Jakob Schubert clipped the chains on Perfecto Mundo (9b+/5.15c) in Margalef, Spain last Saturday, rounding out an elite quintet of 9b+ senders, the others being Alex Megos, Adam Ondra, Chris Sharma, and Stefano Ghisolfi. A powerhouse on both the competition circuit and outdoors, the 28-year-old Austrian has sent five 9b (5.15b) routes, and over the last decade earned twenty-one World Cup gold medals, in both bouldering and lead, in addition to the 2018 Combined World Championships. Schubert completed Perfecto Mundo just two days before the end of his three-week trip, then went on a tear, sending Gancho Perfecto (9a+/5.15a) the same day, and flashing a 9a (5.14d) the next.
Rock & Ice spoke with Schubert about the route a few days after the send.
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Q&A with Jakob Schubert
How long have you had your eye on Perfecto?
Last November, I went to Spain to try El Bon Combat (9a+/b 5.15a/b). In the beginning the route was wet and my friend Philippe was trying Gancho Perfecto in Margalef. So I drove with him to Margalef for one day to see Perfecto Mundo since it’s one of the few 9b+ routes in the world. I tried it a couple times, and realized it’s a really cool route and one that I would like to project in the future. So I made plans to go there this fall and try it, because I knew in December it’d probably be too cold to try because it’s always in the shade. I
knew at the same time I had to qualify for Tokyo in Hachioji, otherwise it would be hard to try Perfecto Mundo because I would be training for Toulouse, but I luckily reached that goal, so I gave myself kind of a present to say, ‘OK I can skip a few comps in the fall and go to Perfecto Mundo instead.’
So we went for this three-week trip and just before leaving, on my second to last day, I was able to send it.
Those first couple tries last year, how did it feel? Did it feel possible to you at the time?
It was a really cold day, so for working the route conditions were good. I was surprised how good everything felt. It didn’t feel next level at all. It’s kind of a long route and I really didn’t struggle with any moves, I liked it right away. I knew it was just a matter of work that I would have to put in to be able to send it. So when I came this trip I knew it was possible in just one trip.
So you came for three weeks, and it wasn’t until the second to last day that you sent. What changed that allowed you to send?
At the start of the trip it didn’t feel as great as last year, maybe because it was way warmer when I arrived. Also this Margalef style is really intense for the skin, with all the pockets. It’s a special style of climbing that you have to get used to. You have to do a lot of rest days and a small amount of tries per day to save your skin.
At the beginning I was kind of overwhelmed by that, but I made progress each day and after a while I felt I had all the moves dialed enough to start to do tries. I was really, really close just before the two week mark. I climbed over the crux and I knew Alex [Megos] and Stefano [Ghisolfi] sent the route right away once they passed the crux, but unfortunately that was not the case for me. I fell soon after, because I was way too pumped. I had to work out the upper section again and see what I could do better, how I could rest better, how I could get less pumped and just train on it. From that day on I knew I had what it took to send it, but it was more of a mental battle once I had fallen that high up.
It wasn’t the only time I fell after the crux, either. I fell another time, and then the next time I fell just before the rest, before the last slab, and once I got that rest I fell just over the lip on the very last move. I really had to keep it together, to not get too nervous about my time running out and stay focused. It’s sometimes really difficult if you’ve already fallen high up on the route many times to stay focused on the bottom. You have done it so many times and know you still have many moves to go until the point where you fell last time, but the key is you have to do it even easier than last time, right? So you need to focus as much as possible on everything. Basically, it was just a matter of time and a matter of keeping it together on those last days.
Run us through the crux. What’s it like?
It’s a dynamic move from a mono. So you get an okay incut crimp and you get a mono, which I didn’t really hold as a mono. That was kind of key for me, it felt much better to put my pointer finger above my middle finger and kind of jam with two fingers. From there you do a foot match and then you do this huge move to a pinch which you get quite badly at first because the thumb is not good, and you have to swing your feet back on, get the foot and then you can switch to a better thumb. Once you have that, you’re basically over the crux.
So you sent Perfecto Mundo, then immediately went and tagged Gancho Perfecto (9a+/5.15a) and flashed a 9a… you didn’t want to chill out a bit?
Once I sent I was happy, but the days before I was really frustrated because I felt I could have done Perfecto Mundo already. I would have loved to do it with one week remaining of the trip and climb some other routes, because I had only been on that route the whole trip. The cool thing about working such a route and training on it is you’re getting really strong on that style. So I got in good shape for Margalef and I wanted to put that to work on other Margalef routes.
Once I got Perfecto Mundo I was free, you know? All the pressure was gone, of maybe failing on that trip and having to come back for it. You really want to finish it off when you’re that close. So I felt quite nervous and under pressure, and when I finally sent it that was all gone and I could just enjoy the rest of the day and enjoy the last day. Gancho shares the first 15 meters of Perfecto Mundo so I had those dialed already. All I had to do was check out the second half, which is more endurance style.
When you sent El Bon Combat, you suggested a downgrade from the proposed 9b/+. How do you feel about Perfecto Mundo?
I don’t know… that’s always a hard thing to tell. Grading is difficult. I think Margalef is also really difficult to grade because it’s such a special style. It’s only pockets and it kind of depends on your finger size. This is the only 9b+ right now where people that don’t actually have that level could maybe climb, if they are just ridiculously strong on pockets. But I haven’t tried a lot of other 9b+ routes.
I think if I had climbed it after two weeks, which was totally possible, I would have definitely thought about if it wasn’t 9b+, but the part where Stefano and Alex never fell, the ten to fifteen moves after the crux, made it 9b+ plus for me. That part was still quite hard for me. It took me longer than any other route I’ve tried so far.
I definitely don’t think this is my limit, like I don’t think it’s like a super hard 9b+ or anything, but I think it could be 9b+.
You’ve seen great success on both plastic and rock… Are you more stoked about success on real rock like Perfecto Mundo or a competition win? What unique feeling does sending outdoors bring?
I wouldn’t call either better than the other. Quite different but also the same. I really enjoy and love both of those processes. In competition climbing you’re training really hard for something, having that huge goal, being nervous, under pressure and then fulfilling your goal and being super happy, and that’s the same as outside.
But it’s also different outside, because you don’t have the pressure to send on a single day or be in perfect shape on a single day. Outside, you can put time into trying something for as long as you want, which also makes you climb the best way possible. In a comp you do onsight climbing, and obviously you always do a few mistakes. That’s what I love so much about trying a hard route outside. You try so many times to optimize every single move on the route, to be able to climb in such a way where in the end of the day, when you send, you climbed the most efficient way for you possible. That feeling is amazing.
If you could only climb outside or in competitions and gyms for the rest of your life, what would you choose?
Outside, for sure. That’s something I will do for the rest of my life, right? Competitions I love right now, but at some point I’m not going to be able to compete with the young guns. And then I will stick to climbing outside.
What’s been your biggest challenge in climbing?
Right now my biggest weakness is flexibility, because I can’t train it with just climbing. I love climbing, but don’t like doing exercises at home that much. So that’s something I’m struggling with.
So what’s next? Any other projects? How are you feeling about Tokyo?
I’m psyched to be part of the Olympics and I’ll try to do well there. In speed I’m still quite slow, so now it’s time to train more and then get my focus back on bouldering before the World Cups start.
I don’t have a big project in mind now. That was the big advantage of trying Perfecto one day last year and knowing I had a route I wanted go and project on. Now I have to search for that route again. There are unfortunately not that many super hard ones out there, so it’s kind of difficult.
Obviously the best would be to find a sick project, but we’re already at a grade where it’s really difficult to find those projects. There are still a lot of hard routes in Spain. Maybe at some point I’m going to try La Dura Dura (9b+/5.15c). It’s not my favorite route, but it’s 9b+ and you can’t be that picky anymore.
But for now I also have a few things that I want to do around my home. There is a 9b in Arco I want to try, Queen Line, that I hope is somehow still dry this winter. I’m also trying this 9a+ near my house that Alex Megos set called Clash of the Titans.
Anything else you want to add about the send?
One important thing to me is it’s only possible to send those types of routes because of the people that I’m with. In Margalef I had a really good time with Domen Škofic and Alfons Dornauer. When you go on a rock trip for a long time there is so much time you spend at the crag doing nothing, waiting for your power or energy to return for your next try. It’s important to have good friends around. This always makes it easy to climb hard.