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 By: Jens Larssen  | Date: 2005-12-08  | Category: Interviews    | Comment  




Interview & translation: Ignacio Sandoval Burón.




All of us know that the fact that a woman put her performances in the same level with the best comrades of the opposite sex in a physical sport is not very frequent? Well, here you have one of those exceptions, with the name of Josune Bereziartu, who is since 1998 beating feminine records and getting closer until reach with Bimbaluna (9a/+), the maximum proposed and confirmed grade.


Besides, we also count in this interview with her partner, Rikar Otegi. He's a man not very lavish in his sends diffusion, but that with no doubt, they are at the first rate.    





-          Tell us who are you and something about your partner


Josune in a 8b pitch in Yeah Man

Josune: I was born in Lazkano (Basque Country - Spain) I've been climbing for 16 years and I started climbing just because I watched a pair of women climbing in a TV program and decided I had to practise that sport. I've been practising countless sports, basically collective ones (football, basketball, handball...), since I was a little girl. The thing which more attracted me from climbing was that feeling, half fear, half disequilibrium, hard to describe and that when you are starting is so difficult to dominate.

Concerning Rikar, the most characteristic feature of his personality is the calm. I am much more visceral and passionate.


Rikar: I am Rikar Otegi, was born in Ordizia (Basque Country-Spain), the adjacent village to Josune's, and I'm the Josune's partner. I've been climbing for 20 years. I started climbing big walls and later sports routes almost exclusively.

Josune is quite "pigheaded", if something gets in her mind she doesn't give up till she achieves it. Determination is an important feature of her character as well.



-          What is the most and the less motivating thing when climbing with your couple?

The best thing is the tune and the reinforcement with the other when both are going to try a common project. The worse is that someone's problems pass into the other and this debilitate you sometimes.



-          Do you climb full-time or do you have to make other things to reach the end of the months?

Josune: My father died seven years ago. He shared an insurance portfolio with a friend. My mom gave over its


Rikar also in Yeah Man. This time in an 8a pitch Picture: Laurent de Senarcliens

exploitation to Rikar and me. When we are very focused in climbing we have a friend and silent partner who carries all the work. But when we are less centred we have to work and watch over it.



-          What is your concept for climbing?

It is a similar way of understanding the climbing. We come from a time when we felt very involved in its evolution. Both of us have started climbing in rock routes even when Rikar did some alpinism. The mountain runs in our blood, it is unforgettable, it is our roots. We knew the competition almost at its beginning. The tool which allows us to enjoy climbing is the training, the mean is the climbing gym and the scenario is the rock and its different routes.



-          I can suppose each time you visit a climbing spot you are the focus of attention. How do you feel that? Is it oppressive or it serves you an extra of motivation?

Josune: It is something understandable and we have to accept it. When I feel better is when it exist a nice ambient and a special conjunction is created with other climbers, the environment, etc. It gives you an extra of motivation to climb and push yourself a little bit further.



-          Tell us something that you would change in climbing and something that you would preserve as a treasure.

Josune: It is not exactly something I would change. I'd wish and support more women to climb with free will and self-confidence, but with respect. Society in general puts us up enough barriers to dodge yet, do not place ourselves more.

I would maintain to the last the respect for the climbing spots, their routes and their environment.




Josune crimping in another shot of Yeah Man.

-          Your most notorious sends during the last times have been at on-sight. Is this style what motivates you the most right now?

Josune: I was a little bit tired of trying routes. I felt like breathing new air, going to a new climbing spot and if you fancy staying and you feel ease then you climb and if not you leave the place, with no fixed destination, letting the climbs and the circumstances you receive in that moment guide you. That feeling that the on-sight provides you, one only opportunity and that's it. It is very strong and special for me.  



-          It seems evident with Josune that women can match men in climbing but, do you think you are a special case or that it is just a matter of constancy and motivation? In your special case, Josune, what sacrifices have you paid to be where you are? Any in special with regard to men?

Josune: I think that the path I have opened must be useful for other girl climbers to lean and get persuaded of that it is possible to climb really hard routes. That path is there but, that amount of energy, perseverance, motivation, determination and belief in what you are doing has to be put. Summing it up in perseverance and motivation is too simple. I do not feel sacrifices like that, compensations always arrive, bigger or smaller but, if


Josune in Logical Progression, 9a. Yoyama, Japan. Picture: Rikar Otegi.

you know how to look for them they are always attained.



-          Tell me how you train.

Basically, we have two periods of form at year; each period is divided in meso-cycles and they are split, at the same time, in four-week cycles. In every meso-cycle we give priority to one aspect, without forgetting the others. We make a lot of series with short recovery times depending on the traverses. We never give up rope climbing, it is to say, in a climbing gym or in real rock when the weather is okay. When the big training periods arrive to the end we basically climb outdoors.



-          In the last times you have diversify your practice towards the big walls. Has it been a mirage or it is something which really hooks you up?

Josune: We have been climbing big walls every summer, sometimes harder routes, other times easier ones. Rikar comes from climbing and even opening some semi-sport climbing routes (not totally bolted) in the Pyrenees and I started climbing semi-sport climbing routes in multi-pitch routes, so it's not a new thing for us. It is a kind of escape from the sport climbing, understanding this last one as something more rigid (training, etc.).



-          It seems like David Graham, besides revising the bouldering grade down, has also commented that Bain de Sang is more like 8c+ for him. What's your opinion in both topics?

Josune: I know just a little bit about the controversy set by Dave concerning the graduation in the 8C's. I can't give my opinion about this new graduation because I haven't done any of these 8C's. Besides, I do not know


Fuente de Energía, 8b. Vadiello. Picture: Rikar Otegi.

whether he still thinks the same.

Every climber has his/her own point of view about the routes/boulders he/she climbs. If Dave thinks they are that graduation, it is his opinion and it is pretty respectable. Everyone knows graduation is something subjective and personal. They are emotional feelings transmitted by the climbing and that then we translate into numbers and letters.


Rikar: This is why it is so important of an opinion tendency concerning the graduation of a route or boulder to exist. In the case of hard routes it is something almost exclusive for very few climbers able to climb them.



-          Are you going to try with the competition again? What do you like and what you don't like? What would you change in its format?

Josune: Competition is something we have almost completely forgotten. I keep very good memories but the decision of quitting it was very important to me. Looking it from a competitor's point of view, I think hours spent in the isolation zone should be drastically reduced. From the spectator's side, if routes were to be climbed "flash" there would be more rhythm and the spectacle would improve giving it more dynamism.



-          Please, share with us your best climbing memory and, on the other hand, what is a perfect day for you.

Josune: I have had quite lot days with great feelings. A special day was when I sent Honky Tonky, 8c. It was the first feminine 8c in the world and I had this aspect very deep in me. Till then some of us, girl climbers, had sent 8b+, that was the bench mark. Getting rid of all that pressure, set in a great part by the people around me, took me a lot and when I was able to send the route it felt like a great relief and a tremendous satisfaction.


Rikar: Any day you see you are climbing fluidly and you feel strong. If happens that you fire an important route for you, that can be a perfect day.



-          What are your projects at short, medium and long term?

Right now we are relaxing for a short period. We will be focused by for the beginning of Spring but with no clear objective in mind at the moment. It will depend on how we feel to take one or other destination, to focus on a hard route or on the on-sight, we will see. A long route will be done in the process for sure.




Josune in Solaris, 8A+. Picture: Rikar Otegi.

-          What do you think on our web page?

Josune: It's a very dynamic web page. The most interesting thing is the personal cards filled by the climber after sending a route. Classifications, points and all that stuff don't interest me that much. Besides, it seems like if you are having a spectacular growing.


Rikar: I like the fact that an opinion forum is created in a democratic way. For that it is decisive the personal decision to write comments only by people with a proper name. I worry that, just like any other news web page through internet, sometimes the source of information is not very reliable and the error which can derive from it, etc. I am also interested, like Josune, very much more in the cards every climber fills than in the classification which derives from it.



-          Rikar, why being so strong you have chosen to remain anonymous?

Rikar: My personality, my character makes me act naturally this way. It is the way I have lived the climbing since I was doing 7a till when I have fired some 9a's. Besides, Josune makes of natural "barrier" with the media. She receives the attention like it is normal. My idea is to share my climbing with those which really appreciate it. Media is a too powerful speaker for my taste although it is impossible when I climb a very hard route that it doesn't show up.



-          Is your motivation weakening after all these years? What are you going to do when your body does not give any more?

Rikar: Yeahh, it weakens, it is something absolutely obvious and normal. The time and the experience acquired teach you to save one's strength and focus more and better the moments and periods of climbing making them to coincide with moments of great motivation. I think there is a rising physical haul, but always when the mind acts as an engine.

YeahMan,8b_ (Laurent de Senarclens).jpg

Rikar Otegi now in an 8b pitch in Yeah Man. Picture: Laurent de Senarcliens.


Josune: I will climb with a level in accordance with the moment; surely I will do a lot of mountain and multi-pitch routes. Nowadays, in Summer, it is like an escape but in the future it will be what motivate me the most.




A dream?

Josune: have fun.

Rikard: Be able to keep on enjoying climbing.


A book?

J: "A moveable feast" Ernest Hemingway.

R: Alfred Hitchcock's Biography.


A film?

J: A classic one, "Breakfast with diamonds" (Katherine Hepburn as the protagonist).

R: "Blade Runner".



J: "Anari" (the last album from this Basque's composer: "Zebra").




J: Own benefit.

R: Mistrust.



J: Sometimes.

R: Not much.


Half-full or half-empty?

J: I have it and I have to see it half-full, although sometimes my character tends to see it half-empty.

R: Half-full.


Routes or boulder?

J: A moment for each one.

R: Passion for the routes, amusement in the boulders.


Rice and salad or big mac with fries?

J: Big salad with rice and potatoes.


Josune in company...

R: Rice and salad.


A sports car or a van?

J: A van.

R: A sports car.


8a.nu or gossip magazines?

J: 8a.nu.

R: 8a.nu.


Love or sex?

J: Sex with love.

R: Love with sex.


Science or beliefs?

J: Beliefs and science.

R: Science.


Aerobic or yoga?

J: Yoga, no doubt.

R: Yoga.


Beach or mountain?

J: Mountain.

R: Mountain.


Creatine or chorizo?

J: Jamón Ibérico (Iberian ham).

R: Neither one, nor the other.


Play station or electro-stimulation?

J: Nowadays we can't leave without electronics.

R: Play station.



Born date:

J: 19-01-72

R: 15-12-67




Josune in Bimabaluna, 9a/+. Picture: Rikar Otegi.

J: 1, 74 cm.

R: 1, 78 cm.




J: 53 kg.

R: 60 kg.




R: PETZL, BEAL and TENAYA give me some stuff.




























JOSUNE'S Scorecard created and administrated by 8a:


Red point:

FETUCCINI, 8b+ (1996) El Convento

HONKY TONKY, 8c (1998) Araotz

HONKY MIX, 8c+ (2000) Araotz

NOIA, 8C+ (2001) Andonno, Italia

BAIN DE SANG, 9a (2002), St.Loup


BIMBALUNA, 9a+ (2005) St.Loup


NASCA, 8a+/b (2001).

STEROID PERFORMANCE, 8b (2004) Hourai, Japan.

FUENTE DE ENERGIA, 8b (2005), Vadiello.

LA RESERVE, 8b (2005) St.Leger du Ventoux.


BEREZI, 8A, (2000)

ATOMIC PLAYBOY, 8A+ (2002) Fontainebleau

LA TRAVESIA DE BALZOLA, 8C (Traverse, 2002) Baltzola.

SOLARIS, 8A+ (2003), Baltzola (Basque Country ? Spain)

E LA NAVE VA, 8C (Traverse, 2003) Lindental, Switzerland.

Big walls:

EL PILAR DEL CANTABRICO, (550 metres, 8a+ max.) El Naranjo de Bulnes.

YEAH MAN, (300 metros, 8B+ máx.) Switzerland.



Red point:

MALA VIDA, 8c, Araotz

GUENGA, 8c+, Baltzola

TAS TAS, 8c+/9a  Baltzola

IÑI AMERIKETAN, 9a, Baltzola



LA FLORIDA, 8b, Rodellar

MILLENIUM, 8b, Teverga

SPRIT REBELLE, 8b, Rodellar

DOVILIE, 8b, Bentue de Rasal


KARMA, 8A Fontainebleau

SOLARIS, 8A+ Baltzola


E LA NAVE VA, 8C (Traverse).

Big walls:

YEAH MAN, (300 metres, 8B+ max.)


Interview & transalation: Ignacio Sandoval Burón.