‘Twas a hot Sunday afternoon…
We’re in sitting around a concrete table in the Rockland’s camp site with one of the great boulderers of our time, Fred Nicole.
And these are the questions we asked him:
ClimbZA: What are you top 3 climbing areas?
Fred: I don’t know… I don’t choose like that… but my favourites are Rocklands of course, Hueco. I think these two are some of the best. But every place has its character.
ClimbZA: Do you sport climb or only boulder?
Fred: No, I do sport climb, I started with sport climbs and I’ve climbed a lot of routes, but it’s a long time ago. In the past few years I have not really sport climbed, I’ve been more into bouldering.
ClimbZA: Do you Trad climb?
Fred: We don’t really have this aspect that you name ‘traditional climbing’ the ‘Anglo Saxon’ the way of doing it with gear and friends. We really don’t have that in France or in Switzerland. We call Trad climbing ‘clean’ climbing.
ClimbZA: Do you go Alpine climbing?
Fred: I did a few routes but it is even longer ago than when I last went sport climbing… that was maybe 10 or 15 years ago. I did a crack… *laughter* In the Valais – (french for Wallis) a region (Kanton) of Switzerland, it was a 7c, but I first rappelled down and I put all my gear in.
ClimbZA: In South Africa at the moment, everyone is talking about why SA climbers are not climbing at a high level like many European climbers.
Fred: Really, I don’t know, I think there are many strong South African climbers. It’s more like you need to find the line, it’s more that. And when you find the line, people will try harder and more difficult routes… people like Justin Hawkins and Clinton Martinengo that I have seen climbing, I am certain they have the potential to climb 8c or more if they find the right routes.
ClimbZA: What inspires you?
Fred: What inspires me? Many things personally, here, this nice place (Rocklands) and all around me.
ClimbZA: What thing or achievement are you most proud of?
Fred: Phew! I don’t know I’m not really proud of anything.
ClimbZA: What scares you?
Fred: Many things scare me, the pollution, war. Many things are scary.
ClimbZA: Describe your perfect day.
Fred: For me a nice day… it can be anything, good people, a nice place, it can be climbing… sometimes I have some really bad days climbing and sometimes really good days, it can be anything, a mixture of different factors.
ClimbZA: Do you have a project in climbing or in life/goals?
Fred: I have many different projects, but I don’t see them as goals in life, I just keep going, going and going.
ClimbZA: How do you manage to keep fit for top level climbing?
Fred: Phew! At my age! : It’s a matter of practice, if you have the desire, you will stay fit for a long time. You will definitely stay fit for a while I think. It’s a matter of interest and desire.
ClimbZA: What work do you do?
Fred: I climb mostly.
ClimbZA: Because your climbing is work, do you ever have a bad day climbing?
Fred: Many bad days, in fact I think interestingly there are more bad days than good days, so when you have a good day it’s “yeah!!” excellent. And when you try again after 20 bad days “hmmmm” and then you have one good one.
ClimbZA: Do you plan on having children, increase the world’s population?
Fred: Aaah, I don’t know, right now not really. But my brother just got some nice kids maybe, they are cute, so maybe.
ClimbZA: What is your favourite meal in South Africa?
Fred: Rod’s Poitjie from yesterday. [Potjie:traditional stew cooked in an iron pot on an open fire].
ClimbZA: What do you like besides climbing?
Fred: Bouldering! Natural drawing, sketching, reading.
ClimbZA: What is your ape index?
Fred: This? (arms outstretched), I have no idea.
ClimbZA: What is your height and your weight?
Fred: My height is 1.80 meters, my weight is 76 Kg, sometimes 75Kg.
ClimbZA: Favourite music?
Fred: Everything really, worldly music generally from different cultures.
ClimbZA: What brand makes you climb hard (is that a loaded question or what!)
Fred: Five Ten, Prana & Arcteryx
ClimbZA: If I gave you a million Dollars today and you had to spend it in one go, what would you spend it on?
Fred: I won’t spend it one go… hmm, I will give it somebody who will give it back to me. Just enough to survive till the end of my life.
ClimbZA: Where do you currently live?
Fred: In Switzerland, close to Zurich.
ClimbZA: If climbing became a more mainstream sport, would it be harmed or improved?
Fred: It is evolution anyway, bouldering right now it is really increasing but maybe not in South Africa. But I think even in South Africa more people are bouldering compared to five years ago. For example in Switzerland, Europe and the US there are really more and more people. So I think there are some positive aspects in an economic way, one of the big problems will be access, for these places because they are natural reserves and really great areas. Like Rocklands, its really awesome and Hueco is great. Areas on private grounds… there, access will be a problem if the population continues to increase, we will see.
But I think it is really positive to see all these people coming and motivating each other. There are some side effects, so we have look at that, to make sure that our playgrounds stay open.
ClimbZA: How did you get that scar n your arm?
Fred: (Shyly hides his arm). That was from surgery, for my bicep, its all ok now. A very good Swiss doctor did it for me, I can give you his name but you are ok.
For the past three years Fred Nicole has been coming to Rocklands to climb. He has put up a significant number of climbs and many of them at high grade and quality. He inspires all around him and seeing him climb.
Below: Fred Nicole climbing Madiba, a clip from the movie Rocklands