INTERVIEW: Steve McClure - Petzl RocTrip 2012by Jack Geldard - UKC Chief Editor Dec/2012
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Top British climber Steve McClure has recently returned from the 2012 Petzl RocTrip. This year they went to South America. Lucky UKC reader Tom Ireson won an all expenses paid trip (see UKC Report) and now we get more info on the trip from McClure himself.
Jack: What is the Petzl RocTrip? And why should anyone be interested in it?
Steve: This year is the 10th Anniversary of the Petzl Rock trip! The Rock Trip began back in 2002 in France. The plan is always the same, to get a bunch of climbers together to climb, have fun, and most importantly have a massive party. But the philosophy is always the same, with the emphasis on climbing as opposed to competitions, and putting something back into the community. It's a breath of fresh air when many companies look to competition results when deciding who may be worthy of a free bit of kit. The trips have evolved to have a real festival feel with loads going on. There is something for everyone; talks, films, good food, often new routes, a big party, and if you are inclined, the chance to hang out with bumbly punters like myself.
Jack: And what good does it do for the local climbing community, or the wider community?
Steve: Right from the start it was all about helping the community; raising money, conserving the area or putting it on the map. One of the first ones was in The Gunks, we raised a stack for the access fund and spent a few days clearing rubbish, in The Red River over $12000 was raised to help buy some of the land, and in China an extremely poor local community will be helped by visiting climbers.
Certain characters have suggested that Petzl damaged the environment in their quest to 'create' a climbing area, but these opinions are based on what they assume, they need to come to a trip before making statements like that. Then they will see the minimal levels of impact, and how considered the organisers are. If an area would be negatively effected the event would not go ahead. The organisers are true mountain people with true values. For this trip in particular there was huge planning regarding impact. There won't be any traces of this trip other than more recorded routes. True – that may bring in more visiting climbers, but the impact of this will be negligible in a vast area that can easily cope and is shared amongst outdoor people of all interests.
Jack: Where was it held this year?
Steve: This was a big trip! The event was centred around the area known as the Piedra Parada in the Chubut region of Argentina, maybe 2000 km south west of Buenos Aires, well in land and basically in the middle of absolutely no where! From the east coast where I landed it took 12 hours by bus, passing through endless nothing as day faded into star studded blackness unlike any I've seen before.
But waking up I could see I'd arrived into somewhere pretty special! An area of true wilderness; a cross between the Grand Canyon and Death Valley, but with greenery and plant life sprouting from the wide river making it serenely beautiful.
Jack: And what is the climbing like there?
Steve: Most of the climbing is in the Butrera Canyon that snakes its way northwards from the camground for around 5 km, with huge walls and pinnacles towering hundreds of meters into the crystal clear blue sky. There are a lot of routes, and scope for a hell of a lot more! In my few days climbing I barely scratched the surface. There is every style imaginable: short bouldery sport to long wandery multi pitch trad adventures. And the actual climbing is incredibly varied with pocket routes straight out of The Frankenjura to cracks from Indian Creek! I don't think I've ever seen such variation in one place.
Jack: So, with the travel and all that, would you actually recommend going there for a normal climbing trip?
Steve: There is no doubt it is a very long way to go from here. But having said that, the venue itself is totally different to anything I've ever been to before, the peace and tranquillity and the 'feel', as well as the clarity of the air were something really special. Climbing isn't really just about climbing bits of rock, it's a way bigger picture, and Piedra Prada is in full colour.
Steve: I've been incredibly privileged to have been on nearly all of the rock trips since they started. As always, I'm continually surprised to be invited along, being unable to tick all, or in fact any of the required boxes that appear on the application form.
A/young, B/brilliant, C/cool and D/handsome
But fortunately I made it to this one, most likely from an administration error or Rocktrip clause that requires a random Brit to attend. I would have been gutted to miss this year as it was one of the best. And that is saying something considering Petzl have had their trips to Zillertal, Kalymnos, Mexico, China, The Red River and many other places.
I'd be hard pressed to say which was the actual best rock trip, all the trips have been to amazing places, and in terms of the actual climbing, well when we are talking about Kalymnos and the Red, as well as sport climbing in France, well it doesn't get any better. But this venue stands out for being unique and isolated. It feels very special. It feels like you have really been somewhere. It's not just a popular sport climbing destination.
Jack: Which climbers from this trip stood out the most?
Steve: Petzl have some truly top athletes on their team. But it's not just about numbers and comp results, it's about personality and motivation. Having the chance to climb with these dudes is one of the highlights of my year. One of the best things about the Rocktrips is that there isn't a competition, and the climbers from every level all melt into the scene, all just going climbing together, all equal in their goal to simply climb some good routes. This brings out the real climber and to see the likes of Dani Andrada just knocking out route after route, or Dave Graham figuring out a complex sequence at his limit or Daniel Dulac off yet again bolting some multi-pitch mission ground up...well you realise there is a lot of psyche out there.
Jerome Peuverau always stands out for me though, he's just so enthusiastic and motivated and never one to play an excuse card. He flashed 8c this trip so he's no punter.
Jack: Were there any big ascents?
Steve: Climbing seems to be so measured by numbers these days. On this trip there were no big numbers, no 9a's! But as an indicator of how things have moved on, Daniel Dulac bolted an outrageous F8c roof, and then within a few days about 6 people had done it including one flash. On sight climbing was what captured many here because there is simply so much to do and the routes look so cool!
Jack: How were you climbing?
Steve: I turned up with no expectations, out of shape and injured and with a dodgy knee from an operation on a torn meniscus just a few weeks ago. But it came good, and in just 5 days I managed a bunch of routes including 3 8b, 4 8a+, 2 8a and an 8b/+ all onsight (except one 8a+ flash). The 8b/+ was the last route of the trip and will stand out above every route I climbed, and above every route I've climbed this year. Totally at my limit, it was one of those "Climbing Moments". I was climbing really well, which is one of the mysteries of climbing. I still can't fathom how things fall into place sometimes. Most likely it was a summer of being desperate to get out and failing at every soggy rainy hurdle I simply exploded onto the rock!
Jack: Thanks Steve - and well done on the routes!