Its November we’re in South Africa’s sport climbing paradise, Waterval Boven, but apparently this is not the best time of year to be here. It’s raining as another highveld thunderstorm cruises through the valley. Sitting in our chalet at Tranquilitas drinking whiskey, I decide to interview one of our local climbing heroes, The Flex…
Occupation: currently none, but a qualified mechanical engineer
Years climbing: 6
Firstly, how did you get the name Flex?
It all started at a garage outside Krugersdorp, there were 3 girls in a car and I flexed for them. Alas, only one of them was even mildly impressed. Generally, I have a habit of taking my shirt off and flexing in appropriate and inappropriate places…
What got you started in climbing?
I always climbed stuff as a kid and at varsity I joined the Wits mountain club, I never looked back.
You haven’t been climbing long relatively speaking, how did you get good so fast?
Climb a lot and climb with people better than you.
What are your hardest routes or noticeable climbing achievements?
My hardest route is Up for Grabs 31 in Oudtshoorn. It was cool as I felt like I crushed it. Lately, I’ve been involved in the development of Joburg’s newest power endurance crag, Wigwam. I opened Tomahawk 7c+ (29) and bolted Last of the Mohicans which Steve Bretherick opened at 8a (30). I have just managed to repeat it. I also just returned from Kalymnos where on one day I managed to onsight a route at every grade from 6b+(22) to 7c(28)
Looking at your 8a scorecard you don’t seem to be short on onsights, is onsight climbing what you strive for?
I will always first try onsight a route. Red pointing and onsighting each have their merits and you should be able to do both, it a makes you a more well rounded climber overall.
Which has been your best onsight?
Avance Cangrejo 7c Spain
So where have you climbed outside of SA?
France, Spain and Greece. I love traveling to new areas particularly as there is so much more scope to onsight routes. At your local crags you tend to use up all potential onsights projecting routes. It’s also great meeting and climbing with people from all over the world. I think the climbing community worldwide is very relaxed and it’s easy to make new friends.
How was your recent trip to Kalymnos?
Sun, sea and climbing – what more can you ask for?
What is your favourite climbing area?
Waterval Boven. To me the climbing here is still the most varied, aesthetic and technical, I’ve experienced, and there are still great new routes being bolted all the time. There is still a lot of potential here…
Do you train, how?
Back home I’ll train twice a week on a bouldering wall and try to climb every weekend if possible.
Can you do a 1 arm pull up?
What is the Flex’s tip to climb two grades harder?
I always climb at least 2 grades harder with my top off – it’s the power of The Flex.
Do you have any inspiration local or overseas?
There are so many inspirational overseas climbers it’s hard to pin-point one. Locally, I have gained a lot from climbing with Andrew Pedley. He has exceptional footwork and technique and opens some of the most inspirational routes in the country. He is also a notorious sand bagger but, in the long run this makes you a better climber. If you climb a Pedley route, you know you’ve earned that grade.
Any scary or funny climbing experiences?
Every day climbing with my buddies is funny. I once fell of the top move of Monster 29 with my leg wrapped around the rope and smashed into the rock upside down – that was pretty scary…
Has your passion for climbing affected you work ethic in any way?
*laughs* I’m happily unemployed at the moment.
According to 8a you are ranked no.4 but you have never been involved in any local climbing competitions, why is that?
I’m not motivated by competing against others. I compete against myself when I climb.
Are you sponsored?
You’ve pretty much always been a sport climber but this year spent quite a bit of time bouldering, what caused the shift?
I spent a year working in Cape Town where there is a really great bouldering scene and of course there is Rocklands. The problems there are awesome. I’m still primarily a sport climber though.
Rumour has it you were involved in some weird genetic experiments as a baby where your finger bones were replaced with adamantium, the strongest metal in the world, is this true?
No comment … weighing 57Kg helps on small holds though.
Can you crimp someone’s face off?
Any upcoming trips or projects?
I’ll be trying to repeat some more Pedley Classics, recently I have had a few runs on Godzilla 31 and it feels close. I’m also off to Thailand for a month in January.
(Ed’s note: Marc Redpointed Godzilla on the 30th of November ’08)
Any final comments?
There is still a lot of potential in SA for new routes, and there are some super hard projects that everyone knows about that need to be opened like The Mazawati project in Montagu. There is no reason one of us shouldn’t be opening those routes.