Buoux in a certain period (1980’s) seemed to be the center of the climbing universe, How do you see the activities of Edlinger, Tribout, Marc and Antoine Lemenestrel, Ben Moon and others in Buoux compared to other climbing areas at the time?
Buoux was 20 years ago what has been recently Oliana, the perfect place for hard sport climbing. The difference is that it was the birth of sport climbing. Theses climbers discovered bolting from the top, redpointing, precise shoes (or almost). There was no drill machine which explains the minimum of bolts.
Actually there were some other areas that were living the same experiences, but Buoux with its gorgeous rock shapes and its very well known climbers was on top of the scene with Frankenjura and Wolfgang Güllich at the same time.
Your famous nowadays for your rock climbing, but you also won some World Cups (1996, World Cup Lead winner, 1st European Championship and 1st X-Games). Do you still follow the World Cup scene today?
Yes! Even if I do not see all of them I have to say that watching competitions is my football! The live streams are very good and it is a source of motivation to see extreme talented people. I am amazed by the skill of the new generation, especially in boulder and with Japanese climbers. Their style, mixed of tonicity, lightness and coordination is a joy to see.
Biographie is one of the most famous routes in the world today, and you opened the first part at 8c+. What are your memories of the early days of this famous route?
I really enjoy the time of being alone to try the route back in 1994 and 1995. When I see the line of people who want to try it nowdays I feel privileged! The upper part was maybe possible for me later if I kept sport climbing at 100%, but I was motivated to travel, put up multi-pitches and do some alpinism.
This is a metaphor of what is life, if you dream about something, you can probably do it but you have to really commit for it. If you chose not to and do other choices, you must have no regrets.
You authored an incredible list of multi pitch routes like Ali Baba, Tough Enough and Delicatessen to name a few. Do you still search for new routes in this style today?
More than sending a hard climb I am passionated to equip new multipitches. I love the process of dreaming of a wall, to imagine a line and then go and see what it is in reality. Putting new routes is the most rewarding thing for me in climbing. Whatever the grade I will say.
I am fortunate my happiness do not depends on grades but on this creative act of putting new routes. Beeing close to 50 I know how hard it is for the body and the mind to try really hard routes at your limit and I also know this is not what make me happy.
Two years ago I was very happy with the line we put up in Grand Capucin with Nina Caprez. With only 7c it will be one difficult but not extreme classic for many years on the Mont Blanc massif and I am proud to still have the eyes for finding some nice lines.
Next summer I would like first to explore the Ceüse traverse. The Grande Face traverse should be a 10-12 pitches beautiful multipitch, maybe not harder than 7b. Then lots of climbers would be able to experiment this style.
I also want to continue a route on a 500 m wall, 30 km close to Ceüse, the north-east face of Pic de Bure. It will be tough for me as the rock is not perfect and some pitches are in the 8 grades. This is a good reason to work less as a guide and climb more regularly :)
It seems that modern climbing is all about records and competition, not many climbers mention the beauty of a line or seem to enjoy other aspects than constantly fight and push their limits. How do you see this evolution to aggressive climbing?
To what I see and I share with people, informations about the nicest routes or places I know, I am happy to notice that lots of climbers are motivated for great experiences more than numbers.
About the top climbers I am not sure it was less competitions 10, 20 or 30 years ago. It seemed super intense between the parisiens group (Le Menestrel, Tribout) and Edlinger in the eighties. The nineties have seen the polemics with Fred Roulhing...
Guys as Adam Ondra or Alex Megos are really honest and fair play to my opinion. They are really good role models as Chris Sharma used to be. I agree on the fact that climbing at a sport crag is nosier than ever. For me it is too much shouting and whims.
People find you in every corner of the planet at some stage in your life. Is traveling and climbing still a focus and passion for you?
As climate change is a reality and an urgency, traveling far for climbing has started to be an issue for me. More than ever it's a dilemma for every climber who wants to respect the nature and who, on the other hand, is driven with passion to discover new types of rocks and new walls.
I have to admit traveling and spending many days in small villages for climbing and opening routes all around the world gave me the opportunity to discover other cultures and built me as a better human.
I have no lesson to give to anybody as I still travel 2 to 4 times a year as a guide but I am now choosing carefully my destinations and I will only go far if the project is deeply exciting me and if there is a connections with locals where I can bring and share my experience. And for next year I am very happy to have this Pic de Bure project close to my home.
Multi pitch, competition, sport climbing and trad climbing, you have great routes in all of these styles of climbing. Which do you prefer? Or are happy to play in all modes of climbing?
I am happy to play in all type of climbing. It is nice to adapt, learn new things, feel new things...
In sport climbing I get a bit bored rapidly, I prefer onsighting as redpointing - it is too much time resting when attempting a route! I do not do that much bouldering as I climb not hard enough regularly and bouldering is tough for my body but I really like it too.
After so many years of climbing your motivation seems still as strong as ever. Where does this come from?
My passion have deeps roots. Since I am a child I really like the act of climbing. Chosing the good holds, using my body the best way to resolve the sequences, the doubts and commitment when onsighting: I love this. When my my body enable me to move with no efforts on a wall brings me to full and deep satisfaction.
As I said I also love equiping new lines, this creative act and the possibility to find the best route you have ever did is exciting.
Credits: Samuël Bié