The François Legrand interview

The François Legrand interview

François Legrand was dominant on the competition scene between 1990 and 1995. He won all three World Championships and 15 out of the 27 World Cups that he competed in during that period. He's the son of mountain guides, but it was not until the age of 18, that he began sport climbing when he moved to a cave in Buoux and at the same time started to compete. Later he moved into an apartment with Yuji Hirayama and the rest is history. In 2000, he made the FA of Roby in the Sky (9a).

How do you live climbing nowadays?
I'm still highly passionate about climbing... differently but as much as 30 years ago 😊 Of course, I'm not a "pro climber" anymore so I have to deal with a full-time job and family occupations, but I try to save as much time as I can for my passion. I also have to deal more and more with my body limits since I had an accident in Kalymnos 5 years ago, and 2 consecutive surgery operations on my shoulders! So my training regime and my level is not always as high as I would like but when everything is alright I manage to climb 4 times/week, usually Tuesdays and Thursdays evening indoors, and at our favourite crags at the weekends. I said "our" ‘cause I'm really happy and lucky to share all these great sessions and emotions with my younger son Erwan 😊 Erwan is 14 and seems to love climbing as much as his father, so it's amazing to spend so much time together thus it's becoming harder and harder to follow him!

It’s particularly difficult that he’s progressing, and that "small injuries" are frequent for me! But following him at such amazing places as Buoux or Saint Léger keep my motivation always high! When I'm not able to climb, I enjoy being at the crags with friends; I belay and encourage Erwan, and I use the time he's resting to find new lines, I also love that... I've bolted more than 100 routes mostly in Buoux within the last 2 years! It's such a great achievement to discover lines of holds on the rock; sure, it's sometimes quite tough work to place the bolts and to clean the route, but what a satisfaction to see the result, to try to free climb it (when I can do it before Erwan!), and then to see others enjoy these new climbs 😊

What are the biggest changes in the comp and rock scene since you were active?
So many things have changed since the beginning of sport climbing competitions! Yes, I was quite young at those times, but I started comps in 1986... then it was almost the very first climbing competitions ever, we made a few outdoor events on the real rock: What a disaster! First, it was lead climbing only, and all "on sight"; no preview, so each climber had as much time he wanted in his 10 minutes allowed to read and climb the route! I think I had a real impact on the format change as I was spending more time reading the route on the floor than performing on the wall... the rhythm of the comps was so slow, and the qualifications on 1 single route was so long for everyone, and the isolation waiting time was crazy for the last climbers of the start list!!! Then came real indoor comps and world cup circuits every season, first the World Championships in 1991 (Frankfurt), 1993 (Innsbruck), 1995 (Genève)... my golden years 😊 (Francois won three consecutive golds.)

At the beginning of the millennium appeared the Bouldering Series, with several modifications of the formats and the rule applications (also in Lead), and finally in 2007 the IFSC speed circuit on the official "record route" created by Jacky (Godoffe) and which is actually still exactly the same nowadays! These last years the biggest changes came from the artificial climbing structures, and especially the "extra use" (overuse?) of the volumes and the micro and macro holds. These evolutions influenced radically the route setting, the climbing style and the skills required for the competitors... and in the end the results! That's a big change and the older athletes had to adapt themselves and many had trouble dealing with it, while the younger generation grew up with it naturally.

Personally, I like every kind of climbing as far as it is not dangerous. I'm not good at modern coordination moves like run and jumps or big dynos, but I have fun trying them when needed (which is not so frequent as I'm mostly rope climbing). But concerning competitions, as an observer and spectator, I think competitions are often too stereotyped in this modern style and should propose more diversity in terms of skills for the climbers, and maybe a little less risk; risk is fun for the show, but not always for the athlete who invested a lot to present himself in his best shape for a Championship!

How do you see the future and what is your advice to the youngsters pushing hard?
The future is great for our sport: climbing events are great, competition circuits are now really well organized, we are at the Olympics since Tokyo (finally!), there will be 2 more medals at Paris2024 and hoping for 2 per discipline for LA2028 (?) Media and sponsors are putting more focus on our sport, which is good for us TV spectators and for athletes who aim to be professionals. Gyms are opening every month in large cities, and the number of new climbers is growing respectively with the quality of the offer of these new facilities... but not only!

The future is wide for our "Vertical World": Outdoor rock climbing never has been promoted so well by films since Patrick Edlinger, with climbing legends such as Tommy Caldwell or Alex Honnold. Sport climbing limits also have been pushed hard and filmed in high quality to share these achievements and to show all the "behind the scenes" of the success (which is the most interesting part to me). Chris Sharma, Adam Ondra or Alex Megos are not just pure monsters; they are real role models in their climbing careers and also for their spirit and humanity on our fragile planet. This is so inspiring... We are lucky to have such mentors in our sport, especially for the new generations, but not only; personally I've learned a lot from these heroes even though they are much younger than me! If we follow the same way, respecting Nature and Life, "Planet Rock" is a magical playground that deserves to be preserved.

The community of climbers is particular, far from most sports: we interact, support and push each other; we all speak the same language, and we are like a "Big Family" 😊

My advice to the youngsters, in between others, would be to always keep some fun in their sessions: meet some friends or someone you'd like to talk to, not always push hard or be highly focused from the beginning to the end of the session, and of course, learn to find little satisfactions when failing to the challenge: being positive, keeping the smile... makes you and who you are climbing with happy, and keep the motivation high! Love Climbing & Buoux for ever 😊


Cameron Hörst sends third 9a in a month!

Cameron Hörst sends third 9a in a month!

Cameron Hörst has done Zoolander (9a) in Red River Gorge. (c) Jonathan Hörst

I belayed Alex Megos when he made the first ascent in the fall of 2019. Since then it has been repeated by Daniel Woods and Yannick Flohe. I finally was able to try and found it suited me very well. Short, steep and powerful with small crimps/pockets! Oh yeah, and only took a couple sessions. Feeling FITTTT”.

The 22-year-old started making 8a headlines when he did three 8b+ in 2012. Looking at his scorecard, it's clear that he has had eleven years of steady progress. Cameron's father is the well known climbing trainer and author, Eric Hörst who has helped shape and guide Cameron's solid and gradual progress over the years.

How can you explain your recent peak performance?
I can attribute my performance so far this year to compounding interest of my training (over the last couple years). I would also say, my focus on improving my climbing weaknesses over the year or so has helped a ton. On top of that I become a climbing trainer/ performance coach over the last year, which caused me to analyze my climbing training and performance in new way as well. Which has helped so it seems.

The Story of 2 Worlds (8C) by Stefan Hochbaum

The Story of 2 Worlds (8C) by Stefan Hochbaum

Stefan Hochbaum has done The Story Of 2 Worlds (8C) in Cresciano. ”Finally! So happy for finishing off this beast after many ups and downs. Perseverance paid off once again. Had a hard mental battle with this one. Many moves and lot's of room for mistakes make it even more satisfying!”

Can you tell us your story about the ascent?
The whole story begun when I first visited the dagger in March 2021. I surprised myself back then sending it after my second session really quick. Back than I only touched the holds of The Story after my Dagger send and thought it would be too hard at this moment, so I left Cresciano and climbed some other great problems in Brione because I had only few days left in Ticino. In October 2021 I started to working The Story of 2 worlds. After my 3th session I fell 3 moves before the last jug and got super hyped but skin and power were gone at this moment so I couldn't finish it this time.

In March 2022 I got back to Cresciano and thought this time I am going to send it fast. Weather was too warm and conditions terrible for such a long and hard boulder. I couldn't get back to my highpoint and got shut down and frustrated. So I left it again and focused on some easier stuff in Cresciano because I haven't climbed there anything. One year later March 2023 I got back to The Story. After arriving at this bloc all moves felt so much easier and I could finally send it. In total I spend 12 sessions at this bloc.

Can you tell us about your climbing background?
I am 29 years old, climbing 14 years now and living in North Germany where we don't have lots of good possibilities to go bouldering outside. So I am always syked to travel to the alps. I flashed 8A boulders and climbed 5 8B+ boulders in total.

What’s your next plan? I have only 2 days left here so I am taking it easy and try to climb so beautiful problems here.
Back home, 1.5 h drive from my hometown, I have a long outstanding project in an area called scharfenstein. It's next to the city Kassel. I am trying to do a first ascent there which a local showed me some time ago. Since 12 years it's an Project now and the hardest boulder I've ever tried. Fell on the last hard move 3 month ago. So super syked to go back. There will also be a short movie about all the process after I've finished it 🙂

Niccolò Ceria does Off the Wagon Sit (8C+)

Niccolò Ceria does Off the Wagon Sit (8C+)

Niccolò Ceria has repeated Shawn Raboutou’s Off the Wagon Sit (8C+) in Valle Bavona, Insta video.

Could you tell us more about the ascent and how many sessions it took?
It was a nice climb mostly because I could understand how different my body was and how differently it moves from when I did it (the stand) in 2014 and the time I returned on it last Feb. I tried it one day on Nov 22 and then the day I did it in Feb. All the rest was from pre-2014.

So you actually sent it on the first day having not tried it for three months?
Yes, correct. I did climb between Nov and Feb. Some indoors in Jan because I couldn’t travel and then a trip to Sardinia in December.

What’s coming up next?
Aosta Valley in a few weeks :) then hopefully UK!

In 2005, Dave Graham started working on Off the Wagon (8B+) and the following year, Chris Sharma and Nalle Hukkataival began projecting it. Six years later, Nalle did the FA of the stand start calling it 8C. Two days later Jan Hojer did the first repeat, calling it 8B+, which was later confirmed. In 2018, Shawn Raboutou made the FA of the sit start, using the wagon, but it has also been done standing from the ground, in both cases using the same starting holds.

Another week and another 9a for Loic Zehani!

Another week and another 9a for Loic Zehani!

Loic Zehani has done Life is a rock trip (9a) in Margalef. During the last 12 months, the 21-year-old has done 23 routes 9a to 9b and, in total, he has done 63 routes graded 9a or harder, which puts him in the #7 position on that list.

"Tom Bolger's amazing line. Big overhang. Two parts separated by a good but physical rest. Very nice first part on two fingers pockets (brown rock) then the second part, the hardest part, is twenty-five resistant moves (grey rock). Very varied moves. 2 days, 5 tries. Cold day but good conditions. Thanks, Jean-Marc for the belay for taking the pictures 😉. Maybe second ascent after Tom."

In just March, Loic has done four routes 8c and harder including Le côté obscur (8c+) in Gorges du Loup.

Esclatamasters (9a) by Angelika Rainer

Esclatamasters (9a) by Angelika Rainer

Angelika Rainer, 3 time Ice World Champion, has sent Esclatamasters (9a) in Perles. The 36-year-old did her first 8c+ this January. (c) Grivel/Genis Zapater

"After having admitted to my big dream, the real work started. I decided that I needed some professional help to prepare for this goal, so I started to train according to the workouts created by former World Champion Patxi Usobiaga. Then I choose a route that I thought could suit me, characterized by power endurance. Last October I did my first trip to Spain to find out if the route could be possible for me and more importantly if I would like it. Once arriving at the little hamlet of Perles, one can see from the parking lot a spectacular rock arch and on the right side of this arch the line of Esclatamasters is located. I immediately realized that I loved the place, and the route was amazing. After a few tries, I was able to do all single moves and even if a couple of them were totally on my limit, I felt confident because in the past when I was able to do all moves on a route, I’d always able to link them sooner or later and I was hoping this would be the case also on this route. During this first trip, I decided to focus on trying the first part of the route which is steep, powerful climbing on tufas, slopers and some crimps. At the end of this trip, I was able to do Sin Perdon, an 8b+ that shares all the first part with Esclatamasters before doing a separate exit to the left. The temperatures in October were much warmer than usual and together with the high air humidity, this made it hard to try the upper part of Esclatamasters where the climbing style changes to small crimps that often accommodate less than the first phalanx of the fingers.

But on my return in mid-February, the conditions were totally different: lower temperatures and a nice, fresh breeze allowed me to feel much better on those tiny holds. The improvement was visible from the beginning. After only 4 days on the route, I was able to get to the anchor with 2 rests, on the 6th day I only needed 1 rest. From this moment on I was assisted in a fascinating process of improvements I had never seen on another project of mine. Usually, I would fall various times in the crux sequence, but on this route every day I made it 1, 2 or 3 moves further, until I clipped the anchor with an enormous smile on my face. I would like to thank my partner Marco and my friends Barbara and Gordon for their support, the patient belays, and the warmest cheering, without you this wouldn’t have been possible."

What kind of training advice did you get from Patxi?(An interview with Patxi is coming soon).
I started to train with Patxi in December 2021. That Winter we did 3 months of intensive training with 4-5 days of training and 1-2 of rock climbing a week. The training consisted mainly of bouldering and fingerboard exercises as my weakness is definitely power. Then as the rock climbing season started, we switched to 1-2 days of training and 3-4 of outdoor climbing. Once I had decided that I wanted to try Esclatamasters last autumn, he included specific finger training and power endurance of the kind needed on this route into the training routine. During the 3 weeks, I spent in Spain I would try the route 3-4 times a week and some days in between I trained on Patxi’s home wall in order to maintain my shape.

What are you looking to do next? Do you have any time left in Spain?
For now, I’m happy to go home after 4 weeks in Spain and enjoy the moment for a bit. Then I will think about new projects. I will for sure keep working hard and trying to {re} shape my limits.