Charlotte Durif Interview


Thursday, 1 September

Charlotte Durif (15) is already the best female onsight climber ever, having onsighted fiftyfour 8a's and harder, including one 8b. She is #7 on the 8a world ranking, including the men! In the beginning her ascents were questioned by the french but since she has won two Junior worlds in a superior fashion they are, instead, very proud. Charlotte who started her climbing career in portaledges on icefalls etc, at the age of 9, has the possibility to become a world famous athlete. By Rachelle McElroy

How, why and when did you start climbing?


Charlotte winning the Junior world 2005 in Bejing

When I was nine years old I started to climb indoors, after my brother and father had taken me mountaineering a few times - many camps on walls and ice. After that I started to practice sport climbing.

Who is your trainer? Do you have a training program?
My father is my trainer. I've never had any specific training program and I've never lifted weights. Instead I do as many climbs as possible, enough to develop the skills necessary for me to evolve. In my training I learn to judge what the routes require while always increasing the difficulty of the climbs. I practice on some of the best walls in Europe and I also vary the type of rock that I climb on (sandstone, limestone, granite), and the types of climbs I make (steep, pockets, small holds, overhanging, flat). I climb as regularely as possible - two times a week and during the weekends. I also keep track of my progression during the year (from fall to summer).

How would you describe your style of climbing?
The routes that I enjoy the most are the long ones, 40 - 70 meters. They are like journeys without an end. They allow me to balance my rhythm and to enjoy the climb. I've always climbed near, or at my peak level and I prefer onsights. I don't like to systematically practice a route because that requires little creativity. A cliff isn't like an essay - they aren't simply technical exercises with rules. Each section of each route is like a new discovery.  I love to try solving a climb and imagine how it should be done, but regretfully there are areas where I'm almost too comfortable: Tarn, Ceuse, La Balme. I'm a bit sorry that I've started to grow out of these areas.

Even though I'm 160 cm, I can finally manage to climb routes that larger men are able to climb. It's my second year climbing at around eight, but now I've started to climb harder routes - 20 to 25 meters. I hate routes that are based on pure muscular strength, as if the value of the grade only depends on your strength. I kind of regret this common point of view.
I'm not the best at climbing really hard routes since they require certain conditions - I'm only able to climb them during short periods of time. They require you to be at your very best and I think that I'm sometimes able to do them, thanks to some spontaneous and lucky moves. Should a climber do a really hard route several times in a row? I don't consider the "doing" to be of any significant importance - I like to do it once, just to have the urge to come back and redo it some other time.
I haven't climbed very hard routes yet and I don't know what it would be like to try 8c/9a, but if I don't get injured I think I'll get there one day. Actually, my curiosity isn't yet in line with the requirements of this level. I prefer, at my best, to climb 8a/a+ on sight.
My goal - climbing 8b on sight is enough of an objective at the moment. I often miss only one long move, like on Putain-putain 8b+, which I almost did on sight in 2004.  One year later, and 10 cm taller I've come even closer.
The harder the climb, the more difficult it is for young climbers, due to their size. Sometimes a whole climb may fail because of only one move that is too long. Then again, there are so many intermediate climbs that I enjoy for their pure pleasure. I'd like to grow a bit more before trying any harder climbs and I hope to stay motivated.

What is it about climbing that you enjoy the most?
Climbing is a very creative sport and I enjoy the challenges. It's a crazy activity, always new and rejuvenating. Regardless of the level of the climb, the performance is not a question of style or whether you're male or female. It isn't a question of age, but of experience.


High up on a long favourite route in Rodellar

Favorite climbing memory?
- To lie in a hamac on the wall in "Croix des tetes" or on the ice in "Oisans" (with my father and brother) - I love that ambiance.
- Meeting Lynn in Cantobre made me forget that I'm short.
- Chris in "Biography" allowed me to see another dimension of sport climbing.
- Exploring crazy areas like Kalymnos, Rodellar, Monstant or the Tarn makes me love the nature.
- To be able to evolve on rich and challenging routes as Putain-putain, Cannibale, Féérie, Priapos and Akkelare makes me feel very priviliged.
-My victory in Edinburgh allowed me to discover my competitive spirit.

Your goal?
For the time being I'd like to discover some new, nice, technical climbs, hard or not, that require a diversity of techniques. should create a new category called "Exceptional routes", which should involve technical diversity, cool moves, grades, grip, equipment etc. In the future I'll be climbing harder routes of different lengths.
I don't have an idol. Instead I want to get as much experience as some of the older climbers have: Lynn Hill, Martina Cufar, Cathy Wagner, and maybe one day acquire a climbing style similar to Philippe Massato's.  I think that he's a visionary, completely unique. He does many climbs in the 8 range. I envy his experience.
I appreciate the more fluid style of female climbers and I find it astonishing to see guys climb with the same fluidity, flexibility and accuracy as female climbers. I've seen some of these climbers in the past four years. The style of Dave Graham is completely crazy, but so generous and sincere. I also find Chris to be incredibly powerful and fortunately I had the opportunity to participate in the creation of his "Biography".
I really enjoy being part of the young generation. Cheers and thanks to everybody who allowed me to climb with them on my journeys.

Our professional translator, Jones Belhaj, informs us that he has simpliefied some of her equilibristic words and sentences in order to make them understandable for everyone. Here is the french original.

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