In bouldering, Natalie Bärtschi is one of the best in Switzerland. The 23-year-old has not only achieved a lot in competitions, but also on the rock makes Natalie with difficult routes like The Arete with the Pocket (8a) or You Cote de Seshuan (7c +) talked about. We talked to Natalie about her life besides climbing, Olympia and competitive pressure.

The interview was conducted by Jeannine Zubler

Natalie, how did you start climbing, why did you choose this sport?
I was outdoors a lot with my family as a child. Later I came to mountaineering through children and the JO to climbing. One of the J + S directors was a trainer from the Zurich regional team and thought I should take part in a competition. That's how I slipped in. At first you climb every now and then and suddenly you train four or five times a week. I think that's how many people feel, you just can't stop climbing.

Yes, many climbers know that. Still, it takes a lot of motivation to train five times a week. Where do you take these from?
Rock climbing motivates me a lot. When I create a route that feels impossible in the beginning and suddenly I realize it works. Although it takes more and more effort and progress is smaller, but I see a constant progress that drives me. And of course the competitions are a lot of fun.

What makes the competitions different from climbing?
They are often very special movements that you can not find on the rocks or in a normal route in the climbing gym. That's a different challenge. This combination of power, balance and coordination makes the competition routes special.

Natalie Bärtschi: Boulder athlete (photographer David Tomlinson)
Natalie Bärtschi (picture David Tomlinson)

Competition also means expectations and pressure - how do you deal with them?
The pressure is for me the biggest challenge in the competitions. This year I was physically very fit. Because I knew that, I put too much pressure on myself. I struggled to get my performance right. It's easier if you have no expectations. Even if you are physically not quite as fit, but mentally strong, or just easy. I find it difficult to get into the right mental state to get the best performance on the day of the competition.

Are you doing mental training or how can you do that?
No. I just try to go easy on the competition and have fun on the whole. It usually works like that.

Then you probably do not think about quitting?
I want to compete in competitions as long as it is possible besides my studies. When I start working, the time required will probably be too high. National competitions or fun matches are sure to be in there, but world cup level probably not - but I'm surprised!

Your studies fit thematically well for climbing?
Yes exactly. I study chiropractic at the University of Zurich. If all goes well, I'll finish in just over a year and a half.

Why did you decide exactly for this study?
I've always been interested in the musculoskeletal system. When I was treated to a chiropractor myself, the decision was made.

Climbing is represented at the next Olympic Games. Is Tokyo 2020 a topic for you?
No. There are only 20 women worldwide who are allowed to participate. I value my chances of qualifying myself minimally. Besides, the format does not really suit me.

You mean the combination format of the three disciplines bouldering, lead and speed - what do not you like about that?
Lead climbing is not my thing. I would have to invest a lot and I do not think I would reach that level. I also do not want to train all three disciplines.

This means that you concentrate mainly on bouldering, long routes are not for you?
I'm mainly bouldering. Outside on the rocks, but also makes long routes fun. I would like to climb the rope more often. Unfortunately, the stamina is missing, if you do not go that often. I then go full throttle on a route and then I'm tired for the rest of the day (laughs).

Are you telling our readers about your favorite bouldering area?
In Switzerland, my favorite place is Brione, in the Verzasca valley. Scenic it is beautiful there. My absolute favorite is the Rocklands in South Africa, they are a dream! This summer we have been there for the third time.

That sounds exciting! Do you have a project in South Africa?
No specific. If you go to a new place, it has so many rocks and possibilities, and you're running new projects every day.

Are there any guides for the Rocklands or have you written any?
It is now quite large and known, now comes out soon, the second leader. Every year, many new lines are opened. By now it is really well known and more and more people are coming.

And where do you meet with the training during the week?
Mostly in the minimum in Zurich, that's very close to me home. Sometimes I'm in Milandia in Volketswil or if I want to climb the rope in grip in Uster. And if it's nice, of course, out on the rocks!

Thank you for the interview, Natalie.


about the author

Jeannine Zubler is a freelance journalist and copywriter. She spends every free minute in the mountains and when climbing. She writes about everything that happens in the vertical.


Credits: picture David Tomlinson

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