Gosia Lipinska Interview by Brenda Marx
What is your full name?
How old are you?
Where are you from originally?
I was born in Poland, but have lived in Cape Town since I was 2 and a half.
Where are you living now?
In Cape Town in a rambling farm house on a horse farm in Constantia.
What work do you do?
I’m studying at UCT as well as some part time lecturing.
What did you study?
Well, I haven’t stopped yet…I’m doing my PhD in Neuropsychology.
How many years have you been climbing?
Almost 10, can you believe it.
How did you get into climbing?
I was always an outdoorsy kind of person and had wanted to try climbing as a kid, but just never really got a chance (rock climbing anyway – I often climbed trees, walls, and on top of roofs. I was the official ‘ball-fetcher’ for our family games of cricket – I knew all the neighbours’ roofs intimately). After school I went on a gap year to Scotland and volunteered at an outdoor education centre for 6 months. They had several high-rope and belay orientated activities so I picked up some belay and rope skills. I even managed to go climbing once or twice. I knew that was what I wanted to get into, so when I got back to Cape Town I got a job at CityROCK – to kill two birds with one stone – make some extra bucks while studying and learn to climb. So I essentially learnt how to climb at CityROCK, and through the people I met there.
What’s your favourite climbing discipline (sport/trad/bouldering)?
Hmmmmm, in true Gemini style, I’m a bit of a fence sitter – I love trad and sport climbing. I love the big adventure, epic exposure, camp-side stories and deep friendships that are born from trad climbing. I also love the pure gymnastic fun and challenge of sport climbing. Another aspect of climbing I like is mountaineering – slogging somewhere remote, pulling on grass-tufts and doing what the purist would call climbing on Weet-bix (it’s not really if you choose your lines carefully, but it sometimes looks that way). Again I think it’s about the adventure and epic positions you find yourself in.
I haven’t really got into bouldering before – perhaps at some point I will.
What’s the highest grade you’ve sent in each?
Sport: redpointed El Nino (30), on-sighted Magic and Loss (26)
Trad: redpointed the Horror Crack on Oceans of Fear (27), on-sighted Africa Arête (25)
Do you do any other sports besides climbing?
I trail run and occasionally dabble in mountain biking and body boarding
What is the longest time you spent working a route?
Probably El Nino – and not only because of the difficulty of the climbing. I went to Oudtshoorn for 5 days once, when I was reasonably close to sending. I just could not let the route go and tried it for 5 days in a row. Even on the morning I was leaving, I had to give it a burn, in full December sunlight. In the end I had bored myself silly climbing the same route for 5 days and did not get it in the end. I came back some months later, totally relaxed. I spent time having lunch, enjoying the company of my friends.
And I sent that weekend. I learnt a valuable lesson on that route – you’ve got to want it, but you have to let it go too.
What is your favourite climbing area in South Africa?
Sport: Waterval Boven
Trad: The Cederberg
Mountaineering: The Drakensberg
Which other countries/areas have you climbed in, which did you enjoy most and why?
I’ve hiked and done some easy climbing in several countries – Scotland, Poland, Malawi and Namibia. I think my recent trips to Yosemite, Toulomne and Indian Creek in the States have been my favourite in terms of pure rock climbing. The climbing in Yosemite is spectacular – there’s a reason why climbers from all around the world gather there. Each time I went there though, I went with a great group of people, which in many ways made the trips so memorable.
How often do you train?
I try to go to the UCT wall once a week and then get out on the rock as much as possible. But it really depends – I go through heavy work periods where climbing is sparse and then periods where I can take a month or two off and really indulge.
Do you train specifically for routes?
If I have a project in mind I tend to find myself more at the climbing wall – usually to increase my power. But I don’t follow a program or anything.
Who are your climbing hero’s?
What motivates you?
Inspiring lines, beautiful places and close friends.
What projects are you working (Boulder / Sport / Trad)?
Sport – I don’t really have a project at the moment, but I think I’ll go back to Firestarter now that Waterworld is climbable again (WELL DONE to the guys that fixed it up – you rock!)
Trad/Sport – Dream Street Rose – a classic test-piece at Elsies Peak in Cape Town. It is bolted, but was originally opened as a trad route with one bolt and I aim to climb it in that style.
Ed’s note: Congrats to Gosia for tradding Dream Street Rose on Monday the 26th of November! Probably the first SA girl to climb 28 on trad!!
Tea or coffee?
Any trad climber will know – TEA!
What is the biggest epic you’ve had?
Hmmmm… I haven’t had one in a while I’ve had several epics in the past though. One that springs fondly to mind is my first and only ascent of Blouberg with Alex Eppel many moons ago. The first couple of pitches of ‘Hey Jude’ (3 I think), are supposed to bring you to a large grassy ledge. After 3 pitches we thought we had hit it and were doing fine on time. However, we only really hit the ledge several pitches later at about mid-day. We knew we were in trouble at that point. Darkness fell upon us about 2 pitches from the top, just in time for the thunder to crack around us and the rain to start falling.
We found shelter at the top in some emergency shelter huts and decided to spend the night, partly because we feared ‘the maze’ – the walk off the top to the campsite. We did star-jumps in the middle of the night to keep warm as we huddled. Eventually it became light and we made our way down to a blood red sunrise – one I’ll never forget.
I hear you’re planning a trip to Patagonia in December/January. Tell us more about it.
The Yosemite crew – with some additions and subtractions (Julia Wakeling, Hector Pringle, Craig de Villiers, Tim Dunnet and I) are traveling to the Fitzroy area of Patagonia mid-December/January. Between us we have pretty much no snow and ice experience, so we’re going to take it easy – learn to swing ‘em ice axes and try keep safe on the approaches and hopefully get some good weather days in to do some climbing – that would be grand.
What work do you do?
I’m doing my PhD at UCT as well as some part time lecturing