AustralianBouldering.com conversation
with
Sam Edwards

by Tim O'Neill 2001 AustralianBouldering.com

All interviews start with terribly boring questions so these ones should fit right in ... Age?
23

Height?
183cm

Weight?
77kg

Ape factor (index)?
+3 inches

Forearm circumference (everyone knows they're huge but how huge)?
I'll let you know later if I find a measuring tape.

Hardest problems?
Goldfish Trombone V13, Happys and Crown of Aragorn V13, Hueco

Hardest flashed/onsighted?
Freak V10, Joe's Valley and Moonraker V9, Buttermilks

Ok that'll do for the essential ones, now let's get down to it. How's your US trip going?
Really good except it is so expensive to be here and the rock is really sharp everywhere. I've had to have so many rest days just to let my skin grow back and the bruising go down. By the time we left Hueco I was so weak.

What! You climbed a V13 but you were weak. What do you mean?
By the time I left I was weak because I'd had so many rest days and the days I did climb were not really intense, because if you climb untill your muscles are really sore you pay for it later - ie you need about a week off. So you end up always saving yourself.

And who's the we?
I'm travelling with Beth, my girlfriend.

How long have you two been away?
Nearly 4 months.

Where have you been so far?
Bishop, Ibex, Joes Valley, Hueco, Boulder, back to Joe's Valley, Las Vegas, back to Bishop, Salt Lake City, and back to Bishop again. We'll try to squeeze in Castle Rock before we come home.

Who've you met?
We've met tons of Americans (suprise, suprise) but there are very few who are really strong that you haven't heard of. In the past 2 weeks I have met so many famous people.

So when are you going home to flash all of our projects?
In the middle of Febuary but only your projects though Tim!

So what's going on? I thought you were a climber? Have you crossed over to the dark side?
Yeah I was a climber and then the next thing I knew I was a boulderer. This trip was meant to be for climbing too, we've been lugging tons of gear around with us but it has been too cold to climb. Now after bouldering so much I dont think I'll turn back in a hurry, although I'll probably still do some short routes like the ones at Adamsfield - they are about the same length as Goldfish Trombone or Crown of Aragorn anyway!

What motivates/attracts you then about bouldering versus climbing?
You can climb at your limit so much more and hang out on the ground and not wear a harness all day. There's also no jiggering around with ropes and clipping bolts. You dont have to grovel up 20m of choss to get to 3m of cruxy climbing. Also it's a lot more social and you can share the experience with others.

So you'd describe yourself as goal oriented then (rather than the journey)?
I'm definitely very goal oriented and stubborn, I'll get something into my head and stick to it. Once I've spent 2 days on a problem I dont like to give up no matter how long it takes. But then you'll never achieve anything special if you dont enjoy what you're doing.

So you seem to have crossed over to the dark side pretty well, I mean two V13's! Tell us about Goldfish Trombone? Where is it? What's it's history? What style is it? What's the business? How many days? How hard? etc etc
It's at the Happy Boulders at Bishop. It's a 5m roof and headwall, so about 17 moves. The pinch moves near the start are really powerfull and so is cutting loose at the lip. The redpoint crux is on the crimps on the headwall. It took 5 or 6 days for me to get the first ascent. Initially I couldn't even do the crimp moves and I'd actually given up on the problem until motivation backup from Aus arrived. It's a hard problem because you need to be really powerful for a lot of the moves and then you need the endurance for the end. I'd only get through the pinch moves once or twice a day which was quite frustrating when you do really well on your first go and then you get nowhere for the rest of the day. Having said that though I think it suited me really well.

So are you going to change it's name as Goldfish Trombone was only the open projects working title?
I'm not going to now because people know it as Goldfish but I should have 2 months ago. I couldn't think of anything good at the time.

You mean Tasmanian Tiger wasn't a good enough suggestion?
No but rock and ice thought something very similar was pretty catchy!

Fred Nicole just got the second ascent. What did he think?
He liked the problem a lot and fell off the last move 5 times on linkage. He thought it was more consistent/harder than Dave Graham's Spectre (V13/14) which probably makes it the hardest problem in the area.

So how many days did it take Fred?
4 I think but I don't know.

So I heard a rumour that some of the holds have deteriorated, is it any harder now?
Hardly, I was suprised when I saw it again. It is not much different at all. One intermediate is slightly smaller now, but it is still good enough. Fred was trying a different sequence by crossing off the intermediate (this is how it broke) but this no longer works, so that is the biggest difference.

Are you going to redo it?
No I know I can still do it and with what we are paying to be here I want to get something else done. I've been trying the Specter.

Specter huh. So it is V13/14 and Goldfish is V13, but Fred thinks Goldfish is harder, what's going on?
Specter is "only" V13 not V13/14 and Goldfish is also V13. I think Goldfish is harder too. Specter is such a cool problem though. Unfortunately I've just torn a huge hole in my finger so I'm not sure if I'll be able to do it before I go.

So what was the Bishop area like in general? Where did you climb most?
If you look at the overall picture, ie. free camping, diverse climbing, excellent weather etc this place is amazing. However, the rock is really sharp and there are not many hard problems here. I've climbed a lot everywhere.

What about Beth? She was krankin'. What did she get up to?
Beth just climbed Action Figure V7 at the Happys and a V6 at the Buttermilks. She also climbed 2 V5s in a day.

Go girl! Ok, moving on ... Crown of Aragorn in Hueco. Your second V13 for the trip so far. What about that one? What style is it? What's the business? How many days? How hard? etc etc
It is similar to Goldfish in a lot of ways. It's long with a really hard section at the start which you have to climb really efficiently to get through the finish. Once again I'd only get through the start once or twice a day. It is a really cool problem.

So how does it compare to Goldfish? Harder or easier or the boring old answer of "different"?
It's probably a little bit easier than Goldfish.

So maybe Goldfish is undergraded then?
I dont think it is undergraded just because something is harder its not necessarily a grade harder . I dont really know these grades very well anyway. A V11 that doesn't suit you can be much harder than a V13 that does too.

So what about Hueco in general? Is it the phattest?
It would be if you could climb everywhere. It's very spread out.

So what about all the regulations then? Could you climb as much as you wanted to?
We were there at a good time because we got on a lot of volunteer tours with Dean Potter. The whole situation was a lot better then we'd heard but it is still very frustrating. It is very hard to have a project outside of north mountain. You might have had 2 rest days and have organised to go in and still not be able to. When you do get on a tour there's normally at least 10 people so you have to go to an area with a lot of problems, and often leave before you want to. I ended up paying Robert Rice a local guide $15 US a day to take me in.

Yikes! So what else did you and Beth get up to at Hueco?
Some mega classic easier problems, there's too many to name. Full Service V10 was one of my favourites and all the hard famous ones are really good like Slashface V14 etc.

So you had a look at Slashface then? What did you think?
It's an awesome problem , really hard. I wasn't quite ready for it straight after battling for Crown. If it was in Aus I'd be going straight to it .

Now you had some other goals for the trip? Like the Dominator and Black Lung. How did they go?
Dominator was never really an option because we only spent a few hours in Yosemite but I tried Black Lung a few times. I found it hard. You need a lot of lock off strength in your right arm at full lock, which I was lacking. It's not really my style though. Dave Graham just did it really quick and said it wasn't too bad. It suited him really well. I've gained a lot of knowledge on this trip of things I need to train.

I guess it's a good time to ask you about training then. Plastic has been pretty good to you. In 25 words or less tell us your training philosophy/secret?
It all comes down to motivation and having motivated people to train with. You also need to climb a lot outside and educate yourself so you know how and what to train.

So no creatine then :) ?
Creatine is not the answer to climbing hard. I've used it in the past but it is hard to tell if it helps or not. There so many variables involved in climbing.

Changing subjects totally ... what's Salt Lake City like? Lot's of Mormons? Aren't all the bouldering companies there now?
SLC has a really good climbing scene. There seems to be more climbers climbing hard there than anywhere else in the states.

Have you made any special "friends"?
Yeah I've just been sponsored by Cordless, Pusher and S7. They are great people to deal and be associated with. Very positive towards the sport. I guess that comes from having climbers / boulderers owning the business.

So you mean in the US they actually sponsor boulderers?
Sure! There's tons of boulderers over here so I guess there's actually some money in the market.

Damn it is the land of opportunity (if only Bush didn't want to close all the National Parks and search for oil - eh Zac!). Does it surprise you or disappoint you that it isn't that way in Australia?
It doesn't suprise me anymore but it is disappointing. It is not easy to become a good climber when you come from Australia because there's very little going in your favour.

I can't let you get away without talking about grades. What's the deal. How do they compare to Australia? How do they compare in the US amongst areas?
I haven't bouldered much in Aus and I haven't climbed much over here so it's hard to say. Easy problems seem much harder over here and no matter where you go there is always someone saying another area is much softer.

So where's the soft ticks for us mere mortals then?
At the Balkans in Sydney I hear!

Bastard! Ok then smart-arse, what's the Sam Edwards grading system then?
My system only works on my wall in Tassie and everything is hard there.

But it only starts at V10 right because "any old fart" can climb V10?
No old fart is climbing V10 on my wall.

A ha - Tassie here I come!