UNSTOPPABLE: What it Takes To Onsight 8c+ Like Patxi Usobiaga
I have not taken a rest day from climbing in more than three months. I’d like to jump out of the bed shouting out my happiness and starting the new day with energy, but it’s Friday and I hardly have the strength to drag myself up. Every day during the week is training for World Cups and international events; the weekend is for rock—onsights and projects. But the problem is, when I am so tired from training, I can’t climb my hardest on rock. But right now, so close to the start of the World Cup, the weekends are not important—it is the competitions that I am focused on. I have to be in shape for that one day, one route, no chance for errors. I have to be perfect.
It is so hard on my body to climb so many days with no rest. As the week comes to a close I feel very tired and the skin on my hands is suffering more and more. This exhaustion means that I am doing things well, however, and motivation gives me the power to continue.
When tiredness punishes me I remember how lucky I am for being able to do what I like most in the world: climb. Climbing is perfect, it is what gives meaning to my life. From the beginning of the year I plan what I want to do and where I want to get, and every day, whether it rains or not, I do my best to get it done. Sometimes it’s hard, I don’t deny it, but doing things well gives me the tranquility and happiness that I need to face up to my challenges. I am happy because I want to be, because I take the necessary steps to make it happen. I am happy because I enjoy climbing, and I enjoy climbing because I am happy. For me it is that simple.
Every day after breakfast I like going to the market, having a cup of coffee and trying to fix the world amongst fruits, vegetables, fresh news and village gossip with the lady greengrocer and my fishmonger and number one fan, Guillermo, who always keeps the best fish for me to replenish my energy. After the market, I go training at the climbing wall. Today I will train for only five hours—my skin will not take anymore than that. I will boulder, campus, training board and do longer circuits with and without my weight vest. I am always training power. I have very good endurance, but my power always needs to be greater. Today will be a hard finish to a hard week of training, but in the end I will be better and stronger.
I love climbing onsight. For me it is the most natural style of climbing and the style that gives you the most satisfaction! You need to be more than just strong—technique and good mind to “see” the line and moves. For onsighting I train normal, nothing too unusual. I have been climbing onsight during the last 15 years as much as possible, so maybe it’s experience that gives me success on the onsights. When I train in gym, I never rest,, sometimes going three months without rest day. When I climb more on rock, I usually rest one day after two days climbing, but always onsight. This is the way to climb as much as possible.
Although my plan is designed around the competitions, my rock goals are clear: onsight 8c and 8c+, redpoint 9b, etc. But right now those goals have to work around the competition season or be persued during the short breaks from training. For me, these rock goals are relaxing—after the “work” of competitions and training, if you feel powerful enough to fight for the onsight and enjoy the rock, you only have to climb. The competitions are very motivating, but rock is where I find my balance; it is my aspirin, my vitamins. Saint Leger, Siurana, Montsant, Verdon, Baltzola, Cuenca, Masone, Cerdeña—all very close to my heart and my home. The rock, good friends, good wine, new adventures, new lines, new spots, new countries... will there be time enough to fit the rocks from all over the world into my life? I have no doubt.
Patxi Usobiaga hails from the Basque region of northern Spain and, as of February 2009, has onsighted a staggering 78 routes rated 8b (5.13d) or harder, including two 8c+’s (5.14c) as of June 2009.