Sharma: “I’m more of a beach person”
Actually, it is recommended to use superlatives only with caution. But it’s undisputed that Chris Sharma has been one of the best rock climbers in the world for many years. The 35-year-old American and the 24-year-old Czech Adam Ondra have so far been the only climbers who have mastered a 9b+ route (on the French grading system) – partly extremely overhanging, actually impossible to climb. Currently the measure of all things. Chris is living with his wife Jimena Alarcon and the little daughter Alana in Barcelona.
Chris, you have been climbing at the highest level for so many years.. Do you think that you one day get tired of doing it?
For me, climbing is my life, my passion, the way I realize myself. I don’t foresee myself getting tired of climbing forever. It’s something that is so connected to who I am and I am so grateful to the position I am in. As we go through life, it’s always that our relationship is changing, because of the different phases. I am a father now, I have a daughter. For sure, this changes my relationship with climbing a little bit but it’s actually only enhance my passion for the sport. I’ve gone through many different cycles in my life. Every time you go into a kind of a new phase, I’ve noticed my love of climbing is actually deepening. If anything, I am more passionate about climbing than before.
Do you have the feeling that you’ve already reached your limit or do you think you’re able to push it on and on?
I feel like I have potential to climb harder things. That’s interesting, after climbing for over 20 years, to still be able to push further. It’s like an existential question in climbing, because climbing is so much about progression. There are so many different ways to progress as a climber. One way, for sure, is to climb more difficult things. That’s something that inspired me a lot that I loved to work on. But at the same time there a lot of different ways to deepen our experience as climbers. And these are all forms of progression. For me, even as an example, starting a climbing gym, finding to share my passions with more climbers, is a progression in climbing. The point is like our life journey and climbing is totally connected. As we develop in different ways as people, our sort of relationship evolves and progresses in different ways.
You are now 35 years old. Other sport climbers say that they have passed their zenith at this age. Do you feel that you have to change your priorities?
For now, I feel like still climbing on my highest level. So I don’t feel like that right now. But as I said before, it’s important to look at it in a bigger picture way. I think, that’s the beautiful thing about climbing, it’s not like typical sports, like gymnastics or soccer. It’s really like a lifestyle sport that you can do for your whole life. To look at just in terms of extreme sport climbing is a very limited vision of it. For now, I feel this potential to continue pushing. So, of course, that’s what I’m gonna do. But that’s just one side of the experiences of climbers. You have little kids climbing as well as old people in their seventies. That’s really the essence of climbing to push your limits, to try something that is outside of your comfort zone and maybe appears impossible for you. And then through this process of working hard towards your goals you’re discovering that you’re capable something more than you thought. That’s really like a universal thing, whether you’re climbing a 6 a or 9 a, it’s the same experience – for you, for myself, for anybody.
You have been living in Spain for many years now. Would you say you’re a sun climber, needing the warm climate around you?
I am from Santa Cruz, California, it’s like a town of surfing. When I got into climbing, it was through a climbing gym. In this way I am really one of the first climbers of this new generation from climbing gyms. In this way my introduction to climbing wasn’t like for example other people in the Alps. So my connection to climbing has been through sport climbing. Now what I love is Psicobloc, deep water soloing [climbing sea cliffs completely solo, without ropes or gear. If you slip, you just fall in the sea]. For me this is combining my two worlds, the mountains with the sea. I’m more of a beach person than an alpine person.
Many sport climbers who are getting older turn to the Himalayas, saying: We are good rock climbers, very experienced now and try to transfer our climbing from the rocks at lower altitude to high altitude. Is it an option for you to do it this way?
You never know. It’s a point of my life I can’t imagine going there, honestly. I have other things to work on closer to home, but you never know. I mean, see what happens. I am open to anything, actually.
Have you ever been in the Himalayas?
I’ve been in India and Nepal, just walking around, not climbing mountains.
Didn’t you experience that thrill, looking at these mountains and thinking, I have to climb them?
I have a really big appreciation for mountains and for alpine climbing. But honestly, the dangers of climbing in the Himalayas with avalanches and all this stuff, it’s not so interesting to me right now.
Are you speaking as a father now?
Yes, for sure. I think, for that sort of thing, it’s worth it for the people, this is their life passion to do that. But to do it as just kind of a side thing maybe it’s not worth the risk. If it’s your mission in life to do that, then you are comfortable with that risk. But I’m not a mountain climber, I’m a cliff climber. I think, whatever you do, you have to be very focused and make a strong decision that you gonna do this. At least now in this moment I don’t have that. That’s not very clear in my head, so it doesn’t make sense so much to me in that way.
In November 2016, Adam Ondra made headlines by free climbing the “Dawn Wall” on El Capitan in Yosemite. Many compare you and Adam. Is there a kind of competition between you or would you say, I only compete with myself?
I’d say I have only competition with myself. Honestly, it’s an honor to climb together with Adam. For me sometimes it has been hard in the past that I always climbed alone on these projects. Adam and I have been climbing together in Spain. It’s really great to climb with somebody. That can push me also. There are so many different ways to approach things. Imagine, you have two of the best musicians in the world that come together. It could either be like an ego thing and try to decide who is best. That’s kind of a waste. The interesting thing would be that they sit down and play music together and make something even more incredible. That’s what Adam and I have been able to do. It’s pretty cool. I appreciate Adam, all the stuff he’s doing. I really like to have a chance to climb together with him.
What do you feel when you have completed a climbing project successfully?
As I said, for me climbing is the way I realize my potential. It’s what I dedicate my life to. When you have these moments that everything comes together in a perfect way, these are really like transcendental moments, in climbing and life, when all this work, everything is perfected in a way that it flows perfectly. There are really magical moments.
Date31. March 2017 | 16:14