Three-Man Shoulder Stand and an Enormous Fall in Ardspach

Three-Man Shoulder Stand and an Enormous Fall in Ardspach

What do you do when the crack doesn’t start until 12 feet up, the wall is blank, and the local ethic forbids bolts? Get a little help from your friends! Always good to have a shoulder to lean – er, stand – on.

On the hundreds of sandstone towers in Adršpach, Czech Republic, protection is limited to knotted slings or ropes, and widely-spaced ringbolts. In this video, local climber Danny Mensik starts the route „Orel nebo pana“ („Head or tail“) by standing on the shoulders of a friend who is already standing on the shoulders of another friend. When he established the route in 1978, a local legend named Cikán relied on a five-person (!) shoulder stand to bypass the 12-foot blank section at the base of the wall to reach the crack. Mensik says, „As we were only three, it was a bit more challenging.“

Grades in Adršpach, just like the ethics and protection, are also old-school. „This route has only had 6 repetitions and is graded VIIc,“ says Mensik. „If you look at the comparison table it should be 5.9 in USA, but this comparison doesn’t really works since VIIc in Adršpach can be anything between 5.10-5.12, not counting the mental difference.“

Once established in the crack after the shoulder stand, Mensik got a couple of good knots and made his way up the finger crack, which eventually widens to an easy handcrack and the first ringbolt at 12 meters. The crack is then unprotectable for the next 6 meters, and just before the next ringbolt it gets shallow and thin again.

„Suddenly the crack was very dirty and full of moss,“ Mensik says, „which caused my fall as I was trying to make another move to reach the second ringbolt. The whipper was completely fine…as smooth as can be. But my belayer hit his elbow while catching me which caused a terrifying look in his eyes and scared me more than the fall itself!“

Both Mensik and belayer were ok. Ten minutes a quick breather later, he got back on and sent.

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