In an interview published in Rock and Ice’s November 2017 issue, the American climber Matty Hong said, “My top goal right now is to climb 5.15b.” Seven months later he did just that.
Yesterday, May 2, the 26-year-old Hong sent Fight or Flight, a 9b (5.15b) that Chris Sharma established in 2011. Three other climbers—Adam Ondra, Jakob Schubert and Sachi Amma—had sent the route after Sharma and before Hong’s redpoint. Hong’s send makes him just the fourth American to have climbed 5.15b, following the aforementioned Sharma, Ethan Pringle (who sent Jumbo Love, at Clark Mountain, California, in 2015) and Daniel Woods (who sent La Capella in February of this year).
[Scroll through the Instagram post below to see footage of Hong’s send]
So stoked for my buddy @honngy !! Today he sent “Fight or flight” and became the 12th person to climb 9b! So happy that i was there to witness his ascent! It was prolly one of the most inspiring moments ive witnessed in climbing! We are all on the same boat here ????battling with terrible conditions and it felt like a victory for all of us!! Dealing with constant rain and bad conditions like that its so hard mentally…Way to keep it together man ????! #shoey #redballmatty
A post shared by Felipe Camargo (@felipe.camargo) on
Woods broke the news of Hong’s send on Instagram: “My dawg [Matty Hong] just sent “fight or flight” (9b)(15b). First of the grade for him. Matty is both talented behind the camera … and on rock. This route is no joke. Multiple hard boulder problems build to a finishing all out dyno … to a victory jug. If u fail on this move u take a stomach dropping ride.”
Other climbers who were present for Hong’s moment also chimed in on the ‘Gram to offer their congratulations. “It was prolly one of the most inspiring moments [I’ve] witnessed in climbing!” wrote Felipe Camargo, while Anna Liina Laitenin gushed, “MATTY DID IIIT!!! OMG OMG OMG!!!!”
Hong had charted a steady course toward 5.15b. He has been a regular in Rifle, Colorado, for years, where he opened some of the Canyon’s hardest testpieces, including Bad Girls Club, Planet Garbage and Stocking Stuffer—all 5.14d’s. He sent his first 5.15a, Papichulo, in Oliana, Spain in 2016, and then doubled that number last year in 2017 with ticks of La Rambla in Siurana, Spain, and Joe Mama in Oliana.
Whether Hong will try to up the ante in the remainder of his stay in Spain remains to be seen, but it seems certain that he’ll continue to push his limits in the coming years.