Bernd Zangerl Interview: Why Bouldering
Climbandmore: You came to bouldering via a special path, starting from alpine climbing, through sport climbing and then you became obsessed with bouldering. Why did bouldering appeal to you so much that you decided to concentrate on this climbing game?
Bernd Zangerl: It’s the BEST. It’s about power, it’s about focus... You can force your body to the limit. You can try the hardest possible moves... And it is more relaxed than the sport climbing scene I grew up in. I was fascinated by some of Fred Nicole’s boulders on which I wasn´t able to hold the holds, and I wanted to climb them. And it’s the fun of bouldering, hanging around with people I like, travelling to areas I want to see, trying projects which I am interested in, drinking cappuccino and talking about the only important thing. I like looking at futuristic lines, not knowing if they are possible to be climbed or not....
“The poetry of climbing”, “instant suffering”, “the most elegant and distilled of climbing games” – which definition of bouldering would you choose?
“The poetry of bouldering”
Let’s talk about sport the climbing times in your career. 8c was the hardest grade you did in sport climbing. When did you do it and how many years had you been climbing before?
I did Tai Chi in October 1999, after three years of sport climbing.
Do you think you could achieve much more in sport climbing or do you rather have a natural ability for bouldering and could excel only in this discipline?
I’m not sure where my natural ability is. I think it’s just important in what you’re personally interested in and what you enjoy the most. And if you’re having fun, you will improve and get stronger automatically. I was an endurance climber until 1999, when I first got in touch with bouldering... So I think it should be possible for me to climb harder sport routes. But right now I am more fascinated with doing hard moves, searching for the hardest possible moves. At the same time, I also enjoy the “easy way of bouldering”.
Fred Nicole also chose bouldering, but for many years he also did routes. Don’t you like trying bouldery sport climbing routes, or maybe you do...?
One day I will find more time for sport climbing. I am interested in trying some “classics” of Wolfgang Güllich and some other routes. I also have my own “route project”, which will be climbed one day. But I don’t work on these routes with the same energy and motivation as I do on my boulders. Right now I have too many boulder projects, which await to be climbed. ...You know: first things first ;-) And until now, bouldering has been the best training.
Bouldering has become so popular... Some people say that’s because you don’t usually need so much time to climb an 8C as to climb a 9a sport route (especially when making the first ascent). But doing either thing makes you equally popular. Do you agree?
I don’t think that it’s easier to climb 8C boulders than 9a routes, and there are also more 9a’s than 8C’s. I tried such a route, and I was able to climb the sequences. On my 8C’s I had to work a lot just to get the power to do one move. Dreamtime was a little bit different because it needed more endurance. But the routes have more and more endurance style, and endurance is easier to train than power (at least for me).
But we shouldn’t always compare things at the highest level of difficulty. Take some 8B’s with two or three moves. I know some of such boulders which haven’t been repeated yet. Some people should try to figure out these moves before they start boasting about 8B+’s and 8C’s.
Doing both things is good for sure. Especially for technique and endurance.....but it’s just a question of your own interests.
Do you have, or did you have, any idols among climbers and boulderers? I mean people who impressed you most with their climbing abilities or philosophy.
When I started climbing, I was fascinated by Wolfgang Güllich, Ben Moon and Jerry Moffatt. Then I was impressed by Fred Nicole and his boulders. Nowadays, I don’t really have idols... Maybe my friends Steini and Didi. They both have families and lots of work but still they have such great energy for bouldering.
Some boulderers like John Gill in the past and Chris Sharma nowadays, stressed the spititual aspect of bouldering. How do you feel about it?
Bouldering is a very important part of my life. And of course, there are some “spiritual aspects” in it, when you are totally concentrated on doing a boulder problem. But this has nothing to do with religion.
Bouldering is a very social game, climbers can work on one problem, motivate each other and have a good time. But it’s also a game which can be easily practised in solitude – just the climber and a crashpad... Which one do you prefer, or maybe both, depending on time and mood?
Alone or with my best friends.
You, just like Fred Nicole, are not interested in climbing in competitions. Why?
There is enough competitiveness in our society, and I’m really not interested in competitions. Bouldering for me means going outside, enjoying the nature and searching for the hardest moves. I make my own competitions out there.
I guess there are lots of projects you’re working on? Is that true?
So many projects, so little time.