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Martin Stráník, from boulders to sandstone

If you've been following Martin Stráník, you must not have missed his raid on the Czech sandstone. Last year Martin achieved many successes and this year he is not slowing down either and the climbs he added this spring just confirm his passion for sandstone sport climbing.

Martin made his first "spring" score already in January in the Elbe Valley, when he first managed to send Tinder XIa with his third attempt and later on the same day he also climbed the project of a Czech climber Džangli Sex with Ex Xc AF. "I tune the boulder over the edge, beautiful steps for about 8A, I slow down and send on the first sharp attempt. The estimated grade was XIc-XIIb, but I think it's more on the lower end of XIc," Martin assesses this trip.

175355Photo: Martin Stránik blog, Betom XIc

Another successful feat was to climb Betom XIc on the second try! Martin had this challenge in his head for a long time, so he wanted to try it on Flash. " I feel good and make my way up on the route decently, always boulder-rest, boulder-rest, until I'm at the crux spot at the fourth bolt. I get a pinch, get my feet up and that's when my left hand pops out, my skin is quite dry today and it's not ideal in crimps, it's a shame, it was close, " Martin comments his attempt on Flash. On the second attempt he runs through the route, shudders at the fourth bolt, is on the edge of falling in the last hard step, but holds a good hole and enjoys the easy climb to Top.

The biggest success so far this year is the first repetition of Černá perla XIIa on the right bank of the Elbe River. The second hardest route on the Czech sandstone. Martin first made a trial climb, repeated the crux and when he came to the final vertical he found that he was far from won. On the second attempt he manages to break through the boulder in the overhang and climbs to the end of the vertical part, where he freezes, wilts and has no energy to complete the climb. A 45 min pause follows, Martin tweaks the final passage, finds a slightly better beta and sends it all the way to the Top on the third attempt. "Wow, that went pretty fast. I think the grade tallies, it's harder than the XIc's, although in my opinion To tu ještě nebylo XIIb route is two grades higher," says Martin.

175354Photo: Standa MitáčČerná perla XIIa

I'm sure you're as interested as we are in what Martin's next plan is. So, we asked him about it:

What are your plans for the autumn? Do you have anything left to climb on the Czech sandstone?

There's still plenty of challenges. At the moment I want to try to push my FLASH/OS level higher, I have a few routes in the Elbe Valley and in Teplice for XIb, so let's see if something will happen. And next I want to get comfortable on sandstone, so far I've climbed "sport routes", but there are still a lot of technical edges, verticals that are not that hard regarding grades, but maybe they will give me more work than XIc in the Elbe Valley. And I'd also like to try the legendary projects in Adršpach. It was an unploughed field for me on sandstone, I've made a pretty good harvest in six months and have my mind set on climbing everything above XIb and the hardest routes in all the sandstone areas with a XIa route, there's an amazing amount of it and so many beautiful routes.

What about drilling new routes? Are you going to do something?

That's exactly what I'm tempted to do, but I don't think that time has come yet, I look around and I would definitely like to drill something in the future, the dream is to drill XIIc.

175356Photo: Standa MitáčČerná perla XIIa

What about the classics with placing your own protection, does that appeal to you?

I'm interested in that as well, but I'm very bad at cracks so far, in Teplice I have escaped from one VIIb crack in between my attempts on Vysoké napětí. Courage, I'm slowly gaining it and I feel more confident, but cracks are still Greek to me. Actually, for now, I think I see it that as long as I'm in shape I'll focus on physical power routes, when my form goes down I'll go for the classics.

How do you divide your time between bouldering, sandstone and comps now?

The priority for me at the moment is competitions, and my training and trips to the rocks are subordinated to that. I give less and less to bouldering. I've climbed almost everything I could in the Czech Republic and now that I specializing more on lead climbing competitions, I naturally switch to lead climbing on the crags and realize myself there. I still have a few bouldering projects, but climbing with rope is the priority now.

175350Photo: Jan Šimánek, To tu ještě nebylo XIIb

There are already guys a generation younger at the comps. Do you still enjoy competitions or are you getting ready to retire?

I really love lead climbing, but bouldering is already a different world. I think I have quite a talent for movement "parkour" bouldering, because I don't train it at all and I can do it at the Czech level, but the world is different and I don't do it there, so I don't enjoy it. In lead climbing it's still about strength and endurance, I still manage to keep up with the world's best there. I'll still be competing for a few more years and it's a great motivation for me to keep going until the Olympics in Los Angeles, where the lead climbing will have a separate set of medals. At the moment I would have a great chance of getting there and making it, it depends on how many new young faces emerge.

Thanks for the interview and fingers crossed for both the comps and the crags.

Well, you can see that Martin has a good run on sandstone. We already mentioned that he did well last year. So here's a quick summary of his best climbs in 2023.

Last year's biggest success was of course the climb of To tu ještě nebylo XIIb on Malý Ďábel in the Elbe Valley, the only route on the Czech sandstone that corresponds to the French 9a. "Step-wise I had the route clear fast, but with the pumping in the route I was suddenly unsure of my steps and made mistakes, so I had to "get the hang of it". It was motivating that I was falling higher and higher with each visit until it worked. It's a great strength and endurance route, with no extra hard move, but no rest either," Martin says.

Martin also added other valuable climbs in this area. We can mention Catgroove XIc or Jew Jitsu XIb on the quick second attempt. He quickly and uncompromisingly climbed Strandcafé XIc at Labská pláž and also Zakletá hrana XIb in Kuchyňský kout.

175351Photo: Jan Šimánek, To tu ještě nebylo XIIb

Apart from the Elbe Valley, Martin also visited other sandstone crags in Czechia, and even there he managed to climb what he could.

In Panteon he climbed onsight French Style XIa, although according to his words it's actually something that doesn't suit him very well - a vertical to slab on micros.

In Příhrazy he climbed Neuropathologist, considered the first XIa in Czechia. In Klokočí Martin performed a truly unprecedented performance with his "safe" solo climb of Estivace XIa. Martin wrote about this climb: "Estivace, I was blown away by that one and in fact by the whole Klokočské Rocks. It was nice, I didn't have a partner, so I went alone and somehow I figured out a way to climb the route with self-protection. And that's why the route gave me more work than other XIa's, because I didn't want to fall into fixed belays and I controlled the climbing a lot. The route is sauceless and grades towards the end."

In Ostaš Martin climbed the route Ahoj XIa and also made the second free ascent of its branch called Pivo, buřty a nenávist, which he wrote down as XIa/XIb.

In Teplice, Martin returned to Vysoké napětí XIb after many years, which he successfully completed this time. How did he perceive it? "Super crimps climb that I almost climbed some 16 years ago. The first part didn't give me too many problems, but the final boulder after the resting place was a bit hard. I also looked at the extension and I think it's real. It would be a blast to get Napětí to the top of the rock."
Yeah, that would be a blast! We're not the only ones keeping our fingers crossed, maybe it'll happen this year.

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Check out this great documentary about Martin Stráník by Honza Šimánek. The film premiered at last year's IMFF and now is online.