When Chris Sharma first bolted the “Perfecto Mundo Project” in Margalef, Spain, eight or nine years ago (“I’m not 100% sure,” he told Rock and Ice by phone), it represented his “vision of what the future of sport climbing looked like.” Working it over the years, he got tantalizingly close, logging his best ever burn the day he sent First Round First Minute (9b/5.15b), but he could never quite connect all the pieces—the future still lay in wait.
Yesterday, May 9, Sharma’s vision became reality, when Alex Megos climbed Perfecto Mundo, becoming the first climber other than Adam Ondra to make the first ascent of a 9b+ (5.15c). Megos told Rock and Ice via email, “It’s the hardest route I’ve done.”
The 24-year-old German, along with Sharma, 37, and the 25-year-old Italian climber Stefano Ghisolfi, had been projecting the route together over the past several weeks. Ghisolfi had asked Sharma last year if he could try the project. Of late, Sharma has been more motivated and excited by a still-unfinished multi-pitch project in Mont-Rebei Gorge that he speculates is in the 9a+ (5.15a) range, and so happily acquiesced to Ghisolfi’s request. Sharma said, “I saw Alex around the same time and told him he should try it, too.”
This year, Megos said, “I was planning on coming down to Margalef after the Bouldering World Cup in Meiringen to try the project with Stefano. Chris then heard about us trying and joined the team for a few days, which was awesome.”
Perfecto Mundo snakes up the belly of a 45-degree wall and is about 30 meters long. An easy first three bolts lead to what Megos described as “50 moves of non-stop climbing.” The first half weighs in at about 8c+ (5.14c) and is capped by a “poor,” slopey rest. Another 10 moves and the climber arrives at the famous crux— a “crazy move from the mono to the pinch,” Megos said. A third hard section of 8b+ [5.14a] difficulties with a mantle boulder problem at the lip of the overhang marks the end of the hard climbing. Ghisolfi told Rock and Ice, it’s “still possible to fall there.”Sharma figured these second and third hard sections together were 9a+ (5.15a) on their own. Perfecto Mundo finishes with 10 meters of comparatively casual slab climbing.
Ghisolifi, Megos and Sharma set to work trading burns, making links. The three would “work on tiny, little sections of beta together,” Sharma said. Megos managed to one-hang the line pretty quickly, but—like Sharma years before—connecting it all was the real challenge. About a week ago, Megos stuck the crux move from the mono to the pinch for the first time. “I knew it was only a matter of time then,” Megos said.
Yesterday, Megos and Ghisolfi went to the crag, sans Sharma on this day. Megos, belayed by Ghisolfi, tied in and started up the easy intro climbing. The first half went smoothly: “I had it dialed and it felt easier than ever.” He tried to get as much power and energy back as he could at the slopey rest, and then launched headlong into the crux: “The move from the mono to the pinch felt the best it’s ever felt from the ground.” Keeping it together for the final section of hard climbing was a battle: “Close to falling multiple times and giving it all I had.”
But Megos hung on. Perfecto Mundo was his first climb of the grade, and only the sixth climb in the world 9b+ or harder. The only other climbers to have sent the grade are Sharma and Adam Ondra. In all, Perfecto Mundo took Megos about 15 days of work—far longer than any sport route he has climbed to date.
[Footage from one of Megos’ Attempts on Perfecto Mundo]
Of his emotions after clipping the chains, Megos said, “I don’t think you can describe that in words. You have to experience it yourself to understand. Suddenly everything just becomes easy and fine. All the stress disappears, all the tension is gone and you just feel happy.”
Back on the ground he traded hugs and congratulations with Ghisolfi, his photographer Ken Etzel, other friends at the crag. Later he got a call from Sharma. “He was so psyched for me to have done it. Humble as always,” Megos said.
Throughout the process, the camaraderie of the multinational, intergenerational trio of Megos, Sharma and Ghisolfi—despite all of them gunning for the same objective—was rich. Megos said, “We were singing to Maroon 5 and Calvin Harris at the crag and laughing so much together, we had dinners together and spent rest days together. It was the most fun and friendly atmosphere you can imagine.” Sharma would make the two-and-half-hour commute to the crag from his home in Barcelona many days to climb with the young’uns, and return at night for dinner with his wife Jimena and daughter Alana. His day often started five hours before Megos and Ghisolfi’s: changing diapers, making breakfast, daycare.
Sharma’s focus on family life and running a gym is a big change from when he was last deep into Perfecto Mundo early in the decade. “Having a child and this whole amazing experience—it deserves its time and place, and not feeling like I’m missing out on my climbing,” he said. “I’ve had so many years of climbing, and I’m not slowing down at all, but mixing it up and finding new ways to approach it is key and having a family is the most beautiful and profound thing ever for me.”
This was not the first time that Sharma has opened one of his next-level projects up to the next generation. He and Adam Ondra worked La Dura Dura together in 2012, before Ondra made the first ascent. Sharma said, “It can be lonely trying these projects by yourself. It was super cool to get to climb with Alex. I feel like, in a similar way with La Dura Dura, to be able to pass on something to the new generation; to show them what I envisioned for the future of sport climbing; and to be able to see that come to fruition—the whole process of connecting our generations and just mixing that all in with good quality climbing together was really special.”
Sharma, increasingly the elder statesman in the world of hard sport climbing, said he’s excited to see what the vision of this next generation will be. “It’ll be neat to see what the next step is. … I feel like Alex hasn’t reached his full potential. It’ll be cool to see him apply his own vision to see what is possible.”
And Megos is excited to discover that for himself. Asked what his goals are for the future, he said simply, “Train. Get stronger.
And with Perfecto Mundo might we see a repeat scenario of La Dura Dura, where the aging Sharma makes the second ascent himself? “Having seen it done by Alex makes it more tangible. It’s motivating,” Sharma said. “Last couple times I got some good links. Did a couple times with one hang. … So it’s cool and inspiring to be back up there. When I have all these open projects out there, until they’re climbed they’re kind of abstract ideas. I think [Perfecto Mundo] is definitely within reach for me. I’m psyched to try to climb it as well. It’s one of the things I want to finish in my career.”
[Video of Chris Sharma working Perfecto Mundo in 2016]