Alexander Megos

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Driven by pushing his own limits and the simple joy of climbing, Alex rose quickly through the ranks of German climbers to become a young global superstar of the modern climbing scene. His phenomenal sport climbing achievements place him as one of the most important climbers of this era and one of the top athletes in the world, but he still does it for the enjoyment it brings, as opposed to the rewards.

Something I have learned in my climbing years is that time management is really important, but the most important thing is fun,” says Alex. “It's not worth training hard for a good result in a competition or to climb a hard route, if on the other hand you lose the fun which climbing should be. It doesn't matter if you have climbed the route or you've won the competition. When you feel like chilling or doing something totally different, just do it. Sooner or later you will find your way back to climbing because it's simply the best sport on earth.”

Born in Erlangen, in the Frankenjura, Germany, in 1993 Alex began climbing at the age of five. Spurred on by his father’s enthusiasm for outdoor activities, he was soon absorbed by climbing, bouldering, mountain biking and trail running.

Like many top climbers in the modern generation, Alex had an immediate affinity with competition climbing. Aged 13 he took part in the Bavarian Sport Climbing Cup. The following year, in 2007, he was Bavarian Champion. The successes kept on snowballing and in 2008 and 2009 he was German Youth Champion. In 2009 and 2010 he won the European Youth Cup, and in 2010 he gained second place in the Youth World Championship in Edinburgh.

During those years my focus was on competition climbing, which doesn't mean that I just trained in the gym,” says Alex. “Outdoor climbing was, is and will always be more important for me, as it contains more fun and allows a more relaxed lifestyle.”

Growing up in such close proximity to world-class limestone crags certainly helped to stretch his considerable climbing talents and his rapid progression through the grades, earning him the nickname ‘wunderkind’. In 2007, aged 14, he climbed his first 7b+, Freche Füchse at Zamonien and three months later his first 8a, Zwei Musketiere at Soranger Wand, which he climbed third go.

One year later he flashed his first 8b: Commando Madrid at Les Perxes on Mallorca. Then in the spring of 2009 he clocked up his first 8c, Drive by Shooting back home at Bärenschlucht in the Frankenjura—remarkably this route also went down on his third go. Four weeks later he climbed Pain makes me feel stronger every day 8c+ at Glocke, again in the Frankenjura.

Turning the lip on the super highball Evilution V11, Buttermilks, California  © Vera Warmbrunn
Turning the lip on the super highball Evilution V11, Buttermilks, California © Vera Warmbrunn

Mind boggling improvements continued and in 2010, aged 16, Alex onsighted La Pietra Murata(8b+) in Massone, Italy. Then the legendary Frankenjura route,Wallstreet (8c) was despatched in only five tries. Later that year, during his first trip to Kalymnos he made the first ascents of Fake Friends and Keep Going (both 8c) and then onsighted Trous dans l’air (8b+). A second trip at the end of the year produced an equally impressive roster of ascents: Lucky Luca Extension (8c, second go), Barabuk (8b+, onsight), Nadir (8b+, second go), Glaros (8b, onsight), Gaia (8b, onsight), Labyrinth (8b, second go), Rendez with Platon (8a+/b, onsight) and…(phew!)…StormPU (8a+, onsight).

During 2011 he continued to snap up hard routes in super-quick times. In the spring he climbed Shangri-La (8c+) in Schlaraffenland, Frankenjura, before flashing the Frankenjura test piece Raubritter (8c) and repeating the 8b (E8/9?) bolt-free trad route, Archon at Circus Maximus.

In 2012 Alex redpointed his first 9a, San Ku Kai on Entraygues, the fierce sport crag above Briançon, France and towards the end of the year he set off on an extended road trip around the U.S. Stimulated by the wealth of new climbing opportunities, Alex responded accordingly. First up was a four-day redpoint of Dave Graham’s bouldery test-piece, The Fly (5.14d, 9a) in Rumney, New Hampshire. Next, a shift to Red River Gorge saw a rush of hard repeats, including four 8c+s, three 8b+s climbed onsight and Pure Imagination, his first 8c+ flash.

In the Buttermilks, outside Bishop, California, Alex fired off some hard boulder problems, including a flash of Blood Meridian (V12/13), Mandala (V12) and the ultra highball Evilution (V11). In Hueco Tanks, Texas, he climbed a series of desperate boulders: Terre de Sienne (V13/14), Crown of Aragorn (V13), Crown Royale (V13), Slashface (V13), Sôl Adûnâmentum (V13) and Nagual (V13).

A few months later Alex was in Siurana rattling through well-established test pieces, such as A Muerte 8c+/9a), La Rambla (9a+) and Jungle Speed (9a), with unnerving speed. It was here that he made history with his onsight of Estado Critico, the first 9a in the world to be climbed in such a style.

Alex Megos on the glassy pinch of Lucid Dreaming (V15/8C). © Ken Etzel
Alex Megos on the glassy pinch of Lucid Dreaming (V15/8C). © Ken Etzel

Throughout 2013 and 2014 Alexander climbed a large volume of hard routes in the Frankenjura; in fact, he did fourteen in the 9a and 9a+ category, including an astonishingly quick ascent of Wolfgang Gulich’s infamous Action Direct—which he climbed in a mere two hours—and made five 9a or 9a+ first ascents (Classified [9a/+], Dicker Bert [9a], Nice Freshly Baked [9a], Modified [9a+] and Janus [9a]).

During this time Alex was also climbing prolifically abroad, including: Australia, where he climbed The Groove Train (33, 9a/+) on the Taipan Wall in the Grampians; Spain where he ticked La Bongada (9a) and La Ley Innata (8c+/9a) at Margalef, La Rubia (8c+) in El Chorro and the second ascent of To Tu Jeste Nebyl (9a) in the Elbsandstein area of the Czech Republic. During a trip to Kalymnos in October 2013 Alex added seventeen new routes ranging from 8a+ to 8c+.

Throughout this frenetic period Alex always kept an eye on his bouldering. On a visit to North Wales in May 2013 he made the first ascent of Das Pumpenhausen Testipiece (8B) at Porth Ysgo. In the Grampians in Australia he repeated The Wheel of Life (V15) and then added a harder first ascent in the same cave named Wheel Chair. Due to the length of this problem Alex chose to give it a route grade of 9a+, although some postulate it could be V16 (8C+).

Early in 2014 he had a very successful trip to Ticino and Magic Wood with Wiz Fineron. Highlights of the trip included Dagger (8B/+), Great Shark Hunt (8B), Santoku (8B), Steppenwolf (8B) and Never Ending Story (8B+). In April he made the first ascent of Bad Boys for Life (8B+) in the Frankenjura.

In June 2014 he showed his skills could branch out onto big walls when he made the first free ascent of Fly, a twenty-pitch 8c in the Lauterbrunnen Valley, Switzerland. With pitches of 8b, 8b+ and 8c this route ranks as one of the hardest multipitch climbs in the world.

Alex Megos on the Louis/Halfway House link-up (8B+), Parisella's cave, North Wales. © Ray Wood
Alex Megos on the Louis/Halfway House link-up (8B+), Parisella's cave, North Wales. © Ray Wood

However, of all Alex’s achievements in 2014 it was his one-day/third attempt ascent of Biographie/Realization (widely considered the world’s first 9a+) at Céüse that really turned heads. Despite having climbed 9a+ in fewer attempts previously—his second-attempt ascent of La Rambla in 2013—Alex’s ascent of Biographie/Realization, made during his first ever trip to Cèüse, was only the ninth overall and the other ascentionists took considerably longer to climb the route.

Back home in the Frankenjura Alex had another special day, climbing three 9as, two of which were first ascents, including Geocache (later confirmed to be 9a+), which took Alex an uncharacteristic six days and 40 attempts to complete and was therefore an involved project for the young German. Although Alex doesn't think the route is any harder than others at the same grade, he does say, “it’s just a bit strange”.

By this point, the climbing world was asking, given his astonishing output, what on earth Alex would achieve next. 

The answer was, quite simply, even more.

By the end of 2015 Alex had bouldered 8C (V15) in the Buttermilks, California, climbed three V11s, a V12 and a V15 all in one day in Japan and climbed another 9a+ route—Demencia Senil at Margalef—second go. This was, of course, in combination with numerous ticks and first ascents in the ninth grade.

Picking only one highlight [for 2015] is a very easy decision for me,” said Alex, in June 2015. “It would be Lucid Dreaming (V15) in the Buttermilks in Bishop. That boulder problem was my longest project so far taking 11 days and involved a huge mental and physical effort to do it. But every day was totally worth it.”

However, this decision may have been different if Alex had waited until the end of the year. The very last day of the year, in fact, as on December 31st, on his last try of the day, Alex made the third ascent of First Round, First Minute in Margalf, Spain. This was his first 9b.

Alex making the word's first 9a onsight, on Estado Critico, Siurana, Spain.
Alex making the word's first 9a onsight, on Estado Critico, Siurana, Spain.

In the summer of the following year, only weeks into a month-long climbing trip through Canada, Alex reached the 9b grade again when he made the first ascent of the country’s hardest sport climb and second 9b—Fightclub (5.15b) at Ravens Crag, near Banff. At the time it was only the second 5.15b in all of North and South America.

Alex pushed equally hard in 2017, onsighting his second 9a route, Stefano Ghisolfi’s TCT in Gravere, Italy, making the second ascent of The Finnish Line (likely 8C) in Rocklands, South Africa and claiming the silver medal in both the Bouldering European Championships in Munich, Germany, and the IFSC Lead World Cup in Kranj, Solvenia. The following year he won bronze a the IFSC Lead World Cup in Chamonix, France, and one week later took Gold in the Lead World Cup in Briançon.

No doubt his greatest achievement, however, came in May 2018 when he reached all new heights by making the first ascent of Perfecto Mundo (9b+) at Margalef, a long-dormant project of Chris Sharma’s. He became one of only three climbers, the other two being Adam Ondra and Chris Sharma, to climb a 9b+ route.

I'm incredibly relieved,” reported Alex on his Instagram. “This has been an important process in my climbing career and clipping the anchor of Perfecto Mundo, my first 9b+ as well as getting the FA was an incredible experience.”

In August 2019 Alex won the Combined Qualification Round at the ISC World Championships in Hachioji, Japan, thereby becoming one of the first twelve atheltes to secure a ticket to the first ever climbing olympic competition at the 2020 Olympic games in Tokyo.