Patxi Usobiaga strolls La Rambla and more
On Tuesday 27 November Patxi Usobiaga redpointed La Rambla 9a+ in Siurana, one of the reference routes for this incredible grade.
The redpoint by the winner of the 2006 and 2007 World Cup Lead is the fifth ascent of these famous 45m, after Ramón Julián Puigblanque in 2003, Edu Marín, Chris Sharma and Andreas Bindhamer.
What is astounding is not only the speed of the ascent (9 attempts in total, 1 in 2001, 5 in 2004, and 3 now in November). But also the fact that not even two hours later the Basque climber sent the nearby Estado Crítico (8c+/9a) second go! As if to say: shortly after having climbed one of the hardest routes in the world, Patxi is as fresh as a rose…
This performance provides plenty of food for thought. Paxti is a true vertical athlete, equally at ease in competitions as on rock. So much so that for two years running he dominated the World Cup Lead and, in between one competition season and the next, managed to redpoint 9a+ and on-sight 8c… Is this perhaps a sign of competition supremacy?
This, and more, is what we wanted to find out from the man himself after his latest ascent which, just as we go to press, doubled its takings with "La Novena Enmienda" at Santa Linya. Yes, another 9a+...
La Rambla - Can you describe the winning ascent ?
When I sent La Rambla it was really special because it was the third time that I tried the route this year and only the day before I fell on the upper part, off the last move. I was a little bit nervous and it was cold but when I arrived at the upper part, the hardest section, I felt really OK, my fingers were perfect, my power was perfect and I did La Rambla. I was really happy!
Can you describe the route?
The route is 45m high and it’s really physical. It has a poor move in the beginning crack which is always wet and where you can fall really easily. After this it's really physical with many moves, then you arrive at the upper part, the hardest part of the route with two boulder sections and really small crimps. You have to be really concentrated here, then after this you have a 7a/7a+ which is easy but still requires a lot of stamina.
You wrote to us saying you were happy to have climbed another quality route. What in your mind makes a quality route?
Routes should be nice, fun, with good moves, no? If they are natural then that's better, but sometimes this isn’t possible.
You have just won your second World Cup, while in September at the Arco Rock Legends you were nominated by an international jury for your performances on rock - how important is your experience as an athlete for these top end rock routes?
These prizes and victories make me more motivated to try different goals and objectives for the future.
Do all top competition climbers automatically hold a good chance outdoors?
Competition climbers can do whatever they want on rock, but the problem is motivation. You need motivation to climb on rock and you need motivation to climb in competitions and sometimes this goes only one way, but if you have it for both you can do really well outdoors and in competitions. I personally need rock, I need to climb on rock and after the competition season I decided to climb a lot outdoors. I have one month during which I will climb as much as possible.
8c+ second attempt, 2 hours after climbing a 9a+... What are the possibilities of confirming 9b? Of climbing even harder? And how long do you think you will take?
The question I think isn't whether it is possible to do something or not. At the moment the problem is that we haven't got enough time for everything. We need to train for competitions, go to competitions, and only afterwards climb on rock. I decide to climb routes fast, or send hard routes, but always as fast as possible because I like climbing and two or three weeks, maybe a month, isn't enough to try a 9b or a 9b+. It’s because of this that I haven’t tried harder routes than La Rambla or other 8c+ or 9a's. I think it's possible to climb harder, but you need to invest a lot of time to succeed.
Who impresses you most of your fellow climbers, on rock and in competitions? Why?
I'm really impressed by competitions in general because the level went up really fast during the last year. But climbers like Adam Ondra, Ramon or other climbers climb really hard routes really fast and they are really strong. The young climbers, the kids, will put the level really high for everyone, for the future.
What would you like to see in 2008?
I obviously want to improve in all my disciplines. And of course, climbing has to evolve and progress. It should never stop.