Impossible Climbs, La Dura Dura: Rock Climbing at its Most Daring

Decades ago, a rating system was implemented to categorize the difficulty of a climb. While this rating system has evolved over the years, the current implementation of the rating system rates the most difficult climbs at 5.10 or above. As ambitious climbers scaled the 5.10 climbs and set new records, new levels were introduced as well as a letter grading system utilizing the a, b, and c, with c representing the most difficult of climbs, those climbers which are seemingly impossible.

La Dura Dura in Oliana, Spain, rated at 5.15c, was among the seemingly impossible climbs, those climbs that almost no one could accomplish or would even dare. But the sport of rock climbing is a world filled with daring heroes, men and women who are driven to accomplish the impossible, even at the risk of serious injury or at the risk of their lives themselves. The spirit of rock climbing is about breaching the limits within ourselves and reaching new personal heights. Cold and unyielding stone provides that challenge, the catalyst, with each foot or pitch climbed bringing the climber closer to his or her next personal goal.

La Dura Dura presented the ultimate challenge, an impossible climb, until even the impossible had been accomplished and its steep walls scaled. In 2013, two young climbers, arguably climbing prodigies, were the first men ever to scale the incredibly difficult wall. Adam Ondra and Chris Sharma had become friendly rivals, each pushing the other to reach new heights, and to accomplish increasingly more difficult climbs.

While not the only 5.15c completed in recent years, Spain’s La Dura Dura represented the pinnacle of 5.15c climbs, not just in the eyes of the two ambitious climbers, but also in the eyes of the climbing world. Neck-bending vertical walls offering little in the way of handholds, sometimes for dozens of feet at a time, kept the pair at bay throughout their many attempts.

The climbing route at La Dura Dura was planned by both men over the course of 2 years, making dozens of attempts to learn every crevice and nuance of the route. Adam Ondra, having made an estimated 70 attempts at the climb himself, was the first of the pair to complete the impossible climb. Chris Sharma later also completed the impossible climb, making the young and gifted climbers the first in the world to have done so, and at this point, the only climbers on the planet to have accomplished the impossible feat. Offering only crimpy handholds and requiring daring dyno moves to reach the next hold feet above, the climb required what some might consider superhuman climbing ability and athleticism.

The accomplishment of scaling La Dura Dura’s 5.15c climb still remains the unique territory held only by Adam Ondra and Chris Sharma. But the sport of rock climbing is about crossing boundaries into new worlds of accomplishment; the world is watching to see who will be next to scale La Dura Dura, if anyone is able, and to see which impossible climb is next completed. After all, scaling the inviolable walls of impossibility is the heart, soul, and allure of rock climbing.