Climbing at the Highest Level With Chris Sharma

Watch Sharma's acrobatic first ascent of one of his most physically demanding climbs in Spain.
By Tarquin Cooper

As one of the most well-known — and well-respected — athletes in the climbing community, Chris Sharma has nothing left to prove. But as is often the case with individuals dedicated to their truest passion, the hits just keep coming.

His latest accomplishment? A spectacular first ascent of El Bon Combat outside Barcelona, Spain. Climbing grades are confusing even for climbers (get an intro to climbing terms here), but if confirmed at 9b/+ (5.15 b/c) it's among the most technically challenging routes in the world.

And judging from Sharma's screams and grunts — women tennis players have got nothing on this guy — it was quite a struggle. Watch the video below to see Sharma nail the route while he talks us through the moves that made it possible.

© Ricardo Giancola

“It was a beautiful climb,” Sharma tells us. "It's everything you look for: cutting edge ... beautiful rock. I enjoyed it so much.”

The climber first set eyes on the possible line eight years ago, but it wasn't until last year that he decided to turn it into a project. “It really caught my eye,” he says.

Climber Chris Sharma makes the first ascent of El Bon Combat near Barcelona, Spain, one of the hardest routes on earth
“It’s a beautiful climb.” © Ricardo Giancola

Since his test route on La Dura Dura two years ago — "a real psychological battle" — Sharma had stepped back from this level of extreme climbing.

“I went to Oman, spent a bunch of time climbing in the U.S., Australia, Mallorca — getting back to the pure roots and spontaneity of climbing. But my motivation brought me back to to this. I love pushing my limits and trying hard things; the feeling of being in total control of body and being at peak performance.”

“Climbing has so many facets," he says. "You have the intense performance of sport, then you have lifestyle, travel and long, multi-pitch adventure climbs. For me, climbing is my life. It encorporates all those experiences.”

Chris Sharma makes the first ascent of El Bon Combat near Barcelona, Spain, one of the hardest routes on earth
Chris Sharma climbing at the highest level © Ricardo Giancola

Sometimes a climb can be excrutiating. Failing mulitple times on a problem is part of the game, says Sharma, who adds that it would not have been possible without friends like Martí Iglesias, who equipped the route. But when it came together, it just flowed like a dream, he says.

“This route was different. I didn't have that frustration. I didn't have much to prove. It was based on pure enjoyment. There was no stress. I was just so happy to be out there with my friends doing something that I love.”

Get more of Sharma's thoughts on climbing.

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