Adieu Patrick Edlinger
On Friday 16 November 2012 Patrick Edlinger died aged 52. The Frenchman was one of the early pioneers and absolute legends of sport climbing.
It seems almost impossible, but the news has been confirmed by French newspaper Le Dauphine which stated that on Friday 16 November Patrick Edlinger passed away aged 52. It's superfluous to say that the news of his death has profoundly shaken the sport climbing community which recognised the Frenchman as being one of the greatest of this sport.
Born on 15 June 1960, Edlinger began climbing aged 13 and right from the outset it was clear that climbing would take over his life, become his raison d’être. After having repeated all the hardest routes close to home, the youngster didn't think twice, abandoned his studies and hitchhiked to the South of France where he was awaited by that famous, infinite sea of limestone and a sport which still needed inventing.
It was at the famous Luberon crag Buoux that Edlinger first began to leave his indelible mark, climbing numerous routes up to 7a solo (such as the exposed Pilier des Fourmis), succeeding 30 years ago in the world's first 7b on-sight (Captain crochet) and then, in that magic 1982 and still at Buoux, managing to on-sight the world's first 7c, La polka des ringards. These extraordinary performances were repeated in other exceptional crags such as Cimai (were he carried out the audacious free solo of Orange Mécanique 8a in 1989) and obviously also the Verdon Gorge which would then become his second home.
In those starting years Edlinger also took part in numerous competitions and he won the first official sport climbing events, Sport Roccia at Bardonecchia and Arco in both 1985 and 1986. Thanks to this immense talent Edlinger succeeded in first ascending and repeating cutting edge sport climbs, which include Les Specialistes in the Verdon. A route for which he put forward the first-ever 8c grade and which over the years has become a total reference point, a line that all the strongest in the world wish to repeat. Even if the time wasn't perhaps sufficiently ripe for this enormous step forward (the route was soon downgraded to 8b+), Edlinger didn't lose heart and repeated the incredible horizontal roof Le Plafond (also known as Maginot Line) at Volx (by discovering a heel-hook which "sweetened" the grade from 8c to 8b+) as well as Azincourt, the monstrously powerful 8c pocket climb at Buoux.
But apart from these albeit important details, Edlinger will be remembered for another, immeasurable contribution to climbing: the development of one of the most beautiful cliffs in the world, Ceuse. Towards the end of the '80's this band of perfect grey limestone split in two by its famous waterfall captivated the climber, so much so that for numerous seasons it became his "secret garden" where he imposed a style of ascending new routes - extremely severe but always completely loyal - which was copied worldwide and which rendered sport climbing far more than just a simple execution of athletic moves.
Yes, climbing for Edlinger represented the search for an innate beauty applied to faultless technique, often described as a vertical ballet and if one thinks about it, "Le blond" was destined right from the outset to become much more than just a climbing rock star. His roles in the films "La Vie Au Bout Des Doigts (Life at Your Fingertips) and the unforgettable Opéra Vertical, both by filmmaker Jean-Paul Janssen, shot him to stardom not only in France but also throughout the rest of Europe. These timeless classic were followed by a series of other films as well as books which taught and fuelled the dreams of entire generations.
Dreams. Perhaps this is the key to understanding the legend called Edlinger. Ever since childhood Patrick knew how to live out his dreams and perhaps it is because of this that, for those of us who started to climb by imitating his technique, he is an absolute Legend. One of those with a capital L, just like his great friend and partner of a thousand other adventures, the other climbing Patrick, Patrick Berhault. This is why we like to remember Edlinger as he was when we met him at Trento three years ago, when he wanted to talk about his friend who had died prematurely, about Ceuse, about those daring early years and about his climbing. Yes, an authentic dream.
PATRICK EDLINGER - TRENTO 2009