Let’s talk more about your boulder ascents. Seems like your favourite spot during recent years is Rocklands in South Africa. What is so special about this place that you keep on coming back there?
Everything! :-) Every single thing there is so special… the rock, its quality and color, landscapes, the sense of freedom, the community, everything is so nice. I don’t know how to explain this to you, if you haven’t been there yet. And you’re not going to understand the spirit of this place unless you go there yourself… But once you’re there you think "wow! it’s cool!”. There’s no crowd since the space seems to be just limitless and very often it’s so quiet there that you can feel everything growing up. The air is so fresh and the camping community is very friendly; there are people coming from every part of the world but despite that they have the same goal and sharing time together is just very enriching experience. Not mentioning all-night barbecues. And of course the rock is amazing! And its quality… sometimes it’s crimpy, sometimes it’s flat, there are overhangings and more vertical parts, crazy formations and basically everything you can think of! Many of the boulders are just real 5-star lines! You see such a line and you’re just bewitched, that was the case when I first saw The Vice. I was so happy that I found something like this, I was standing in front of it and thought "wooooow, I really want to do that boulder!”… but I didn’t do it…yet!! So I have to come back there again! :-)
Focus, composure and... music (photo: Piotr Dro¿d¿)
Last year you came back from Rocklands with five 8A boulders and Black Shadow graded 8a+. Your recent trip to South Africa ended with equally impressive result – Amphitheatre and Tea with Elmarie, both graded 8A+. We already know that Amphitheatre suited you best, you said that you probably would not find another boulder that would be so your style as Amphitheatre. But which one of them was the most demanding?
I think that the one I eventually didn’t do, The Vice. I haven’t tried many hard boulders, especially as hard as The Vice… I had to stretch a lot and the compression of hard moves is pretty intense. It’s definitely the hardest thing I’ve ever tried. And if I were to compare The Vice with Tea with Elmarie or Amphitheatre in terms of the effort and the time I had to spent on them, it is just incomparable really. In the case of Amphitheatre I sent it very quickly probably because it’s just my style and when it comes to Tea with Elmarie, it took me one day to work out the moves and then I came back the other day and just made the ascent. With The Vice it’s just a whole different story. It’s a real challenge. But not because of the grade itself. Grades are something personal.
Mélissa Le Nevé in Rocklands (photo: archive Mélissa Le Nevé)
So to what extent do you attach importance to grades?
I think I focus more on climbing as such. In Rocklands, every time I’m standing in front of this amazing red limestone I just want to climb it. Sometimes it happens that I’m struggling with 7C boulder that just feels really hard for me, maybe even harder than problems like Tea with Elmarie or Amphitheatre and sometimes is just the matter of style and what suits you best. For me, it is more important to enjoy climbing, enjoy the lines that I’m climbing and enjoy the great time and I’m having. Coming back to grades, I know that currently there is so much discussion going on on that subject, especially about bouldering and its ethics. For example, for me a boulder can be sent onsight only if it’s the very first ascent of it made obviously in the first attempt with no chalk on the rock. But still, you have to search for such pure lines for long time, it’s not that easy. I have to admit that I’m bored with all that discussion about grades. For me it’s all about enjoying climbing, if you see a great line and want to climb it, just do it no matter if it’s 6A or 8B or, simply, your maximum. What really matters is that you want to go for it.
On some climbing fora you can read the opinion that if Amphitheatre was one of the boulders in Fontainbleu it wouldn’t be graded higher than 7c+. What do you think? We already know that you’d prefer to stay away from such arguments rather than take part in them :-)
I think I don’t care. It can be true that Amphitheatre is in fact easier, for me it wasn’t so hard. I’ve already climbed a lot of 7C boulders but I remember one of them in particular, I guess its name was Scorpion, anyway, for me it was just extremely hard! Mostly because of the long moves, I had to literally swing from one hold to another almost falling off the rock! And in the case of that boulder I would like to grade it more than 7C for sure, maybe even 8A+ or something but whatever! After all I don’t care, if it’s 7C than it’s 7C. If it’s 6B than it’s 6B. I just enjoy climbing so much. Also when you open a new boulder, I personally have extreme problems with grading. I can say that this one is around 6B, this one is maybe around 7B and this one maybe around 8A… plus or maybe not…? I don’t know, I have no idea! When it comes to grades, bouldering is so personal! A problem may be easier for you because you have tiny fingers or you’re more flexible or you have longer arms and do not have stretch that much… the same way it may be harder because you don’t like heel hooks… Climbing is climbing, it’s fun in the first place, people tend to make it more complicated than it really is.
What inspires or motivates you to climb more/better, train harder and what discourages you the most?
I like challenging myself to do hard moves that I couldn’t do before. Bouldering is so much fun because most often the first time you try a boulder you can’t make a move and then you work really hard on it, you come back the next day and you’re sending it in the first attempt! It’s so exceptional, I like that. The same thing applies to rope climbing. I also like spending time with my friends. One thing that really annoys me is when I go outside and see that people don’t respect the environment and what I mean here is for example rubbish laying on the ground. But this is more general thing and as far as climbing as such is concerned there is nothing that would be able to destroy my spirit :-)