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Stefano Ghisolfi Makes First Ascent of Excalibur, One of the Hardest Routes in the World

The long-term project in Italy had been attempted by many of the world's best climbers

Italian climber Stefano Ghisolfi, 29, has made the first ascent of his long-term project, Excalibur, giving it a grade of 5.15c (9b+). The climb is located in Drena, near Ghisolfi’s hometown of Arco, Italy. The line is short, steep, and powerful. It works its way up a series of sharp micro edges and small awkwardly-positioned pockets to a fierce boulder problem up high, requiring an extremely technical heel hook.

Excalibur was originally bolted by Cristian Dorigatti and Morris Fontanari. Shortly after bolting the route, the pair invited Ghisolfi to try the project in early 2021. Ghisolfi put substantial effort into unlocking the complex beta in 2022, working the moves with some of the world’s top climbers including Adam Ondra, Will Bosi, and Jakob Schubert.

There was much speculation as to whether the climb would be 5.15c (9b+) or 5.15d (9c) once completed. Via Instagram, Ghisolfi had this to say about the grade: “I’m also confident to propose 9b+ as [the] grade, this time I have no doubt about it, and for sure it is the hardest of all my first ascents, and probably the hardest route in Italy now!”

The line appears to still be an ongoing project for Bosi. It’s unclear if Schubert will try his hand at Excalibur again. Ondra recently announced that he was walking away from the project due to the high potential for injury from the beta he was forced to used. The small holds required him to put his fingers in a scary tendon-compromising position.

Ghisolfi is one of the world’s best sport climbers. He has now climbed four 5.15c’s: Excalibur in Arco, Perfecto Mundo in Margalef, Change in Flatanger, and Bibliographie in Céüse. Originally graded 5.15d (9c) by Alex Megos, Ghisolfi downgraded Bibliographie to 5.15c. In 2022, he repeated Adam Ondra’s Move 5.15b, and put up two 5.15b’s of his own in Italy, The Lonely Mountain and L’arenauta.

For context, Ondra has climbed four 5.15c’s and one 5.15d (Silence in Flatanger). Seb Bouin has climbed three 5.15b/c’s, two 5.15c’s, and one 5.15d (DNA in Ramirole, France).

Ghisolfi and Bosi on Excalibur 5.15c

The holds on Excalibur 5.15c

Adam Ondra attempting Excalibur 5.15c