Rock and Ice caught up with Jan Hojer the evening after he made the third ascent of Es Pontas, Chris Sharma’s ninth-grade deep-water-solo route off the coast of Mallorca. “Just did it a few hours ago,” Hojer told us at the time. The excitement was still audible in the normally reserved German climber’s voice.
Hojer, 26, in the matter of just a few weeks, has turned 2018 from just another year into a high-water mark for his career, ticking his first 5.15 (and one of the most iconic in the world, at that) with Es Pontas and taking third in the combined at the World Championships in Innsbruck, Austria, unquestionably putting him near the top on everyone’s Olympic favorites list.
After Innsbruck, Hojer did something very unlike himself: He skipped a World Cup, Kranj in particular. “I came here to Mallorca for a week instead,” he said. The climb had been on his mind for two years and it seemed like an ideal time to return to it. “I got really close on my last day of the trip, but I had to go home to do a few things. So I came back last night [October 4] after a week of training. And then I did it first go on the first day of this trip!”
Find out more about Hojer’s ascent in the interview below.
Q&A with Jan Hojer
So how long did you work it for in total? Years? Attempts?
In 2016 I tried it a lot. I think I tried it for a week by myself, and then came back with Jernej Kruder. We teamed up for almost a month.
It’s kind of hard to work it. You can toprope and work the last boulder and top-out on a rope, but the whole bit between the dyno and the last boulder—the traverse sequence—is really hard to practice.
When Jernej did it in 2016 it was the last day of the season. I stuck around for another week but the route was wet every day. I came back later that season in 2016 for another week, but I never even got on the route because conditions weren’t good enough.
I think in total I must have tried it for like six or seven weeks, probably 30 days climbing on it. Maybe four times a day, so easily over 100 tries.
Watch the actual send footage below!
Who were you there with this time? Anyone else trying it?
Just a photographer.
But my parents also go on vacation in Mallorca, so this time my mom came out to watch me. She wanted to see me actually climb the route after failing on it so many times. So she was there. She was filming on her phone and screaming and everything.
Were you surprised how much quicker everything came together this time than 2016?
Definitely. I’ve been sport climbing much more since 2016. The first time I stuck the dyno this year, I immediately got to the move where I always fell two years ago. And between the dyno and my highpoint I probaby fell like 15 or 20 times in 2016.
So this year I knew it was just a matter of time. But you never know with Mallorca: the season can end really quickly, or the waves can be big. So knew I was capable of doing it, but to actually climb the route was still going to be hard. Especially because it takes so much energy to try it multiple times per day.
Was the dyno the crux for you?
The dyno itself is surprisingly low percentage. At first I thought that once I stuck it I’d stick it every go or every other go afterward. But Jernej and I would stick it two out of four times one day, and then none the next time.
The dyno is quite hard, but I think mostly it just makes the route so much harder to work. The actual crux starts right after the dyno and its the part you can’t really work on a rope. So the dyno keeps you from trying everything else.
If you tried it four times a day, how many pairs of shoes would you bring with you?
I brought four chalk bags and four pairs of shoes for each session.
After sticking the dyno would go through your head through the rest of the route?
It really changed. In 2016, I was like, “Ok, whenever I stick the dyno I’ll try something new, try a new detail, gather new info.” But this trip I knew I had the endurance to figure it out when I was up there, so I got slightly more nervous whenever I stuck the dyno.
I hadn’t climbed on the traverse bit in two years. I was trying to focus on climbing efficiently and climb the right sequence right away. There was no chalk on the holds so it was tough.
Is the dyno really the only way to do it? Didn’t Ethan Pringle try to find a way to crimp around it once upon a time?
I don’t know… I heard rumors of people saying someone chopped some holds off that Ethan was using or something… I don’t know the source of that or if it’s true. But right now the dyno seems to be the only way to do that sequence.
So how hard do you think it is?
It’s really hard to tell. I think Chris and Jernej agreed on something around 9a+ [5.15a]. It’s hard to separate the difficulty of the route from how hard it is to try. I guess I’d call it 9a+, but I don’t know… it’s so much easier to work a 9a+ on a rope.
You need both endurance and power for it, though. So far everyone who has done Es Pontas has climbed at least a 9a [5.14d] sport route and an 8C [V15] boulder and I think that’s necessary. You need to be a really good boulderer and a really good sport climber.
Is it scary up there?
I’m not too scared anymore. Before I tried it in 2016 I did Klem Loskot’s route Two Smoking Barrels, which is an 8a/8a+ish (5.13b/c) DWS route a few miles from here. But the dyno is like 12 or 13 meters up on that one. The dyno on Es Pontas is much harder but not as high, so not as scary.
The last really hard sequence on Es Pontas is maybe 12 or 13 meters high and there’s still a lot of climbing left after, but not Chris, Jernej or I ever fell after the good rest at about 13 meters. It’s only about a 7b+ [5.12c] sport route after that.
I had done the top out so many times though that I was on autopilot yesterday. I wasn’t even aware of not having a rope or protection.
Watch Chris Sharma and Jernej Kruder in the videos below making the first and second ascents, respectively, of Es Pontas