Since I’ve already written a lengthy article about Niky’s NZ sojourn for the Climber, here, I’m spared the need to do a second one, so let’s just get to the nitty gritty, shall we?
|Date of birth||October 8th, 1993|
|Favourite vice||Eating sweets|
|Hardest route||“Asintoto Obliquo” 8a, Valle d’Aosta (IT)|
|Hardest boulder||“Ziqqurat” 8C, FA Valle d’Aosta (IT)|
|Hardest flash||“Ubik Assis” 8B, Fontainebleau (FR)|
|Most memorable route/boulder||It would take too long to say only one of them.|
|Ape index||+ 7 cm|
|Favourite area||Southern Italy, Fontainebleau, Red Rocks.|
|Biggest fall||On “Neverland” (FIN), since the rope was too thin for my gri-gri, while I was checking the holds.|
|Most embarrassing nickname||“Duna” at primary school. That was the ugly car of my Grampa.|
|Sponsors||Adidas Outdoor, La Sportiva, Flathold.|
|Favourite shoe||“Skwama” from La Sportiva.|
1) Describe yourself in five words or less.
Tall, Dreamer, Obsessed, Geography lover.
2) How did you first get into rock climbing?
I guess the very first time was in 2001, during a typical family holiday in Val d’Isere, France. I tried a bunch of times on a climbing wall in the main square of the village and I fall in love. Then, in 2003, the first climbing gym of the city was born and I officially began.
3) You mentioned you’d only climbed on limestone once since birth, so how have you found the style and rock in the Basin?
Yes, I only had one day of bouldering on limestone before visiting Castle Hill. It was in 2012 I guess. I could imagine the limestone down here would have been better that what I had experienced before and in fact I was right. The style is crazy and very inspiring at the same time: nothing is obvious and every line requires a high dose of technique, work and patience. I hadn’t seen anything similar before and I enjoyed a lot the learning process and the challenges on this rock. I personally found quite hard the pre-climbing moments when you check the holds, moves, top out and so on. I love giant and pure lines, but I am used to have everything perfect before starting. Here doing anchors was hard, especially for someone like me who hates working with ropes and gear. So sometimes I needed to go ground up or I couldn’t check the moves as I wished. It was tough, but definitively a good and positive challenge too.
4) It’s pretty clear you’re almost single-handedly propping up the entire world’s climbing chalk industry, does your excessive usage stem from a dark psychological issue, or do you just really love chalking up? And out of the 700 kg you brought with you on this trip, how much have you already gone through, bearing in mind you’ve still got five weeks in the Grampians to go?
Ahah! C’mon, I am not chalk-addicted as you say. I must confess I love putting chalk on holds though. I like to see the boulder with the chalk spots where the holds are. I don’t know why, it might deals of a psychological issue but it is also because I hate to feel the rock dusty and sweating, especially on a tall or committing problem. I usually brush it off after the session, trying to let the boulder in a better statement than when I get. You are anyway right to remind this fact, sometimes I used it too much and even the looking becomes a bit ugly. I should learn more from you guys and use it less, especially for an ethic reason.
I anyway have enough stocks for the rest of the trip and I will try to save it as much as possible.
5) I noticed you climbed some boulders real good, and I might be mistaken, but I think that requires a bit of strength. Or kraft, as they say in Germany. In other words, you’re no slouch. In technical terms, you maketh the swole-gainz. What sort of training do you do? And none of this wishy-washy, ‘Oh, nothing special, I just do what everyone else does,’ nonsense. Give me specifics.
Everything depends on what I am doing in that exact period of the year: if I am travelling, repeating boulders, developing new lines or if I am simply off from rock climbing and I need a training schedule in the gym’s comfort. In the past I used to built some training plans by my own (still now I do it), doing 50 % fingerboard or campus and 50 % of climbing.
Then I learnt I needed more fun in my training; the more I enjoy it, the better I do it. This is a very important point to me; you need to enjoy, even if you are working on your lacks which, most of the time, match with something you hate to practise.
I usually climb on the wall, mostly trying 3-6 boulders per session using different styles when possible or simulating rock climbing moves.
I also do some different routines like strength-endurance workout or repeaters-loops choosing some well-known problems. Although this happens less than the red point sessions.
Sometimes I share the workout with a bunch of friends to learn as much as I can from their skills and their route setting at the gym.
I do stretching to keep my flexibility at the mediocre level: rarely I do some improvements, but if I stop my legs and hips get even stiffer. I do some core works or rings, very rarely pan gullich and seldom fingerboard. Most of the time, while I am training, I try to insert a rock climbing day in the weekly schedule in order to enjoy more and keep the rock feeling. Before a trip, or a hard project, I try to take care of my skin, that’s one of the most important point. Bouldering is a wide world and different for each of us. We can train on tons of stuff, using many ways of training; we just need to find the ones which work better for our weaknesses. I don’t want to say you too much.
6) Serious question now. If you could only eat one food for the rest of your life, what would it be? Mine would be cheese, in case you at home were wondering.
Very tough question. Let’s see…First of all; can you eat all the kind of cheese or just one type? If you can have different kind of it, that equals cheating I guess. I may say Pizza. Pizza all life long. And, if you are wondering, I would take the same kind of pizza: Margherita.
7) On a lighter note, climbing is rapidly becoming mainstream, with huge sponsors jumping on the bandwagon. How do you see this rampant commercialisation changing climbing in the future?
Well, climbing is becoming more and more trendy for several reasons and one of this is obviously the rampart commercialisation you mentioned. It is bizarre to note this mainstream building up, since bouldering, born also to escape from society and take a moment off from the frenetic society pace; at least in the NW of Italy where I live.
Nowadays it seems that most of the people absolutely need to show their own performances on the social medias or, even more, pushing themselves doing the same boring things everyone else does.
I think a very high dose of “commercialisation” or “fashion” makes the confront climber to climber increasing. Competitions are also getting more popular and the kids who start at the gym probably see the climbing more like a way to compare people rather than an adventure and outdoor life style.
I think grade are also part of this process, because a wide part of the community considers numbers like a real way of confront and a true indication about the efforts that the climber does to execute a problem. They need numbers, otherwise anything has a value. Many areas are also crowded just because are fashion.
Rocklands is a perfect example; It seems many climbers nowadays just want to go there because other people have been or because everyone likes it.
I bet everyone likes it; most of the time is dry and everyone can climb V14 in a couple of days. In this kind of areas you meet the worst of the climbing community: People who don’t say “hello”, guys who listen to music at the field, tick marks and signs of old chalk on most of the boulders and trash everywhere like tapes, filters, paper, bottles and tins. Their mind just think about climbing the next grade. I saw this behaviour in pro climbers too. Places like that have also a fragile environment and their future only depends on our actions; I guess taking care of the nature is much more important than crushing boulders just to make talk of yourself.
Commercialization is moving climbing from a way of living to a simple sport. I know to be part of this and trying to be a “pro” I also need to reach the community using one or more of the many ways. But it is important to not take only the “commercial” and sportive ways, otherwise most of the values go away.
8) Best problem you’ve done in the basin?
The Big Show at Flock Hill.
9) When it comes to big climbing areas, you have a reputation as a straight-talker who ain’t afraid to say speak his mind. If upon your travels in the future a climber asks you what Castle Hill is like, what will you tell them?
I loved Castle Hill. The landscapes around the fields are breathtaking, no doubts it is one of the best setting where I have ever climbed. I appreciated the climbing style so much: old school, no big numbers, tricky, insanely technical, pure, body position depending. One of those place where you have always to learn something. The NZ climbers I met, have a enviable ethics while being out and I tried to learn as much as I could from them.
All the boulders are clean, obviously some of them polished since it deals of limestone, but I note a very high sense of responsibility towards the rock and the nature. Many lines are proud, tall and most of the rock is compact. I loved that place since you need to match hypes of little things to get a boulder.
Just a couple of negative side to me: despite being amazing, the climbing style got me bored during the last few day because I needed to find something different. Then the boulder shapes are not the best I have ever seen so far, but that’s are probably my personal tastes. All the rest is super!
10) What’s your biggest strength?
Tallness, like someone loves to admit. I often look for toe-hooking when possible, since I like them and I am better in it than using heels.
11) Biggest weakness?
Mental aspect, hips flexibility and others…
12) Of all the ‘pro’ climbers you’ve climbed with in the world, who
Is the strongest: Adam Ondra (probably the best, more than the strongest).
Is the weakest: Dave Graham (Which means he is definitively the smartest one).
Is the best tall climber: Kevin Lopata.
Is the best short-arse climber: Dai Koyamada.
Smells the worst: Probably me after all those wet clothes in NZ
Has the best hair: Markus Bock or Chris Shulte.
Is the richest: Nalle Hukkataival, due to his business class travels
Is the luckiest: Luckyness doesn’t match to much with climbing.
Is the unluckiest: Same as before.
Is the boldest: Thomas Steinbrugger
13) Outside of climbing, what’s your greatest achievement?
Having a cigarettes boxes collection with more than 900 different packs and other useless things like this.
14) Given your fiery Italian temperament when it comes to things like working a tall boulder on a rope, what kind of person do you think you were in a previous life?
Ahah, I don’t know. Maybe someone who had been hanged or simply someone who hated the sport climbing gear. Having harness, carabiners and rope gets me super nervous, I don’t know why.
15) What aspect did you dislike about climbing in the Basin? Tough question, considering it’s perfect in every way, but give it a try. And if you can’t come up with anything, then as a back-up question, what’s your spirit animal?
Fortunately, the basin has something I dislike, so I don’t need to answer to the second question. As I said before: Sometimes the style got me bored and some of the shapes are not super brilliant according to my tastes. All the rest is high quality and I hope to come back one day.
16) We humans are aggressive, competitive little bastards at the best of times, do you think grades are good for the world of rock climbing, or bad? And why?
I usually say grades are good for marketing and visibility, even if I try to not make any abuse of the numbers and most of the time I don’t push the grade as much, especially for the new zones and for those areas having precarious access. Trying to be a full time climber, I need a kind of reference for people who follow me and always ask me about which grade you climb or simply to make a kind of CV/report. These are the few senses that numbers can have in Bouldering.
In the last years I often forced myself to know what a problem can require of me, beyond any number. Trying to do this, I learn we maybe don’t need any of these grades, since the climbing becomes strictly a deal between you, your limits, your measures and the rock. I sometimes talk about grade with other climbers, but I suddenly realize that it doesn’t make too much sense since everything is too personal and too specific for any day, climate, areas, situation and climber. Community, reading the grade, should recognize the efforts that the climber makes. But even in this case, you can lose most of the values about the realization.
Let’s do this example. You have in front of you an amazing lines which someone gave V11 grade. Climber A and Climber B did the problem in two different days. Climber A only knew the name, the grade and few less things about the climbing. When he climbed he hadn’t no rope to check it, he was alone with 2 pads and he tried a full day ground up making an epic ascent right before the dark totally alone. Climber B came few months later in a perfect sunny and dry day, with spotters and loads of pads. He also had the video beta, the rope to check all the moves and sign every holds. He knows everything and he can fall everywhere since he was super safe. He climbed the boulders really fast and very well.
Obviously there is also a climber C, who was the first to climb the boulder in the past. He found it after days of hike, he cleaned all the holds from the moss, he figured out the beta for the first time and he sent it after days of working and doubts.
Now, all the three climbers have done the problem and they are happy about their own way to make this realization. In a fantastic world without human ego, society and forced confronts, everyone would be happy and serene; everyone would be also conscious about their own efforts, about the facilities they had (rope, info, beta) or the difficult they found like discovering, cleaning, doubts or going ground up.
But obviously, in the real world they also want to let the world know about this boulder and so they write down the grade. Later the climbing community comes; everyone read or listen to the grade and they know that climber A,B,C climbed a V11 boulder like tons of other climbers in the world.
Where are all the climbing values and experiences? How can you make a real confront between the three climbers when every aspect of the three realisations were totally different from each other? I guess the grade system often hides the real values of the climbing experience. But a wide part of the community can only read the sportive numbers, even when they don’t tell concrete values.
17) And finally, after all your long 22 years worth of experience being a person, what piece of advice would you give to the young up and coming climber who has an eye on podium places and sponsorship riches?
I honestly don’t feel to advice too much; I am not the kind of person who likes to advice what others should do. The only thing I could say is to give priority at their climbing needs and their passions, without forcing too much the process, especially in the youth. Feel free to do whatever you want without bothering anyone else. Always respect the rock and the nature while climbing and not only. All the rest come later I guess.