Published in Rock and Ice Issue No. 212
Bernhard Fiedler, 33, is a professional photographer and climber from Vienna, Austria. After learning to climb at the age of 12, Fiedler became obsessed, and donned the “nice Lycras” of the day while falling deeply in love with the climbing lifestyle. He has since established 5.14d sport climbs on Austrian limestone and climbed V14 in Rocklands, South Africa. In 2006, Fiedler’s grandfather gave him an Olympus OM4-ti camera. Now, his passion to find and climb aesthetic lines is surpassed only by his desire to take great climbing photographs, and he spends half of each year traveling the world. Here, he shares his hard-earned tips for climbing on the road.
A great climbing road trip begins at the end of your comfort zone. When you enter the airplane, leave your house and its furnishings at home. You don’t need two travel bags, 10 pairs of underwear, 20 quickdraws or the latest collection of Gucci shades. Laptop, slackline, Lonely Planet guidebook, special shampoo … are you moving or going on a climbing trip? Speaking of trips: If you have long hair, entry into the United States or Australia takes over two hours. Do not pet strange dogs—not at airports, or anywhere.
You’ve arrived and jetlag is a mental problem. Jetlag is countered with ignorance and a lot of coffee. Do not drink decaf or non-alcoholic beer. They may taste OK, but you won’t get addicted. Search for some fresh shizzle. Go for first ascents. Explore every inch of the rock. Look twice, go further, be curious ... You will find new ground where no man has ever set foot. In Nietzsche’s words: “You still must have chaos inside to give birth to a dancing star.”
Get up early. You can sleep somewhere else, at home, for instance. Watch the rising sun, and wait for the sound of your espresso maker. Morning hours are sacred, and so is your espresso. But its arrival takes time. Be patient, and relax.
Forenoon should be dedicated to sweet idleness and its variations. Climbing is not part of that.
Travel at least once a year on your own. Do not listen to your always-ticking watch or to the watches of others. Check e-mails, but write letters. Get in touch with foreign people, listen to them and try to understand. Mind your manners—stay humble and shy away from gossip. Is there a beautiful piece of rock? Stay! Did you fall in love? Stay longer!
If you start gambling, be prepared to lose. Luck is a presumption. Remember, when you fall 16 feet you have a whole second to think about the consequences of your impact at exactly 22 miles per hour. From 26 feet you fall 28 miles per hour. But to take a risk and to get lost in the eyes of a beautiful woman or man are both simple matters of going with your gut. You can’t teach that.
Learn how to play chess and the art of telling a joke. Nobody is interested in bad weather or bad conditions or slippery holds, so stop whining! The what ifs and the should haves will eat your brain. Is there a nice boulder? Climb it. Is there a dyno? Do it! A slab is a slab is a slab and deserves to be climbed.
Friction? What’s the deal with friction? I don’t see any friction! If the boulder problem of your desire wants your blood, give whatever it takes. Are you concerned? Concerned about what the future might bring? The future is a concept for slaves. The crux is always believing in feasibility. Don’t accept failure, never accept failure ... always come back. Don’t deceive yourself; don’t pretend it’s not important. If it doesn’t matter, you could easily walk away.
All emotions are beautiful. You are allowed to show tears. Even Chuck Norris would cry on a beautiful road trip. Remember: It is not the saddest or the strongest or the most handsome guy who gets the Queen. It is the one who is the most determined.
On rest days, go swimming. Kill time in coffee shops and make sure you finally end up in a bar. When the psych is high, pay for a round of drinks. Then somebody else will pay for a second round and probably a third. Don’t get into bar fights, ever. Leave your snooty Western ego at home. Learn some phrases of the foreign language. Most important: “Can I sleep at your place?” “Can I get a beer?” “Where is the rock?” ... and stuff like that.
Learn how to sleep in the back seat of a car. Keep your sleeping bag dry at all times. He who is still on his feet at midnight is right. All that counts is people.
Get lost, waste your heart, write tick lists, avoid people talking extensively about grades, stay hungry, stay cool, lose the drama, do it the hard way, do it again!