When and how did you get into climbing and what kept you interested / fascinated in the sport?
I got into climbing when my parents send me on an indoor summer camp to the local climbing gym. I was 9 years old when I first climbed on plastic. Since that summer, every school holiday I wanted to take part of this indoor camp, regardless the fact that all the activities where exactly the same. At an age of 10 I got into the local climbing team, climbing twice a week. Soon this turned in to 5 times per week, the climbing gym became my second home. The people and community encouraged and supported me so much I just felt safe to be who I was, with all my eagerness to climb hard and push myself.
I experienced two main drivers that kept me interested in the sport; the climbing itself and the lifestyle and community. Climbing hard, training and pushing my own limits physically as well as mentally on one side. On the other hand; traveling low key, finding your path as a dirtbag in an unknown culture, getting to learn new languages, sharing stories and getting into discussions about the values in climbing and life. In the end it’s been about self-development and interaction with my environment.
After some adolescent years of sport- and competition climbing my focus turned towards adventure. All I wanted was trad and crackclimbing in the best places on earth. I went from one expedition to the other and was never home, the search for the unknown kept me going. Since 2019 something changed, I had a great desire to become ‘stronger’. Instead of searching for the adventure in climbing I wanted to spend more time to discover my athletic limits. All with the dream to climb the most difficult big walls in the world, because adventure has always been a driver. I rediscovered climbing ‘hard’ and the challenges of pushing my own athletic skills. Yet one more time the sport opened up for me and I got to know many new challenges in becoming a ‘better’ climber.
Who was your childhood hero and do you consider yourself a role model now? Does it influence you at all that other people look up to you?
I did not have any specific childhood hero. I did look up to local climbers’ behavior and the importance they gave to ‘style’ and ethics, the way you had tried and climbed a route was important. I do see myself as a role model today, it is inevitable as a professional climber. It for sure influences the way I communicate about my climbing. I am conscious about the impact I have and try to use that impact to do good for others, our community and our playground. It can be in the form of inspiring them or even by giving people feedback on their climbing behavior based on what I see.
What were the most important milestones in your life so far, both in climbing and in everyday life? Did you immediately recognize them as such or only later on?
Recognizing the importance of these milestones only months or years later, I would say the next two stand out.
The first one coming to mind is a trip of several months to the USA at an age of 19. Together with my newly bought Chevy G20 Van I took off searching for adventure, climbing and climbing partners. This trip gave me a boost, my self esteem and feeling of self worthy rose. The world opened up with many possible paths.
A second very important milestone came after a light ‘depression’ in 2018. I had made many decisions in life based on what I thought that was expected from me. I lived with intense mood swings, ups and downs, and jumped from one project to the other. Since that summer I decided to focus on what I really wanted. First of all, become a stronger climber being able to focus on long term goals. I also realized I wanted to explore more of my capabilities outside of climbing. Which since 2020 resulted in becoming a leadership and development coach working with teams in the corporate world. My main goal is to help people feel good with what they do and who they are in life. Support them in becoming more effective and happy people.
What were your greatest failures / setbacks / injuries? How did you cope with them and how did you come back from them?
It’s hard to think about one great failure from the past. At the moment of the ‘failure’ it feels like a failure. But when time goes on I always manage to twist my mindset about this event and see it as a learning opportunity I had needed to grow as a climber or human. From not sending what would be my second 8b+ at an age of 15, to an expedition without first ascent or first free ascent, to not sending the Dawn Wall in my first season. All these events I do not see as failures anymore.
Injuries I luckily never had (I’m knocking on wood right now). A big setback I did have, the ‘light’ depression I talked about above. The reason for this was continuous self doubt and doubt about my skills as a professional climber. Also questioning continually if I ‘deserve’ this lifestyle. I lost the sense of climbing for a moment; “Why did I like climbing?” “For who am I doing this?” ”Am I still intrinsically motivated?”. I reconnected with myself during one summer without any climbing and found my intrinsic motivation back. Sometimes you go deep to peak high again.
What is your favorite climbing related story / experience?
The story about the route I climbed in Siurana, Spain. “Pati Noso” 8c/c+.
The first morning after my very first night in a portaledge! Waking up in the middle of a 500meter overhanging bigwall in the jungle of Venezuela. Being a total dummy, I had to find out how to live on the wall. Starting with the most basic human needs, like having a leak. Clumsy, insecure and excited I peed over the edge of the portaledge when only 1 second after I had done my thing, the portaledge slid away below me. I flipped over, ending up dangling on one arm on the side of a vertical hanging portaledge looking into the eyes of my climbing partners and cracking up all together!