Conquering a Nearly Impossible Boulder Climb

Climber Alex Megos takes on his most difficult ascent yet and leaves a lot of skin on the rock.
By Sissi Pärsch

It turned out to be his hardest — and his longest — project to date. It took German climber Alex Megos 11 days to ascend Lucid Dreaming (8C/V15) on the Grandpa Peabody boulder at Buttermilks in California. He had first tried it in November 2014, but had to get back home to Germany after three unsuccessful days of attempts.

I'd lost a lot of skin on my fingers. But I couldn’t have handled another day without climbing.

The first thing he did upon his return home? He booked another flight to the U.S. to finish his project. Filmmaker Ken Etzel captured Megos’ intense days of fighting sharp granite — watch it in the player below:

We checked in with Megos after the project to get his thoughts:

RedBull.com: Alex, congrats! Lucid Dreaming is notorious and you polished off the third ascent.

Thanks; yes, it’s an extremely difficult boulder that I really wanted to send. I was in Buttermilk in November last year and had just finished all my other projects, so for three days I tried Lucid Dreaming. I didn’t make it, but I was totally psyched up to do it again. I knew straight away I had to come back.

You returned to the U.S. specifically for Lucid Dreaming?

Yeah, I guess you can say I flew back for three moves. Three of the toughest, but very rewarding moves.

What was your daily routine like?

I was there with photographer and filmmaker Ken Etzel and a few climbing friends and Patagonia athletes. We usually got up at 6.30 a.m. and were warming up by 8. Then I had about two or three hours for trying Lucid Dreaming before the sun hit us. The conditions are so essential for climbing. When it gets too warm, your skin gets soft and that’s it — it's over.

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And on the eighth day …

I had two days off for recovery before that — and that just never happens. Maybe once a year. The others wanted me to even take an extra rest day, mainly for skin recovery. I'd lost a lot of skin on my fingers. But I couldn’t have handled another day without climbing. No chance. And then the forecast said rain.

But?

Well, we slept in because we thought there was no chance of climbing that day. It was foggy and drizzly. I warmed up and then the moist air turned out to be perfect. The third move — the jump from the pinch to the crimp — is the hardest. The days before it was so polished and slick. Although it’s granite it felt like a wet bar of soap. Then the humidity created a bit of friction, and I knew I could do it.

So three moves and you easily finished the line?

The upper slab was not as easy as expected, as it was slippery up there on the final climb. The moves there are, of course, easier than the overhang, but it was really wet. So I pulled off my shirt and started drying the rock. My friend Felix threw me a chalk bag and a brush, and I finally made it.

So you're happy with how it turned out?

Totally psyched! Seriously, this was my toughest boulder ever. And that’s the best feeling ever.

And you spent the rest of the days celebrating?

Well, we celebrated a bit, and then went to L.A. to take a friend to the airport. We went surfing for a day and I broke my little toe. It’s not a nice sight. I had to cut my climbing shoes open to keep climbing, but it doesn’t hurt too bad.

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