Yuji Hirayama, the White Zombie 8c onsight interview
An interview with Yuji Hirayama after the first ever 8c on-sight: White Zombi in the Baltzola Cave, Spain.
It's the big news of the day, of the last few years: Yuji Hirayama has made a historic ascent by completing the world's first 8c on-sight. He's overcome a barrier that many felt they were close to, but which for years remained elusive to all.
We last heard about the great Japanese climber and his demanding free on-sights of some of Yosemite's hardest big walls, and now he's back on limestone, with the ascent climbers dream of.
Those who remember his elegant, technical, cat-like performances in the World Cup a few years ago certainly won't be amazed at this result, since concentration, strength, ability and carpe diem are all needed for an on-sight such as this... And Yuji is just the right climber with this explosive mix.
Yuji, how are you?
I'm happy, really happy. Like when you step out of a hot shower - I'm on a buzz. I'm obviously really pleased to have made the world's first 8c on-sight, to have done something new in climbing.
Something new, that stems from and old dream?
Yes, when I on-sighted Mortal Combat I began to really believe that it was possible to onsight 8c. I've dreamt about it for 5 years. But in the meantime I've also dedicated much of my energy not to limestone routes, but to granite. My great goal in the last couple of years was to on-sight the big walls in Yosemite.
From big walls to extreme single pitches?
It's true, lately I haven't climbed much on limestone, but I travelled to Spain for a month specifically to try this route. I knew that White Zombie was a possible candidate for being on-sighted, and I had kept it aside for a number of years for the right moment. When I arrived I started slowly, first with some 7c+ and 8a on-sights, then, 10 days before White Zombie, I onsighted an 8b/b+ . I was making progress. Five days later I even redpointed Tas Tas 8c+/9a. I knew the right moment had arrived, but then I had to wait for the weather to change, because the crag is south facing and the sun shines onto the last 4-5m for 15 hours a day... On October 6 it was cloudy and windy. At 7 pm, right at the last moment, I said to myself "why not?"
Incredible focus and pressure?
I've always had focus and pressure. A few years ago it was with the competitions, now it's when I'm climbing outside. Perhaps there's more pressure now that I'm a professional climber who doesn't compete anymore. I really feel it when I try to on-sight the big walls - I think it's important to set yourselves goals, state clearly what you intend to do. Obviously this increases the pressure, but it's really important for your moral, for motivation.
You continue to talk about on-sight. What about redpoint?
I must start by saying that I like all types of climbing, both redpoint and on-sight. I always have fun with both disciplines. But if you ask me which is more important for me, then I have to answer on-sight. Let me explain: when I climb a hard route repoint I'm like any other person, but when I on-sight I can be myself, I manage to interpret and explain who I am through the route. I manage to shine.
Can one shine even more?
I think so. When I reached the top of White Zombie I was fresh. I therefore think I can push myself further. But the important thing is to have fun. Thankfully there is lots of space in climbing for people to interpret it as they choose; there are many different styles and strategies, everyone has their own personal opinion. This is what I like about climbing: it's free.
And what about competitions?
I love competitions, at times I miss them. I haven't competed for a number of years and the level has obviously changed. But I think it would be fun to compete with the new generation, why not? Perhaps together with the "old" Cristian Brenna... I've always had lots of fun with him.