So how did you become the IFSC Photographer?
As many reading this will know, I began The Circuit Climbing in 2013. Its goal was to document the competitive side of climbing and introduce the climbers and their exploits to a broader community as I felt it was extremely underrepresented in the media of the time. Seeing what I was doing, the IFSC approached me in 2014 with the offer of being the official photographer for the IFSC. By bringing me in, someone was already attending the events and had no national bias (few Kiwi’s attend World Cups) it gave them an asset who was impartial and of course, I was already promoting their product through my own platform.
How much work and travel did you put in?
It was an incredible amount of work. Being present at every round from approximately an hour before it began until its conclusion led to extremely long days. Not to mention at the end of the shooting, the sorting, editing and distribution of images began. At a normal World Cup, my workday would be 12 to 16 hours.
In my time as Official photographer, I spent as much time as possible optimizing travel, taking trains or other public transport where possible, and only flying when it was needed. Even so between 2015 and 2020, I spent more than 800 hours in the air, covering in excess of 600,000 kms. Jetlag became a part of life!
What are your best memories?
There are so many amazing memories, that it’s almost impossible to answer that. Any time a climber wins their first World Cup it gives you a huge emotional rush as you know just how much that means to them. More than a couple of times I’ve had to blink tears from my eyes to keep shooting! I also have great memories of all the people who have come up to thank me over the years, telling me stories of how my images and visual storytelling inspired them. My role has never to be “a name”, that is for the stars of climbing. But to have my work recognised and appreciated is extremely fulfilling.
Two memories that stick out are the first victories of Jernej Kruder in Meiringen and Gabri Moroni in Hachioji. To have seen the effort they both put in over the years finally rewarded was incredible. In competition there are some amazing climbers who never quite achieve what they show the promise to, some because they are in the shadow of one of the greats, others simply because of luck and timing. So seeing those to veterans of the sport finally achieve the top step of the podium after so many years of trying was something that will stick with me forever!
Who are the athletes you think will improve the most in 2021?
After a season away from the sport due to Covid-19, it’s almost impossible to say. Being that the vast majority of what we are seeing is people’s personal social media feeds, our perception is coloured by who promotes themselves better on social media which can give a false perspective. I don’t think we will get an honest gauge on the climbers' levels until 2022 at the earliest. There are several incredible young athletes like Colin Duffy from the US and Oriane Bertone from France stepping into the elite competition, and there are many for whom this is the end of their competition journey. And with the likelihood of 2021 being a disrupted season, I think we just need to wait and see!
How could the IFSC comps be improved?
I believe there are many development areas for an organisation like the IFSC. I won’t go into them here though, as they employ staff to manage the progression of the sport and how it is presented. It is on them to implement the changes required to evolve the sport. And if they don’t? Well, I think that if the IFSC doesn’t progress the sport, the sport will have enough inertia to develop itself. If we had a time machine and could travel to 2030 we would see a very different sport. Just as we are a very different sport today from where we were in 2010.
What will you work with in 2021?
The first objective of 2021 is to complete The Circuit Climbing coffee table book. A book made up of photos and essays covering competition climbing in all its guises from 2015 until the present. This has been the major project of mine (as The Circuit Climbing) during the break from competitions and is one I hope will be a document of historical relevance in the sport for years to come. Secondly, I will be photographing for several major publications within the industry as I document the competitions that happen around the world (if and when they start), as well as maintaining my relationships with the brands who rely on The Circuit Climbing to provide them with the high quality of imagery they require to promote their sponsored athletes.
Max Bertone has, in just one hour, done Atomic Playboy in Fontainebleau. It was put up by Greg Sobczak in 1993 as an 8B traverse. Later it has been called 8A+ traverse or 8A boulder.
The 154 cm tall 13-year-old has also done two other 8A's: Les Beaux Quartiers video and Big Golden assis video. He did the first in just two sessions and the latter in less than ten tries. His father Stefano actually says "This is clearly better than Oriane at the same age." Oriane is Max's 15-year-old sister that has done 15 boulders 8B and harder, currently #4 in the 8a ranking game.
Katie Lamb, who did six 8B's in 2020, has done her 13th 8A+, Hungry Hungry Hippos in Red Rocks. In the 8a ranking game, she is #4.
"I was inspired by the recent K2 winter summit by a Nepali team and found many lessons to learn from them in seeking my own desert summit. To name a couple — push through the finger frostbite pain barrier and find power in the sun, and pray to the mountain for safe passage. Even though it was warmer than negative 76 Fahrenheit, I had trouble getting my skin warm enough to grab sandstone grips. My friend Shuggie Bain gave me some inner warmth and then summit was trivial! First session I did the stand, next session I did the full sit."
Elias Iagnemma is a new 8a member who has recorded four 8C's and four 9a's, including the FAs of Extrasystole 8C and the 9a/+'s Ten and Ultimo Tango a Zagarolo. In 2018 he won the Italian Boulder Cup and tried some World Cups. Insta with more pics.
"Until 2018 I trained only and exclusively for competitions. Then in the last two years, my vision has changed a little and so I decided to compensate with a lot of rock climbing. In the winter of 2019, I almost stopped training but I only climbed on rock because when I wasn't climbing outside I was busy building my "BLOCKLAND" climbing gym. Once this dream was realized, I resumed training at my best but no longer exclusively aimed at competitions but also on performance on rock where it has recently given me more satisfaction. I love competitions and rock alike and I can't do without both. I hope this 2021 is a good year to get back to both of them in the best possible way. For the moment I continue to prefer outdoor climbing since with the situation of the pandemic the competitions are at risk until the last day and therefore I would not like to waste all the training performed over the months for a competition that probably will not happen. With this, I hope that we can return to normal as soon as possible and return to compete in the best possible way and in maximum safety.
After winning the Italian cup I took part in some world cups but I was injured in a finger and ankle and I couldn't give my best. Now I have recovered and I hope to return to the competition scene in this new year."
Brittany Goris has done the FFA of East Coast Fist Bump 8b+ trad in the Waterfall. "This route had been on my mind for years after belaying my friend Reed on the second (?) Ascent. After finding a dozen sequences that didn't work for the crux, I finally found the one that did. In a rare moment of perfect flow, I sent on my first lead attempt after a month or so of rope soloing. Feeling very grateful for the journey and all the people involved. A truly special climb." Full story on BrittanyGoris.com - The Impossible Dream
During the last year, she has previously done ten trad routes 8a and harder including the FFA of Stingray 8b, video. In other words, 180 cm tall she is one of the very best female trad climbers out there and actually not that many males could show a better annual trad ticklist. In the 8a trad ranking game she is #1 ahead of all males. Interestingly, she has focused on trad climbing just the last two years. The 28-year-old started climbing some 20 years ago as a competition climber and has gone through all stages of climbing, including sport, bad injuries, bouldering and burnout before blooming out as a world-class trad climber.
"I started focusing on trad because I wanted to grow as a climber. I felt really stagnant just chasing grades as a sport climber and wanted to find a deeper purpose than that. Trad climbing constantly pushes me outside my comfort zone and offers so many opportunities to challenge myself in new and unique ways. To really be a great trad climber you have to master so many things-- technique, strength, and mental fortitude, and there is endless room for growth in all those areas. The more I got into it the more I became interested in how connected trad climbing is to the history of climbing in general which greatly inspires me. I also started to really see the beauty in cracks in particular. I also have fallen in love with the trad community, it tends to attract really weird people for some reason, just like me."
How has your training changed since you began focusing on trad?
Well I moved into a van and started climbing outside full time at the same time I started mostly trad climbing, so my training became more about the things I can do while travelling. I mostly just climb and do workouts for antagonistic muscles to prevent injury. If I feel like something, in particular, is holding me back I focus on it for a while.
Joel Kinder has done the FA of Black Mirror 8c+ and The Activator 9a in Hurricave. Just the last year he has now done nine 8c - 9a FAs. (c) David Frietz
Black Mirror: "Bolted this thing right after I sent LOV (9a+) in 2018. I've seriously tried this thing 80 times and never completed. I sort of left it as a side project and never saw it through until this year. Savage, mean and pissed off type of route, but rad like that. A new puppy in our life makes time at the cliff more valuable and I think it's helping. HA! WE GO HARD!!!!!!!!! Maybe 8c? But I kinda doubt it... old man shit so let's see what the kids have to say. Crazy the Hurricave is still giving lines."
The Activator: "Bolted in 2010 and tried for 6 weeks back then. It was WAY over me. Last year I tapped back in, got close, got injured and no send. This year went to fuckin WORK on it and with the ups and downs finally, the moment arrived. What a feeling!!!! One of my babies is completed and I have so many more to nurture and tend to. Life is good again."
The picture is from Peregrination/Visitor Q, 8b+/c in the cave. Gallery and comments on his Insta.
Jorge Diaz-Rullo has done the first repeat of Beto Rocasolano's Trinity 8C in Cueva de pelayos, Spain. Beto has earlier referred to this 45 moves boulder route as "The Wheel of Life from Madrid." Jorge is #8 and #1 in the bouldering and routes ranking game, respectively. Here are some follow-up questions with Jorge, who is also the #8 8a Climber of 2020. (c) Javi Pec
Which was your most memorable send in 2020?
El bon combat 9b cost me the most and was a big mental struggle I faced for two months because this route is my anti-style in which everything happened. I had some setbacks that were not favourable, a fight that I will never forget!
What are your strongest point in climbing?
My strong point has always been my head. I have trained it a lot and I recognize that part of my success relates to this. The rest of the points, I think I have a lot of strength in my fingers, and technically I am good at finding my methods and doing strange things with insteps, knees and heels. On the other hand, I consider myself quite bad in traction force and speed.
How did a normal week look for you in 2020?
It depends on where I am, if I am in Madrid I usually do a double session training and then rock climbing, sometimes I also work as a route setter. If I am travelling I always climb on rock, whatever the conditions and I usually climb as much as I can, sometimes less due to my skin. If I can climb ten days in a row better, haha!
What is your ambition and plan for 2021?
I like to improvise, and even more, after the pandemic that has screwed up all our plans. For the moment to train and return stronger to Catalonia.
It can also be mentioned that Jorge has made an Insta post where he like Adam Ondra says that knee pads are part of the game and that it is actually great that some lines have become easier making them possible also for less strong climbers. "The beauty of this is that it seems that now climbers are more interested in doing a line for its beauty, leaving aside its difficulty."
Gonzalo Larrocha has done Supernowa in Vadiella, suggesting a personal 8c+ downgrade. The 36-year-old has previously done 20 routes 9a and harder in the last five years, but including also his personal grades it would have been 25. "Excellent endurance route. I think I used 21 kneebars out of which several have not been used before, so I think it lacks a bit for 9a."
by 8a Founder and Editor-in-Chief Jens Larssen including also Analyses, Reviews, Training, Polls and Opinions etc.
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