In climbing I do things that I enjoy and want to do not the ones that are currently in fashion.
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François Nicole on FA Amazonie 9a

François Nicole on Amazonie

Interviewed by Laurent de Senarclens for the Góry Magazine #190 (March 2009)
Edited by Monika M³odecka

Francois Nicole on FA of Amazonie 9a (photo: Laurent de Senarclens)

So François, tell us a bit about you.

My name is François Nicole, I am 42 years old and I’m a father of two daughters and a climber for something like 30 years. I work as a school psychologist and live in Glion, Switzerland, above the lake Léman and very close to the Alps where I mostly climb.

Tell us about your climbing. When did you start and how it currently looks like.
I started climbing in my teens with my brother Fred (Fred Nicole for the ones that haven’t noticed…) around my home town. We climbed a lot in places like St-Loup (home of the famous Bain de Sang route). There were a few routes there and it was very exciting at that time. Everything had to be done. The sport climbing scene was just gathering momentum and we knew there were some really strong climbers in the world but at home area there were no points of reference. We just climbed as hard as we could and opened new routes to challenge ourselves. After some time foreign climbers came to try our routes and we started travelling, we finally realized what level we had achieved and what could be done. My brother started competing and specializing in bouldering while I took up my studies and kept climbing as much as I could. Now I am happy when I can get two days of climbing in a week, juggling between work and family.

With such a busy life you still managed to make the FA of Amazonie 9a. How long did it take for you to send this route?
It took long time (laughing)… Well, Amazonie is a special route, not in the local style at all.

Basically it consists of three boulder problems one after the other in a steep overhang. It’s short but very explosive. I tried it for the first time in 2003 and made all the moves almost straight away and I really thought it would go quickly, then my life took over and I finally made it last December. So much has happened in between: birth of my daughters, injuries, wet winters, and of course physical weakness…

In what way was the final attempt different from the previous ones?
When you spend so much time on one route, after a while it gets really hard to change your beta or just see what you are doing wrong. Dynos are not something my generation is good at.   We didn’t train in gyms, so they were definitely the biggest challenge. There's a strange sideways dyno with a tricky foot placement to launch. The swing while getting the hold is huge and I harmed my hand several times trying to hold on to it. I think there is more blood on that hold than chalk. When I came back to this route last fall, somehow, I managed to perceive it as a new line. It was kind of "make it or leave it for the next young generations". I made a lot of mental visualisations and changed the beta on the jump. I also managed to get rid of the fear of hurting my hand and I did it within a few tries. Another thing that helped me a lot was what I had learnt in the recent years from teaching climbing to kids. When you must explain moves that you do instinctively it forces you to think about them. It may sound stupid but I did change some of my climbing habits (because of that experience), it helped me to concentrate on the rhythm (while climbing) and it was very important for progress on Amazonie too.

What’s next?
I would love to find some time for travelling and climbing with my wife and kids, I want to do longer hard routes in the Alps as soon as my daughters get older and for right now there are still a few hard lines around here that I'd like to try and send hopefully a bit faster than Amazonie.
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