As part of the Vancouver International Mountain Film Festival, Nina Caprez will be sharing her stories and passion for rock climbing.
Born in Switzerland, Nina Caprez quickly became a young rock star after years of growing up in the mountains. Competing internationally as a youth, she ended up leaving the competition scene to focus on outdoor climbing in France. Traveling around the world, Nina made a name for herself in big wall climbing, with ascents of Ultime Démence, 5 pitches (8a+) and La Ramirole, 5 pitches (8b) in Verdon, and Orbayu (8c+/9a) in Naranjo de Bulnes, Spain. Over the past year, Nina had a life changing experience after contracting a parasite in Turkey that left her hospitalized and fighting for her life. Now recovered, Nina has re-discovered her love for climbing and has had an awakening about her life and how grateful she is to use her body. We had a chance to check in with Nina before the show tomorrow (Thursday) and here is what she had to say.
Hi Nina, first, off thanks so much for chatting with us. This will be your third time in Vancouver! What keeps you bring you back to this rainy city?
It will be my fifth time in Vancouver! I love the scene there, love to spend some time with one of my best friends, Cynthia Chow, and of course I’m looking forward to eat sushi! Vancouver always offers great opportunities in climbing, training, skiing, working with Arcteryx and I have to say that the VIMFF is a sympiotic event and I feel honoured to be part of it.
This year has been a pretty wild one for you starting with you finding an amazing route in Turkey followed by being so sick you ended up in hospital. Can you tell us a bit about this experience?
Well, when you’re right into it, it’s hard to see the sense of it. It was wild and I went to some unknown places due to this illness. After all, it was one of the richest life experience I have had and I feel very honored now that life took me there. My body has fully recovered from it and I feel more compassion now for lots of things and I have such an open mind since then. Every day I feel lucky to be alive and I’m doing better then ever before! The parasite I got in Turkey opened the door to a spiritual level I never got and the relationship I have, with my body, changed a lot. It makes you a smarter person, which is very positive
Reading a little on your blog, it sounded like you had lost the psych for climbing a little bit prior to getting sick?
Exactly! So this year, I found my way back to the sources, I created a strong desire to detach myself from pure performance and it encouraged me to go my way.
How has the recovery been from this experience and what is the biggest thing that you have learned about yourself?
I started to move really slow and I felt a big attraction to climbing in the mountains, the place I started climbing. Mountains are very powerful and I spent so many nights outdoors high up there watching the stars and the mountains surrounding me. That was essential to me. I built some strength again and I slowly made my way back into climbing. I needed this time off. Since, climbing is really like a game and I can clearly see what problems are in life and what not.
How did you cope with the drive that was needed to get back into climbing shape again and a place in your climbing where you felt like yourself again?
I climbed in the flow. I had no fix plans, no high expectations. I learned to react while being in the moment and I had an open mind to see where al this would take me. The body came back after a fantastic trip with my friends to Smith Rocks. There I felt that I wanted to be a rock climber again. I felt that my body and mind were ready again and so I went that way, it felt naturally.
I wanted to give people a little perspective on how you got into climbing and how you became a professional climber. How did the journey into climbing begin?
I spent lots of time scrambling in the swiss mountains when I was a kid. By the age of 13, I entered in the Swiss Alpine Club where we went ski-touring in winter, climbing outside in spring and autumn and climbing 4’000 meter peaks in summer. Growing up in this group was a good way to start. It was based on friendship, partnership, adventures and I was able to see what mountains have to offer. By the age of 17, I started to do more of the climbing. I went to gyms, did more rock climbing and quickly I started to do some international competition by the age of 19.After three years of competition, I fully dedicated my time to rock climbing again. I was made for this and then I moved to France where I was able to fully express myself outdoors.
You competed as a youth but ended up leaving this behind after graduating high school. Was that a conscious choice or were the mountains and the outdoors just a bigger driving force in your life?
It was hard to leave competition because I left security and a regular career. For Swiss people, it was hard to see that I could invent my life and also that there would be a way beside numbers and shining podiums. Choosing a way in the unknown was scaring, but I had to. My drive has always been to feel free, to make what felt right to me. I didn’t need a prof for where all of that would take me. I just made confidence in life and look where that took me!:-)
Over the past few years, you have really decided to focus on very difficult multi-pitch sport climbing. Can you tell us what this goal means to you?
Well, I have to say that I feel most happy when I can hang on a big wall during all day. It’s an incredible feeling of freeness and lightness. It wasn’t planned, but I was able to see how powerful I became in that environment and it made sense to me. I felt attracted to those walls, lines and I loved the challenge, the exposure, the dealing with fear and joy and I loved the responsibility.
I remember watching some over your older climbing videos and you always seem to be laughing and joking around. Do you ever feel the pressures of being a professional athlete and how do you cope with that as you make your recovery from being ill?
Oh dear, laughing is the sense of life! I’ve always been smiling, joking and made stupid actions. To me, climbing is a game and I feel so grateful that I have the chance to do that. I don’t call myself professional athlete, I see myself like an artist. I climb whatever I want climb with the skills I have. While I was sick and right after, I still had the desire of moving up. I don’t feel pressure at all because I keep my contracts really simple and low, so I can do whatever I want do. I earn mostly my life with talks and presentations, but I try to work as less as possible to feel free to climb and to discover life in the way I want.
I fully live the experience and then I need to take a step back to have an exterior eye on what I lived and what climbing teaches me. My job is not to climb the hardest routes of the world, my job is to live life fully and to share that with other people. I’m surfing on a different wave than what the system teaches us. I don’t feel attached to material things, I don’t save money for my retirement, I don’t measure myself on barriers which the system has put up. I invent life by myself. I’m creative and I fully assume my decisions. All that with a good portion of humour and joy of life!
Well we are truly looking forward to your presentation on Thursday! Thanks so much for taking the time to chat with us and we hope you have an amazing time in Vancouver while you are here!
Nina Caprez, along with Jonathan Siegrist, will be speaking on Thursday, February 16th, 2017 at The Rio Theatre in Vancouver starting at 730pm. For tickets, please visit the VIMFF website!