This summer Jonathan Siegrist has been exploring Switzerland, focusing on the country’s lesser-known crags and ticking off several difficult
routes in the process.
Siegrist, who last climbed in Switzerland in 2014, returned because he sees the country as an under-appreciated sport-climbing destination, full of unique
lines on bomber rock, which Spain and southern France’s famous climbing areas overshadow.
He tells Rock and Ice that he’s trying to stay away from the prominent crags in Switzerland, shunning Ticino, Ratikon and Magicwood for Voralp,
Basel Jura, Roche and Rawyl.
Since arriving in May, Siegrist has sent: Jungfrau Marathon (9a/5.14d), Cabane au Canada (9a/5.14d), Appel au Sodom (8c/5.14b),
Goldfinger (8c/5.14b), Termilater (8b+/5.14a), Le Viole de Maya (8c/8c+ or 5.14b/c) and Schwarzes Glas (8b+/5.14a),
flashed Paradis Artificiel (8c/5.14b), and cleaned dirt and worms off Beat Kammerlander’s Missing Link (9a/5.14d) before bagging
the second ascent.
Q&A with Jonathan Siegrist
I came here for the first time in 2014 and I was pretty blown away. I made some great friends and I saw just a tiny fraction of what the country had to
offer, but it was enough of a taste to know that I would make a return trip one of these days.
Are you on a mission of sorts?
I’m really just exploring the sport-climbing scene, which is little known outside of Switzerland. Most people have heard of the Swiss granite blocs and
the alpine stuff, but few have heard about all the incredible sport crags in the Alps, surrounded by massive snow covered peaks and boasting routes
up to 5.15a!
Is the energy different from the USA?
I could name a myriad of differences but honestly I find it more similar than different, especially here in Interlaken. This area attracts a ton of tourism
because it’s really the main portal for the whole Jungfrau region and the Bernese Oberland zone in general—so it is quite international.
What projects are you working on out there?
I have a list of routes and areas I’d love to climb but it’s all very dependent on weather. Unlike Las Vegas or even Catalunya, you have to bend your climbing
schedule to the weather. If it’s nice out, go climbing. If it’s crappy, eat chocolate and rest. The three main areas that I wanted to climb at are
Gimmelwald, Rawyl and Gastlosen. I have not been to Gastlosen yet but the other two are incredible.
What are you looking for in your climbs our there?
A challenge. The style here tends to be shorter and much more bouldery than most hard routes I normally try, so it will no doubt be a good ass kicking
for me. I feel a little more powerful already! Really just looking for bullet Swiss limestone, sunshine and happy times!
Some of your recent climbs were established in the 80s and 90s. Any particular reason for doing these older lines?
I am certainly drawn to old school routes, but honestly I’m just going for the best quality routes. While everything that I’ve seen is good, some of them
are downright world class. Ask most climbers about Switzerland and they would never imagine it as a single-pitch sport-climbing destination, but it
is. Crags like Voralpse, Gimmelwald, Rawyl and Lehn are some of the best crags I’ve climbed at anywhere in the world. Not as big, but certainly as
high quality as any of the big ones in Spain or Southern France.
So the high quality of the rock is one of the reasons you chose Switzerland?
Yes for sure. Rock here is incredibly bomber. Every crag has a pretty unique structure and there is very little choss.
Is the change in scenery inspiring your climbing?
I’ve been traveling non-stop now for five years and I couldn’t imagine life any other way. It’s so motivating for my climbing, and it’s also just so stimulating
in every way: new people, new language, new scenery, new food, and new way of life. My drive for climbing has taken me to so many rad places…
in many ways it’s my favorite aspect about the pursuit.
What types of challenges are you facing on these routes that you didn’t expect?
Mostly the variable with weather and wetness, but so far it’s been totally fine. I just have to adapt a little.
Are you collaborating with any Swiss or European climbers?
For sure, I have made many good friends here in the Swiss community! I am Swiss after all… I’m here alone so it’s been awesome linking up with people
from the area. I think I’ve had like almost 15 different partners already. I’ve been climbing a bunch with Daniel Hulliger, Andy Winterleitner and
Alex Rohr, and [will be] hooking up with Matthias Trottman as well! I’m really looking forward to the Arc’teryx Alpine Academy in Chamonix as well—the
whole Euro Arc’ team will be out there.
Are you going to be bolting any routes?
Nope, there are plenty of classics for me to do around here.
What is your favorite moment of the trip so far?
Probably feeding my neighboring sheep some delicious carrots.
Have you been connecting with your Swiss roots?
A big part of it is checking out the Swiss lifestyle too and learning from my friends here, picking up some tradition and seeing what my heritage is all
about. Definitely I identify with being Swiss even though I’ve spent very little time here.
What’s next after Switzerland?
In August I’m planning to live in Estes Park again for a while and do some bouldering. After that I’m wide open. Feels nice to have an open schedule—it’s
the first time in years!