Unroped competitors climbed for speed over the Adaja River in Spain. In the end, two Slovenian siblings stood atop their respective podiums.
This June, Red Bull’s Creepers deep-water solo climbing comp came back for the first time since 2014. Sixteen contenders tackled two routes bolted to the Salamanca Bridge in Avila, Spain, with nothing to catch them except the Adaja River below.
When the dust — and splashdowns — cleared, international comp climbers and siblings Jernej and Julija Kruder had each won gold.
For the hundreds who looked on, it was a welcome return of climbing spectator events. Spain is world-famous for its athletic climbing culture, but the Creepers deep-water comp was the first organized climbing event in the country in 2021.
Creepers Deep-Water Climbing Competition
The Creepers comp climbing style is deep-water solo (DWS), or psicobloc, with an added speed element. Climbing DWS requires athleticism and nerve; athletes have to prepare to splash down awkwardly or even injuriously in case of a fall. Adding a stopwatch dials up the intensity.
Routesetters bolted the deep-water climbing routes for Creepers 2021 on the arches of the Salamanca Bridge. The difficulty for the men’s route was estimated at 8a+ (mid-5.13). The women’s route came in at 7c (hard 5.12). Each route was 13 m (42 feet) long, finishing on radically steepening terrain.
With the stage set, there was only one thing left for climbers to do: crush the gnar as fast as they could. If it sounds fun as hell to watch, it’s because it is.
Usually, the anticipation of a fall only increases as the climber gets higher on the route. When the crowd senses the climber is about to peel (and when the climber senses it, for that matter), it gets pretty exciting.
The clock stops when the climber rings the bell at the top of the route. Customarily, the climber then lets go and takes the plunge.
Kruders Cruise: 2021 Red Bull Creeper Results
Jernej Kruder posted the best overall time with a blistering 20 seconds, beating Spain’s own Mikel Linacisoro and Nils Favre from Switzerland. Climbing legend Chris Sharma, who won the first Creepers comp in 2014, also competed.
Julija Kruder won the women’s deep-water climbing event, finishing ahead of Afra Hoening from Germany and Ana Belén Argudo, another Spaniard.
Thirty-year-old Jernej was the 2018 Bouldering World Cup champion and reportedly inspired his sister to start climbing.
“[I]t has been a great experience to be able to compete and win together,” Julija said of taking the gold with her brother. “Victory always gives you an incredible feeling, but it’s especially cool seeing your loved ones at the top too.”
Look for Jernej to keep crushing it on the psicobloc circuit. After the deep-water climbing comp, he told Red Bull he planned to return to Mallorca, Spain — deep-water solo mecca — to keep training.