What then came out of the blue was her flash of the short and bouldery 8b+ Friends like you in the notoriously difficult German climbing area of Frankenjura, showing she's not just an endurance machine, but she has fearsome bouldering power. A couple of days later her fast ascent (four tries) of the desperate and fingery Oddfellows (8c), a twenty move power-endurance route on tiny holds and monos, also in the Frankenjura, confirmed her place up amongst the best of the world's female sport climbers.
We caught up with the young Swede in Germany, whilst she was spending some time in the Frankenjura climbing and sightseeing, to find out more about her, her climbing background, and her future plans.
INTERVIEW: Matilda Söderlund
Who is Matilda Söderlund?
I'm a 20-year old girl born and raised in the capital of Sweden, Stockholm. I graduated from high school last year and I am currently taking a break from studying. At the moment I climb and travel quite a lot, but when I am at home I work at the climbing gym and as a private teacher in the science subjects - mathematics, physics, etc.
Did you specialise in sciences at school then?
There are two main programs you can attend in high school in Sweden – science and social studies. I attended the science program! I have always been better and more interested in the science subjects. I want to study to become an engineer. Actually, my plan was to start university this August but I will wait another year to have more time to climb and travel.
When did you start climbing? And where?
I started climbing when I was 11 years old, at a local climbing wall in Stockholm. A friend of mine used to go climbing with her dad every weekend and one day I joined them. I liked it immediately! I did athletics for six years before I started climbing. There the main focus is on competitions and training. As a consequence, I applied the same attitude to climbing and started doing competitions and training pretty hard right from the start... It took about three or four years until I first tried climbing outdoors, and then I just felt scared. To be honest it wasn't until last year, after spending a month in Spain training, that I really started to enjoy it. And now, well I love climbing outdoors and I still like to compete!
Growing up in Stockholm, is there much climbing there?
Stockholm is maybe not the best place for outdoor climbing – short granite routes, small, sharp crimps and quite a lot of drilled and chipped holds... It is very different compared to the limestone crags in southern Europe! Also the season for climbing outdoors there is not very long. But there are four indoor walls. Climbing is definitely growing in popularity and the walls are often crowded. The wall I started in is called Klätterverket and that is also the place where I do most of my training today. It is a good place for training, with well-set routes and boulders and a lead wall that works well for training.
How do you think this early climbing life has influenced your current climbing?
Well, I definitely did a lot of climbing and training indoors. I think that has really given me a good platform for my climbing that I can use now as a base to try to improve and challenge myself more. I like to compete and I think all the competitions have helped me to grow and become stronger mentally.
Where is the coolest place you have climbed? Why was it so cool?
This year I have had the opportunity to travel and climb at many cool places. So far I would say that the coolest one is Siurana, especially the El Pati sector, because of the beautiful, high class routes and the nice scenery.
You are climbing really well right now, have you built up to this period specifically?
Thank you! I think it is a result of the training that I have done for the last couple of years. I have been training in a structured way and I've followed programs by my trainers Carlos Cabrera and Malin Larsson.
Carlos Cabrera has been my trainer since 2008 and plans my climbing training. Malin Larsson helps me with running, strength and that sort of training. I have been working with her for the past three years now. The programs that I have been following are usually divided into different periods where the training and the focus varies.
Have you had any set backs to your training?
This year I was injured for 1 and a half months in February and March and I couldn't train properly during that time, which was very frustrating and demotivating.
In September last year I ruptured a muscle in my back. It healed quite fast but I could still feel some pain occasionally. After a visit to a Naprapath in February, the muscle ruptured again... I got in contact with a really good physiotherapist, who helped me a lot, and I did a lot of rehab exercises. Now I don't feel pain or anything when I climb, which of course feels great, but I still do my rehab training!
When I could finally start climbing like normal again I went on a trip to Spain and Siurana. It just felt like things had sort of fallen into place, climbing felt better than ever before and I was super motivated! I feel that I have good base now and compared to earlier years I have actually not been training that much this year. I have just been having fun and climbed mostly outdoors.
It seems like you have hit a real purple patch with your outdoor climbing. You have now onsighted several 8bs (2 in a day) and also flashed 2 8b+s as well as making a fast redpoint of Oddfellows (8c) in the Frankenjura. Is 9a on the horizon?
I really like to challenge myself and try hard routes. It is really inspiring motivating with all the hard female sends that we have seen this year! I would like to go away on a longer trip and find a nice route that I feel motivated in climbing, and spend more time on it. Weather that route would be an 8c or 9a is not that important to me. But climbing 9a would certainly be amazing and like a dream coming true!
What specific climbing plans do you have for 2012?
Coming up next for me is the World Cup in Chamonix. From there I will probably go to Ceuse for a couple of weeks. After that I will go back to Sweden and train for the World Championship in Paris and the World Cups. Then I will see, I would really like to go back to Frankenjura in the autumn and maybe go on another trip to Spain!
Thanks Matilda. Good luck in Chamonix!
Matilda Söderlund is sponsored by: Marmot, La Sportiva, Petzl, Beal
Special thanks go to Tim Glasby and Henning Wang for the photographs.