Matt Bush Interview

Age:   27

Where were you born?
Sandton, JHB

Where are you living now?
Cape Town

How long you been climbing?
9 years

How did you start climbing?
A school friend of mine, Anthony Hall, invited me to climb on Table Mountain.  My first route was 22 and I climbed it in hiking shoes.  A whole new world opened up to me that day.

What was the first crag you went to?
The Hole, Muizenberg

What did you study / what work do you do?
I am currently studying Postgraduate Psychology through UNISA.  I work as a Personal Trainer and Sport Model.

What do you want to do when you’re big?
I am planning on specializing in Sports Psychology and Counselling in Private Practise.

Matt Bush bouldering at Llandudno

Matt bouldering at Llandudno


What routes have you opened and are you opening any new routes at present?
On the sport climbing side I’ve opened a handful of lines and bolted a dozen new projects for the season. I am currently bouldering and enjoying the simple freestyle approach. I have opened a number of high ball boulders in Llandudno.

Impi 8b+
Aquaman 8a+
Duende 8b

Spotless Mind 8a+
Alien Race 7b
Emaciation 7a+
Wide Open 7b
Children of the Sky 8a
Free o’clock 7b

What training do you do and how often?
I train at CityROCK in Observatory.  I vary my training according to my levels of motivation.  I train campus board, bachar ladder, interval routes as well as cardio and general conditioning exercises.

Matt on the Campus board at UCT Wall

Matt on the Campus board at UCT Wall (2003). Photo Justin Lawson

Do you train specifically for routes?
If I hit a wall on a route and can’t break through I’ll focus on more specific skills training in the gym. Move simulation training usually works. A big part of my training is on the psychological aspect of climbing. I focus on visualization, mental rehearsal and relaxation training.

What trips did you do last year?
I stayed in SA last year and made a few trips to Montagu, Cederberg and Waterval Boven.

Biggest epic that you’ve had?
Solo climbing Cogmans Buttress. This was for me the most mentally challenging climbing I’ve done. I was blusted by high speed winds and attacked by starlings on the final pitch. I managed to frighten the birds off with stones that I collected on one of the ledges.

Matt free soloing on Cogmans Buttress.  Photo by Max Martini

Matt free soloing on Cogmans Buttress. Montagu. Photo by Max Martini

Who is your most favourite climbing partner and why?
Olaf De Wet and Max Martini. These guys epitomize the spirit of climbing. We have grown close through the trips we have made together and I value the pureness they bring to the sport.

Would you say you’re climbing the hardest ever in your life?
Yes. Although I am not as physically strong as I have been, I am mentally stronger than in my previous years of climbing and climbing with more flow than before.

Do you Trad climb?  Yes
Do you boulder?  Yes
Have you aid climbed?  Yes

You’ve been doing quite a bit more Trad climbing of late, if you have to choose between trad and sport – which one would you go for and why?
A difficult question to answer but I was introduced to climbing in the Sporting method. The emphasis on gymnastics of movement in sport climbing appeals to me. I enjoy problem solving and pushing my envelope of movement ability.

Matt on the Love Project at Llandudno

Matt on the Love Project at Llandudno (proposed grade of 8B). Photo by Olaf de Wet

You recently sent the Love Project at Llandudno, when did you first come across the route and how long did it take for you to send it?
I found the line 4 weeks ago with my friend Silas.  We had just opened a classic 7b called Wide Open.  From there I spotted the entrance to the cave and I was blown away to see a 12 meter roof problem with solid features.  It took me half a day to brush, chalk and clean up the line, another day to suss the moves and I sent on my third attempt.

What gets you psyched?
Being in nature.

What projects are you currently working  on (Boulder / Sport / Trad)?
I am working on new sport and boulder projects around the country.

Matt Bush Bouldering at Llandudno

Matt on Royal Rumble at Llandudno.  Photo by Olaf de Wet

The New Definition  (Llandudno)
Spiritualized (Llandudno)
Soul Mandate (Llandudno)
Living Large (Cederberg)

Eternal Love (Peers Cave)
Jumanji (Paarl Rock)
Shongololo (Montagu)
Soulfly (Montagu)
Nature’s Way (Montagu)
Above and Beyond (Waterval Boven)

Do you have a 5 year (climbing) plan?
To climb everything I can and to travel as much as possible to new places.

Are you an MCSA member?
Yes, although I think my subs are due 🙂

Matt free solo on Cyberpunk at the Palace.

Matt free solo on Cyberpunk (24) at the Palace.

Have you had any serious climbing injuries from climbing?
Broken heel from an impact fall off a high ball.

Do you warm up – how long and what sort of warming up do you do?
Yes, this depends on the intensity of the route. The biggest part of warming up for me is relaxing before the climb and clearing my mind of expectancy.

Do you follow a diet?
No, although I am mindful of what I eat. I try to eat as healthy as possible and prefer to cook my own food than buy take-outs.

What is your favourite meal?

Top  3 routes?
Three Degrees of Seperation (9a+ Ceuse) I’m looking forward to putting this together when I get back to France in the near future.
Satans Temple (8a+ Waterval Boven South Africa) An incredible line near the Waterfall in Boven.
The Activist (8a Montagu)

Matt high balling in the Cederberg

Matt high balling in the Cederberg. Photo by Olaf de Wet

Top 3 climbing areas?

Waterval boven


France, Ceuse

What are the top 3 international climbing destinations that you would choose to visit?
Hampi, India

What is your Hardest onsight?  What enabled you to onsight the route (what was different about it)?
8A+ Bubble, Mine, CT.  I didn’t expect anything and it just happened. I had no pressure to onsight the route and is seemed easy at the time.

Tea or Coffee?  Coffee and Spechloos

Matt working Mazawatee (34) at Jurassic Park

Matt working Mazawatee (34) at Jurassic Park. Photo by Justin Lawson

Do you do any other sports?
Cycling and Trail Running

What do you do on a rest day?

Read, swim and philosophize with my friends.

Do you have a nickname?  Matty

Aspirations for 2012?
To complete my studies and climb as much as possible.

Describe your perfect day?
Opening new lines with my friends and exploring new places.

Can you do a 1 arm pull up?  Yes.

Matt Bush stitching it on "Stitch it" (29)

Matt Bush stitching it on “Stitch it” (29). Photo by Jonathan Joseph

Last year you placed two bolts on Table Mountain which created a bit of stir.  Going back in time and knowing the reaction it caused, would you do it over?
No comments Justin, but I am happy to talk to you about this when I am in Montagu.

You’ve been doing quite a bit of soloing recently, some of it on seriously hard sport climbs.  How did you get into soloing?
Soloing routes came as a natural progression for me. I was staying on a farm in Montagu and I didn’t always have a climbing partner. I would cycle my bike to the crags and climb routes alone, soaking up the sun and moving free.

What is the difference to you between soloing something easy like Jacobs ladder and a hard route like Daze of Thunder?
These two routes are very different in nature but in both cases I prepare for the routes by understanding what the line requires.  I break my solos down into sections and listen to myself and the rock.  The conditions on day are also a big variable to consider. I try to put my ego aside. Soloing for the freedom of movement and for the experience itself.

Matt Free soloing at the Sandrift Crag, Wolfberg.

Matt Free soloing at the Sandrift Crag, Wolfberg. Photo by Peter van der Merwe.

When you get to the top of a route that you’ve soloed (where you cannot top out), how do you get down?
I have down climbed before but on really hard routes that close out I always wear a harness and have a rope at the chains to rap off with.

What is the attraction to soloing for you and how does it compare to climbing with a rope?
Freedom of motion.  Soloing is the purest form of climbing for me. In the solo space the usual concerns of everday life don’t exist. Up on the wall its nature and me and the connection between. It’s a separate reality to everyday life that has always brought me greater clarity– to live present.

Are there any routes where you say ‘No, I’m never going to solo that’?
Yes.  If I don’t feel that I can climb the route 100% of the time I will not solo it. I stack the odds in my favour and avoid uncalculated risks.

Have you ever backed off a route?

Matt free soloing Daze of Thunder (28) at Worlds Apart, Montagu.

Matt free soloing Daze of Thunder (28) at Worlds Apart, Montagu. Photo by Olaf de Wet

What is your list of Routes + grades that you’ve soloed?
Shad (31)
Cool Like That (29) x2
Point Break (29)
Daze of Thunder (28) x2
Supersonic (27)
African Soul (26)
Thruster (26)
Madiba (25)
Fleur De Mer (24)
Eddy of Bovidence (24)
The Rave (24)
Another Day in Paradise (21)
The Activist (30)
Switchbitch (31)

How important is opening new lines to you ?
Opening new lines gives me inspiration.  The process of finding the route, bolting the line, chalking and brushing, sussing the moves, making the links and climbing it with flow is of great appeal to me. It’s a great moment when the picture is completed, from searching for the line to climbing it with flow and grace.

Matt Slacklining at Llandudno

Matt Slacklining at Llandudno.  Photo by Jonathan Joseph

When did you start Slacklining?  
5 years ago.

Do you feel that Slacklining helps your climbing?

Is there anything that you can’t do on a slackline?
Plenty.  I slackline for relaxation rather than for pushing tricks.  I can’t afford to injure myself and so I play safe on the line.  Climbing is more important to me than lining.

Where have you climbed overseas? 
France, Ceuse.

What routes have you sent – Grade 31 and above?

Impi 33
Duende 32
Seven 32
Route by the River 31
Switchbitch 31
Shad 31
Satans Temple 31
Vorpal Sword 31
Jabberwocky 32
Who Needs Lucky Cows 31
Not For Sale 32
Mamma Africa 31
Up For Grabs 31
Kholer-Turkstra 31
Short Circuit 31
Strange Days 31
Mr Incredible 31

Matt Bush during the first ascent of Mr Incredible that won him the 2010 Rock & Road men's final.

Matt Bush during the first ascent of Mr Incredible that won him the 2010 Rock & Road men’s final. Photo Justin Lawson

Have you gotten round to completing your ‘24 routes in 24 hours challenge’?
I am currently focussed on bouldering but I am sure the motivation will return for this challenge.  It’s a personal endurance challenge that I set myself that I will complete when the time is right.

What are your top 3 climbs
At present my top three climbs are boulder problems at Llandudno.  The Love Project, Telepathy and Zero Gravity.  These climb aren’t the most difficult in the world but the location of these lines makes the experience of climbing surreal.

A big thanks to my sponsor Robert Breyer at CityROCK. I am sponsored by Evolve and Blue Water Climbing Gear.  I climb in Pontas shoes.  They are perfect for me, comfortable and light.  I use the dominator rope 9.4 which is durable, weightless and easy to handle.

Related articles:

Matt Climbing at Uriah Heap, Montagu.

Matt Climbing at Uriah Heap (2005), Montagu. Photo by Justin Lawson

Matt free soloing on Point Break (29).

Matt free soloing on Point Break (29). Photo by Olaf de Wet

22 Responses to Matt Bush Interview

  1. Andy Davies Feb 17, 2012 at 1:56 pm #

    Not For Sale 32? Woohoo!!!

  2. Hilton Davies Feb 17, 2012 at 3:03 pm #

    So impressive Matty! You’ve got to be in the top strata of free-soloing in the world! Can’t pay you enough respect. Congrats Matt, Hilton

  3. Franz Fuls Feb 17, 2012 at 3:39 pm #

    Respect, bru!

  4. andrew scott Feb 17, 2012 at 11:12 pm #

    wow i never realised you had free soloed so many hard lines…respect

  5. Steve b Feb 18, 2012 at 4:17 am #

    Nice one Matt. Just want to express my personal opinion that soloing is more risky than it feels and that most soloists who’ve been at it long enough eventually fall and die – even the ones supposedly most in control like John bachar. Well done on some impressive solo sends but maybe they should go unreported or heavily disclaimed – it doesn’t seem to me a sport that should be publicized much…

  6. SimonS Feb 18, 2012 at 8:36 am #

    Matt, amazing acheivements! Thank you for sharing your lifestlye of free climbing. I was lucky enough to be graced by your free solo of The Activist from the valley belown.

    Keep rocking in the free world and remember that people with fear will try plant the seed of doubt. Love will maintain the belief and certainty in your ability!

    Thank you

  7. Matt Feb 18, 2012 at 8:43 am #

    Thank you for the kind words received by me with warmth and humilty!

    The Freestyle short film is currently being edited by Amy Daneel at Memakefilm and will be up on youtube/vimeo next week.


  8. Keith Feb 18, 2012 at 11:49 am #

    Matt’s climbing achievements, ambition, and passion for the sport are inspirational. Reading the comments here regarding free-soloing leaves me feeling somewhat ambivalent.

    The extent to which free-soloing is brave and commendable rather than foolhardy is unclear to me.

    It is fun to say and think love will get you through but if a young man dies soloing the suffering his friends and family will experience is incommensurate with the joy he experiences soloing and the respect he receives from his peers (and the grace bestowed on sycophants).

    Of course, each ought to be free to decide his own level of risk tolerance, but public celebration makes me feel uneasy.

  9. Paul B Feb 18, 2012 at 1:12 pm #

    The Activist solo is seriously impressive. Well done Matt. The ending certainly seemed to have some marginal elements to my mind. Can’t help feeling the risks outweigh rewards.

    Think it through; keep it real..


  10. Steve B Feb 18, 2012 at 1:25 pm #

    Just to clarify my post, I think its a tremendous achievement to solo routes like the Activist, Point Break, Switchbitch and Cool Like That, probably in league with the solos of AdK and Lomax back in the day… Big up Matt for the amazing mind control and strength behind these sends.

    I think my opinion is actually quite close to Keith – I’m not 100% anti giving press to people pushing solo limits – like Matt in SA, or Honold and Potter in the US, or Houlding and Huber in Europe. No question, there’s something raw and inspirational about hard, high solos.

    That said, something makes me feel a little uneasy – especially after reading the long article by Bachar in Climbing magazine a while before he died soloing where he talked about several unexpected falls he’d had soloing (narrowly escaping death a few times). His general view was that sooner or later all soloists fall – even though they may think themselves a special case.

    What tips the balance personally, is thinking about the effect of recent mainstream movies profiling Honold and Potter. Its hard to believe that such positive portrayals (bordering on idolization) will not lead to more kids choosing to be “the one that solos” in their group. There is definitely a social element involved and kids aren’t always as sensible as they should be.

    I’m curious to know what others think?

  11. Steve B Feb 18, 2012 at 1:35 pm #

    Yes, the top sequence on the Activist certainly has some “marginal elements”!

  12. SimonS Feb 19, 2012 at 10:46 am #

    As far as I have researched Matt’s hard solos are a new level of free climbing in SA. This standard has not been reached by any other SA climber. No-one has matched 8a+ solo.

    This is not a case of comparing apples and oranges but of acknowledging a serious feat and accomplishment here. I cant help but see resignations from people who don’t solo climb.

    Is it possible to accurately express opinions about solo climbing when you have not solo climbed yourself? How do you know what the experience entails and whether the cost outweighs the benefits if you have not gone there?

    I am suspect about these opinions and would sooner accept opinions from soloists themselves. Bachar died doing what he loved and bless him for that. How many die in slavery incorporated?

    Furthermore it is hypothetical and premature to say all solo climbers die soloing or will die at some point. Are you God?

    Potter has lived a long life of solo climbing and continues to climb solo. Gullich climbed solo and died in a car crash. Furthermore how many climbers die climbing in the conventional sense and how many people die each year crossing a road, or from falling coconuts?

    What is needed here is respect for a person who decides to climb free. No one has the right to decide someones destiny. If Matt chooses to climb free, that is his choice. He is not imposing on you to solo climb.

    I dont believe Matt would ever say, you must solo climb. He is doing it for his own soulful reasons so why impose your fears on him. Deal with them. The marginal elements for some are maximal elements for others. A risk for one can be a walk in the park for another.

    Matt, commendations and huge respect!


  13. Matt Feb 19, 2012 at 10:50 am #

    SimonS, your posts are really insightful. Thank you for the positivity!

    Jah guide and protect

  14. Paul Feb 19, 2012 at 12:04 pm #

    I’m not sure you read the other comments, SimonS. You should. They don’t say Matt shouldn’t solo. They just say that soloing is a very dangerous, very personal thing and perhaps shouldn’t be punted in the climbing media.

    “Bachar died doing what he loved and bless him for that.” – really? Imo he was a selfish git who left behind a now-fatherless young son for whom the community and relatives must now provide and raise.

  15. Paul B Feb 19, 2012 at 3:33 pm #

    Perhaps this should be discussed on the forum. It does seem to undermine Matt’s climbing achievements. But I have to mention, Simon Says, why presume the people who are posting have never soloed?

  16. Paul B Feb 19, 2012 at 3:47 pm #

    Oh, and saying the climb seemed marginal was a compliment on Matt’s climbing ability. I’m pretty sure whatever I did up there was completely wrong!

  17. MOkganjetsi (Willem B) Feb 19, 2012 at 5:35 pm #

    haha matt, seems like controversy is following you everywhere 🙂
    serious respect for doing what you did – world class achievements. you’re a cool guy so please don’t die. each for his own in the soloing department i guess; we should not create unrealistic heroes and neither should we dish matt for it. big wave guns; BASE jumpers; solo climbers – all a rare breed.

  18. Steve B Feb 20, 2012 at 4:22 am #

    I hadn’t thought about it but yes, discussing this here does seem to undermine Matt’s achievements – so let’s move the discussion to the soloing thread in the forum….

    Well done Matt and may fortune continue to favor the brave!

  19. Irmgard Bush Feb 24, 2012 at 2:52 pm #

    So nice to read up on what you climbers think……..and great to know that you watch out for each other and voice your concerns. Matty, reach for the stars and never doubt yourself. We all die, some sooner some later, but to never live your dream or reach your potential or to live in fear, is living only partly. I’m proud of you and pray continually for your safety. Mom

  20. Muhammad Mar 19, 2012 at 6:58 pm #

    Thank you Christine glad you like the video too. Chino Hills is an amazing place and if/when you are ready to begin your home sraech here I am happy to help. As always, happy to answer any questions about the city..anytime!

  21. Justin Apr 6, 2012 at 11:28 pm #

    Video of Matt soloing routes in Montagu –>

  22. Chris May 11, 2013 at 10:48 pm #

    Wonderful climbing achievements Matt .Always remember where that fine line is . Make the decision to retire one day or you will always go back for more until you’ve crossed the line . Chris Lomax

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