UKC

INTERVIEW: Alex Megos

Alex Megos has had a good year. Again.

To name a few of his feats, he made the FA of Fightclub, 9b, flashed The Path, 8b+ trad, repeated Dreamcatcher, 9a, in a day and climbed Hubble and Northern lights, and the year is not even over.

Here is an interview I made with the young German.

Alex Megos at home in Frankenjura, 60 kb
Alex Megos at home in Frankenjura
© Frank Kretschmann / Red Bull Content Pool
Would it be correct to say you are more dedicated to progression than to reaching concrete goals, like a grade or climbing a specific route.
Yes I am more dedicated to see progression in my climbing than reaching concrete goals. The simple idea behind that is that with progression any other goals will be reached easier...

So I basically get to the same result without focusing too much on the goal, which has one important advantage in my eyes. I don't get too drawn into the goal which means I don't get as frustrated and I can focus more on evolving as a climber

I think the majority of improvement I can still do in my climbing is strength, flexibility, and mindset

So, does this mean we are not yet at a point where the other factors needs to be focused on? Would you consider using equipment that would radically change the game?
I don't think that there will be that much more improvement in the gear such as ropes and quickdraws. They won't get much lighter

I do think though that the improvement in shoes will go in the direction that there will be specific shoes for granite, limestone, sandstone and so on. I don't think there will be shoes just made for specific routes but climbers will modify their shoes themselves according to their needs.

Different rubber for different temps?
Definitely. sort of like winter tires and summer tires for the car.

I mean to a point everybody does that already now, just by putting the shoes into the jacket during winter to keep them warm and the rubber softer.

When it comes to modifying shoes, can you see this reaching a grey area where you start adding lumps of rubber in strategic places to make a specific move easier? Like for example the direct version of Le Pied à Coulisse in Fontainebleau which Charles Albert could do barefoot, but that was impossible with shoes.
Is it grey area to cut a hole in the heel to make it stick like a captain hook on a little spike?

You tell me...
Sure it is. The thing is there is no real line, or at least the line is moving

photo
Alex Megos on First round, first minute, 9b, Margalef
© Frank Kretschmann / Red Bull Content Pool

The question is really where we draw the line between free climbing and aid
Kneepads were definitely more considered cheating a few year back

Actually to be VERY correct, we are all aid climbing. Chalk and shoes are aid aren't they? They are just accepted by us to be ok.

So we accept some development to a certain point, but this point keeps moving slowly?
Yes exactly. That's what I think at least. Everything improves, more gadgets will be found. It will be accepted by the community and there we go.

Is this a problem you think?
It's only a problem if you make it one. I think everybody has to draw his own line to what he thinks is still acceptable for himself.

I for example just don't like to use kneepads. I just don't feel good doing it. And I would never do it if the first ascender didn't use one. If the first ascender did use one then I would try to do it without, or just leave it.

Till the day where I get too desperate maybe...

Often you say your plan is "to get stronger". Do you feel you are still making significant gains in strength?
I think so. The gains in finger strength are not as significant anymore as they were a few years back but I do still make improvements in power-endurance and just power in general.

Partly because my body is still developing. I mean I was a little chicken a few years back

(and I've still got chicken legs) ;-)

Chicken legs is probably an advantage... Where have you come closest to you current limit, in bouldering or in sport?
I hope in none of them!

Not even close?
There is still massive room for improvement in both. I mean of course I'll never be able to climb what I think is still possible to climb but I haven't reached my limit yet.

For example something like First round first minute. I can easily imagine it being possible climbing that thing twice in a row with maybe just a poor rest. And I think if I would specifically train for it and dedicate a lot of time then maybe even I would be able to.

And a couple of more Lucid dreaming crux moves, without any rest? Possible for you?
So Lucid Dreaming twice in a row you mean. I mean it should be possible right?

Alex Megos on Lucid Dreaming, ~8C, Buttermilks, 151 kb
Alex Megos on Lucid Dreaming, ~8C, Buttermilks
© Ken Etzel/Red Bull

Well, just the actual crux move x 3
Sure that's possible. Maybe even for me. But at that stage it would take a lot of time I reckon.

And with a 9a route leading into it?
9a into Lucid dreaming... From a logic point of view I would say that's possible. both parts are possible so it should be doable to link them.

So, in conclusion, climbing has a long way to go before we're at the 100m in 9,58 level?
I don't know. But I could imagine we are in front of that 10 sec barrier

Perhaps Nalle just ran a 9,99?
Maybe he did, and we will see three 9A boulders going down in 2 years.

What I'm of course curious about is whether you think that the Black Diamond Project route, which you will be competing on 18 Feb, is actually possible as it will end with 8B, 8B+, 8C​?
Of course that route will be possible, if it's possible to climb every section itself. We just need somebody who is strong enough

Do you have any truly futuristic projects right now? Perhaps one of those three 9A's?
To be honest, no I don't. I wish I would, but it's not so easy with projects in the Frankenjura anyway and abroad I haven't looked too much into those mega projects.

What I just wonder is, if people actually get stronger or if they just change their mindset for what's possible

Would you be interested in a trip to Finland?
Of course I'd like to see how a 9A boulder looks like!! Who wouldn't?! :D

My guess is you'd rather just wait until you can do them quickly.
Haha, that would be perfect, true, but first I have to know what is required, otherwise I might be too strong and don't even know it! (joke) ;-)

I think it could be your style.
I think so too, it looks cool, just like my wall at Café Kraft, 45 degrees and small holds far apart

...with bad slippery feet in all the wrong places
Just like at home :D

What climb in 2016 were you the most happy with? Why?
Fightclub [his own first scent at Canmore, Canada].

Because it's cool ;-)

And because I realised that even though every move is not super hard that whole climb is really hard in the end. So that opened a bit my mind. I could do all the moves in Fightclub first day. so if I find a route where every moves is harder then in the end it'll end up being much harder without being even close to impossible

Alex Megos on Fightclub, 9b, Canmore, Canada, 201 kb
Alex Megos on Fightclub, 9b, Canmore, Canada
© Megos coll.
What's special about climbing in Canada and the Canadian climbing scene?
The Canadians are just super friendly! They didn't lock their doors or cars, everybody just trusts each other. The scene is cool as I experienced it. They are psyched for everybody who comes and climbs their routes and projects

About that, does it bother you that people treat you different because you are Alex Megos? Do they?
Yes, I think they do. I mean I have a hard time to compare and figure that out since I can't change how I am or be somebody else for a day.

Yes, sometimes it does bother me. I wish to believe that people are friendly to you no matter who you are

So you can never be anonymous at a crag or gym?
Hardly, although I don't see myself any different then any other climber. I still just do what they do. Maybe a bit more often and a bit more passionate (and sometimes without feet)

But I'm still a climber. One of them

Can you see this changing and the "superstars" of climbing becoming more like football players or whatever? Do some climbers act like that already you think?
If some climbers act like football players? So they need somebody to tie their shoes? I don't think that will ever happen and if it does I'll be gone (luckily)

Yes, or think they can't talk to "normal" people
I HOPE NOT!!!

I already feel sooooo bad because people are scared sometimes to talk to me. That feels really bad. But I am just a normal guy. Everybody can talk to me and do jokes with me and about me as well. People that I get to know better start telling me they were afraid to talk to me at the beginning, or had respect.

That scares me a little. I don't want to be a person everybody is scared of talking to.

Alex Megos at Klättercentret Akalla, Stockholm, 76 kb
Alex Megos at Klättercentret Akalla, Stockholm
© Björn Pohl
Well, respect is good I guess. If every single person at the gym who wanted to talk to you did, you wouldn't get much training done...

That's true. But you get what I mean. I as well don't want people to be more friendly because it's me.

Now with some perspective: You visited Britain and climbed Hubble as well as other hard sport routes, so when will you be back and leave your mark on the grit?
Haha "what have you done on Grit?? Thats the standard question of the Brits.

I will climb on grit more often in the future as I feel like it does my climbing good. Completes it a bit more. And I want to do the "Joker"! Nemesis...

You tried it without success then?
Yes, at least twice already.

What is it with British classics turning into nemesises?
Which other one? I mean I did Hubble fairly qucikly, didn't take any longer then some of the hard Frankenjura 8c+'s

Well...yes, but not compared to other 8c+/9a's, right
Holiday grade ones yes ;-)

9a usually goes quicker tthan 8c+ in the Frankenjura?
Actually yes, often it does. But I would compare Hubble more to 8B/+, and that can take more time then 9a most of the times.

Alex Megos on Hubble, 199 kb
Alex Megos on Hubble
© Dave Heaton, May 2016
Yes, 12 tries on an 8B/+ boulder is not a lot
Exactly. That's half a day...

...and Northern lights? also a boulder crux?
Northern lights was... well...shit happens. I should have done it seven tries earlier. Sometimes stuff like that just happens and you don't know why.

I did Progress, 8c+, to the left of Northern Lights, second go the following day.

When it's just one move, I guess it's also a bit about being lucky?
Yes. And I was unlucky and fell seven times on that move in Northern lights

The whole "is Hubble 8c+ or 9a"-thing, is it more sensitive because it's a question about which was the first of the grade, and that Action directe happens to be in Frankenjura?
Puh I don't know. That I didn't figure out yet either. All I say is that I think Action Directe, how it was climbed by Wolfgang, was harder than Hubble

And now Action Directe is not climbed the same way because there are "new" holds?

Yes, holds Wolfgang just didn't use for what reason ever...

About "new holds" and "leaving marks", recently you questioned whether chipping & glueing had come in fashion again. Is this something you see more of these days? Not only in Frankenjura
Yes, it is something I see more of these days. But probably just because I started looking more closely.

Not only in the frankenjura no

The question just is where is the line of chipping?! I would say hardly any route nowadays or in the past is not "manufactured". Loose flakes have been removed, holds might be reinforced

Alex Megos on Becoming, 9a+, Rotenstein, Frankenjura, 130 kb
Alex Megos on Becoming, 9a+, Rotenstein, Frankenjura
© Christoph Hanke

Where do you draw the line yourself for what's acceptable?
I draw the line there: it's ok to glue holds back on if they fall off. Glueing on holds that were sort of similar is very, very questionable

I guess one could argue that removing and reinforcing a hold changes a route equally much...
Of course it does change the route. That's sort of the job of the guy who bolts the route to make a decision whether it should be removed of reinforced

Drilling holds and glueing on stuff that was not there: not ok

Making holds bigger: not ok

removing holds to make it harder: not ok

So, in short, the better the rock, the less room for "creativity"?
yes, If you've got a pile of choss you can do anything almost...

Is this something you discuss a lot with other climbers who make first ascents? Do you ever come across climbers who openly disagree with you on this issue?
To be honest I haven't talked to too many other (strong) climbers about that. I know that basically everybody I talk to agrees that chipping is a NO go, and still it happens very often in my eyes.

Mostly to a degree that is still acceptable, but sometimes just a bit too much...

I know that Nalle is against chipping. Most boulderers are. It's more common in route climbing I feel, but maybe that's just because I climb more routes then boulders? Using sika or glue is not as common in bouldering I would say.

What was new for you in 2016 and what do you expect/hope for in 2017?
I was stronger in 2016 then the year before, and I hope to be even stronger in 2017.

What else could I expect from you? ;)
Great answer isn't it! :D

Can you see yourself moving more into "new" disciplines like multi pitches, competitions or trad next year/ever.
Not next year, that's for sure. If I start alpine climbing and multi pitching, then it'll be when I'm older, so not in the next 10 years then.

Alex Megos competing at La Sportiva Legends Only 2014, 60 kb
Alex Megos competing at La Sportiva Legends Only 2014
© Lisa Löwenborg
And after coming 4th and 2nd, do you expect to win Legends Only this year?
I don't expect to win at all, I've got a 1/6 chance to win.

I heard you climbed a bit with Tomoa Narasaki in Frankenjura. What was your impression?
Well, I was definitely the most impressed by his performance in the gym!In the gym I was like a beginner next to them. LIKE A TOTAL BEGINNER! No joke.

I doubt that...
Seriously! Tomoa flashed problems I couldn't climb the whole day!

In terms of moves or strength?
In terms of moves. Dynamic moves, jumps, balance stuff...

Coordination?
Yes, incredible, absolutely incredible! Doing jumps first try which took me 10 at least (if I even did them)

I guess this is an area where you can improve then!
Yes for sure, if I want to be strong in the gym for comp style ;-)

Yes, but is it impossible to see even outdoor problems like this?
No. But very unlikely.

Perhaps outdoor climbers haven't looked on rock with these "eyes"?
To have a triple dyno on a volume outside? Where is the volume in Burden of Dreams? Did I miss that? ;-)

Well, there are other problems than Burden of dreams Or is it the only one that counts for you now?
I know what you mean, sure it might change the outdoor climbing as well. It did already. There are more problems coming up with jumps and coordination stuff.

I don't think it'll bring the next level though...

Alex Megos is sponsored by: Café Kraft, DMM, Entre-Prises, Patagonia, Red Bull, Sterling Rope and Tenaya

Kendal Mountain Film Festival, 11 kbKendal Mountain Festival 2016

Alex Megos is doing an eagerly anticipated talk this year which is a rare chance to hear from one of the world's true climbing superstars. A bit about climbing, more about a road trip, and definitely about Yorkshire Tea.

Kendal Mountain Festival is by far the largest and most varied event of its type in the world - it is also the main social event for outdoor enthusiasts in the UK.

'Kendal' is one of the leading festivals of its kind in the world. It is an internationally-known event, attracting film premieres from around the globe. Film makers, TV producers, adventurers, climbers and world-class lecturers gather to take part in four packed days of the very best films, speakers, books and exhibitions covering all aspects of mountain and adventure sports culture. It is also the main social event for outdoor enthusiasts in the UK and 2016 will be our 17th straight year.

- Book tickets on the KENDAL MOUNTAIN FESTIVAL SITE

- Grab a Film Pass here: FILM PASS



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