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Climbing At The Highest Level

Wednesday, April 22nd, 2015

We are excited to share prAna Ambassador Chris Sharma‘s first Ascent of El Bon Combat 9b/+ (5.15 b/c) in Spain!

The process of bringing to life El Bon Combat has been an amazing experience. After so many years, and so many hard routes I sometimes even surprise myself that I still get fired up, inspired and motivated to keep going back for more. Two years ago when I finally realized La Dura Dura I was so satisfied and exhausted by the long hard process of projecting something at the very limit of what you can imagine to be possible. As passionate as I am about climbing, the commitment to take things to the next level is a lot of hard work. I felt I had proven to myself and the world that I can achieve a 5.15c and it was one of the most satisfying ascents of my life. But at the same time I felt I had strayed away from the pure playful, spontaneous and artistic side of climbing that has always been the backbone of my motivation for this beautiful sport. I remember after sending La Dura Dura thinking “Hmm maybe I could actually do something even harder?” but then realizing that I honestly wasnt sure if that was something that I wanted. With something that difficult it easy for it to stop being fun and it often becomes an intense psychological battle to realize these goals.

It was the right time to shift gears, travel the world, go bouldering, deep water soloing, see old friends and in general reconnect with the essence of myself and climbing. One of the amazing things about climbing is that there are so many ways to approach it, and they all have their place. It was really good to reconnect with just going climbing for the pure, simple enjoyment of moving over stone.

Climbing has been my companion through all my ins, outs, ups and downs of the last 23 years of my life and in a lot of ways its the way I express and find myself. So as we go through life its only natural that our relationship with climbing changes and goes though those same cycles and waves of motivation and inspiration. Its so important to honor all of these moments in our life and be ourselves through it all and take in everything that life has to offer and teach us. Ive always found that if listen to my heart, my motivation always returns tenfold and one of the special times is when we rediscover something and fall back in love.
El Bon Combat was a project bolted by my good friend Marti and was never a particular goal of mine. But when I first tried the route I was blown away by such a beautifully sculpted piece of rock as if it were designed by nature to be climbed and by the fact that it was just barely possible. I was immediately hooked. But this time was different, whereas with La Dura Dura there was somehow an agenda or something to prove (which unavoidably adds a lot of pressure and stress), El Bon Combat was something that inspired me just because it was something so perfect and so much fun that I couldn’t resist. The pure enjoyment of moving over stone and the challenge of unlocking the code to bring it into reality. I never stressed out about it and it was always a pleasure to go to the crag and go up the route and give it 100%. It was a really nice reunion with one of my closest friends, the rock and I realized that when it comes down to it what I love more than anything is trying really really hard, grabbing tiny little grips, and working my but off to achieve a goal thats beyond my limit that forces me to give everything to rise to its level.
The day I redpointed El Bon Combat was like any other day, I woke up, did a bit of work then went to the crag with a good buddy and went climbing like always (because thats what I do) and it all just flowed. Its really special to tap into a flow like this and when you do, there is no hurry. Its all a part of the process and the journey. Once we achieve our goals its just on to the next one so we better enjoy it because the moments when we are on the summit are very very few and far between. That being said, with El Bon Combat in the bag, all I can think about is “I want more” hahahahahahahahahhahahahhahaha

Learn more about Chris Sharma, prAna Ambassador

Cover image via Ricardo Giancola