BD athlete Fred Nicole interview with PlanetMountain.com
Black Diamond athlete and bouldering icon Fred Nicole sat down for an interview with PlanetMountain.com. Below is an excerpt from that great interview that is sure to inspire all climbers. To read the full interview, click here.
[Fred Nicole, Mandala (v12), Buttermilks, California. Photo: Fred Nicole archives]
There are no two ways about it: think of bouldering and Fred Nicole immediately springs to mind. Ever since he first started bouldering in 1987 together with his brother François, there have been few climbers who have dominated and influenced this tight-knit scene as convincingly and consistently as Frédéric and the countless beautiful and difficult problems put up all across the globe during the last quarter of a century are testament to the Swissman's vision and ability. As it happens, Nicole also has an excellent track record in sport climbing – he shocked the scene in 1987 when, still unknown, along with his brother he repeated Patrick Berhault's Le toit d’Auguste 8b+. And six years later he established the world's third 9a, Bain de Sang. But his main love remains linked to a crashpad and toothbrush, and important stepping stones obviously include La danse des Balrogs, the world's first 8B in 1992 and Radja, the world's first 8B+ four years later. This boundary was extended further still at the turn of the millennium with Dreamtime at Cresciano, which first broke into the mythical and unheard of 8C grade and, a bit like Midnight Lightening at Yosemite in its heyday, has come to represent a benchmark, must-do problem for the best of the best. Fred Nicole's vertical search continues to this day. In the forest. In the desert. Fontainebleau, Hueco, Cresciano, Rocklands, India. Wherever. The name of his game is exploring, together with his life partner Mary Gabrielli. In harmony with nature, as respectful as possible.
Fred, you've been climbing for over a quarter of a century...
Yes, but I've always had other interests beside climbing and bouldering such as drawing, painting, reading and even writing a little. I’m also worried and concerned about the current environmental situation as well as the social and humanitarian issues we are facing in this world. I think that we are living through crucial times and we need some new values to evolve.
Well, you've immediately put things into a wider perspective.
I try to be active, by avoiding plastic, recycling as much as possible, using public transport, trying to drive with at least one passenger in a car (I suppose most of the time I’m the passenger). There can be no doubt that we have to reduce our impact on a global scale. I support some organisations such as ”Greenpeace”, ”WWF”, ”Terre des hommes”, and a few other activist groups. On a climbing scale of things we can do a lot. Obvious things like following trails to minimise erosion, taking all our trash back (cigarettes, toilet paper, plastic bags, bottles etc.). We should be careful when cleaning boulders, not cut down entire trees just to do a new line...
So what must a problem have to be beautiful?
There are no specific rules to define a beautiful problem. A sit down start can be great and can climb much better than any stand-up and vice-versa. It's a subjective choice in my opinion; all rocks are a gift from mother earth. Every boulder is so different and offers so many possibilities that it's impossible to define what make it worth climbing and what doesn't.
When you pack your rucksack and set off with your crashpad, what is your golden bouldering rule?
I don’t have the golden rule! Everyday is so different! What I try to do everywhere is to be aware of our environment and other human beings. I suppose my message is: be as open minded and respectful as possible!