16 May 2024

QA with Charles Albert

Charles Albert stopped using climbing shoes at age 16 and four years later, in 2016, he did the FA of La Révolutionnaire (8C+). Charles has now completed a dozen boulders graded 8C and harder, most of which are FA's, including L'Ombre du Voyageur (9A) which he opened last November.

Can you tell us more about the process behind climbing L'Ombre du Voyageur (9A) and the potential for there to still be a harder finish?
I'd say I spent roughly 40 sessions over four years. I discovered it in the fall of 2019 and quickly sent the second half of the crack. Then it became my summer project because it stays cool in that cave. For the first two years, I was searching for beta and links. The third year I was very close as I've been able to do the boulder in two parts and the last year I just tried to send it and it went. When I think about my younger self, every aspect of my climbing has improved a lot because I was motivated to climb it. Now you can imagine the effort I've put into this climb.

I have little interest in the harder link-up because it's a winter project. It's the same problem overall but has a very hard section at the end.

What forces drive your climbing?
One thing that drives my climbing is projects. What they have in common is they challenge my climbing abilities. The other thing is the pleasure of the movement and the feeling of the rock.

Are you working on any current projects?
I was working on two projects in Fontainebleau this cold season but now I have to wait for colder temperatures to seriously try them. One of them is an overhang on crimps. It's three moves on undercuts and I've fallen off the last move several times

The other is a "floor is lava" circuit where I try to push the difficulty to the maximum in terms of climbing technique, jumping, dangerousness and endurance. it began when I saw the possibility of climbing multiple hard boulders not touching the ground and thought I could make a whole circuit. Then I had to find a path through the boulders I had in mind. For now, I'm testing it, making little improvements to the pathing, I'm not in the process of sending it at all cost.

What does a normal climbing week look like for you?
I usually climb two to three times a week with friends or with my girlfriend or by myself, mostly on easy problems. On top of that, I do stretching and workouts multiple times a month.

What is it about barefoot climbing that you like the most and that keeps you commited to pursuing climbing in this style?
It's become a habit to climb barefoot, I'm not thinking about why or what difference it makes. But, I'd say I like the style of movement and the simplicity of it.

As far as grades go, do you think it’s fair if someone downgrades a climb of yours if they climb it with shoes?
It is necessary to downgrade these problems if they are easier with climbing shoes, knee-pads and fans because everybody has that gear so the grade must accord to the use of it. It is the definition of unfairness but I don't care about it. It is my choice to go like barehanded to a swordfight. Mastering foot technique when climbing barefoot will not make me climb as if I were using shoes, the moves are so different that it's hardly comparable in difficulty.

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