Silvan Schüpbach has not climbed 9b yet - not even an 8c. And yet it pays to take a closer look at the artist who represents and drives rock climbing in Switzerland like no other.
In addition to the part-time jobs as national ice climbing coach, guide author, helicopter driver and youth manager of the Swiss Alpine Club, he never tires of throwing himself into toughest trad projects and kayak-to-climb expeditions.
I visit him on a training session in his flat near Thun in the Bernese Oberland. The storage room of the old farmhouse is divided into two rooms: Silvan lives in a small cubicle with a ceiling that is too low, and the large room has been converted into a torture chamber. The training furniture includes a boulder grotto, a campus board, a kind of system wall, four hangboards and a wooden crack climbing device - all self-made and rather dubious. Insight into one that does not fit in any drawer.
The interview was conducted by Tim Marklowski from Mountain Wilderness Switzerland
Beautiful gym you have here! Have been a lot of work?
Not really. I got the wood and handles from buddies and most of them hit the wall within a day a few years ago. Incidentally, you are here in the unofficial performance center of the Swiss ice climbing national team.
Seriously? Here are they training ?!
Not on a regular basis, but it does happen. You can hook all handles and wooden boards with ice tools (laughs).
Let's get straight to the point: You are in the scene as one of the most accomplished Swiss Trad climbers ever. With Ultimo Sogno (8a +) you have cracked 2016 in Ticino, probably the heaviest clean crack roof in Switzerland. Trad test pieces like The Doors (8b) in Cadarese have been around for a long time. Switzerland, on the other hand, is considered the birthplace of Plaisir climbing, meaning the carefree climbing of routes defused with bolts. How is it that you fell in the land of drilling machines to climb without bolts?
I have to get something out of this. As a teenager I certainly never noticed as a "sports cannon". At that time I preferred to explore caves or went with my father to search for minerals. Discover and explore were the driving forces for my tours. At some point I was infected by the climbing virus and I started to train. However, the eternal planning of routes has gotten on my nerves over time. That's how I sort of remembered my explorer roots and started making first ascents. What I disliked about the drilled First Ascents was the fact that after us no one can have such a great adventure as we did when opening the route. New territory is not infinite and I quickly realized that I would rather fail ten times with a purist style than set up drill hooks in the chord. As a result, I started a few attempts without opening any routes with Bohrhaken. This is then even in the lime with El Gordo (7a) on the Wendenstöcken or Dr Füdläblut madness (7b +) Altmann succeeded.For opening the most consumer-friendly routes I prefer to work in the climbing gym, there is reward and the last natural resources must not for it.
In addition to the clean tours, you are also an enthusiastic green pointer.
Right! I started experimenting with all the trad material and found many drilled routes that could be secured by myself. From this the idea with the green point climbing emerged (whereby I am not the first there).
What is your general opinion of the well-established Bohrhakenkultur?
Many climbers just want to climb a great tour and experience the flow experience of the hall and the climbing garden in the mountains. I can understand that well and I like clinking and often Bolts. Only I want to get rid of a small appeal: If we really appreciate nature and the idea of freedom, then we must be careful that we do not turn every rock into a consumer product. The number of inspections of a route does not define their quality!
Why is it the Trad climbing in Europe (UK and Dolomites times excluded) is relatively unpopular?
I think a lot of people think that trad climbing is just for the extreme and the daredevil, but that is absolutely not the case with the corresponding know-how and the current equipment. Sure, there are routes that are really dangerous and mentally challenging, but there are also many that are perfectly secure. In other climbing cultures Trad is the most normal in the world and it would be unthinkable to drill everything. I think, above all, training and education are needed so that Trad-Klettern is perceived as an equal variety.
And then you have to say that the increasing all-inclusive mentality just does not stop at climbing. But I think there is also the right to adventure for those who want to experience it. And as I said: trad can, but does not have to be psycho.
What gives you Trad climbing, what sport climbing can not give you?
It already satisfies me tremendously in sports climbing, when the route is at exactly the right place on a route, which makes it possible to get through. How cool, right? A wonder of nature from a sporting point of view. The Tradklettern is for me the logical consequence of it, since even the fuses from the rock will pretend. I also like the tactical aspect of Trad climbing very well. If I still have to go back and forth to use half-rope technology to take all the backups into consideration, then I feel I'm on my own path instead of simply following the directions of the first hiker. Another aspect is that I am quite performance-oriented, but I realize that I have slowly reached my limits in sport climbing. All the better that I can continue to develop in this discipline of climbing - as long as we leave routes for this type of game!
One year after Ultimo Sogno (8a +), you climbed the Muir Wall on El Cap, and in the winter, a new mixed route to the extremely remote Riso Patron in Patagonia first arrived, most of which came in kayak. What are you now? Sport climber, big waller or expedition mountaineer?
"The journey is the goal" describes many of my projects: I prefer to tear my ass up for days or even weeks to eventually crack the decisive climbing meters. As an example, our last Greenland trip: So we landlubbers dreaded and lurched in the kayaks, and then pulled heavy sacks up some wall. On the summit day, I was able to climb an incredibly nice finger tear where I was also quite challenged. That was the coronation, in that moment I was on top of all the services rendered.
What's up with your "Project C (H) lean!" And the "keepwlld! climbing days "?
These projects are a small contribution to a broad and sustainable climbing culture in Switzerland. "C (H) lean!" Is the title of the new guidebook, which I co-operated with Alpine Protection Organization Mountain Wilderness Switzerland published. We worked on the Selection Guide for about three years. It's about providing the climbing community with a selection of areas and routes that can or must be secured by mobile. We describe both "practice" and "application routes" across Switzerland. The idea is to inspire people of different levels for clean climbing.
The "keepwild! Climbing days are an annual Trad climbing meeting organized by Mountain Wellness Switzerland, I was a climbing instructor right from the start, offering workshops on climbing gear. Otherwise, it's just about having a good time with like-minded people and in the most sustainable way possible.
What are your next projects at home and abroad?
There are still a few hard, begun multi-pitch routes in the Bernese Oberland, which I would like to finish. Then I would like to climb secluded walls in the Swiss Alps. Adventure on the doorstep. I would have some really big ideas in Pakistan and Greenland in the quiver, but they still need time to mature and aviation has in terms of sustainability just always a bad taste.
About the climber Silvan Schüpbach
Date of birth: 19. August 1982
Location: Allmendingen near Thun (Bern, Switzerland)
Job: Youth officer SAC, climbing instructor, ice climbing national coach
Highlights sport climbing: Polenta con farina degli altri (500 m, 8b) Turning sticks
Highlights trad: Ultimo Sogno (8a +) Parete D'Osogna
Highlights Expedition / Bigwall: 2013: New route at the Uli Biaho Tower (6.100 m), Pakistan: Route Bacon (6b, A2, M4, 800 m) / 2016: With the west wall of the Apostle Tommelfinger we unexpectedly found an 2.000 meter high, unclimbed wall (metrophobia, 1.700 m, 105 ° ice, A2 +, 7a) / 2017: Thors Hammer, first ascent Ticino Bavona Valley (8b, 250 m) / 2017: Free ascent of Muir Wall on El Capitan (900 m, 8a + / 8b) / Cerro torre, west wall (2015) and Southeast Pillars (2016) / Eiger North Face on 8 different routes (From Heckmair to la Vida es Silbar)
Favorite spots Switzerland: Ticino, Wendenstöcke, Petit clocher du portalet
Favorite spots Europe: Valle dell Orco, Mont Blanc area, Dolomites
Favorite Spots World: Yosemite, Greenland, Patagonia
sponsors: Petzl, Radys, Exped, Lowa, Alonso Import
About the new climbing guide C (H) lean
The selection guide presents climbing gardens and multi-pitch routes that are suitable for securing with wedges and friends. The area selection ranges from the long-established climbing garden to forgotten and "renatured" routes to freshly cleaned new creations.