Thursday, May 9, 2019


its on when its on!!! another BIG dream came true!!! just one week after finishing up "story of two worlds (low-start)" - after three years of effort and more then 150 sessions i finally was able to do the FIRST ASCENT off the SIT-DOWN-START to one of the best boulders i know;  nalle hukkatavial`s "NINJA-SKILLS" in sobrio, switzerlandthis is the story to my three year journey with this beautiful line!!!

after three years off effort and more then 150 sessions - on my way to the FIRST ASCENT of  the "SIT-DOWN-START" to "NINJA-SKILLS"- sticking the second crux - 
video-still from the ascent!

@moonclimbing produced a wonderful short movie (including the uncut off the ascent) put together by the guys from @puzzleglass (premiere at MAY 9TH: 8PM (SWIZZY-TIME) about my journey with "NINJA-SKILLS-SDS". can't wait to share it. the guys at @puzzleglass really did a great job with with capturing the essence of projecting a dream-line (at a personal limit). hope you enjoy it too!

here you go with the full STORY to yet another epic journey:

„NINJA-SKILLS“ truly is special. the place is utterly beautiful. it is a south facing plateau with some typical ticino-chestnut-trees and some scattered out boulders. and there you can find this diamond-shaped and huge freestanding boulder. the line of ninja-skills is proud; over eight meters high and as much overhanging... (good thing the bottom follows upwards) there is just this one seam with holds in the middle. the climbing is amazing; very powerful yet subtle and tricky at the same time. perfection!!!

ninjaskills (sds) - such a perfect line - picture by hannes kutza

ninjaskills (sds) - what a beautiful place - picture by hannes kutza

watching footage of nalle hukkataival doing the first ascent back in time was already super inspiring. but it was not after spring 2013 (during an eight month rehab after ripping may hamstrings off my hip-bone while going for the crux of "highlander" in 2012) when i was hiking to sobrio in ticino to check on ninja-skills with my own eyes. and i got instantly hooked. the pictures and videos already looked good, but in reality it looks even better. it simply blew my mind and i knew i had to come back and climb on it. it took its time but i finally got back with some pads in fall 2016.

2013 - getting inspired!!! first time at "ninja-skills", sobrio, switzerland

at first i was unable to climb the upper crux with the original infamous "ninja-move-beta" from nalle. that is a pity because the move is just amazing!!! but i just could not feel it. lucky me there was another beta with a heel left and some structure on the rail up left, which you can compress to get the move done. not easy as well. but way more doable for me!

the second problem was the start-sequence of the original-start. there are many different beta's and i could do single moves but just not link them together. but that is completely normal for me. no need to worry too much. i know that i need some time to adapt and after some sessions i had finally found a sequence for the original start. but i still had a hard time to link it and when i finally was strong enough and had my beta sorted out it was a constant fight with (or against) conditions. snow, rain and later an unusual warm spring forced me to change my beta again and again.

climbing ninjaskills (original) back in january 2018 - videostill from the ascent

got totally obsessed with the line and after more then two years and well over 100 days of effort (or in other words: “training” at the boulder!) i finally ended up climbing ninja-skills from its original-start. interesting side note was the fact that in the end i had climbed it with a beta which i had tried already at the very beginning but with which i had not been able to do or link any move(s) back in the day. it was great to see the progress! it had been so good to see (again) how it was possible to turn the impossible into possible  - if you really put in the work needed :)

climbing the original line was the big goal and nalles original start for sure is a very logical start to that proud boulder. it starts standing with the lowest obvious holds - you walk in and climb. nevertheless from the very first moment i had been puzzled if it not may would be possible to start it sitting?! it just looked like a great puzzle to be solved. the idea though seemed like total hybris at the time as i first could not even link two moves from the original-start. but it is always a good thing to be curious, to have this little yet big dreams in the back of your mind - and the "hybris" to just try - as there is nothing to "loose" anyway - so no matter what - you can only win ;)

trying to solve that sit-down-start-puzzle to ninja-skills

after completing ninja-skills original in january 2018 i wanted to get may pads back for the next project. when i was down there again to grab the pads i just started to play a bit around to see if this sitdown-start even could be possible. at first i could not do a single move but there were holds and it felt like it "had to be somehow possible". so i kept trying. started to imagine a sequence. i started to be able to move in between holds but was not sticking any of the moves. one week later the same procedure. i was getting down to collect two more pads and i started to puzzle again and suddenly i could stick moves - but could not yet connect them. another week went by and i was about to collect two more pads when i started to link some off the sds-moves! that was the moment i knew that it was definitely possible to climb “ninjaskills” from the sds. the beta was tricky and very powerful and climbing into the original-start i did not get the holds exactly how i needed them – but i was totally exited to have solved the puzzle and to climb some more on this  king-line !!! the next time i did carry all the pads down again and went on to "work" - again ;)

                                     fighting with the (lower) crux of "ninja-skills-sds"

as i had dialed the (start-sequence off the) original line pretty well by then i thought it would be a matter of a few sessions to seal the deal. i could not have had been more wrong. little did i know it would end in total obsession again - coming closer and closer - falling at the last move to the lip twice but just not making it. little did i know that it would take over one more year - over 60 more sessions - climbing in february in 50cm snow and -6C - in the rain - at 4am - at 2pm - in july at 25C - and all the time really close to send  – EPIC!!!

all possible and impossible conditions - but what matters is what YOU make out of it!!!

linking through the lower crux from the sitdown-start turned out way harder for me then i thought but the longer i worked the line the stronger i got. but then the temperatures went up and up as well. as i got stronger and got closer and closer to send - conditions again got worse. it was again an unusual warm and wet spring. it did throw everything at me. ventilators, all-night-sessions, ice to cool my fingers/body and tarps had been my answer and i kept getting closer and closer and every time i did drive down there i was sure i would send!

higher and higher... back in july last year.... twice with my fingertips on the rescue hold....

it was a waiting game for a little window of some semi-decent conditions. there had been days/nights i had not been able to link through the lower crux but i still had been able to climb “ninja-original” after an 8hr session. it was great to see the immense progress. what had been limit some months before (in good conditions) suddenly had not been limit anymore. i started to climb through the night. 2AM till 9AM. 15hr sessions. 1AM till 4PM. i was always super close. i always thought "today is the day" - that’s why i kept going. just one more day. but the day never came. that play went on for months till july when i fell again on the very last hard move out off the roof to the lip (bare in mind the location is exposed to the south and prime season is wintertime). then at the start off july the weather-forecast turned really bad (hot and humid even at night) and that was the point i knew it just did not make any sense any more. so i did take my usual summer-breake from climbing and went surfing for a month with my girl in bali. best decision ever. we had such a great time. it was all time!!! and my body and mind got a well deserved rest from constantly pushing over its limits!

THE GOOD STUFF - not just carrots... although i really like carrot-cake :)
never ever get out of power - always refuel ;)

back home again after one month of surfing and i had gained 7kg!!! (from 68 to 75) of weight. not all fat though - surfing twice a day gives you some nice shoulders... ;) never mind. training-weight. magic wood called and training started. it took some time to get back in shape but in fall there had have been signs of good power. i came super close (again) on "NEW BASE LINE" and "ILL TRILL" but then winter hit early (also in ticino) and i had to back down. in previous years i may would have had kept going to magic wood even in the worst possible conditions. but not this year. i had changed that (somehow stupid) strategy and decided to go bit more with the "flow". this paid payed off big!!! in frankenjura the weather had been great and so i managed to climb my old nemesis and one off the best compressions-boulders i know; "RIOT ACT, 8B+" (after some epic 1'000km-one-day-trips). back in ticino it was already way too cold for "NINJA-SKILLS" so i decided to switch to cresciano to give the "STORY OF TWO WORLDS" its usual trial and error. this time was different though. i had figured out some new mikrobeta for the middle-part the year before and i met my super motivate friend giani and we had some legendary (very late-night-) sessions with slow but steady progress. going for "story" was a good decision as it was great fun and very good training. to make it perfect i could send “STORY (LOW-START), 8C” after two moths of intense (many late-night-sessions) efforts!

climbing (and sending) on "Story of two Worlds, (low Start), 8C" was a great training for "Ninja-Skills-Sit-Down" - picture by hannes kutza

after that successful "detour" in frankenjura and cresciano i was straight back at "NINJA-SKILLS". conditions were prime by then and i was in great shape! at my first session i was falling close on the lower crux. but most important i felt strong. on my second session i made it already up there twice to the ninja-move. but my heel slipped and i fell twice. climbing up to that move in two consecutive tries was something that never had happened before. things were different!!! in a good way!!!

next time i was up there i did not feel at 100% after having cached a cold at the beginning off the week. but i also knew that i was in my best shape ever. so i rested for three days to get my body as much rest as possible. and with my wife and giani joining in i had great company and support. 

i had a long warm-up and started to feel strong again on my dead hangs but still could feel the cold making my body a bit tired and nausea. nevertheless i did sit down and did give it a burn. climbing into the lower crux i did not have all the holds in the perfect spot (even worse then other tries) - but just kept climbing - no matter what. somehow i stayed on. coming to the ninja-crux i did not set up perfectly due to already feeling numbed out. i still went for it and miraculously sticked it (still do not know exactly why). after sticking that ninja-crux i had totally numbed out. i could not feel any holds any more, and as a consequence my forearms started to cramp and all i wanted was to let go!

but i clearly could hear my wife katherine and giani screaming at me, cheering me up and rearranging pads for the top-part - so i kept going - somehow (in pure disbelieve; why i am still here?!) sticking move after move to the very top - the two literally lifted me up to the top!!! i owe you two big - thanks so much!!!

sticking the second crux move on the FIRST ASCENT of "NINJA-SKILLS-SITDOWN-START" - for the full send-video check at (premiere at 8pm swizzy-time)

as much as bouldering is a "solo-sport" it very often is a real "team-sport" as well. never underestimate the support and energy you can get from people believing in you!!! i am super thankful to my love katherine and my friend giani for their support that evening; and especially to my wife katherine who had joined in so many times and also in the worst conditions ever, would not have had been possible without you!!!!!!!!! 

so happy that my wife (@cat__ballou) was down there for the send. we had spent so many epic days (and nights ;) down there together and it was so great to have her support during all off that journey. check out the highballs she cleaned and climbed on the back-side of ninja; good stuff!

it looks like i just climbed my two hardest dream-lines in one week. could be a coincidence as i was super close on several boulders at the same time in the past as well. but somehow i never had been able to make it count. now i did. something really had changed to the good. best thing is that i know exactly what had changed. but that will fill another post/blog. stay tuned! i am off to the next journey :)

on a sidenote:

it is for sure (and by far) my hardest boulder yet. i had many days i couldn't link the lower crux once coming from the sitdown-start but was still able to climb the original boulder (8B+) after a full 10hrs session. so my perceived difference in difficulty for the full line was huge! also compared to other hard(er) boulders i had climbed in the past. but that’s always like this when you start to come closer to your (current) physical abilities. if your abilities are way beyond you will not even feel a difference at all. i for myself can't really tell the difference of a 5A and 5A+ anymore ;) (- but somebody with his actual limit somewhere there will be able to tell you exactly the difference!)

so i can only speak for me, and others can only speak for them. for me it felt like an 8A Boulder itself linking into the (for me) 8B-startcrux-sequence of the original start. the main problem for me was that i did not got the holds of the original start sequence perfectly (unlike you can grab them when stepping in from the ground). and this turned out to be a nightmare for the crux-sequence for me. it was also really at the limit of my span and at my physical limit as well. so not having the holds in the perfect spot did make the whole thing infinitely harder for me. the mind-tricking-thing was that there is (way) easier beta (really good hold) when you have just some 5cm more reach. but as i did not had (have) that 5cm more reach i had to battle it out with what i got. 

for me the full start-sequence from the sds felt like an 8B+/8C itself, followed by a long and physical 8A+ to the top. and that second part did make another BIG difference in difficulty for me (for sure not so much if you are strong in endurance). i had fallen quite some times in the uppers part (very last move twice) as well. so grading this one (as usual) is really tricky. i think it makes most sense to say the grade will be somewhere around 8C and 8C+, therefore the slash grade to express an interval, not an exact point! 

but whatever somebody else will feel about this climb and its difficulty (grade) - it will never change my own experience with this piece of rock. it will forever be (one off) the best boulder i have ever climbed and up to date (by far) my hardest. and after that much time spent at this beautiful piece of rock the "grade" really starts to loose all of its importance. what really counts is the personal experiences, the people i met and the things i learned – that is what will stay with me!

as good as it gets! beautiful sunset-view from the top of "ninja-skills"

Friday, March 1, 2019


another dream came true - it doesn’t get much more classic - i was finally able to complete @dave_graham_ 's masterpiece „STORY OF TWO WORLDS, 8C“ in cresciano. 

„STORY OF TWO WORLDS (low), 8C“ - WHAT A LINE!!! picture by @hanneskutza

after falling in true „martin-style“ at the very last move a week before i finally was able to put the whole line together (i started the line from @dai_koyamada 's low-start; adding even more funkiness to the line (and thanks to some new crucial beta not really harder then the original start at all anymore).

another epic journey comes to an end. i did stand underneath that crazy gneiss-feature already back in 2005 getting introduced to its even crazier climbing by the master dave graham himself. despite having done my first 8A boulder shortly before i have not been able to climb any of the cruxes! i did come back for the stand start "the dagger" (fa. by @tonilamprecht71) every year to play a bit around just to get shut down again and again. 

dave graham showing how it’s done back in 2005.

there is a funny anecdote from back off that day: some off the “strong young ones” (including among others; tyler landman and  magnus midtbo) tried the new rig from dave but nobody could do the crux-moves. so when dave showed up they asked him for some beta advice. dave all syked as always (without any warm-up) did put on his climbing shoes and climbed most of the “story” up to the last move; jaws dropped, leaving all the others startled and in pure disbelieve. the guys tried again. but despite the beta-demonstration there was not much progress. lets say not all of the youngsters took it so easy. there was some cursing, sneakers, chalckbags and climbing shoes flying around. it somehow felt good to see that even the “heroes” were human ;)

dave graham with his head-first-beta for the second part of "story" - myself with the spot - back in 2005.

i was back every year but simply was unable to climb dave’s beta. it was not until 2009 till i finally solved to puzzle for me and found my own crazy beta involving a full 180-turn in the middle and i could complete "the dagger" for its 5th ascent.

the pictures above and below are from back in 2009 - going for my crazy 180-turn-beta on “the dagger” – and climbing out head-first-compression-style. for sure 8B+ with the beta’s back then! last year i finally found some better (still hard) beta to avoid my insecure 180-turn in the middle part. there is some easier beta for the end-part as well but i still climbed the end head-first-compression-style - this sequence was just too good to not be climbed in this way ;)

but the brutal start-sequence of „story of two worlds“ rejected me ever since; i just could not commit to this heinous crimp left hand at the start. my fingers would immediately scream in pain!!! so i got curious when sebastian cotting (who climbed storylast year in impressive style) told me that he had found a new beta involving a kneebar which kind of made it possible to basically skip the heinous crimp. but there was another problem with a very insecure move in the middle part. strange thing was that it worked sometimes super good, but many times i just slipped. quite annoying when coming from the “story” start. and it just could not really figure out what i was doing wrong.

detailed video analysis was the key here to understand why the heel/toe at the left sometimes slipped and sometimes stayed - thanks to this i did fully understand the body position and i never slipped again!

so a little beta-advise here: when you don’t understand why a move sometimes works and sometimes not its a good idea to film yourself. here i am climbing in the middle-part of “story” where i repeatedly lost my right heel/toe-jam when reaching to the right with my right hand. sometimes it worked quite well; many times i just lost my feet. video-analysis showed that when i slipped (upper pic) my body was pretty far away from the rock creating a bad angle (red arrow) for my toe hook right and it logically slipped. when the move worked (lower pic) my body was way higher and therefore the pressure on my toe (red arrow) was in a perfect 90degree angle to the rock – making it stick.

after getting shut down by the cold at my ninjaskills-sds-project i finally was back at the „story“ mid december last year. i figured out some better beta for the middle part and the start with the new beta worked pretty smooth. BUT the move into the roof and taking the feet out puzzled me. i just could not do them; my mind did not understand and my body rejected any attempt. so i am super thankful that i could watch my friend gianni clement (who is a damn strong underground crusher and close on sending "story" too!!! owe you big my friend!!!) doing the sequence again and again - and by watching him again and again my brain slowly started to accept and understand that it def. had to be possible. instead of just blocking it i started “to let go” – it felt super strange at first but somehow it miraculously worked. the pieces started to come together and after two weeks i could finally link the two moves. from impossible to possible... its literally all in your mind!!!

it took many more late-night-sessions to fine tune the beta and gain the necessary fitness for the whole line. fighting snow and unusual dry (too dry) conditions - the middle part turned out to be trickier then i thought. so i was very happy when i managed to figure out some flowing powerful yet subtle beta through this part as well - despite some setbacks we always found some new micro-beta-improvements and thus stayed positive and motivated . 

it was just great fun to go for it again and again; despite the obligatory last-move-and-fail-attempt (i just had numbed out and was too scared to go for the last big move to the jug without a pad in the back. this was a very good decision because i even hurt my back when just stepping down! when you get older you may get a bit wiser ;) 

one week after falling at the very last to the jug it all clicked and finally sending during a session with some good friends and my love - when everybody cheered me to the top - was the perfect ending to this 14 year journey!!! 14years is a long time for sure. but i obviously did not spend it "just" trying "story". but it means i was back again and again to try it. and in the end i may have spent more time on this piece of rock then many others that have sent "the story". but that's also because i "train" mostly on my projects. others train mostly in the gym. they get strong in the gym and then send relatively quick on rock. but everybody has to put in the time and work somewhere. it doesn't matter if it is in the gym or on real rock. there is no such thing as a free lunch!!!

victory-scream while holding the heinous swing at the end – picture taken while the actual send-burn!!! with the “head-first-compression beta” the crux sits right at the end – the move to the right (pic above) is at the limit of my span and to hold the following swing took everything i had left in the tank - there is easier beta, but i liked this compression-part so much more i just had to go for it anyway ;) picture by @cat__ballou

so its about time to switch again - onto the next journey - cause its all about the process, the experiences you make; the people you meet; after so much time you start to understand that the final destination doesn’t really matter that much anymore dare to dream big - put in the time and work - focus and enjoy the process - eventually you will send - its all in your mind!!!  

--> movie of the send will be out when i get some more time - will go rather climbing if that happens though ;) - uncut movie will be out soon on @mellowclimbing

on a side note: i was neither able to climb dave's or dai's original beta. what they had climbed was/is even by today's standards super hard!!! and they both had been ahead of their time!!! lucky me there was more suitable beta for me. for me and my beta it still felt like an 8C boulder. may not the hardest (and there is for sure even better beta to climb it), but it would not make much sense to me to call it 8B+. it took its time, i was in good shape; found some beta in „my style“ but still had to dig deep and fight really hard. but most importantly; it was a great journey; this process again that you can turn the impossible into the possible - if you dare to dream big, take your time and keep going no matter what, but still try to act smart - and most of all: it was simply damn fun to climb on this iconic line!!!