Career Highlights

Rock routes

  • Marmolada South Face, "Weg durch den Fisch": third solo ascent (2007) and winter ascent (2012)
  • Drei Zinnen/Tre Cime di Lavaredo North Face Winter Trilogy: full ascent of Cima Grande di Lavare North Face ("Superdirettissima", 02/2007), Cima Ovest di Lavaredo North Face ("Cassin", 01/2013) and Cima Piccola di Lavaredo North Face ("Fehrmann Chimney", 03/2013)
  • Speed ascent "Kaiserweg" Schaufelsen, Danube Valley 8:13 min. (2008)
  • Speed ascent Salbit West Ridge in 2 hours, 18 min. (2008)

 

Ice/Mixed

  • Oeschinensee, Kandersteg "NIN" VI WI 6+/7- A2, 210 m (2011)
  • Seebenseefall, Ehrwald, "Airgames" WI6 M6- A3, 200m (First ascent without bolts, 2009) and "Bobby" WI6+ M7 A3, 200 m (First full ascent, 2013)

The Three Great North Faces

  • Matterhorn North Face "Schmid Route" (2008)
  • Grandes Jorasses North Face "Colton-MacIntyre Route" Grandes Jorasses North Face without cable cars, huts etc. Les Praz – Les Praz in under 48 hrs. (2010)
  • Eiger North Face "Heckmair Route" in 5 hrs, 10 min. (3rd fastest team ascent, fastest German ascent, 2011)

Mountaineering and expeditions

  • Mont Blanc (4,810 m) "Peuterey Integral" in 1.5 days from Rif. Borelli to summit (2008)
  • Ladyfinger Peak (ca. 5,900 m), Hunza Valley, Pakistan – 4th ascent, possible first ascent of the highest point of the summit ridge (2009)
  • Fitz Roy (3,406 m) "Supercanaleta", Patagonia (2011)
  • Aguja Standhardt (2,850 m) "Exocet", Patagonia (2012)

Interview

  • Climbing

    When and how did you get into climbing? What keeps you interested? What fascinates you?

    I got into climbing through my school but what kept me interested initially was meeting really cool people who were like-minded and showed me the beauty of climbing.

    I was always climbing with people much older than me which I think helped massively with my social development as a kid, however saying that, only hanging around climbers who talk about climbing non-stop maybe stunted me socially as now I can't talk to anyone about anything BUT climbing!!! Hahaha!

    I think what really attracted me to climbing was that it wasn't all about being strong; there is always a way up the wall without pulling yourself up. I began climbing at 15 and all the young climbers at the wall were waaaaay stronger than me. The difference was that I couldn't do one arm pull ups or hang from small edges with one hand, but I would find heel hooks, toe hooks and knee bars and use them to shimmy my way up the wall where all the others tried to pull themselves up! I learned that climbing was more about technique and state of mind than anything else :D

    The next big step was venturing outdoors... as soon as I went on my first big climbing trip to Kalymnos, I knew that this was it for life! How could I love anything else any more than this? It was the greatest thing on earth, it took me to the best places on earth and I hung out with the best people on earth!!!

    Who was your childhood hero? Do you consider yourself a role model now? Does it influence you at all that other people look up to you?

    When I was young I loved the idea of being like Chris Sharma! He was my hero! But really it was those around me who really inspired me and drove me to becoming the climber and man I am today.

    I'd say in climbing I owe the most to two of my best friends, Neill Busby and Neil McGeachy. They were and still are my mentors in climbing and life. They have taught me so much over the years about how to approach climbing in a positive way, how to train and how to get the most out of the sport. They took me places off their own back when I had nobody else and I truly can't ever repay them for what they have given me.

    I owe my Mum and Dad so much too, they are both heroes of mine!

    My father because he battled through cancer from when I was born and despite this, managed to support a young family and allow me to pursue my dreams in life.

    My mother because she supported my ambitions, took me everywhere I needed to be when I was young and even now that I am older is still looking out for me, offering me guidance and support whenever I need it.

    What have been the most important milestones in your life so far, both in climbing and in everyday life? And did you recognize them immediately as such or only later on?

    I think a big one was leaving University after 6 weeks when I was 18. University was wrong for me at the time and pursuing climbing as a full-time career was what I needed to do! I discovered more about myself and my ambitions in that time and I think it has helped me to see what is important in life and more than anything, how to make decisions that are best suited for me.

    Another big milestone was accomplishing "Bellavista" on the Tre Cime de Lavaredo in the Dolomites. This proved to me that anything I put my mind to is possible. The only way you get things done is by getting out and doing it! Another important lesson learned was that "fear" is but a process of the mind (though often quite an important process) and it can be controlled and manipulated to help or hinder your ambitions. I am learning more than ever what it takes to us the powers of the mind in a way that helps me achieve what I want in life and in climbing

    What were your greatest failures / setbacks / injuries? How did you cope with them and how did you come back from them?

    I have had an ongoing issue with my knees. It holds me back on certain moves right now like drop knees, heel hooks and on steeper walls when pulling on my toes. I rely a lot on flexibility and pulling through my feet so this is actually holding me back a lot at the moment.

    I also injured my A2 pulley a few years ago... at the time this felt like a set back but in actual fact was more of an awakening. I got injured by overtraining so it was completely my own fault. I wanted to get stronger than I had ever been before and pursue climbing harder routes and boulders, but I pushed too hard too quick. I had booked a trip to Spain 2 months later, I was not fit or strong when I went out and I was still injured with a sore finger. I spent the next 2 weeks onsighting routes up to 8a+, I climbed about a dozen routes between 8b and 8c and even made a first ascent of a local project called "Tendon House" which I gave 8b+.

    On this trip I discovered that climbing on rock does not require much strength or endurance, all you need is technique and an understanding of the rock you are climbing on. Sure strength and endurance help, but technique is far more important and you don't need to pull anywhere near as hard on climbs outdoors thanks to the millions of potential footholds you have :D

    What is your favorite climbing related story / experience?

    I attempted to free climb a classic slab multipitch route on a beautiful sheet of perfect granite with two of my good friends, Neill and Patryck. We set of a little late, I lead a few of the tricky slab pitches including one that traverses a long quartz band with no protection for ages, but I managed to keep a cool head and get to the belay to bring up the other two. We were set up at the crux pitch belay, about to set off when the sun disappeared and the wind stopped... In any other country this would normally be fine... not in Scotland! Just as we prepared to set off, we were hit by a cloud of midges (tiny mosquito like flies). There was so many biting us we could barely open our eyes! Neill attempted to lead the pitch but climbed for little more than a few meters before evacuating... I attempted then retreated from the same point! The midges were killing us and we opted to abandon our post and abseil off the wall as soon as we could!

    We left gear behind, but there was honestly nothing we could do it was that bad! Thankfully another party climbed the route the next day and retrieved our gear for us haha! Neill and I returned last year (2014) and climbed the route... this time midge free :D

  • Training

    Do you have a strict training schedule for when and how you train throughout the year?

    When I was younger I did, however as I grew up and became more aware of my body, how it adapts to training and how important actual rock climbing is to improve performance I stopped following such a strict schedule. I still train hard in various formats and have some systematic approach to each session, but it varies depending on what I feel I need to work on, my mood, injuries, goals, etc...

    I do a lot of bouldering indoors, this I would say accounts for the vast majority of my climbing training! I also do quite a bit of fingerboard focusing specifically on key grip types like half crimp and 2 finger pocket hangs, usually on one hand with assistance.

    I very rarely train endurance as this is not an issue for me on climbs generally, however I do like to mix it up occasionally by doing laps for endurance training, usually 4 sets of 3 or 4 routes back to back in a session. If I train endurance it is at the beginning of the season to build a base for the year and then I maintain.

    What advice can you give to others looking to improve their training routine?

    I would say that it is important to become aware of what aspects of physical, technical, mental and tactical training you require to improve. A coach can be a great way of realizing this, especially somebody who knows themselves how to improve and become a better climber.

    Training shouldn't be about simply getting stronger, it needs to be practical and specific to the climbing you are going to be doing. Too much of the training we see online and advertised in the media is simple and non-climbing specific. It's of no real use to climbers and there are better ways of training that would make you improve much more rapidly with better more long-term gains.

    Endurance: Important for route climbers, especially big wall and multipitches! Long days at the wall bouldering or doing routes are perfect for this. Also doing endurance laps like sets of 4, 3 or 2! However these should not be done too often and my advice would be to start each year with a day or two of this a week for a month and then to gradually lower volume. Don't get caught up in doing it all the time!

    Strength: The most important physical trait for climbers in my opinion! In particular finger strength and lock of strength. When I say strength, I mean pure static strength, not explosive power! I would recommend any climbers who have spent more than 3 years climbing and who are operating above 7b to invest some time into maximal finger strength training each week. This is as important for route climbers as it is for boulderers! I made the biggest gains in my climbing after strengthening my fingers through the use of a fingerboard and bouldering intensely.

    Power: Every indoor climber over emphasizes training upper body power, in particular explosive moves between big holds on steep boards and doing one arm pull ups... That ability is just not necessary at all to climb hard! Most of the power in climbing comes from the legs, even on steep routes and boulders. Power training in the gym is fun to do, but has very little transfer onto outdoor rocks... I definitely believe that style comes into play here and in some places having more power is useful, but from my travels around the world, I have never found a climb that couldn't be done in an efficient and technical way without using simply brute power!

    Shoulder Strength: Saying that about power, having strong shoulders that can stabilize wide moves and keep you strong on the wall is more important and is a close second to finger strength.

    Core: Very important as a climber. If you have weak core it will be noticeable on the wall, but climbing is a great core training activity in itself so don't overdo the core when training if you are doing plenty of climbing. A short 5-15 minute routine at the end of a session is probably adequate.

    IMPORTANT! The best advice I can give anyone is to remember that you don't need to be strong, fit or powerful to climb hard. Technique and a strong mindset overcome pretty much any obstacle on the rocks and some of my hardest ascents to date have been done when I have been in my weakest state. Injury is usually done in the climbing wall because it is more intense than rock and it's more accessible meaning it is easier to over-train.

    Never over-train, always finish on a high, and enjoy climbing forever!!!

    What do you think of indoor climbing gyms in relation to climbing on actual rock?

    Indoor climbing gyms are transforming the world of climbing by making many climbers stronger and fitter than they have ever been before! The problem lies in the fact that climbers don't get out on rock enough and forget how to climb efficiently on rock. When they don't succeed they blame not being strong or fit and return to the gym to get stronger and fitter, instead of confronting their demons (the rock) and trying to get better!

    Most gyms in the world don't make a climber better at climbing; that is an unfortunate fact. However this can change... with good route setting and a well-designed wall and training area, we can have indoor routes that teach as well as train.

    More footholds on routes, more intricate sequences, more variation in movement and we can set routes that replicate the complexity of the natural world indoors. Unfortunately it's popular amongst modern setters to jump between jugs and build powerful moves with few options for your feet... The best setters are those that climb on rock all the time and set from their experiences.

    Are you able to do a one-arm pull up? How about a one-finger pull up?

    I can do a one arm pull up, but not of a single finger. I am much more impressed by people who can hang a flat edge statically... this for me is true strength! One arm pull ups are a party trick that have little relevance to climbing.

    How much of being a successful pro climber is due to self-marketing and how much due to actual climbing skill?

    Being a pro climber means more than just going climbing. You do have to put some work into marketing yourself as a climber. This can be really fun because you get to work with a lot of cool people in the climbing industry including photographers, videographers and great brands like Edelrid and the cool folk involved with them.

    You also have to put some personal work into writing for blogs and magazines as well as keeping social media stuff up to date.

    I would say that the success of a pro climber depends on a few factors:

    • Achievements - Climbing/First Ascents/Competitions/etc...
    • Marketing - Blogs/Articles/Pictures/Videos/Social Media)
    • Sponsors - Having a good sponsor to support your career who believes in you and helps you achieve what you set out to do!

    On an average week I put in a lot of time into work associated with my sponsors, articles, blogs, videos, pictures, etc... On top of that I also have to find time to train, go climbing, coach, route-set and study!

  • Psychology

    Can anyone train to be able to do a one-armed pull up or climb the Eiger/Matterhorn? Or do you have to be born for it?

    Nobody is born with the ability to do any of that stuff... all that is required is a determined mindset! With that anything is possible! I genuinely believe that everyone has at least the capabilities to reach 8a no matter when they start climbing and that if you start climbing anytime between being a child and your mid-30's to 40's has the ability to climb 8c.

    A one-arm pull up can be trained easily. With time and dedication anyone can do it... my question is why would you want to when you could train to climb the North Face of the Eiger!!!! :D

    The biggest set back with climbers who start later is mental I find. Most of the people I coach have problems overcoming fear, this is a huge hurdle! The real deal behind overcoming this is being honest with yourself about how much you want to climb harder and how badly you want to see your goals achieved. If you want it badly enough, you can overcome anything!

    How important is it to set goals in professional sports? What are your goals? What are you working towards with your climbing and in life?

    Goals are EVERYTHING!!!

    You must have goals to achieve, to achieve you must believe, and to believe you must have goals to inspire!

    My climbing goal in the long run is to become 100% all round as a climbing athlete! To be able to aspire to climb any route anywhere and be competent at dealing with any scenario!

    I want to repeat classic hard sport climbs, boulders, trad and alpine routes. I'd like to put up many first ascents at a level that challenges me to my physical, technical, tactical and mental limit so I keep improving!

    In 2015 I would like to climb:

    • "Paciencia" (8a) – Hardest route on the North Face of the Eiger
    • "Silbergeier" (8b+) – Beat Kammelander's technical alpine test piece in the Ratikon, Switzerland
    • "Cry Freedom" (8b+/c) – One of the toughest challenges at Malham Cove and very seldom repeated
    • "Dalriada" (E7) – One of the most beautiful Scottish traditional mountain routes
    • "New Statesman" (E9) – One of the most classic Gritstone trad climbs and arguably the best line on the grit!

     

    In the long run, my climbing goals include:

    • "Rhapsody" (E11) – Contender for world's hardest trad route
    • "Alpine Trilogy" – The 3 x Classic Alpine 8b+ routes, "Silbergeier", "Des Kaiser Neue Kleider", "End of Silence"
    • "Patagonia" – To climb a classic hard Patagonian alpine route
    • "Yosemite" – I am inspired by "The Nose", "Freerider" and "The Prophet". I think I will spend a lot of time in Yosemite in the future!
    • "Echo Wall" – To repeat Dave Macleods hardest trad route :D He is the man! I like following in great big footsteps haha!
    • "Madagascar" – Big walls in Madagascar, they look sick and I would like to look at doing a team ascent of "Tough Enough" at some point with someone mad enough to try it with me :D

    How to you deal with extremely hard climbing problems? Do you ever get frustrated and give up on them or do they motivate you even more?

    When I was younger I dealt a lot with frustration and annoyance... I learned over time that this held me back. I still get frustrated but I am never demotivated! I am always psyched and if I am stuck I fight harder and dig deeper to find the secret! If I don't find it straight away I might have to leave it for a time, but I always return!

  • Future of climbing

    Is there anything you would like to change about the current developments in climbing?

    I would like to see the world less obsessed with climbing grades. Climbing grades are a measure of development I guess, but I have never been motivated by achieving high grades, only by pushing my own comfort levels whatever that might be?

    Sure the stuff I try tends to be relatively high in grades, but that's only because over time I have developed my climbing to that standard and I am not too motivated by easier climbing. Sure I like the odd easy day out but I love pushing myself and the process of overcoming obstacles!

    I would like to see more emphasis in developing young climbers to become more all-round, allowing them to see every aspect of climbing and what it offers across the range of disciplines. I am inspired by the youth who get out on their own accord no matter what! I met a young German kid (Paul Stenig) in Zillertal last summer who despite only being 14 and having only climbed for a little over 2 years has both been successful in competition, sport climbing, trad climbing, ice climbing, alpine climbing and even has time to set top ropes up for his mum and go on wild alpine adventures in the dolomites with her on easier routes :D

    Climbing is a beautiful sport where we can push our bodies and minds to new boundaries whilst in nature and do this with friends, making bonds with people that are ageless and allow us to experience adventure! It is the greatest sport... activity... lifestyle on earth and I thank my lucky stars everyday for being a part of it :D

    Where do you see the sport going in coming years? What will change? And what will your role be in it?

    Tough question! I think the level will keep being pushed by young climbers, just as it has always been done. They will take these skills into the mountains and do amazing things!

    I would like to think that I can keep doing what I'm doing, travelling the world, experiencing all that it has to offer in terms of climbing, adventure and culture! I would also like to give more back to young climbers by helping them branch out into the world of rock climbing and achieve things that perhaps without my experience they might not have been able to do on their own... This is how I have been helped by my many mentors over the years and I feel it is part of the climbing lifecycle to give back what you have been given.

    It will be interesting to see what's possible.