From VS to F8c - Bruno Marks - Unjustifiedby Jack Geldard - UKC Chief Editor May/2011
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Bruno, who describes himself as an 'average climber' took around 14 visits to climb the route, his first being last autumn just before the route became wet for the winter. A more concentrated effort this spring brought success on Bruno's first F8c.
Whilst clearly an extremely fit and able climber, Bruno claims he isn't a superstar athlete. His ascent of Unjustified has sparked a reflection on his climbing progression, and it makes absorbing reading:
"Climbing Unjustified has prompted me to look back at my climbing to see how I got here. Hopefully this will be an encouraging tale for others out there!
I am now 37 and I started climbing aged 22. There's no doubt that practising a sport through the teenage years when you are developing fastest physically brings tremendous advantages. So I was never likely to be an Adam Ondra! I have a demanding full-time job so am very much a weekend-warrior.
My first couple of years were spent bumbling around on VS's. I loved climbing from the first time I tried it and was very lucky to fall in with a fantastic group of people at Cambridge University who despite living in the flattest, furthest place from any decent rock were the most enthusiastic and motivated people you could hope to meet – many of them are still some of my best friends and regular climbing partners.
A turning point was in 1999 when my girlfriend, Jenny (we are due to have our first child later his year!) took me sport climbing for the first time. We went to Siurana in Spain and it was brilliant! I sport-climbed like a trad-climber though – shit scared of falling off! 6a's were a challenge and by the end of the week a soft 6c seemed like a great achievement.
From then on I started bouldering, training and all of our holidays were sport-climbing – climbing has influenced all of the choices in my life since. We moved to Bristol and Pembroke became our weekend destination. With a decent wall at Bristol and some great climbing friends there, I progressed pretty rapidly to on-sighting E5s – Head-hunter, Get some in, Right Wall, Darkinbad and Black Magic were memorable milestones from that era around 2002-2005."
First 8a: Cider Soak, 2003 – felt like an amazing achievement – a level I never expected to reach. I vowed to try to keep it up with one 8a each year but thought this would prove difficult.
First 8a+s: 2006 – during a year out travelling and climbing I properly consolidated my sport climbing at 8a/+ climbing this grade at crags in the US, New Zealand, Australia and Thailand.
Moved to North Yorkshire 2007: When we returned from travelling we decided to settle in a location that really suited our lifestyle and love of climbing and the outdoors. I'm close to great crags, have brilliant friends to climb and train with and have made a top-class training facility at my house. Quickly progressed to climbing many local 8a-8bs.
First 8c: 2011 – Another level I never expected to reach – I can still remember when I was a VS climber and E1 was the holy grail – 8c a magazine grade only for superstars such as Ben Moon and Jerry Moffatt. I started late but with bottomless motivation and a lot of hard work, I've made it. I'm not stopping yet either!
"During 2002-2005 my training became more and more serious. My academic background is in sciences and I've always been very rational and analytical by nature. I approach training in the same way, taking principles from other sports and trying to apply them rigorously and systematically to my climbing. I am a great advocate of systems training and of targeted training exercises rather than just unstructured climbing. It is no surprise that climbing standards are rising as we are embracing these more scientific approaches as has been done in other sports for many years now.
There is no substitute for hard work and I have put a lot of hours into training since about 2002. I now have a fully converted garage with systems board, power-endurance circuits, campus board etc. It's awesome and I'm sure will be invaluable to staying strong when the baby arrives!
For people looking for advice I rate Dave McLeod who has a similarly rational and hard-working approach and the articles of his I have read are always balanced and well written."
"I wanted to say something about this too. Many people who know me are amazed by my will-power and self-restraint when it comes to eating. There's no doubt that being at an optimal weight is a great benefit for a climber but WARNING – there is great danger of this sort of rational self-control tipping over the edge into irrational obsessive/compulsive behaviour such as anorexia or bulimia. I have spent enough time close to this edge to be well aware of this risk although I have managed to avoid it thus far myself.
I think the key is to remember why you are doing this – to be a good climber - and it's just as important that you eat enough and have enough energy as to not get overweight. Eat well and have breaks when you do treat yourself for a bit especially when you are doing plenty of exercise such as on a climbing holiday – it's at least an ice-cream a day for me then!"
"Good luck to everyone out there with similar aspirations. 8c is no longer at all ground-breaking but is a massive achievement for me and will inspire me to keep trying harder knowing that it's amazing what you can achieve when you set your mind to it!
Many thanks to all of my great climbing friends for all of the brilliant days out, holidays, training sessions, motivation and camaraderie. Thanks very much Steve for coming out for an early start on Saturday and making it possible this weekend and good work on Consenting! And thanks lastly to Jenny for being a great partner for the last 12 years of climbing adventures and many more to come – thanks for accepting and sharing my climbing obsession!"
Well done Bruno! And thanks for the thoughts and advice.
Good luck with the baby - and the next 8c!