Janja Garnbret: the first female 8c onsight interview
Interview with Slovenian rock climber Janja Garnbret who just the other day completed the coveted first female 8c onsight with her ascent of Fish Eye at Oliana in Spain. Two days later she doubled her takings by on sighting the 8c American Hustle.
As reported two days ago, early last week 22-year-old Janja Garnbret climbed her way into the history books by climbing Fish Eye at Oliana in Spain in the purest of styles, becoming the first woman in the world to onsight 8c. Previously 8b+ had been climbed by a handful of women, and while 8c had been touched on by both Charlotte Durif in 2010 and Kajsa Rosén in 2016, over time both their routes have been downgraded, meaning that Garnbret’s will most probably stand as the first female 8c onsight. Less than 48 hours after this groundbreaking achievement the Slovenian doubled her takings by onsighting nearby American Hustle, proving clearly that her unfathomable potential, outdoors, has yet to be unleashed.
Janja: 8c onsight! Is this something you had thought or dreamt about before, or did it "just happen"?
Actually I never thought of trying to onsight an 8c, but later that day I just decided that I’d give Fish Eye a go. No pressure, just climbing. The same with American Hustle, it just happened!
So this isn't something you had slowly been working towards?
Previously I had never actually tried to onsight an 8c. Before I always made flash attempts - like when I flashed Rollito Sharma at Santa Linya in 2015 - or I had to work a bit to send a route.
Due to your competition schedule, you don’t get to travel much for climbing outdoors. Was this your first time at Oliana?
Yes, this was my first trip to Oliana. I wanted to go and try the route in the past but Roman Krajnik, my trainer, said I should save it for an onsight attempt. I said okay, and then it just happened. I climbed without any pressure, I was just climbing. The first day I tried some different, easier routes ones before trying something harder.
So tell us about the onsight. How did it go?
I felt super good, very relaxed and focused. I didn’t panic if I didn’t see a sequence right away, I was super chilled. I think I climbed pretty fast, and rested where I thought was appropriate. I took some time on the last slabby section because there was no chalk anywhere and I really didn’t want to fall there. At the first "harder" part I wasn’t that pumped and it didn’t feel too hard. I climbed pretty fast up to the last jug on the more overhanging section, resting where I needed. But as I said, the last part was very tricky and I could have fallen anywhere there, but I stayed calm and slowly figured out the sequences.
What happened when you clipped the chain? Did you realise what you just achieved?
I was very happy! One objective of this trip was to see how far I can take things with my on sighting ability, because previously I’d on sighted 8b but I’d never thought of trying something harder. So when I clipped the chains I was just happy that I’d manage to figure everything out. I didn’t realiwe what I’d achieved because I thought that other women had already done the same. It was only later on that someone told me that I am probably the first. Yes, this is very likely.
And two days later you did it again, on American Hustle!
I got the confidence I needed on Fish eye, so I knew that I’m capable of onsighting 8c. So I started up American hustle confidently, with no pressure, and it just happened again.
Yuji Hirayama was the first man to onsight 8c in 2004. Now you, 17 years later, the first woman. Any thoughts?
As I said before, to be honest I thought it had already been done before me, but of course I’m very happy that I pushed the bar a bit higher, not only in competitions but also on the rocks.
Talking of which: word has it you warmed up doing the bouldery starting section of the 9b+ La Dura Dura… Really?!?
OK let’s phrase this differently. It would also be great to see you try and redpoint something really hard!
I have some challenges in mind. I only had 4 climbing days and one of the aims of the trip was to check out some harder routes to see where I stand. I got the confirmation and I need to be back soon :-)
Janja, when you won gold in Tokyo, the relief was overwhelming. Then you won the overall World Cup 2021, taking victory at home in Kranj. Now double 8c onsight… Is there a risk though, with all these back-to-back successes, that people just take these outstanding achievements for granted?
Yes, I do think people take it for granted. Every time I go somewhere (comps or just a rock climbing trip) people expect perfection from me, something extraordinary. This isn’t easy.
And this incredible year isn’t finished yet!
I think this year was more than incredible, I couldn’t have asked for more. I took some time off after the Olympics and after Kranj, because my motivation was a bit low. Now I’ve regained my motivation and I am so psyched for the upcoming challenges I have.
Janja the first time we witnessed you climbing was over a decade ago, when you won your Arco Rock Junior category. Since then you’ve won over 30 World Cups events, five World Cup season gold, six World Championship titles, gold at the Tokyo 2020 Olympics. And now two 8c onsights…
The only thing that really matters is what I want, I don’t really care what other people say. I’m happy with myself and how I’ve evolved as a climber, and if I achieve something that’s important to me, then I am happy. No matter how big or small it is.
Link: FB Janja Garnbret, CAMP