Chris Sharma Sends Five-Year 5.15 Deep Water Solo Project
Chris Sharma makes the first ascent of Alasha, a deep water solo route on the Mallorcan coastline in Spain. Though he has not officially graded the climb, it is likely in the 5.15 realm.
Ten years after establishing the still unrepeated Es Pontas, Chris Sharma has once again made a splash in the climbing world with his first ascent of Alasha on the sea cliffs of Mallorca, Spain. The climb, which he named after his daughter, Alana Sharma, is one of the hardest deep water solos in the world.
Since sending Es Pontas in 2006, “My life has come full circle a few times, it feels like,“ Sharma tells Rock and Ice. Es Pontas was a landmark climb at the time, immortalized in the movie King Lines, and one of the first times that deep water soloing received global attention. The silhouette of Sharma on the underside of the Es Pontas arch is an indelible image for climbers of the mid-2000s. Though he never officially graded the route, speculation by those familiar with the climb, such as Magnus Midtbø, put the grade in the 5.15a/b range.
But after climbing Es Pontas, Sharma found himself projectless in Mallorca. “I had kind of felt like I did everything on the island,” he says. “It was kind of a bummer, you know? There wasn’t anything else I had seen up until then, so it was kind of like ‘What next?’”
To find the next King Line, Sharma would have to comb the coastline. Five years ago, “We went and explored the northern coast,” near the town of Soller, he says. “We jumped off a cliff with fins and some dry bags, and went on a four hour swim to just check out the coastline.”
“And then I saw this one wall,” he says.
He describes the location as “very rugged, very mountainous. It’s [an] ominous spot,” a sharp contrast to the turquoise waters above which reside many of Mallorca’s deep water solo climbs.
After discovering the line, Sharma tried Alasha dozens of times in the subsequent years. He fell tens of times from the crux, approximately 60 feet up. “I realized if I wanted to have any shot,” he says, “I’d have to rap in and work it on a rope.” The crux—which he estimates to be in the V13 range—is both powerful and technical. “It needs very subtle body positions, really tricky beta.”
So upon his return to Mallorca this summer, Sharma approached the route with a new tactic: “I spent basically two weeks just working it on a rope,” he says. “I finally figured it out to the point where I was like ‘Ok, the moves go, now I can start trying it from the bottom.’” Yet it still took Sharma considerable work and patience to put all the pieces together. The upper crux was so demanding that he could give it only a couple of tries each day “and then I’d just have no more power,” he says.
After a week of redpoint attempts, he finally sent.
Just as he chose not to grade Es Pontas, Sharma declined to grade Alasha—at least definitively. “Everyone wants to know how hard it is,” Sharma says, “but reflecting on the whole DWS thing, it’s such a different thing than sport climbing or regular rock climbing. So it’s really hard to put a grade on it.
“The only comparison I can make is to other routes I’ve done and the amount of effort it took. If it had bolts on it, it probably wouldn’t be a 9b (5.15b). But when you’re 60 feet up with no bolts, it takes the same amount of effort.”
In discussing the route, Sharma reflects on how fatherhood has affected his relationship to climbing: “I’m a dad now. Our daughter Alana is almost four months old. When you have kids, your time becomes more limited, and one of the good things about that is that it helps you focus and channel your energy. In climbing, so much of the time it’s easy to procrastinate when you’re just hanging out at the crag all day.”
The day that he finally sent Alasha, everything fell into place. “There was this amazing moment for me: sitting in a cave right at the base, meditating, waves crashing, this very special and powerful setting, this very beautiful climb. I just knew that I could do this thing,” he says, “and I was able to focus and channel all the energy in that moment.”
Sharma has been at the vanguard of hard sport climbing for nearly twenty years, repeatedly ushering in new levels of difficulty. From his first ascents of Dreamcatcher (5.14d) in Squamish, Canada; Biographie/Realization (5.15a) in Céüse, France; Jumbo Love (5.15b), at Clark Mountain, California; and his equipping and second ascent of La Dura Dura (5.15c), in Oliana, Spain, he has continuously pushed the limits of the sport.
But most of all, Sharma is looking forward to quality time with his wife, Jimena Alarcon de Sharma, and their four-month-old daughter. “It’s such a life-changing thing to have a kid,” he says. “Definitely puts things in perspective, and makes me want to climb nearby so I’m not far away from my family. So for this fall I think we’re planning on sticking close to home around Catalunya and keeping it simple.”
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