most people to boot up at the crag, notably Biographie (5.15a, Céüse, France—one day, three tries) and La Rambla (5.15a, Siurana, Spain—one day, two tries).