The obvious beauty of free climbing is you’re actually giving
the rock a chance to win. On one hand he’s a machine on the other hand, also just human. I never thought that I would be able
to push the limits of sport climbing. I mean, I was scared of failing, so I would then end up
not trying certain things because I knew that I might not
succeed on them. Now I’ve already spent
more than 40 days on the project, and I don’t even know how close
I am to sending. With climbing, there are so many
different movements. Mother Nature just creates
so many more interesting things than just left-right, left-right. I think that’s what’s appealing
about climbing. The challenge to only use
the natural features of the rock to get up, which makes rock climbing infinitely hard. It was strict, yes,
because it meant, like, OK, you fuckers, no more pulling
on the pitons to get to the top. Now you suddenly have
a whole new game. In Germany, they had
another school of thought, which turned out to be revolutionary. It was absolutely counterculture. The rotpunkt changed everything. Complete history of climbing
changed with this red dot. The obvious beauty of free climbing is you’re actually giving the rock
a chance to win. It’s a fair game. Style. It’s about style. It gave climbing
what climbing is nowadays. Free climbing is just an expression
of trying to set yourself free. It’s just a way. OK, it is a bit bigger than I thought. OK, and it is steep.
It’s not a slab all the way. Jumbo Love, the first ascent was made
by Chris Sharma in 2008. Climbing it in one giant 80-meter pitch and making it the first 9b. The first 15b worldwide. To everything, the route is flashable. I think every route is flashable
if you’re strong enough. It comes down to linking
all the sections. There’s no trickery to it. He wants to flash that route. Fast flash. Whatever. Can’t be that hard,
or the sections can’t be that hard. Got a 50-50 chance
of climbing it in one day. I just give slack today. Just give rope. Rope, rope, rope, rope, rope. Anchor, bam… That’s it. Start here … end up there. In between is just climbing. The first time I met Alex
was in a climbing gym in Southern California. We knew that Alex
was going to be strong, but we weren’t really prepared
for how strong Alex was. It was very clear that,
at that moment in the gym, that that was the future. The route starts off with easy
5.12d climbing. A bit of a tricky section in there, but afterwards you’re sitting on a ledge
and you get a no-hand rest and that’s where the actual
45-degrees steep climbing starts. Oh, fuck! Physically, he’s able to climb
way harder than he’s climbing now. And way harder than
the grades are existing. Yes, good… But the mental part of this is also
something which is not easy. The actual crux is a big move
to a right-hand pinch, and from that position it’s really hard
to get a left foot drop-knee from which to take …
a cut-loose and take a big swing. From there, the endurance part
of the route starts. Twenty feet before the lip, there is
an undercling pocket to a crimp, which was for me the redpoint crux. Got a bit shot down, definitely,
on my first day. On the second day,
went a little bit better, just marginally better, I would say. Fuck! Like I did it in multiple parts
and I linked some sections, but it was still far off
anywhere near sending. You know, the hands
are just a little worse. I don’t know, it just gets
all the edges of the fingers. That’s why I taped up this one before. ‘Cause there was one pocket
that was really cutting into it and I didn’t want to open it up. I think he’s a bit nervous … and not really confident. On one hand he’s a machine … on the other hand, also just human. I know I am able to climb it, and in my head, if I want to be
the best rock climber in the world, I should have already climbed it
in my eyes. If I were to leave without climbing it,
it would just mean I’ve not got what it takes to be the best. There’s that personality trait
where he’s hard on himself. Fuck! You don’t just go climbing
for fun every day. You’re working towards something
that is sort of this vision beyond what most people probably
are able to conceive. And he was training for routes
he wanted to do years later. When there is chalk on a hold,
and someone hold it before, and when you’re not able to hold it, to accept this, “I’m not the best? Someone climbed before and I’m not able.” God, no! Fuck! Fuck! You’re strong, dude. Yeah, but not strong enough. I wouldn’t blame it on anything else,
to be honest. I mean, when it comes down, then it actually was
because I was not strong enough. Well, I’m gonna fly back home, and I haven’t climbed
the route I wanted to climb. The hardest part is that
you feel like you’ve failed. I feel like I’m probably traveling
about eight months a year. Well over 200 days, I’m gone from home. Every time I come home from travels, that moment when you
turn into your home street is always a special moment. Just have my routine back
that I was used to from some years ago. And I think that’s important. This is performance-enhancing drugs. Double power.
Orange and purple sweet potato. They’re not sweet potatoes. Oh, rewind, rewind. Orange and purple carrots. Special about my hometown is that
it’s got the Frankenjura next to it, which is one of the biggest climbing areas
in the world, actually. There’s about 12,000 routes
in the Frankenjura. Since most crags are not very high,
the routes are normally not very long, so that means to make it hard, obviously,
the moves have to be hard. The rock is limestone. Gnarly moves, really hard climbing. Small holds and weird holds that you don’t really know
how to grab, first of all, and where it makes a massive difference where you place your index finger,
where you place your thumb. Wolfgang Güllich
and Kurt Albert back in the day made the Frankenjura famous. Climbing is sharing, because
you always are with a partner. You have to trust your friend,
your partner, and if you trust somebody
and if these are friends, we share everything. Maybe not same
wife anymore, but … I met Kurt first time in ’73. It was outside climbing, Frankenjura. “Ah, you are Kurt Albert, and I’m Norbert Sandner,”
and so we climb together. And a couple of weeks later,
he moved to my house. And from since on,
we became the best friends. He was a visionaire,
and he was really smart. He studied physics and math. He was always up for irony
and good or bad jokes. And he was fearless. He did a lot of powerful free solos. He was by far
the best climber I ever had seen. And then when he started
with his redpoints, everybody was laughing about him
and said, “Hey, Kurt, the redpoint.” At first it was with a brush. With a brush and with a color. And then later on
and be sprayed them. Redpoint, done. At the base of the route, to let people
know it was no longer an aid route, if it had been first free-climbed, you’d have the red circle
painted at the base of it. And that would get the rotkreis,
the red circle. Once you’ve started from the ground
and placed all your gear on the way up, then the red circle would get filled in, that would get the rotpunkt,
that was the redpoint. If you fall, you have to go down,
you have to pull the rope down and then you have to restart
from the ground. That was, and still is, the definition
of the redpoint climbing. The idea of the redpoint came,
well, from the coffee pot. In the house that they all shared
in Oberschöllenbach, they had this one coffee pot,
and in order to get the spout to pour, you’d line up
this red dot with the spout, and it would open up and pour coffee, and that’s where the actual
red dot thing came from. “What do you want to do? Do you want to paint redpoints
on all the climbs we climbed free?” And he said, “Yes, why not? Because we have to show the community
that we climbed it free,” and it was also a little provocation
for the old classic climbers. Of course, the idea of rotpunkt,
it has to do something also with the protest against
the old structures of alpinism. We wear these kind of knickerbockers and we go out on a Sunday afternoon. Maybe we climb a little bit
and we sit in the restaurant and have singing songs
at these times together. Everybody will think
we are drunk already. There are still
old traditionalists in Europe thinking of those cliffs as being
preparation for the big mountains. So it really was just practice climbing
and meant, if that was free climbing, it was free climbing pulling on gear,
pulling on gears, stepping in stirrups. It just didn’t matter. There was no free climbing in Germany,
it was all aid climbing. It was strict, yes, because it meant like,
“OK, you fuckers, no more pulling on the pitons
to get to the top. You know, it doesn’t count anymore.” No, I’m not pulling on anything
to get up this, just the rock’s features. So the evolution
of climbing really just went from just getting to the top of something to, how do you get
to the top of something? It was like a revolution here. It was absolutely counterculture at this time because
it was 100% different. Everything was like in ’68,
very famous in Germany, getting more free. Being against structures,
being against pressure. Being against social pressure. I think free climbing’s just an expression
of trying to set yourself free. I mean, when I was taking
photos of these guys, I was not always sure
that they are pictures that will make climbing history,
or whatever. Except, maybe, Action Directe. I knew at this time, oh, that’s
something really, really special. Kurt and myself, we met Wolfgang
at a climbing festival and we saw he’s a really young,
talented climber. And three years later,
he rented a room in the house. And it started to become
really well known as a climber house where every climber can stay. And that was when the name
“Hotel Frankenjura” started. It was always a very open house
and always full of climbers, and it was very communal. So there was Kurt, Wolfgang, Norbert,
and Ingrid, Kurt’s girlfriend. They were the four people living there
first, when I first went to the house. Yeah, Wolfgang was the sort of
leading force in German climbing. You know, he was well known
in Europe by the early ’80s. Truly a great climber. I mean, his resume is not
one to be trifled with. In 1985, one of the first big routes
that Wolfgang did was Punks in the Gym. That was the world’s first 14a. The following year
he would do Wallstreet, which is the world’s first 14b. And then, of course,
the cap was doing Action Directe. All the things in your life
influences your climbing. Uh, one of the vertebrae is out of place. When you only see the climbing,
you see not the whole person. With Alex, it’s not that we have to
show him how to do some pull-ups; he knows, after all these years,
how to train. One of the biggest points
is that we talk a lot. He can call us day and night. One of us, Patrick or me,
we are always there for him, to handle with the situation,
to be a professional climber. And being a professional climber
is not easy. When you see in the magazines
or in Internet, you just see them succeeding, saying, “9a, 9a+, 9b, 9b+.” But the approach to this and the times in between … all their faults and all the pain
and all the suffering. This is a daily struggle. You get up. “How do I feel today? Can I train hard? Maybe today I’m not the strongest. What’s going on? Yeah, I have to climb hard
because it’s my job. My job is to climb hard.” Yesterday we filmed Wallstreet. I think he climbed it a few times,
months before. OK, it was very bad conditions. 28 degree and humid. And when you’re not climbing well,
it means for Alex everything. “Last year, I could do the moves
and today not. So now I’m not that strong. So there is something wrong.
I’m on a wrong way.” He never will say this. But it’s inside. Not every day is the same. One day is good, one day is bad. No, every day have to be good. And this is not possible.
What can I do to accept this? And this is not fucking easy. I can’t do it. I’m not at the point where I can say
I can deal with failure or I’m a patient person. Not at all. I hate failure. Well, I always say there is no excuses. And then somebody replies, “Oh, no, I mean, you could have probably
climbed it in better conditions.” I say, “True, but I could have as well
climbed it if I would have been stronger. You have to change negative thoughts
into positive thoughts and think, “OK, well, I’ve got
a chance to improve.” I always try to help him to deal
with all these ups and downs to come back on track. My philosophy: look good,
feel good, climb good. This is probably a good contender
for the strongest shirt right now. I climbed Fight Club in that one,
I climbed Lucid Dreaming in that one. So, I like the color yellow
and I like carrots. And these ones … Those two were actually the ones with … which I started having yellow shirts,
because I saw these ones online, and I really liked them,
so I ordered three of those. Each one of them, in each one of them, I’ve probably climbed a thousand
8a’s and harder. I mean, I’ve got them since 2013. Then in this one I climbed, um,
the 9a onsight, Estado Critico. Why do I like to combine
all my patterns? Why? Because everybody says you can’t
combine different patterns, so I said,
“Well, I can combine different patterns,” and there we go. So normally I can combine
every shorts with every shirt. I just really don’t give a shit,
to be honest, whether it matches or not. Oh, my God! I look good! More is always more. More flowers, more colors. Less legs. I always invited everybody over
to the Frankenjura to come and climb with me. Like we have been before,
he’s really open. He invites a lot, a lot of guests
from everywhere to share his climbs. Are you OK? Totally normal. Yeah, it was my dad
who introduced me to the sport. Did a course, a climbing course,
with Wolfgang Güllich and Norbert Sandner back in the day. Kurt infected
the whole family with climbing and took us all out. One day, this little guy came in… directly with his climbing shoes on. Huge ones. We said, “Come on, Alex, try this one.” “Yeah, OK, Dicki”, he tried. He was not trying, he climbed it. This was the beginning. Yeah. Step by step, he … he climbed
harder and harder and harder, and … yeah, pretty fast, we saw that it’s not normal
what he is able to do. Compared to the other kids,
they were all good. And he was Megos. Usually he climbed 10 or 12 days,
and then a half day off. This is the difference also
between other climbers. After a hard climbing day,
or two hard climbing days, they need a rest. Alex, no. No rest. Alex! From the day he began
with national competitions, he won nearly everything. When he was 14, up till he was 18,
he was really unstoppable. In 2009 and 2010, Alex won nine out of ten
international youth competitions. Alex expected from himself always 100%. And, when it comes to the days
when it didn’t work out, it was, “It’s not OK.” There was one competition where one guy
was a bit better than him. It was the first time ever that someone
could hold something where he couldn’t hold something. He was mentally wrecked. Every day we talked on the phone,
and, “Dicki, what should I do? Dicki, what happened? Dicki …” He always filled up his energy
with climbing outdoors. And, uh, now you see in his eyes that he also needed, again,
to go climbing outdoors. My psych level was ten out of ten,
I would say. I mean, as a teenager,
I was 13, 14, 15, all I wanted to do is go out
on rock every day. Straight away after school,
I would ride my bike to the train station, take a train,
and then we would go out climbing and I would be back by 11 p.m. I think when I did the 9a onsight,
everything changed when that happened. I was in Spain
with a couple of mates. Second day, I didn’t know what to do,
and then I had a look in the guidebook, and I saw Estado Critico, that 9a. I was really pumped,
and really at my limit. Got to the last bolt
and looked up and saw the anchor, still not realizing what I’ve done. And as soon as I got back
from the campground, like it was all over the Internet. And then suddenly I found myself
answering emails at 3 a.m. I think that was probably then the moment
where I thought, OK, I could become a professional climber. I remember hearing
about him in the magazines, and then he went from being
pretty good climber to being possibly
the world’s best climber, in the span of like a year. He was just breaking records
left, right and center in terms of his, how fast, how quickly he was repeating
these cutting-edge routes. When you watch somebody
who is stronger than anyone you’ve ever seen before,
in real life, you almost can’t believe
that that’s possible. If you’re going to accomplish
something hard, it’s a road littered with failures. It’s really easy to get involved
with a project and have failure define the project. That’s what makes the great climbers. Failure is part of the process,
and they don’t get downtrodden by it, it just spurs them on to,
“How do I do better?” We are in the original
fitness center called Campus in Nürnberg. The thing behind me is
the legendary campus board, and we built it ’88
in the Campus Fitness Center to have a special tool for climbing,
training and workout. You hang, you pull, you traverse,
go up and down, and have different edges here. We have the round slopers,
we have small ones, we have big ones. I think the holds, after so many years, they are getting smaller and smaller. For Wolfgang Güllich, this campus board
was the key to the Action Directe. If he wouldn’t train here
on the campus board, it would have taken him much, much longer
to do the first ascent, or never. The Frankenjura’s gonna be
a cruel place for you if you’re not prepared for it. A campus board
in a place like the Frankenjura, where you have so many small holds
and small pockets, it would train you how to basically
latch onto these holds. My idea was to build the campus board,
but Wolfgang Güllich made it really famous because he did his special
one-finger pull-up workout for the Action Directe. Wolfgang brought
this training for climbing on a kind of science-based level. Now I feel good
and now I start climbing the route. And Alex is a little bit like this. It was a milestone for training. He was not touching the rock, he was spending time training, and then start to get in the route
when he felt strong enough. First of all, when he did it,
nobody knew what it was. I can’t remember what he even
said about the grade. Whether he was the one who
first proposed 9a, I can’t even recall. And the last week I remember, I never saw him before, almost crazy. It was like feverish in his eyes. That really was a completely new grade,
Action Directe. And it lasted for … it’s still a legend. Was the first 9a. So, since I’ve started climbing
and since I’ve climbed my first 8a, I’ve started writing down every route,
8a and harder, that I’ve ever done in my life. Each of these books has got
approximately 700. And if I’ve got three full ones
and one half a one, that makes 700 … 1,400 … 2,100 and … 2,500 routes. Yeah, since I could climb, I never wished
to climb a route more than this one. If you grow up
in the Frankenjura as a kid, everybody tells you
about Action Directe. I mean, I knew about Action Directe, you know, the moment when
I started climbing. I said, I waited a long time, and I was standing underneath it
many, many times. Then I climbed it
and it was all within two hours. Even if it was not
my most meaningful performance, for me it was the best
and the most moving feeling to ever top out a route. The history about Wolfgang Güllich
and Action Directe is fundamental for our climbing world and that’s why Action Directe
always was this mythical route, and will always remain what it is. Some of the draws are 30 years old, so… could be that they’re hanging
here since then. Oh, that’s from the top
of Ghettoblaster. Look at that. Cliffhanger. And Action Directe. How old was he when he climbed
Action Directe? Well, he died 31st of August, ’92, and he climbed it on the 24th
of September, ’91. Just before his 31st birthday. My time in the Frankenjura ended
with Wolfgang’s death. I had contacted Wolfgang, said,
“Hey, we’re gonna arrive at this time. We’ll meet you up at the house
and go climb.” So we drove up to his house,
the house was locked, and I go, “That’s kind of weird,” but I knew where
the key was, so we let ourselves in, and the phone was ringing
and the phone was ringing and the phone was ringing, and finally
I picked it up and it was Norbert, and I was like, “Hey, how’s it going?” He goes, “Russ, did you hear?”
I said, “No, what?” He goes, “Wolfgang had
a car accident this morning.” I said, “What do you mean?” He goes, “Well, he was driving back
from Munich and he had an accident.” And I said, “How bad?”
He goes, “Very bad. He was, uh … he was badly hurt.” Wolfgang … well, he became
the legend he is. We’re here for two weeks, trying this route that Chris Sharma
bolted nine years ago, called Perfecto Mundo, located in, I think, one of the coolest
sectors in Margalef. It’s called Racó de la Finestra. One of the main walls, that’s this wall
that Perfecto Mundo is on, is a 45-degree-steep wall, which is about 20 meters long, and the easiest route on that wall
is 14c, so 8c+. It’s kind of all flat, steep rock
on small holes, and … since I climbed Lucid Dreaming
three years ago, I’ve never really tried
anything really hard. The crux move, the move
from the mono to the pinch. As an individual move,
coming from the Frankenjura and being used to monos, I could pretty much do that move
straight away. It kind of does not feel as hard
when you just do it as an individual move. But then just climbing in
a few moves before made you realize that move actually is hard
and that will be very most likely the crux of the route,
getting past that move. Grande catastrophe. Knew that Stefano wanted to come down
as well to Margalef to try the routes, since he’s been trying it
a couple of weeks ago. So I was curious to see how
he was doing on the route. I think like he’d have to go
and train on that side … And then Chris heard, as well,
that we’re both trying Perfecto Mundo, so he decided to drive out from Barcelona
a couple of days. The route starts with a few jugs
up to the second or third bolt, and from there the hard part
of the climbing starts. Fuck! So after you do the move,
after the pinch move, you still have to climb
approximately 14b to the top. The actual pullover above the lip
is really hard too. There is a super-shallow
right-hand sloper. The edge of the roof
is right where your chest is, so you feel like you’re almost hitting. So it’s definitely not over.
You’ve got a few more hard moves. Nice. Come on. Fuck. Then you start reworking each move. You’re making sure
that you’ve got the perfect beta, micro-beta for each move,
where all the fingers have to go, what you have to do to make it
just a tiny bit easier. OK, climbing, Stefano. I was jumping to the pinch,
and as soon as I would catch the pinch and kick my foot back on,
I was readjusting the pinch. And what I was always doing is
I was splitting my fingers like that. I would have two fingers on top
and two fingers at bottom, on that pinch, but to actually pull and do the next move, you kind of only wanted one finger on top
and three fingers on the bottom. You kick your left foot back onto
the left-hand crimp that you had before. You readjust the pinch. And from there you pull through
to the next shallow pinch. But I figured out
a more detailed beta for the top. -Yeah?
-Which is good. Which is very good. Which means I’m not gonna fall anymore. I think. That’s good. Well … unless this happens. No bad conditions. There’s no bad conditions. There’s only weakness. And we take the cheese. -The cheese.
-OK. And we still take the meat? -Yeah.
-Yes. -I have more than this one, OK?
-OK. Later. Yeah. -Just for us, OK?
-Thank you so much. OK. -For good climbing tomorrow.
-Yes, thank you. Butt out. No core tension. And then … Got it! He’s got it! Fuck. Come on. Fuck. Fuck. -Come on!
-Come on, man. Do you see how I’ve got
my fingers fucked up on the hole? And I can’t fuckin’ move.
I can’t move. Take! I had it well with four fingers,
but I was not able to readjust the pinch, and I felt like I could
stay there forever, but I was not able to move anymore. Feel free to use it. I’ve never really tried anything
that took me longer than ten days. Maybe it’s better like this, just wait. This now is my longest project and I think that’s just because
in the past, I was never ready to actually project. The pressure of trying one route,
I would always stress out too much. I think that was the reason why I was
never actually trying something hard. I slowly realized that it will take time
if I want to climb my limit. Perfecto Mundo now is the first
real project, I would say, I have. -Come on, Alex.
-Come on! Fuck! I think everybody gets impatient when they’re trying hard routes
for themselves, or projects. I mean, I was actually planning
to stay in Spain for two weeks. After those two weeks,
I stayed two more weeks. From the moment when I knew
that every next try could be the try, I was thinking 24/7 about the route. It felt like I was on the edge. I felt like I was not fun
to hang out with anymore, just because I am just
so much on the edge that I almost can’t cope
with people anymore. I kind of wanna be for myself, and I think that’s a hard time
to be around. Dealing with failure
or not succeeding all the time for a long period of time
kind of gets you. The biggest challenge probably … to not lose your mind on the way. I recently learned to accept failure
more than I did in the past, ’cause I realized that climbing hard is probably, more than 99%
of the time, failing … just to succeed one time. How many sequences of me taping
did you film already? Over the years? Millions. -Of taping I did?
-Yeah. -Come on!
-Come on! Come on, Alex! Yes. Yes! Yes! I would say that is
my greatest first ascent. For sure the hardest that I’ve climbed, and for sure the greatest
first ascent I’ve done. Nice. I mean, I knew, obviously,
at the beginning that I was capable of climbing it, but knowing that you’re capable
of climbing it and actually climbing it
are two totally different things. The art of climbing lies
in the rotpunkt. Alex embodies the philosophy
that Wolfgang began. He’s like an artist being creative. Doing your thing,
not what the others are doing. Being a creator,
it’s the most beautiful thing you can do in life, I think. I wanna know what he’s working towards. Is he gonna be the first one
to climb 16a? I don’t think that Perfecto Mundo
is at my limit. I’m trying to find the right way for me
to get to the limit of human potential. The idea of a human
overcoming an obstacle, something that is seemingly impossible,
is inspiring. It inspires us to be better
at whatever it is we do. We’d like to see something impossible
and make it possible. Climbing’s no different
than anything else. I’ve already spent more than 40 days
on the project, and I don’t even know
how close I am to sending. I’ll never be satisfied.
Which is all right.