In the early 80s, a young man, a charismatic "blond angel", hung his life at the tips of his fingers, hanging solo in a roof at Buoux: Patrick Edlinger (n.d.r. Edlinger, the 80's Grivel climber; look at the following poster image). His film and philosophy have changed the lives of many climbers. In a few scenes, he revealed a story that slumbered in us, waiting for a spark to burst into the open, a spark called "free climbing". A breath of freedom born in Yosemite Camp 4 in the sixties and which grew up in the Eighties in Verdon, transforms climbing into an art of living, with the vertical as an infinite playground.
Climbers have always formed a kind of community of rebels, pirates, who while accepting, willy-nilly, the materiality of our consumer society, have made the "conquest of the useless" of a summit, a 500 m route, a 20 m crag, or a simple boulder of 8 movements, the centre of their life ... just for pleasure, for the beauty of the gesture, for the emotion, for the sharing with the others. Climbing as a line of life. Climbing to discover who we are, to control our fears, to go beyond ourselves physically and mentally. This "conquest of the useless" is indeed a conquest of oneself, oh so useful in life. The risk is there to make the difference with a simple enriching sporting activity. The climber is often confronted with the notion of commitment, the top sometimes being the only possible exit. You have to take risks, on the edge of danger, and put your life in the hands of another human being, who in turn gives you his own. An act of sharing and trust rare in the life of a man as a woman in our societies more and more egocentric. Climbing is conquering, of course, but not by any means.
Elegance is essential. Climbing is the art and the way of writing, by the ballet of the gestures on the rock, an ephemeral history which evaporates as one goes up, but which will leave in the soul of the climber the traces, the memory of the Beautiful. Climbing is the return to the origin, nature, raw, mineral. We do not confront the rock, it is only the canvas on which we redraw to know ourselves better. But also, to learn more about nature, better respect, and find, find our place ... naturally. These moments between parentheses, in the heart of wild landscapes, in the vertical of the world, offer us new and unique moments that fix the present, we give it to live fully, to feel ... No climber in the universe would exchange a belay beaten by the wind hanging in the void over the sea, against a "dream" weekend in Las Vegas. The wealth of climbing is not measured in quantity of dollars, nor of comfort, but in heartbeat, drunk to be just where we are, and in action. Since the advent of the gyms, some of the climbing has become a sport, a branch of fitness ... But the essence of the climb is still there, lurking in every movement on the resin. All it takes is a little spark, a photo, a film, an invitation, to find yourself embarked on a piece of rock at the "conquest of the useless", and join the roped pirates wind standing on the oceans of the vertical. There is not one climb, but many climbs, and height, difficulty, support don’t matter much. What matters is to climb. To climb in your own way, whatever the motivations. The important thing is the "climb different", it is to be different, to be oneself. The standard is not a standard in climbing. Climbing is not a sport, it's a key ... magic ... it's up to you to find the lock, your lock that goes with it ... and to open the door: the sky is yours.
"Once you get to the summit keep climbing," Tibetan proverb.
Article by Fernando Ferreira, June 2019.
Pictures by Fernando Ferreira (cover), Lorenzo Belfrond (photo 2) and Emma Svensson (photo 3).
Poster (picture 1): Patrick Edlinger, 1983, Grivel archive.
Fernando « Féfé » Ferreira, 55 years old, photographer, journalist and author, is in the Grivel team since 2018. He has been climbing and mountaineering for 40 years, opening new climbing routes on the cliffs of the south of France.
Favorites Grivel products: Stealth helmet, Trail Three poles, Vlad with Sigma carabiner, Air Tech 28 rucksack.