You’ve got a bit of ‘twang’ in your accent, where are you from originally?
Well, that one is a bit complicated. I was actually born in South Africa, lived in Lesotho for 8 years, the USA for 1, Namibia for 10 and Pretoria for going on 8 years. BUT my parents are American and the community in which we lived in Lesotho was primarily American so for the first 9 years of my life I was exposed to American accents.
Sometimes it’s just easier to say “I’m from Tucson, Arizona” than explain the whole story.
Where are you living?
Currently I reside in Pretoria.
How long you been climbing?
I started climbing in April 2006, so for 5 years now I started when one of my friends was coaching a group of high school boys at Christian Boy’s College in Pretoria. I had climbed once before so I knew that I would enjoy myself. It wasn’t till a few months later when I started climbing the 26m wall at University of Pretoria that I was really hooked. I touched rock for the first time in September 2006 in Swinburne and then it was all over! From then onwards all my vacations became fixated around climbing trips.
Do you boulder?
I realized the importance of bouldering when I was in Tucson, Arizona in 2009. I was confident climbing 5.13a (29) but when I was on the boulder problems that I should find on routes of that grade I was struggling. I see the importance in bouldering if you intend to be exceptional in climbing. There is only so much one can learn from any one discipline within climbing.
Do you trad climb?
I do. I aspire to be better than I am right now. I have tradded up to 8a, placing gear. I want to be able to onsight the same grades on trad as sport. I’m not particularly good at onsighting one way or the other. In South Africa I have climbed up to 24 placing gear and 28 on fixed gear. I hope to climb Boa Rodeo (31) in Boven before the end of the year.
What are you studying / what work do you do?
I am currently busy with my master’s degree in research psychology with a focus on sustainable development. It affords me the time to be able to focus so much time on climbing whilst allowing me to focus on bettering myself academically. Everyone who knows me well wonders how I manage to climb this hard as I really have a difficult program at university. To be honest, I give my fullest efforts to all facets of my life. It is important to find a real balance between mind and body. Life can only be lived to the fullest when one exercises both body and mind.
What do you want to specialise in (when you’re big)?
I intend to start a doctorate in two years time so that I can continue climbing hard. With a doctorate I hope to be able to remain in academics at the university. If not academics, I would like to work in the field of sustainable development, perhaps by doing social impact assessments for an engineering firm.
As far as climbing goes, I’d really love to do hard traditional onsights and ground up ascents of big wall routes. Sport climbing is fantastic but a little limiting in some ways. Trad just seems to offer climbers the freedom to pick a line and head for the skyline. That appeals to me on a very deep level.
What routes have you opened and are you busy with any new routes at present?
I have opened 4 routes and about a dozen boulder problems. My proudest first ascent is Raptophilia, which is a short and bouldery 32 in Boven. I bolted it and worked it for 18 days before it finally conceded defeat. It is very thin, technical and overhanging with absolutely horrible footholds. The moves each require a great deal of body tension and finger strength. The most interesting thing about the route is that no single move is incredibly hard but just try to put them together! The route is only 5 bolts + anchors but has more moves than routes twice its length… Over the period that I worked it I kept on thinking that the move I was stuck on was the crux, but I would make it through the move only to fall off on the next sequence repeatedly. This happened three times before I sent. The tricky bugger even let me get to the finish dyno while placing draws before it spat me off. It took me another 4 days before I could even get back to there! All-in-all, it was quite a struggle!
I opened a 27 on traditional gear in Boven as well, called Morse Code. It starts with a 7A+ boulder problem and continues into some thin cracks and slopers to top out. It is very short, only about 10m and requires just 4 wires. The ascent was a bit of a problem as someone else intended to bolt the line and a lot of work was put into clearing the base. I did not mean to climb someone else’s line, but by the time I found out it was a closed project the deed was done.
I recently climbed my first 8A boulder, which was also a first ascent, at eZemvelo which has been repeated and hopefully confirmed at the grade. It took me three days to figure out how to get my ass off the ground! The saving grace was a heel hook that I found on a really small hold. Everyone else thought I was silly when I started trying to use it. After the sit start it links into a 7C problem, which I opened, that also took about two days of work to figure out.
You went on your second Petzl Rock and Road last year, how did you do and what did you think of the comp?
I loved the Western Cape event! I must admit, I was incredibly sceptical about the Table Mountain Day, but it turned out to be the highlight of my event! It really was inspiring to be in such an amazing venue. I had climbed there once before on the super classic Jacob’s Ladder, which was actually my first trad lead, but flashing Dynamite was really an amazing feeling. Huge Big Monster was also inspiring! Watching Matt Bush flash it, regardless whether it was a toprope ascent, was just phenomenal. I think that this single day was very inspiring to everyone.
Being in Montagu was also very special for me as I’d only spent one day there in the past. I gambled quite hard on sending the Activist (30) and Firestarter (29) as both of the routes were given bonus grades. Unfortunately I didn’t manage to send the Activist so instead of tying for first, I came in near last. I did manage to send the climb the next day (which was a rest day).
Climbing in Oudtshoorn was also interesting. The choice of routes was great, the conditions, not so much. The organisers did their very best to give competitors the very best opportunity to send, but unfortunately by the time the everyone went for their second attempt on the second routes it was dark and almost impossible to see footholds. Don’t mistake this for criticism though! There wouldn’t have been a second attempt without the superhuman efforts of the organisers! We all had an equal opportunity in equal conditions.
Do you train specifically for routes?
I definitely train specifically for routes. In fact, I set almost identical problems at the Tuks boulder cave. Well, almost identical. I tend to make my problems tougher and I work them with 8 kilos of extra weight.
What training do you do and how often?
I normally climb minimum 5 days a week. My training varies based upon the number of days a week I can get out to rock. Earlier this year I took a month off of rock just to train. I ended up training 21 days in a row, varying the type of training. Paul Brouard, our local superman, drew up an amazing program that I use with some variations. When it comes to training, I am a bit of a masochist. I would have to say that this is probably my single biggest asset for my climbing. I think it stems from my prior cycling career.
I used to be a bit of a crazy, doing backflips and riding off of cliffs on my mountain bike. I used to get up at 4am to ride 50km, then go to class, then gym for two hours and jump for 2 hours in the afternoon. Climbing is no different to me. Often I’ll train for 2-4 hours a day, usually on my own in my bedroom on my hangboard. I keep a very thorough record of my training and I encourage others to read about it on my blog: The Masochist’s Monologue I also leave tips and tricks to get strong.
You’ve been pulling down seriously hard this past year, what are the highlights of your tick list?
There is quite a list for the last year. I have done 19 different routes 30 and harder since December 2009 when I did my first established 30. In fact, it was the second complete trad ascent of a route opened by Hidetaka Suzuki in 1986! It was done with 4 bolts until about two weeks before I climbed the route. I witnessed the first all trad ascent. After that I just started crushing everything I touched! Some of the best routes that I climbed last year were:
- Jabberwocky 32 Completed this last weekend (11 June 2011)
- Raptophilia 32 my hard, short line!
- Godzilla 32 This is one of Andrew Pedley’s lines in Boven. This is a truly amazing line. 35m in length, incredibly sustained and hard the whole way. Summary would be: 28/29 climbing for 20m into a poor rest and then a 7B/7B+ 12 move boulder problem. Brilliant climbing.
- A Will To Cower 31. Possibly the second ascent since 2001. Paul Brouard opened it at 30 but it is sick hard!!! Tiny slopey crimps into a very big, low-percentage move! RESPECT for Paul who is shorter than me!
- Vorpal Sword 31 Andrew Pedley’s masterpiece. Possibly the coolest climbing in South Africa.
- Up For Grabs 31 Took me ages to stick the dyno!
- Mama Africa 31 Really fun climbing but a little squeezed in.
- The Beast 31 Andrew Pedley strikes again! AMAZING!
- Hack and Slay 31 Is heinously thin. I had to tape my tips so I could hold the crimps.
- Space Cadet 30/31 (lots of debate of the grade) It’s OUT THERE. Andrew is awesome! Imagine a trad epic on bolts. Seriously hard boulder crux at the bottom, which stumped Clinton for two or three days, and then into a really awesome traverse and fantastic climbing.
- Golden Beaver Left 30 (trad). I did this route placing gear. You try taking lots of 6m whippers on a BD C3 size 00. It gets scary. Particularly when you know that if this piece rips you’ll be 3m from the ground.
Those are the highlights of my last year, each of which felt like a really big achievement for me. None of them were giveaways. I also try to make an effort to climb the best lines, not just a grade.
What gets you psyched?
There are quite a few things that get me really psyched…
The first would be the moves: if the moves on a route are unique or superb then I just won’t be able to contain myself. I will run through the moves time and time again in my mind until I have mastered them!
Next is the setting… If the venue is good, it makes the moves just that much better. One of the best examples of this was in Tucson when I climbed Golden Beaver Left. It is 7000 feet up a mountain. Tucson is down at 2500 feet and 45 minutes of driving gets you up to the Beaver. You can see everything from there! The quality of the line is exciting too.
The grade. Call me shallow but the difficulty of a route calls to me. Overcoming something that is considered to be above my ability is just thrilling. I am inspired to climb harder, boulder harder, trad harder. I think this comes from cycling again. I feel it’s important to be the best at what I do. I’m not there, and won’t ever be the best in the world, but I want to strive to be the best I can personally be.
The quality of the line. None of the aforementioned conditions mean anything if the line is sub-par. I love lines that are sustained, there shouldn’t be any rests on the climb. It should be your own ability that allows you to succeed not the massive ledge that you can sit on for an hour. Speed and precision are your friends. I am working really hard to be faster and more precise in my climbing.
What projects are you working (Boulder / Sport)?
Right now I’m climbing the notorious Jabberwocky (32) in Waterval Boven – Update: Brian sent this route last weekend (11 June 2011). The route has the thinnest boulder sequence I’ve ever been on. Every time I fall off I tear my finger tips open. Probably a 7C boulder problem half way up the God No! wall. I am also working on Rodan (34) but I don’t really feel like I’m ready for it yet.
Do you have a 5 year (climbing) plan?
A five year plan, well. I’ve been climbing for 5 years now, so for the next five years I simply want to crush everything in SA. If I can keep up my training, my bouldering and my sport climbing I think that I will be able to climb both Rodan (34) and Mazzawatte (35) in the next five years. Digital Warfare (35?) is also in my sights! Andrew Pedley bolted this at a secret location. It is the most amazing climb I’ve ever been on. His acclamations of it being a 6 star line are not exaggerated. I love climbing. It makes me happier than most things on the planet, other than my significant other!!
Are you sponsored?
Yes. I am sponsored by Vertigo Gear this consists of Edelrid, Mad Rock and Omega Pacific.
Tristan is really an amazing person. He does so much for the sport. He sponsors a large number of athletes in South Africa. He was also a primary sponsor for the Montagu Rock Rally in April. I have a great deal of respect for him as he was willing to take a chance on me before I was a strong climber. Truly an enabler!
What are your expectations for the future of Climbing in SA?
I have met a couple of really strong young climbers here. Guy Patterson-Jones and Dylan Vogt are two names that resonate in my head. Every time I see one of them log a climb I think “oh shit, here he comes!” So sue me. I’m a little competitive. I know I started climbing when I was already old. I wish I could have started climbing when I started cycling, then I’d have 15 years under my belt instead of just 5.
Other than the up-and-coming climbers I see that there is the potential for some very hard routes out there that are just waiting to be climbed. Just this last weekend I spent some time trad climbing in Blyde River Canyon with Hector Pringle, Hilton Davies and Ian Kotze. The potential for really hard lines in this area is infinite! Hector pointed me up a route that will easily be harder than 30 with solid gear!
Andrew Pedley had this to say about you “Brian Weaver is extremely psyched, more than anyone. I guarantee that he will send Rodan within a few years or less”.
So how is Rodan coming along what does it represent for your climbing?
I belayed Andrew for 30+ days on Rodan. He is relentless. He quit 3 times and pulled himself back to the route each time. He would get frustrated and not want to touch it again, but a few days/weeks later he would end up putting the draws back up. I found this so inspiring. His hardest redpoint was 32 but after 40+ days of work, I think we both lost count in the end, he sent it. I am inspired to climb Rodan.
Paul Brouard found some different beta for the crux, which is not easier, just different but works better for my style of climbing. I think that the hardest line in Boven might truly be the best one there! It has the least number of rests and is the most sustained. I watched Paul almost fall off the last move… I aspire to climbing Rodan.
I have a few projects in the pipeline before I’m going to concentrate on Rodan though.
Do you warm up?
Eish… Warm up… That is one of those funny things I know I’m really supposed to do but I’m just too hasty to do. I have sent some of my hardest lines/boulder problems on the warm up. This is probably the worst idea a person could possibly have. If I have been climbing for several days consecutively, then I certainly warm up. BUT I must admit, I have a very different idea of what a warm up entails to that the book suggests. If I’m projecting a 32, I’ll warm up by climbing/red pointing something 28/30.
NOT A GOOD IDEA. If I warm up at WigWam, I will normally send Tomahawk (29) placing draws. Not a warm up to most. I’ve also warmed up by pointing 7C boulder problems like Animal Planet, at eZemvelo. Crazy but true. What works for me probably won’t work for everyone.
Do you follow a diet?
Yes and no… It depends on my emotional state. Admittedly I fluctuate quite a bit on this level. I have an opinion of myself which inclinates to me being heavier than others who are my height. This makes me want to weigh less. At one stage this year I lost 7 kilos (from 74 to 67) in a week. I have managed to keep to weight off and send some of my hardest projects as a result/after this. I’ll just say, we all have our vices and mine is that I like my food. I am a really good chef (according to anyone who’s eaten my food) and it can be problematic if your BMI is based on how much you eat. If I weighed more than I do now, I am sure I would still be sending the same grades. It is more about determination than anything else. I try my best to listen to my body when it comes to the diet. I read a fantastic article by Jimbo relating to sports nutrition which really put things into perspective. Seems like one of the most important things to consider is the quantity of food one consumes, rather have a slightly smaller portion and stop when you’ve had enough instead of eating for the sake of eating.
How much do you weigh?
What is your Hardest onsight and what enabled you to onsight the route?
7c/28 the route was an absolute gift to me… The climbing into the crux was about grade 24 and then there was a 3 move boulder problem on horrible holds. But there was chalk on the holds and it seemed like there was only 1 way to get through the sequence so I chased after it. Clipping the chains was a more amazing feeling than I could have ever expected.
Tea or Coffee?
Coffee! Definitely coffee! There is this amazing coffee shop in Pretoria that sells 30 types of coffee from different countries and flavours. How can you argue with that?
Have you climbed overseas?
Yes, Tucson, Arizona. When I was there I met up with Eric Rhicard, who wrote the route guide “Squeezing the Lemon”. He showed me around and is an amazing climber. I’ve given his name to a few people and mentioned that if you’re heading there he can be found on his blog.
He is an incredibly friendly guy who opened a large number of the routes in the Tucson vicinity.
What would be your top 3 foreign destinations ?
I have often fantasized about climbing in Spain, France and Germany. Specifically Oliana, Ceuse and Frankenjura.
Do you do any other sports?
Not any more…
What do you do on a rest day?
I love to watch shows on my laptop or go to the movies. If I’m not watching things, I work on my thesis.
Do you have a nickname?
Well, no one has really given me a nickname, but for the last 10 years my PC handle has been Insanity. Most people tend to agree that this is very fitting for me. I don’t quite operate on the same level as everyone else… 😀
What is your favourite climbing area?
Without a doubt, Waterval Boven is the best place I’ve ever been too. 40m single pitch sport routes with nowhere to really rest are the bomb!
Can you do a 1 arm pull up?
I wish. Been trying it for ages. I have major shoulder injuries from cycling. I can lock off at any angle but can’t pull back up.
Any scary / funny climbing experiences?
Well, I haven’t really had many scary experiences. BUT every time I climb a trad line I feel a sense of purpose. I tried to onsight Heart of China (23) in Boven recently. This is a 5 star line that is 25m high. I think I would have been better off soloing than trying to place gear. I tend to be so confident in my climbing that I cruise through all the moves. My biggest issue is trying to find the right piece of gear to place. If I would have just kept on climbing I would have done just fine.
BUT instead I stopped and started to panic. I placed a number 5 BD nut, 3-4m above my last placement and backed it up with a micro nut I knew wouldn’t hold. I could not read the next move, in fact I downclimbed it three times whilst trying it. Eventually I fell off in the move, falling about 7m. Scary thing was that if the gear would have ripped I might have decked even though I was 18m up. After I fell, I found 4 pieces of gear that fitted where I was struggling. In total I needed 5 placements. I just kept remembering what Jerry Moffatt said in his autobiography: “when in doubt, run it out”. (By the way, if you can find it you must read it: Revelations by Jerry Moffatt, there are some incredible stories that are beyond belief. It truly puts the climbing world into perspective)
On my second go, I accidentally skipped my second placement. The result being I was 15m up with gear at 3m. OOPS!! I was in a great kneebar but couldn’t reach my next placement. So I had to stand up and reach to the next placement, which fit a number 1, 3-lobe cam just fine on my first attempt. I kept putting it in and when I would test it, it ripped out! This happened 3 times! Kyle Meenehan was belaying and Alard Hufner was sitting at the bottom of the route, I have this feeling that both of them were sh***** bricks. I eventually flipped the cam over and it fitted perfectly. I then backed it up with the placement I had missed earlier and cruised to the chains.
Do you have a significant other and does she climb?
Yes I do. Her name is Yvette and she is just about to become a doctor. She started climbing when we started dating. She has a lot of talent but nowhere near enough time to enjoy herself the way she wants to. In fact! She is perhaps the best belayer on the planet! She has belayed me on some of my hardest sends, including Raptophilia. Her biggest passion is horse riding and as a result I get to ride horses every now and then! She even taught me how to gallop my mom’s amazing horse! That is an amazing feeling I must say…
What is the biggest Epic you’ve had?
Well, I’ve been quite fortunate as to never experience a true epic. The closest thing I’ve had to an epic was at WigWam. I was there with a group of friends and one of them twisted her ankle. Ilse had hurt her ankle previously and had just recovered. But, stepping off a rock she re-injured her ankle. She was limping down the hill and was in a lot of pain. I ended up saying, “screw it!” I picked her up at the top of the trail and carried her all the way down to the parking lot in my arms. We still joke about it now when I say it was such awesome training
You cut your hair recently…
Yeah! I had been growing my hair for nearly three years. Then one day I woke up and decided that I was bored of looking like some sort of a weird hippy in my climbing photos. I ended up cutting it all off and apparently I lost 6 years off my face (I get asked for my ID everywhere I go now). Some say that my talent was not in my hair, others simply can’t recognise me until I’m actually shaking their hand. Personally I think that it’s a lot colder in these winter months without my long hair (had to buy a beanie the other day and it’s just the start of June).
Have you been to Chosspile after the re-opening?
Chosspile… Ah, there’s a rough situation. I have a lot of respect for the great deal of effort that Neil Margetts has put in. He is the one person who was really willing to dedicate himself to making a difference to the venue. I have been working an open-project called Shadowfax (which will be about 33) at Choss for a while. It has always been just a little out of my reach. Andrew Pedley fell off after the crux and Paul Bruyere is about one move away from opening the line. I am much further back than them.
I suggested to Neil to organise a year membership for the venue and I saw on the wiki that this has been organised! I am pretty sure that I will be buying one of these, so long as it is not too expensive. I have said that Chosspile is a B grade crag. I feel like I need to give this statement some substantiation: there are not that many A grade crags in the country. Boven, Wavecave, Rocklands, Wigwam and a few of the trad venues are A grade crags, in my opinion. There are a couple other places that are really exceptional, such as Montagu, Oudtshoorn and maybe Fernkloof. But when one really looks at the overall quality of the lines at a crag Chosspile is simply not of the same calibre as Boven, Wavecave or Rocklands, each of which attract international athletes.
Are you happy with the new arrangements & improvements?
I do have my complaints with the new arrangements, this is because I never used to park at the lower parking lot to begin with (take into consideration that I was unaware that I NEEDED to pay for access to the property). There were at least 15 other athletes of the highest level that would go to Chosspile with the same attitude as mine. None of us wanted to park our cars in the dodgy parking area when we could park for free in a safe area and access the crag. Knowing what I know now, I realise that this was the wrong attitude and in the future I will not endorse it in the future.
I do feel it is important to note that at R30 per person it is the most expensive area to climb in the Gauteng area.
Any new bouldering / climbing areas other than Bobbejaansberg & Ezemvelo you’re exploring / developing?
I have been keeping my ears open about new areas to climb in GP. Alex Bester found a new boulder area right next to Bobbejaansberg which has been dubbed The Lost World. The property had a “for sale” sign and so they hoped they could meet the owners. They were bouldering there one day and the owners came by. They simply asked to be notified if someone was going to be on the property. Climbers then informed the owners about squatters, so I think that some favour was gained. It looks like the area has some potential for some 8th grade problems…
You’re 8a scorecard and size has been questioned on the forum. So how big are you really? Anything you’d like to say in response?
I recall this happening. In fact, I sent a private message to my accuser but found out later that it was never received. I’m kind of happy it was not because I was a bit rude in the message. I am 175cm tall and have a wingspan of 188cm. It is a really big advantage. I have witnesses for all my routes, in fact most of them are witnessed by Andrew Pedley. Other than him my girlfriend was the belayer. But if anyone has any questions you’re welcome to PM me on brianweaver. I am willing to substantiate all my claims publicly.
Why is a manhole cover round?
A circular manhole cover cannot fit through the opening and thus cannot fall inside the sewer system.
A big thanks to the following people for supplying photos for this interview:
- H Davies
- Gustav Van Rensburg
- PW Nel
- James Barnes
Related article: Brian Weaver sending list 14 Dec 2011