In the spring of 2022, American professional climber Jimmy Webb tore multiple ankle ligaments after falling from a highball project in Ticino. Coming back to the scene and climbing the boulder required a deep mental process. This is the story of the first ascent of Swiss Air (8C).
Jimmy Webb is one of the strongest boulderers in the world and has been for a long time. In 2022, the American had to learn the hard way what can happen if you try to force a difficult line and ignore your gut feeling: he destroyed his ankle in a highball project in Ticino. A year later he returned to bring his open project to a conclusion. The first ascent of Swiss Air (8C) went hand in hand with an intense inner struggle for him.
A field report by Jimmy Webb
«When I returned to Switzerland last spring, my main goal was to get revenge for an incredible line that had destroyed my ankle the year before. But damn, that hesitation we all feel when trying to complete a project that has taken our climbing stride is difficult.
It's the same feeling that holds you back even when you feel like you're giving 100%. In situations like this I try to step back and accept this process. I don't want to feel like I'm rushing it, nor that I'm forcing it.
In the early stages of this line I had exactly that feeling and it was frustrating. I knew I was capable of climbing the line, but for some reason my mind wouldn't push me to do it.
I've "forced" them many times while climbing and it's always worked. And I think I've been pretty lucky in that regard. Last year I had this moment in my head when I arrived at the final crux with cold hands and thought “this is not right, you should let go”.
At that same moment, another side of my head said, "No, just keep going, you can do it!" Then the shit hit the fan... I'll always remember that, and even though it sucked, I did it the hard way learn, I learned a lot from it too.
Every year we get stronger as climbers, but at the same time we get better and smarter every year. Mental advances are just as important as physical ones, we just have to learn to listen.
It was a pristine day, just Roman and I, with no sounds other than the raging river below. I climbed the line the way I dreamed of and reached the top feeling like a huge load was lifted from my shoulders. That really meant a lot."
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Cover photo: Roman