Review by Alan Watts
This impressive, large format book bears little resemblance to titles released by most elite climbers. As the greatest climber of his generation (or any generation, for that matter), Ondra would have little reason to shy away from making this book a celebration of himself. Perhaps a riveting narrative, told by a ghost writer, along with a few glossy shots of the hardest routes in the world. No one would have argued with this approach.
But Ondra choose a different direction. Instead of using words to tell his story, he let photos do the talking. This is, first and foremost, a photographic essay. There are short sections of text, in Adam’s own words, explaining where he came from and how and why climbing took such a hold on his life. There is an endearing quality to these passages – never arrogant, but instead organic and authentic. The text provides the needed bridge between one photographic treasure trove and another. But the magic of this book comes once you turn to the pages of images.
Anyone expecting a gripping tale of how one success led to the next might be disappointed. This is not an autobiography. The story of Adam Ondra, after all, is still unfolding. Instead, it’s a snapshot into the life of an extraordinary climber at the peak of his game. It’s a personal glimpse into Adam’s world. In this context, it succeeds brilliantly.
There are shots of breathtaking beauty, along with incredible displays of athleticism. But where the book succeeds most are the photos that show the human side of Adam Ondra. There are images of him in contemplation, visualizing his goals, walking, eating, stretching, driving. There are photos of him succeeding and struggling. These are the pictures that make him real.
Through Adam Ondra’s unique approach to his book, we are given a glance into what makes him the best climber in the world. In reality, his climbing is far beyond the bounds of most of our imaginations. Yet the irony isn’t how different he is from the rest of us. Instead, it’s the similarities. Ondra deserves credit for making his book so accessible. None of us will ever be Adam Ondra, but all climbers will feel a kinship with what fuels him.