On Thursday, February 16th, Jonathan Siegrist will be speaking the Rock climbing Night at the Vancouver International Mountain Film Festival.
Over the past few years, Jonathan Siegrist has established himself as one of the worlds best sport climbers, with ascents of Papichulo (5.15a), Power Inverter (5.15a) and Biographie (5.15a), along with many of his own first ascents including La Reve (5.14d), Algorithm (5.14d), and Shadowboxing (5.14d), just to name a few.
Through his dedication, Siegrist has become a great ambassador for the sport of climbing, paying homage to those who came before him while pushing the limits of our sport putting up a number of his own first ascents. He has proved that to be a professional climber, not only do need to work hard but you can also do it with a lot of class. We are very excited that Jonathan will be a guest speaker at this years Vancouver International Mountain Film Festival and we thought it only right to check in with him and see how things are going. Here is what he had to say.
First off, thanks for taking the time to chat with us. How are things going?
It’s my pleasure man, thanks for the interview! Things are going well at the moment! I just arrived back in Las Vegas, my winter home and it feels awesome to be here, see my friends and get a tan!
Back to Vancouver, this time for the Vancouver International Film Festival. Can you tell us what you will be presenting and what keeps bringing you back year and after year to this rainy town?
Ha yes! I can’t wait honestly. I love the Vancouver and Squamish zones. I am presenting at VIMFF on my climbing life and, in essence, what motivated me to try the Direct Dunn Westby this last summer. I will talk about my relationship with my Dad and some of the milestones along the way that have been important for my life as a climber.
We had an opportunity to interview you a few years back when you first attended the Arcteryx Climbing Academy in Squamish. Has much changed for you between now and then?
Well I’ve really focused my energy on climbing hard sport routes and branching into bouldering a little as well. I have been experimenting with different training regiments and ideas for how I can improve my climbing – all the while trying to enjoy this incredible opportunity I have for travel and exploration. The last three years or so I have been spending a bunch of time in Europe – mostly Spain and Southern France, but also Italy, Switzerland and elsewhere. I’ve learned a lot about climbing, about failure and about myself! It has been the best years of my life honestly.
It seems as though you have been travelling all over the place this past year!
Yes, and traveling is my first passion when it really comes down to it. Climbing is my vehicle for travel and it gives me purpose on a trip and reason to move around. Most recently, I have been nestled into Catalunya Spain for many months of the year. Between the climate, the people, the experience and the pure volume of hard (and very good) sport routes, I am totally in love with the place. Feels like a second (or third) home at this point.
Trying my ass off on this thing. A totally unique route– explosive bouldering for the first half and then incredibly resistant to the bitter end. I thought it was completely impossible the first several days I tried but slowly I'm unpacking the information and optimism is building. I really want this one. 🙌🏽 venga!! @tarakerzhner screen grab from @epictv project… @arcteryx @metoliusclimbing @lasportivana @maximropes @climbonproducts #catalunya #mamachichi
You are just coming off a six week trip to Spain. How as the experience and what did you take away from it all?
The experience was super hard for me. I learned a lot, as we tend to do when faced with failure. The lessons that I am holding onto now are pretty simple – some ways that I feel I was vastly unprepared, the merits of persistence/dedication and the importance of a support group when I am trying my hardest. It felt like a really hard pill to swallow but now that I am back and looking ahead I know that in the scheme of things it was useful and eye opening.
For those who don’t know, you travelled to Spain this year with the specific goal of trying the route Pachamama (5.15a). Why Pachamama in the first place and when did this route become a goal for you?
I had originally envisioned trying the route on my first trip to Oliana during the end of 2015, but I got motivated by other things after I finished ‘Papichulo’ (which shares a bouldery and somewhat annoying start with Pacha). Really what I was looking for in a project was something that felt a step harder, but still within reach for me. This is the perfect project for that. It’s a beautiful route.
In your latest post, you talked of building power on the route itself this time around. Is this usually a part of your process or when you get to an area do you strategically build your power on other routes?
No. I came unprepared. Despite some training beforehand, in a few pretty key ways I was not ready. This was a huge part of my struggle on the route because it took the first 4 weeks more or less of the trip for me to even feel or believe that I was physically ready. I will not make that mistake again.
Process on a route can really dictate how much effort it takes to send. Did you ever worry about trying the route too many times throughout the process?
Yes for sure. My gut feeling was to stop (trying), focus my energy on something else and save Pachamama for the next trip, but I kept making little bits of progress on the route so it kept me in the red-point mode for much longer than expected. I am so driven by goals and very stubborn so I just couldn’t let go, especially near the end when I felt so unbearably close day after day.
Officially turned a corner this week- I've never tried a rock climb so much in my life. Giving everything emotionally, physically, mentally. It's been a long time since I even tasted success and it's so so close I feel I could almost snatch it from thin air. Desperate. For the first time I lowered off the route yesterday with utter confidence that I will do this route, only to find I'd severely split my tip. One mental test after the other it seems. My time is running short here. In the end it's only climbing but when you've invested so much it feels like something much much greater. Patience I guess. Patience. ⚔️ @arcteryx @lasportivana @metoliusclimbing @maximropes @climbonproducts video still from an upcoming @epictvclimbing project with @tarakerzhner
Trying a route that many times, does it ever become ‘not fun’ for you and how do you push through that process of everything being at your limit but still enjoying progress?
Processes like this are not very often ‘fun’. But obviously, if everything was just fun all the time it would never be rewarding. Trying something at, or near your limit, is mentally exhausting but for me the sense of accomplishment is totally worth it – and a source for inspiration and happiness for months or years afterwards. During moments like this I just recount the other powerful processes I have been through, and I remember the days and days of preparation beforehand – almost a sense of owing it to myself to carry through until the bitter end. On Pachamama, I learned my breaking point though, for me this was too much sacrifice and not enough enjoyment.
How much do you think confidence plays in sending a route at your limit and what do you do during the process to maintain your own confidence?
This is a very fine line because for me confidence has never been too much of an ally. Whenever I feel overly confident the universe comes down and completely kicks my ass. I do much better trying to remain humble and just try like hell. Some people I notice derive so much motivation and performance from pure confidence but this is not really my thing. I try to let my climbing and past performance speak to me and give me clarity about what I can expect and what I shouldn’t. I feel there are too many variables in the world to feel in control!
Will you go back for it?
March 30. Can’t wait.
For this interview, I went back and watched all of your films with Three String Media and all of them are truly inspiring! What does it mean to you to be a professional climber and what are some of the things you value in your approach to that lifestyle?
Wow! well, it’s hard to put into words but this opportunity means everything to me. I feel gratitude everyday, that I have support from this community, from my sponsors and from my family to pursue this wild life and travel the world. I feel as though it is super important for me to always prove to my peers that I am worthy of this truly unique position. The support and respect of my peers is paramount. In every sense of the word, being a pro climber is a dream come true and I try my best to never forget that.
How do you deal with everyone knowing who you are and the day to day of people watching you climb train etc?
In reality, not that many people know who I am. I can still train at a random gym full of people and not get recognized – unlike Honnold or Sasha or Chris. I am more than okay with that! My aim is to follow my passion, try to keep my mission clear (to myself) and share that with people – I love that part of the community. The fact that some people get stoked when they see or read about my climbing and my life is so, so rad to me! When I get messages from climbers or people come and say hi at the crag I am incredibly stoked. This is largely a very selfish pursuit but when I feel like the people around me draw inspiration from what I do that is the best thing and in turn it motivates me immensely.
Does it become more difficult to deal with your own progression and the expectations of both yourself and others?
Like I said before it is really important to me to feel like I earned it – whatever ‘it’ is – respect, a certain send, sponsorship, etc. This drives me to work really hard. I am not some kind of superstar or ultra talent or anything but I am really passionate about my climbing and that’s what I have to share I think. The pressure and expectations I have for myself far outweigh any perceived pressure from those around me.
From an outsider, it seems that you put a lot of value on the history of climbing, enough to go back and repeat routes that have been done in the past by the previous generation. Can you tell us a bit about that process and why it is important to you?
I just love imagining how different the scene was ten or twenty or thirty years ago. I have drawn a ton of inspiration from the pioneers and legends, and I have so much respect for them – and the ways they have influenced such a rapidly evolving culture and pursuit. This sounds dorky but I am so stoked that I have finally been involved in climbing long enough to truly see things changing. I don’t love all of the change but I love witnessing it. I think that my desire to climb classic routes is partly just because – how cool is it that a route that literally changed the history of climbing is still there, mostly the exact same, for us to play on? This is a super unique experience to have.
Any interview these days would be incomplete without talking a little about training. How do you balance a love for just climbing outdoors and then finding time to periodize your training cycles during the year?
Training is definitely a hot topic these days! This is a balance that I am still experimenting with. It’s hard because to climb my absolute best I know that I need to train indoors but I am longing more and more every year for the permanent life on the road like I used to have some years ago. If I’m lucky I will have the opportunity to do more of both before my career winds down.
Do you ever sacrifice days outside to train and try to get stronger?
Countless days. When I am in a training cycle I rarely step foot outside for climbing. It’s a bummer! But the training is so powerful that it’s worth it.
Is there any ‘training’ that you try to do at the crag?
Trying hard is always the best training…
I really wanted to ask about your life on the road. Initially, you spent a lot of time living out of you truck. Has that changed now or are you still living that lifestyle?
Yes! I miss those days. For the last couple years I have been super mobile – no fixed address or anything – but in an effort to climb my best I have been staying put for longer periods of time to facilitate training and then on the flip side larger climbing goals. I also love this life, but as I mentioned I hope in the next years I can have some pure truck living, day-to-day nomadic time again.
Is it hard to go back and forth from living in Spain to back here in North America?
Only because of the Visa situation. But from a lifestyle perspective I love the contrast. Each place has a unique vibe that I totally dig.
How do deal with rest days on the road?
So often I am in these incredible places to climb so I really like to try and do something on rest days – explore, going on walks, seeing new towns or areas. When in the US, I spend rest days with my dog Zeke. I love music and films and friends. Rest days are awesome.
Thanks again for chatting with us Jonathan. Really looking forward to you being here!
Of course, anytime! See you in Vancouver!
Jonathon Siegrist, along with Nina Caprez, will be speaking at the Vancouver International Mountain Film Festival on Thursday, Feb 16th starting at 730 @ The Rio Theatre. At the time of writing, there were still tickets available.