Alexander Huber


Monday, 19 May

Alexander Huber
The best "allround climber" in the world
Sport Two 9a's, Om & Open Air - Unrep.
Solo 8b, Der Oppurtunist
Ice Several M9+'s
Bigwall Bellavista, 8c
Aid Solo Bellavista, 7b/A4
If you've ever worked a problem at your limit, you know the frustrating feeling of "almost" sending… You start off psyched, execute every move perfectly… and then you arrive at the crux move… You know you can do it. In fact, you do it easily every time you try it as a single move. Doubt creeps into your mind and you start to think, although you know this is the one thing you shouldn't do. Is this really the right

Bellavista, 7b+/A4 winter solo & 8c - 2000 & 2001

Om, 9a - 1992

Open Air, 9a - 1996

Cool your foot man, 8a+ solo
sequence? Did I really get this hold perfectly? Is my spotter awake? This short moment of hesitation is often enough to make your sorry ass end up back on the pad rather then on the top… You're going to have to start all over again… damn… Now imagine you are in the same situation, only now you're 300 meters above the valley floor. If you make this next move, you've made history. If not, you'll have to rapell all the way down and come back another day. You've had to turn back three times before. What would go through your mind?

This is exactly the situation Alexander Huber was in when he managed to free climb Bellavista, 8c, on Tre Cima di Lavaredo in the Italia
n Dolomites. Three times before he'd got to this point, this exact move, only to fall off and go back down. An understatement as good as any would be to say you need to have a strong head to keep calm and simply do what you know what you're capable of in such a situation... Needless to say, Huber did just that. Now all he had to do was to stay focused and not make any stupid mistake… Most multi pitch climbers don't have such high ethic standards. In case of a fall, they'd simply start over from the last belay. To Huber, this would be unthinkable. To climb a route free means to lead every single pitch, from the first move to the last, without falls. All of Huber's ascents have been made in this style. So who is this mythical climber? What are his views on climbing? We felt we had to meet this guy…

You've been in the game for a long time by now and your focus has definitely changed over the years. Are you motivated by different things now compared to a decade ago?
Sure, I'm not motivated by the same things now as I was ten years ago. Back in the early nineties, I had the opportunity to be at the forefront of sport climbing in the world. I climbed Om, 9a, in 1992 (second 9a in the world), a string of 8c+'s the years after and then Open air, 9a, in 1996. Getting close to the limit of my capabilities I had kind of lost motivation for sport climbing. To reach the next level would take too much effort… it wasn't worth it. Now I had to look elsewhere for motivation. I rediscovered my roots so to speak, realized where I came from. I went back to the mountains. I went to Yosemite to do some bigwall climbing.

You've excelled in almost every aspect of climbing. Sport, Bigwall, Alpine bigwall, mixed etc. The one thing I've never heard anything about is bouldering. So, do you ever boulder?
In fact, I've practiced bouldering all my life, and I still do it, but only as training. To be really good at bouldering you have to be really explosive, and since the explosive power declines after the age of 26 - 28, I've become too old… At the time when I was sport climbing the most, early to mid nineties, the bouldering boom hadn't taken off yet, it was nowhere near as popular as it is today. I do think it's great fun though.

With all the different types of climbing… do you have a favorite?
That'd have to be freeclimbing the bigwalls, you know… finding a striking interesting line, exploring it, finding out if it's possible and then to do it.

When you've opened hard sport routes, you've often worked them for a long time before you were able to do the redpoints. In the case of "Om" for example, I know it took you more than two months. During this time, did you ever doubt that you were going to send?
No, not really, once I knew I could do all the moves, it felt as though it was only a matter of time before I would send. If not this year, I'd simply need another year of indoor training… It's a real mind game though. You have to be able to convince yourself you're capable of doing this. To reach your physical limit, you really need to stay focused and motivated. Because of this, I think most climber don't reach their limit.

None of your 9a's have been repeated, is it true that a key hold has broken on "Om"?

Ah, this is one of the rumors going around. No, no "key hold" has broken. The only thing is that… Let me explain: On the crux, you have to make a really long move from an undercling pocket to a sloping edge. Having caught the edge, you must get your foot into that same pocket, first you have to get your fingers out, of course. When I did this highstep, to keep my balance, I used not really a hold, more of a really tiny knob. Anyway this non-hold has now broken, but there are similar knobs you can use instead, and crux is not really to get your foot in, it's rather the really long lock-off that follows.

Have there been routes you've worked and weren't able to send?

Yes, at one time I was working a route in Spain… It went well in the beginning, but then it started to get warmer, and since I'' not good at climbing in warm weather... because of the higher temperatures the progress went backwards and after a while I realized that I wouldn't be able to do it, not then anyway…

Has the route been climbed now?

Yes, Daniel Andrada did it, it's called Broadway, 8c+. For a while I considered going back to send it, but there had been so many other things…

Ramonet, has, recently extended your route "La Rambla", 8c+, opened in 1994, giving it a grade of 9a+, any thoughts on this?

Well, first of all I want to congratulate Ramonet on his great performance. He's definitely a fantastically gifted climber and probably one of the best climbers of his generation. As I know by now, the crux for him was to get his left hand in the two-finger pocket just short below the belay, on which I ended. That sounds that he probably used the same method… I used the pocket with my left hand, reached for the next hold and clipped the belay.

Considering how long it took for Andrada to repeat it, maybe your version could be 9a?

Compared to the inflationary 9a's put up since then, I'm sure it is.

Do you think the 9a grade has become easier?

Sure, Action directe, which must be considered the benchmark 9a, seems to be one of the hardest 9a's there are, definitely a lot harder then the likes of Underground, Bain de Sang, Kinematix, Ground zero and so on. Some of these routes have been repeated in one or two days, nobody repeated Action Directe in a similar style, nobody. I don't know about my own routes, but I am pretty sure that they are not that soft than some of the modern routes of that grade.

Would you say there's any general difference between your generation and the new one?

Well, for one thing I think sport climbing today lacks characters the likes of Güllich, Moon, Moffat and so on. Climbers seem to be so… I don't know… narrow-minded I suppose… a lack of visions. What's the point of climbing 1000 or 2000 8a's?
Who cares if you've climbed 50 or 60 8a+'s onsight, where's the challenge? I'm not saying it's wrong in any way, but I can't understand the motivation behind it. There are so many things you can do, why stick to one thing? On the other side there are still a few really new exploits, like the first ascent of the worlds hardest route, which is Chris Sharmas Realization.

You mentioned earlier Yosemite was your destination of choice when you lost the motivation with pure sport climbing. Why Yosemite?
Well, first of all Yosemite is a real climbing Mecca. With its beautiful environment, fantastic granite quality and perfect weather, it's one of my favorite spots on the planet. My other favorite must be the Karakorum in Pakistan. The potential for new routes on new faces there is almost infinite. Oh well, in 1993, when Lynn Hill became the first to succeed in climbing the Nose free, some were provoked by her statement, "It goes boys", but for me, this was motivation. I wanted to go there to find out for myself. Was I capable of doing this, to climb the Nose free? This was also a part of my preparation for the Latok II expedition I was planning. I needed bigwall experience. After having practiced my crack climbing skills, I was ready. The result was the now classical Salathé. Since then I've been back to the valley several times, setting up new free lines such as El Niño, Freerider, Golden Gate, El Corazon and so on.

Tell us about Bellavista.
Well, in the winter of 2000 I opened Bellavista, 7b A4, a line on Tre Cime di Lavaredo, which negotiates one of the biggest roofs in the Dolomites, the steepest 80 meters overhangs approximately 50 meters, and this is 250-300 meters above the ground. Airy is the word… After this I was convinced that it probably would go free. The thought wouldn't go away and so this became a fix idea of mine. There was only one thing to do. I had to re-climb the whole route, checking every inch of it, to see if it would go free... After having examined the possibilities I decided it was possible, but only just… It would be difficult, very difficult. I also decided to climb it in traditional style, meaning no bolts besides the bolted belays. After about five weeks of trying the individual pitches, I felt ready for my first attempt. A free ascent to me means leading every single pitch, from ground to top, without falls. A fall means I have to go back down again and come back another day… After three attempts, all of which failed in the same 8c-pitch, I went back again. On the 18th of July 2001, I finally managed to climb through the crux and then to the top. Bellavista was re-born, this with a one-day redpoint ascent.

Do you believe on can say someone's the "best climber in the world"?
No… not really. Climbing is such a broad sport, it has so many varieties. Sure, one can say there are best boulderers, sport climbers etc, and in my opinion Chris Sharma or the american whirlwind, Dave Graham, could be among these candidates. I think Sharma and Güllich had probably the same amount of natural talent, the same gift, but since Sharma started climbing at a younger age, he became even stronger. In order to be really strong, you have to start early, at 10 -12 years of age. If you start at 16 you can never become as strong. This is also why the new generation is better than we, my generation, is and was. I think the way Dave Graham climbed AD was really, really impressive. And yet he hasn't been able to send Realization, 9a+. As far as I'm concerned this is the hardest route in the world. Realization is a fantastic, beautiful natural line, a great route - whereas Akira, 9b, and Orujo, 9a+, seem to be far overgraded due to misguided self-importance. It´s so obvious that Rouhling never was capable of climbing 9b - so, when he proposed the 9b grade, Rouhling was taking away some of the illusion for young climbers: to get beyond the existing limits, to be able to push the limits further. Because after Akira this would mean that you have to be able to climb 9b+….

Last year you soloed the Hasse-Brandler, a multi-pitch route, which is considered pretty serious even with a rope. Why?

Like with everything else, I wanted to know where my limit was, what I was capable of. One of my main goal for the season was to do a major route free solo. In preparation for this I started with short easy routes, 6a, 6b, 6c and so on. The more confident I felt, the harder routes I climbed. When I could free solo some 8a´s and a 8a+ (Cool your foot man), I was ready. To climb a long route, however, is a somewhat different thing. Instead of keeping your calm for a couple of minutes, a route like the Hasse-Brandler, is a veritable marathon for your mind where you have to stay 100% focused for somewhat like three hours. You have to know, I mean really KNOW you're capable of this. Any doubt in your mind would inevitably lead to failure. Failing on this route would mean a one way ticket to the valley floor…

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