What we see mainly about climbing these days are dynamic moves on indoor walls, one arm pull-ups on campus boards, bouldering sequences that come closer to parkour than to the original forms of climbing. Scrolling through posts on Instagram leaves the impression that modern climbers seem to be more obsessed with training than actual climbing!
That led us to the idea to invite Magnus Midtbø, described on Instagram as “Climber and aspiring YouTuber with a fetish for training”, to climb some classic slab-routes in Arco, Italy.
A year ago, I had met Magnus at the “Oslo Klatresenter” and was impressed by his powerful climbing style. He seemed to have endless power on everything beyond vertical and I was wondering how he would move on slabs where it’s mainly about precise foot positioning and big muscles are more in the way than useful.
I had a rather vague memory from my own experiences that power is always an advantage, even on slabs. Power and core strength give you more time for precise footwork. Still, I had known athletic and powerful climbers who sucked on technical face climbs. Magnus seemed the perfect “test animal” to get a definitive answer to this open question. I was curious to find out how he would look on historic Arco slabs, like “Superswing” and “Tom&Jerry”, both from the early eighties and comparable to “Viol du corbeau” and “Autoroute du soleil” in Buoux.
After bolting the first routes in the Arco area, we used to travel to Verdon and Buoux to get a better idea about our actual climbing level. It was the times when Patrick Berhault and Patrick Edlinger where the superstars of sportclimbing and on top of the evolution. It was the times when toproping was considered as cowardice and scary runouts made part of the difficulty of a route. Climbing was still more a psycological game than athletic performance.
With the development of sportclimbing to steeper and more athletic climbs we soon realized that pushing the grades on slabs was much harder than on overhangs. So, in the end we lost our love for tiny crimps on less than vertical rock and preferred to push our limits on steeper crags with bigger holds. Also interesting to mention, there were no Indoor climbing gyms at the time, which means training and preparation was very different (more limited) compared to actual times.
But back to Magnus’s time travel experience: as I expected he adapted immediately to the style and with his extra-power he could climb up and down to find the hidden pockets and figure out how to make the moves. On “Superswing” he fell on the last move, committing to a possible but more difficult sequence than the original way.
Tom&Jerry was even more forgotten and abandoned than Superswing and hadn’t seen chalk for a long time, which made it really hard to find the small crimps and hidden pockets. After a first exploration round Magnus solidly redpointed this fantastic route above the Garda lake and it looked like he had fun.
It was certainly inspiring to watch him.
Credits: Michael Meisl, Archivio Mariacher