Interview with Anak Verhoeven (updated)

EDITORIAL

26 November 2022

Anak Verhoeven is historically speaking one of the best female Lead competition climbers. She made finals in the WC 36 times in a row. In total, she made the podium 19 times, but in 2019 she stopped competing due to injuries. In the second half of 2021, she fully recovered but decided to focus only on rock climbing. During her comp years, she did a dozen routes 8c+ to 9a+, and over the last 16 months, she has done another eight routes 9a to 9a+. Her trainer has always been her father, who started climbing at age 31, and he is also the climber who she looks up to the most. Her mother was her coach at comps and most of Anak's trips have been done together with her family. They live in the northern part of Belgium almost one-hour drive from the same gym she has been training in since she was a child. Almost all of her training has been done by routinely repeating the hardest routes in that gym.

8a had the chance to talk with her after at the Leonidio Climbing Festival, where she made a guest appearance as one of the festival's headlining athletes.  

We've heard your dad is one of the climbers you look up to the most?
He can lovingly belay me for hours and without being able to train, he can still do 7c’s, although he's in his 60'ties. He has a very nice technique and I learn from him. But more importantly, I look up to him for the way he lives his life and I respect and love him for being my father and taking that role so seriously.

Have you thought about moving to a place where you can be closer to good rock climbing?
I am in the transition to becoming a full-time rock climber and at the moment I enjoy going on trips for some weeks. But sooner or later I will probably move outside of Belgium.

We heard you've been bolting new routes?
After the festival, I had the opportunity to bolt a 7c-route which I named Máthema. It was an amazing experience to learn new skills and open a line on Leonidio’s beautiful rock! I might bolt more in the near future because I enjoy it a lot.

What drives you to climb?
I like the challenges that come with climbing hard routes on rock and, I also like pushing myself. When I start projecting a route, the first question is always whether or not I will be able to do all the moves. That’s not easy to find out. I am not as strong as male climbers and usually shorter, so finding the solution to a certain sequence can be tough, especially when trying to do the first female ascent of a route. But at the same time, these uncertainties make the process interesting.

What are your thoughts on on-sighting?
I like on-sight climbing and I’ve on-sighted routes up to 8b+. But so far, my focus has always been on projecting routes during my climbing trips and not on on-sighting.

Have you thought about turning your attention towards a 9b+ redpoint?
That definitely sounds interesting. So far, I feel like I haven’t had that opportunity yet. Next year I would like to go to Flatanger for the first time.

Do you have the same competitiveness outdoors that you had in comps?
I surely still have the same mentality and seriousness as when I was competing, for example in the way I approach training and tackle my projects. But climbing outdoors is of course not a fight between climbers, but a very personal thing – a pushing of your own limits and a constant learning process.



What do you think are your strengths and weaknesses ?
My hips work best doing knee drops and I am not so good in frog position moves. Slopers and pinches are my favorite kinds of holds, but monos are absolutely not. During my competition years I trained a lot of endurance, so 50+ meter routes without big rests are my cup of tea. I have also always liked climbing on steep terrain and roofs, so I’m naturally drawn to these long, overhanging climbs. But I can appreciate more vertical climbing as well and I enjoy both powerful and delicate moves.


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