“Free soloing has never been my cup of tea. But put some deep water below and now you’re talking!” Chris Sharma,
36, told his Instagram followers after making the first ascent of the Pont d’Arc in France. He considers the climb to be “one of the best
routes of my life… an absolute dream line.” Sharma climbed the arch—which tops out at 30 meters (nearly 100 feet)—ground up. The
process took four days.
Sharma described his safety protocol to planetmountain.com: “I took a very pragmatic approach and tested the falls every five meters to ensure that I didn’t hit the bottom,
as well as to become acquainted with the size of the arch; one of the tricky things when approaching a new line is to become oriented and know how
high up you are. So in the end I ended up taking the fall from almost the highest point of my route.”
Sharma helped bring deepwater soloing into the public eye with his landmark ascent of ‘King Line’ Es Pontas (suspected 5.15a/b) in Mallorca, Spain in 2006. Ten years later, he completed his five-year project Alasha (ungraded but of similar difficulty, also in Mallorca). Es Pontas has
seen only one additional ascent, by Jernej Kruder in 2016,
and Alasha is still unrepeated—guarded by a V13 boulder problem 60 feet above the dark waters of the northwestern Mallorcan coast.
Sharma’s new climb, which awaits a name, is less difficult—somewhere around 5.14—but higher. He worked the crux of Alasha on a rope,
but found that the Pont d’Arc could be climbed from the ground. Sharma told planetmountain.com: “I climbed it all ground up, so that added a lot of mystery and adventure and also added difficulty—it
was an incredible experience. It’s kind of crazy to keep discovering new things that continue to inspire me in new ways!”
Stay tuned for the video.