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Clinton Martinengo Interview

Clinton Martinengo is at the top of his game right now, he’s climbed and opened numerous routes around South Africa and now he is in the United States for an international climbing meet, a Yosemite trip and then some…

Clinton on Mediocrity in the Hex Mountains Photo by Justin Lawson

I spoke to Clinton Martinengo the day before he left for Yosemite whilst the Spring storm was hammering the Western Cape.

Justin:  You’re heading off to the US tomorrow, how long are you going to be there?

Clinton:  I’m going to be there for 2 months, getting back on the 1st of November.

Justin:  Around where will you be travelling?

Clinton:  First I’m going to Yosemite, for the whole of September and then there is an American Alpine Association international rock climbing meet in Denver which starts on the 4th of October and lasts for 2 weeks.  There will be people from other mountain clubs all over the world attending the meet.

After that, I’m going to see what happens and perhaps hang around there or head back to Yosemite.

Justin:  Is it just you – are going over by yourself?

Clinton:  I’m going over by myself, but Robert Breyer, Snort (Charles Edelstein) are also going to join me for a while and then Gosia Lipinski and Julia Wakeling will be coming over later on.

Justin:  So what is on your tick list while you’re in Yosemite?

Clinton:  I definitely want to do Separate Reality, Midnight Lightning (boulder problem) and Phoenix crack which is a single pitch route.  Phoenix crack was the first 5.13a in the world.

I also want to get on Astroman and Rostrum, but I’m not going over with any high expectations. I just want enjoy myself. It’s the first time I’m going there, so I’ll jump onto as many classics as I can.

Clinton redpointing Copelia (29)

Clinton redpointing Copelia (29) on the Rock and Road Trip. Photo by Rock and Road


Justin:  Have you been doing lots of training, like climbing at Paarl?

Clinton:  At Paarl… besides my new route that I opened recently, not really.  The Rock and Road trip I saw as good training and my work keeps me fit too.

Justin:  What has been your greatest achievement this year?

Clinton:  My route at Paarl (Shaka / 8b+) & winning the 2008 Petzl Rock and Road Trip.  I was really quite psyched to actually win it because Ben was really on good form and it was the first time I’ve even beat him at a climbing competition. Also getting to the top of Mount Kenya which was my first alpine route.  I spent a month in Kenya with Julia Wakeling in January and we did the Nelion route.   We slept the night on top and then the next day we crossed the gates reversed back the same way we went up.

Clinton Martenengo Shaka 8b+ at Paarl Rock. Photo By Robert Breye

Clinton Martenengo Shaka 8b+ at Paarl Rock. Photo By Robert Breye

Clinton Martenengo Shaka 8b+ at Paarl Rock.

Photo By Robert Breyer

Justin:  how long have you been climbing for?

Clinton:  Since June 1992, so 16 years.

Justin:  How did you start climbing?

Clinton:  I started with Maarten Turkstra, he used to talk about it at School and one day I asked if I could join him.  I went round to his place the same day and he gave me a crash course on how to belay in his tree.  After that we went climbing on some cliff, it was a multi pitch.

Justin:  Who are your sponsors?

Clinton:  Bluewater, Evolv, Trango and First Ascent.

Justin:  What is your favourite climbing area?

Clinton:  Milner and I’ve really been enjoying Boven of late.

Justin:  What is your favourite type of climbing?  And which one are you best at?

Clinton:  Really hard to say, at the moment I’m into mixed routes, big wall stuff like Oceans of Fear.  I won’t say that it is my strongest style of climbing.  It’s nice to get up something and feeling the achievement.

Justin:  What are your thoughts on the route Newborn at Yellowood?

Clinton:  I think it’s one of the best routes I’ve climbed.  Top quality route, I don’t why it wasn’t climbed 5 years ago.

Justin:  Did you manage to free all the pitches?

Clinton:  Yes

Clinton Martinengo on the fourth pitch (5.12b) of Newborn. Photo by Jeremy Samson

Clinton Martinengo on the fourth pitch (5.12b) of Newborn. Photo by Jeremy Samson

Justin:  Do you cross train for climbing?

Clinton:  Not really, my work is quite physical and keeps me in shape.  I do sometimes run/walk in the mountains, but that’s more for the fun of it.

Justin:  You’re probably the no.1 climber in SA right now… where do you see SA climbing heading?

Clinton:  I definitely think it is going places, the bouldering scene is going well right now and the same for sport climbing, people like Andrew Pedely are pushing the level.  The Trad scene is rather dormant and no one is pushing the boundaries on it at the moment.

Justin:  Who has influenced you most / your hero so to speak

Clinton:  There has been a broad spectrum of people – one of the greatest influences for me was Tini Versveld, it was through him that I started really started Trad climbing and venturing up the hills – I think He is quite visionary in spying lines and a great climber.

Justin:  Where else besides SA have you climbed?

Clinton:  I have been to Jordan with Jeremy (Samson).  I went to Kenya earlier this year.  I’ve traveled around Europe, went to Spain, in France I went to Font – I didn’t do any sport climbing in France though and I have spent a good amount of time in Sheffield climbing in the Peak District – all great experiences.

Justin:  After your States trip, what plans do you have?

Clinton:  I have a project at Wolfberg, it’s a big arch with crack through the middle.  I want to go back to Blouberg to free one pitch on… O jeez a tree landed on my car!  Well not a tree but a branch.

Justin:  Shall I call you back?

Clinton:  No its fine…  It’s that route I opened with Snort at Blouberg ‘Dog of Thunder’ that I fell off (I fell off at the last move) I would like to free the whole thing in a day.  We did it last in two days.

Justin:  What comes 2nd to climbing for you?

Clinton:  Walking in the mountains

Justin:  Your 8a.nu says you’re into horse riding?

Clinton:  The day I filled that in I went for my first horse ride, never been since!

Justin:  What are your favorite climbing shoes?

Clinton:  Evolv Pontas

Clinton Martinengo on Streetfighter (34) at Oudtshoorn.  Photo by Margherita Introna

Clinton Martinengo on Streetfighter (34) at Oudtshoorn. Photo by Margherita Introna

Justin:  What is the hardest route that you have climbed?

Clinton:  On Sport, the hardest grade would be Streetfighter (8b/34) but the hardest route for me personally is Fear Factor at the Hole which is grade SA 33

Justin:  What is the hardest you have bouldered?

Clinton:  Ard ay 8a+

Justin:  What is the hardest trad route you’ve climbed?

Clinton:  That would be ‘Oceans of Fear’ (Clinton freed the route at grade 28 (sandbag))

Justin:  What is your preferred drink of choice?

Clinton:  whiskey – Jonnie Walker Black

Justin:  What is your favourite food?

Clinton:  lasagna

Justin:  What do you for a living?

Clinton:   I’m a Plumber

Justin:  Are you a member of the MCSA?

Clinton:  Yes definitely.

Justin: Are you a gear junkie?

Clinton:   No, no no I am not a gear junkie

Clinton Martinengo flashing Snapdragon 7c+/29 at Waterval Boven

Clinton Martinengo flashing Snapdragon 7c+/29 at Waterval Boven. Photo by Dirk Smith


Justin:  Are you presently available, do you have a girlfriend?

Clinton:  No I am available.  (There is much laughter on both sides of the phone and a female voice is heard saying “oh my word” in the background!)

Justin:  Have an awesome time in the States, take lots of photos and let us know how you’re going?

Clinton:  Cool thanks.

Clinton phones back: I won’t be available for too long because I’m going to find a girl to marry and live in Yosemite!!

Tid bit from SACIN 2001:

Clinton wraps it up in Rocklands Posted 28/11/2001

While on a trip to Rocklands in the Cederberg Clinton wrapped up several of the bolted routes there. On the Saturday he onsighted ‘Blockout’ 26, ‘Alto Rouge’ 27 and ‘Billy the Kid’ a 22 slab in hiking boots after being bet a six-pack! He also repeated ‘Coppertone’ 28 and ‘Factor 15′ 29 both on his second try. On the Sunday he got ‘Skinless Arete’ 31 also on his second try, ONSIGHTED ‘Soviet Dancer’ 26 and flashed ‘Magic Mushrooms’ 28.

Check out Clintons Blog

Related article:  Astroman




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