NEWS

Bertle: There will be no climbing on a dead planet

EDITORIAL

Monday, 6 December

Bertle: There will be no climbing on a dead planet

Pirmin Bertle, one of the best rock climbers in the world, has for many years adapted his families to be more environmentally friendly. Five years ago, his family took the boat to South America where they spent two years. In the picture, he is doing Latin Americas first 9a+, Le vent nous porteraat Socaire, Northern Chile on 3600m altitude. We asked him for some comments in regards to the environment and what climbers can do to follow up Alex Megos comments. Here are Pirmin's somewhat radical comments.

"Thank you, Alex! I was profoundly happy to read about the pro-environmental efforts of one of the leading athletes of our sport here on 8a.nu. This is a good sign – on a road that currently still leads straight into the desert.

Some years ago, statements like his would have been ripped into pieces by people sitting in the economy class, pushing the uneaten half of their beef steak aside, swallowing their last mouthful with a tasty drink, wearing brand new special rock fashion with their brand-new gear in the belly of the plane, looking forward to a week in a nice wellness-apartment in some far-off oversea place, targeting their first 8a and posting all this with a big and proud selfie-smile on Insta. They would have ripped the pro-environmental efforts into pieces because they would have felt on the winning side of history. Because they were acting all human, all normal, all reasonable, arguing in some of the following ways:

“Beef is important for my amino acids of animal origin, not to eat too much is crucial for my weight, economy class is essential for my bank account. Flying is the only way to cross an ocean for my restricted spare time and alcohol makes it a lot easier to relax (and is fun). Special functional climbing clothes both enhance my performance and the number of hearts on Insta. Alpine club functionaries told me that brand-new gear is without alternatives to my security. The nice apartment is the best way to regenerate between hard climbing days. Sending 8a is one of my main goals in life and the Insta post along with the shit storm comment below the “crazy-Greta-vegan-guy” feels suitable to hide the deep inner feeling of being locked and lost in a tiny capsule of total artificiality, coated in strange, conditioned air, together with obese and fearsome people, miles above the sea – for endless hours.

A situation like this – as exaggerated as I chose it to be – is only bearable with bone-hard rationality and a strong ego (otherwise we would get immediately drowned in the intuitive reality of the highly desperate ecocide society we created and are trying to live in). And this is the main problem about it all: We get told and thus tell ourselves repeatedly that it is all about us. Our health, our wealth, our wellness and our happiness, our performance, and our security. But it isn’t. We’ll never emancipate from the ecosystem.

Life on earth is one. One organism. We are the ecosystem. An organ of it. It's perhaps the most sophisticated flower (and definitely the most poisonous one.) An incredible miracle. Incapable to ever fully understand ourselves. And we can’t commit ecocide without committing suicide. (And by the way: total genocide.) There’ll be nothing of our regards on a dead planet. Neither will there be climbing. Thus, it is time to act. Or rather: Not to act that much anymore. To be precise: Act about ten times less.

Ten times less mobility. Ten times less food consumption of animal origin. Ten times fewer square meters per person. Ten times less web traffic. Ten times fewer things. Ten times less clinging to the material dimensions.

And that is, where the potential of climbing enters the game. Not as an essential part of the solution – but as a part of the great transformation we face. Because we climbers have more of something that many others around us are lacking: Psychological strength, mental health, physical fitness, relative consciousness for what nature is, a cosmopolitan touch, fewer economic dependencies and imperatives, high self-organization, and lifestyle-creativity. And last but not least: we have a playground to protect.

And all of the above are crucial to live and fulfil the change everyone is talking about, but no one really starts with – mostly out of weakness, fear and inner poverty. We can’t leash hold on the materialistic level without enriching the psychological, physical, social, cultural, religious, or spiritual one. Climbing offers a lot on these levels – wouldn’t there be a problem with mobility. But it can be solved and even individual performance – a rather useless concept to collective change – gets enhanced when you alleviate and lighten your life and your ecological footprint. That’s what I have been trying for years now – but don’t get me wrong: it isn’t my story. It is the story that chose me as a part-time protagonist. As I will continue to quit high-end climbing, as many of you as possible will have to carry on with this!

So, I’ll keep it short: I grew up in quite a close contact with nature but really began to intensify this bond in my early twenties when extended low budget climbing trips around Europe meant for us sleeping up to 100 nights per year under the stars, cooking on the fire, taking baths only in winter cold Spanish rivers, moving few and hitchhiking the rest, flying three times in fifteen years, carrying our water sometimes over kilometres, eating only vegetarian (as we couldn’t fridge anything). We thought we were chasing hard routes and a good and easy time, but what actually happened was, that we got profoundly melted into nature and deeply soaked our souls with it.

True ecologic motivation thus emerged increasingly – simply because it could without getting in conflict with our egos. As our ecologic footprint during traveling was already close to “one planet”, we now only had to transfer this knowledge to the all-day life. And found the yurt living, video. It was one of the best and most intense times of our lives, not only because our second child was born there. I lost 10kg, worked more physically, got more resilient and thus much stronger in climbing.

The oncoming 2 years overseas travelling period was ecologically more intense but still decelerated and eased my urge to see the world , video. Especially for sport climbing, there is no better place than Europe.

(And it was by then – up from 2015 – that I understood: the most interesting voyages are those to the inside of you. They don’t cause any environmental damage, take only hours and leave much deeper traces and offer greater revelations than any holiday ever could.) We moved to Germany and 2019 finally found a possibility to live in yurts again ( or jurte.de). Compared to the average German four-headed household we needed only 1/5 of heating, 1/10 of electricity and 1/25 of water. And I freed my own climbing almost entirely from carbon emissions, choosing close by crags as the Schneiderloch in Frankenjura (13km by e-bike). The rest went similar as before but even more intense: one year without cow products, circular economy around our yurts with chicken, sheep, goats and a veggie garden. For me, nothing of this was hard or carrying a taste of denial. Beauty, calmness of the mind, the sound of raindrops on the tent surface and the stars in the dome light were leading our way.

For me it would have been okay to stop here and always live like this, but life had already decided to lead us further. Into the house, the community, and the yurt enterprise we are about to enter in. Fully. () So deeply that despite my climbing shape even without climbing still feels great, I don’t really need it on an elite level anymore. My ego hopefully steps back for longer or ever, permaculture and yurt construction not only keep my sane, but don’t really allow an extra waste of energy and time. High end climbing has done its job to my path in life. I will never quit the sport itself, as I can see the first sectors from our house, and as I will always love it. But once humans will have realized that we are about to end the 200-years-fossil-energy-wave (or decide that it may set an end to our existence) we will again need most of our energy for life, work and survival.

Climbing and climbers will have offered their skills and strengths to this great transformation and participated in preserving a living planet – which will logically result in less (importance of) climbing. Or they will not, helping to pave the road into the desert. There’ll be no climbing on a dead planet. Be aware of that in every moment of your life – not only when you plan your next short-term overseas climbing trip."


EDITORIAL

Sunday, 5 December

Team Frisouille 9a+ by Mathieu Bouyoud


EDITORIAL

Sunday, 5 December

8a maintenance tomorrow (06.12) at 7 am CET.

Tomorrow (Monday, Dec 6th), from 7 am to ~8:30 am CET (0:00 to 1:30 AM MST), 8a will undergo maintenance. We need to take the site down during this time - sorry for the inconvenience. Once it is back up, you'll notice a better way of logging repeat ascents at your local crags.


Jabberwocky Direct 8A by Miriam Borgstrom (17)

Sunday, 5 December

Jabberwocky Direct 8A by Miriam Borgstrom (17)

Miriam Borgstrom has done her third 8A, Jabberwocky Direct in Red Rock (NV). The 17-year-old did her first 7C+, out of 19, at age 15. (c) Quentin Borgstrom

"I sent Jabberwocky 7C last season, and soon started working on the direct 8A version. At the time, this would’ve been my first of the grade, so perhaps the psyche was dangerously high. I continuously yarded for the crux pocket and ultimately took my first finger injury. I spent a year away from this line and returned somewhat hesitantly this week. The mixture of nerves from returning to my injury birthplace, and the boost of confidence from sending other 8As recently was a strange pair. I put it down in a few furious goes, and with its head, went galumphing back."

What type of finger injury did you face?
The injury was a near-constant strain in the middle finger on my right hand—it may have been torn tissue. I babied the finger for a month, and then I used Esther Smith’s rice bucket and hang-board exercises to fully heal. The rehab took about two months.


EDITORIAL

Friday, 3 December

Ethics and grades on "world records" etc

Climbing is about creating challenges and solving them for their own sake. When climbers go out to climb, they usually do not feel the need to classify their climbs ('the hardest, the boldest, the longest...'), but they are often quantified and labelled by media and sponsors to facilitate their appreciation and to make sure they get attention. In order to make the challenges harder, one might include eliminations, sit starts, link-ups or doing a bolted route on trad gear etc. On the contrary, if the challenges are too hard they can be made easier by pre-clipping, using fans, knee pads or multiple crash pads etc.

Bernd Zangerl's Into the Sun, which just got its first repeat by Jacopo Larcher, is a perfect example of a beautiful hybrid challenge, where most certainly, no label fits. It could be called a "green point", as trad gear was placed instead of bolts, it could be called a high ball or a trad link-up as a high traverse was added to a boulder problem that ends below the top-out. Zangerl graded his climb 8c+ and called it "probably one of the hardest trad climbs in the world now" in a video that was produced of his ascent. (As of today, there exist only a couple of other trad 8c+, and 9a has never been suggested.)

Into the Sun goes diagonally from right to left on a huge boulder. It starts with Zangerl's boulder Very Important Papagei (V.I.P.), originally graded 8B+, where trad gear is placed a couple of meters after a bolted anchor, and then you continue with a 7b top out. V.I.P. has been repeated and upgraded to 8B+/C due to a broken hold. It begins with an 8A (+) traverse into Der Strahler, which has been upgraded from 8A+ to 8B.

In climbing, we use subjective grades defining which routes are the hardest in the world or at a specific crag etc. History shows that climbing media often presents news that is not correct, and downgrades are frequent. In other cases, it later turns out that the used ethics are dubious, i.e. pre-clipping, down climbing, onsight beta stacking crash pads etc. Climbing news are based on trust and usually, very little verification is made. Personally, I think you can climb in any style or invent and tricks you like, like placing a book under your knee-pad as long as you are open with it - and you're not excessively changing others' experiences or the rock.

The dilemma for the climbing media is that the ethics are on a floating scale and we do not have rules like in other sports when somebody can claim a world record etc. Over the years, we can see that there has been some ethics devaluation in climbing. Personally, I think that when it comes to climbing "world records" reported in the media, high standards are needed.

In short, "Into the Sun" is one of the hardest trad challenges in the world but should it be labelled in the history books as one of the hardest trad routes in the world? What is somebody add a sit start creating a 9a challenge? Should that hybrid be called the hardest trad route in the world? What if somebody skips the trad gear and instead stack some more crash pads and make it a high ball or a free solo? Hardest in the world? The responsibility of the media is to find the balance between the need to label and compare ascents, and to describe them in such a way that their relevance is clear without 'wrong' labels. The interesting aspect of Bernd's ascent at the time was that a legendary climber came back to hard climbing with this ascent. And on Jacopo's repeat, his insight into his own motivations to climb this was also a reason to report it, independently of whether or not this route should be listed as one of the hardest trad routes in the world or not.

Zangerl's comments, after reading a draft of this article, "For me its a trad route, because I used trad gear. Isn't it that simple? I actually put out the bolts when I did Into the sun, some people put it back for probably for top roping."


Musa 9a FA by Silvio Reffo

Friday, 3 December

Musa 9a FA by Silvio Reffo

Silvio Reffo, who previously has done 15 routes 9a and harder, has made the FA of Musa (9a) in Covolo. (c) Giovanni Basso

"I bolted the route last year after the first lockdown. I didn't know if the route was possible because there were some moves almost impossible for me. I came back on the route last spring and I felt very fit (thanks to winter strength training) but not enough to send the route. Some days ago finally I did the F.A. of the route!"

What are your next plan?
I have tried Begining in Arco (Ghisolfi’s 9a/+ route), so it will be a good goal.


EDITORIAL

Friday, 3 December

Ethical dilemmas and what about cheating?

Over the years, I have received plenty of emails where climbers inform about high profile climbers cheating. The most common way to cheat seems to be using tight belay, i.e. rope drag stopping the pendulum swing while doing dynamic moves in an overhang. Personally, I have also witnessed it but then the climber just responded, "It was not my fault!" In the end, my friend did the route again but according to the emails I am receiving, tight belay might be used also by the top climbers.

Other cheating comments I have received during the years are giving beta during onsights, belaying friends trying to redpoint a route as well as asking for tickmarks before his onsight attempt, pre-clipping carabiners or commenting that the logged ascents were a complete lie. When it comes to bouldering, sometimes climbers seem to misunderstand where the boulder starts, stacking crash pads or dabbing the pad or the spotter.

It should be mentioned that we have only twice received such cheating complaints about top-level or famous ascents. In both cases, I talked to the climbers and was pleased with the answers. However, as climbing is growing and there is more money and lucrative sponsor contracts out there, the cheating and crossing the ethical border will most probably increase. There are many classical examples of cheating in other sports and possibly there is no other sport where it is so easy to cheat like in climbing.

I do remember when a climber told my local community that he had done a 7a onsight. We met him at the crag and asked him if he could show us his sequence. After some five minutes working the crux with no success, he said, "It is strange but it seems I am much better onsighting!" He hang-dogged to the third bolt but also there he could not solve the second crux. My point here is that mythomaniacs are part of society and surely also found among the climbing community.

As it stands, crossing the ethical borders and cheating in climbing has not been a big problem but actually, this year I have received several emails on the subject. However, it has not have had an impact on the reported news. In the future, I could possibly send out a message to the climber involved if I get two independent emails? What do you think?


EDITORIAL

Thursday, 2 December

How Midtbö become the biggest climbing Youtuber


EDITORIAL

Thursday, 2 December

Jorge Diaz-Rullo FA of Cafe Solo 9b


Adam Ondra comes clean in Beyond focus talking about that he is most of all a lifestyle rock climber at the same time he loves competitions. There he learns about his person and possibly it is also about the ego, showing that you are the best during the day. The preparation is like ways also something he loves. Out of all great Ondra video's, this is one of the best and there are three more episodes describing his inner journey to look forward to.

Thursday, 2 December

Ondra's inner journey onto the Olympics 1:4

Adam Ondra comes clean in Beyond focus talking about that he is most of all a lifestyle rock climber at the same time he loves competitions. There he learns about his person and possibly it is also about the ego, showing that you are the best during the day. The preparation is like ways also something he loves. Out of all great Ondra video's, this is one of the best and there are three more episodes describing his inner journey to look forward to.