8c climbing at 54 – Chris Frick reveals his secret

Chris Frick recently scored in Rawyl Stop Sika (8c) - and that at the proud age of 54. In the following lines, the man in his mid-fifties explains how he managed to do this. An ode to big goals, unshakable optimism and targeted training.

In the climbing mecca Rawyl succeed Chris Frick the Didier berthod first climbed 8c line Stop Sika. The route has always been his dream, says the 54-year-old. «The line looks so good. Undoubtedly, the technical difficulties and the small bars are demanding. To be honest, it was always the high rating that put me off."

"To my generation, 8c still sounds like a trip to Mars."

Chris Frick
Chris Frick: "It's better to fail on a dream route than to come to the late realization that you never really tried." Image: Sabrina Johner
Chris Frick: "It's better to fail on a dream route than to come to the late realization that you never really tried." Image: Sabrina Johner

8c - a mental barrier

Chris Frick, who has been climbing the rocks for four decades through a mix of better and worse days, surprises, hurdles and injuries, has never felt burnt out from climbing. On the contrary: "For me, climbing is still a source of strength, inspiration and joy." And yet grade 8c marks a mental barrier. He managed the last route of this degree six years ago.

When he decided to go vegan seven years ago, his energy levels went up. And with increasing energy and climbing experience, he also dared to try out routes at his personal limit outside of the local Basler Jura. His motto: "It's better to fail on a dream route than to realize too late that you've never really tried it. That's why I plucked up all my courage and got on board with Stop Sika for the first time last fall.»

Chris Frick doing a no-hand rest at Stop Sika (8c). Image: Isabelle Bihr
Chris Frick doing a no-hand rest at Stop Sika (8c). Picture: Isabelle Bier

A life as a climbing monk

Although the two key passages showed him his weakness and his stiffness, he was not discouraged. He sampled other 8c's in particular Mind control in Oliana, a line very similar to Stop Sika.

His attempts in the Spanish winter sun drew the attention of Vanda Michalkova (squad member Team Slovakia) who promptly suggested that he create a training plan tailored to his needs.

“Until now, I considered myself to be resistant to training because I tried a training plan once twenty-one years ago and gave it up after a while. At the time, it seemed to me like a stiff corset, almost an expression of evil."

Chris Frick

Nevertheless, he got involved in the experiment. On the one hand, because he realized during his attempts that he had to change something about his climbing in order to get through. On the other hand, because Vanda Michalkova quickly recognized what the 54-year-old had to work on: body tension, shoulders, long-term endurance.

Today he is much more open to trying new things, says Chris Frick. Climbing as a kind of laboratory to expand the horizon of experience. So for several months he lived the life of a climbing monk, spending most of his free time training.

In his mid-fifties, he worked specifically on body tension, shoulder strength and long-term stamina to successfully climb the ladder. Image: Isabelle Bihr
In his mid-fifties, he worked specifically on body tension, shoulder strength and long-term stamina to successfully climb the ladder. Picture: Isabelle Bier

Training in old age - clear up with half-truths

Much of what his personal coach suggested sounded logical and self-evident to the man in his mid-fifties. And yet he needed a different mindset and fresh perspective on what exercise makes possible as you get older.

In the past, a lot of half-knowledge and rumors were spread. "I can well remember an incident more than twenty years ago, when someone told me that training after 38 would no longer make sense because then neither muscle cross-section nor maximum strength could be trained." The first thing to do was to drive away such ghosts.

"I can well remember an incident more than twenty years ago, when someone told me that training after 38 would no longer make sense because then neither muscle cross-section nor maximum strength could be trained."

Chris Frick

His three-month training plan essentially consisted of three indoor training units (mix of TRX, campus, bouldering and endurance units) during the week and the weekend on the rock. Admittedly, the training was very intense, but he knows that he is physically quite resilient, says Frick.

Mental anticipation, agility and nutrition

A noticeable effect on climbing began to become apparent a month after the end of the training: "On a climbing trip lasting several weeks, I was able to climb a route in the lower eighth French grade almost every day." In the eyes of Chris Frick, a good mental preparation, as he "got used" to clipping the deflector.

He also tried to tackle his mental barrier of being able to climb an 8c in his mid-fifties on the campus board by mentally anticipating the climb.

"It was also not insignificant that I kept an eye on agility, something that gets lost with age, and encouraged it with a daily, active stretching program."

Chris Frick

In terms of diet, Chris Frick did not make any fundamental changes, since as a vegan he always pays attention to a complete and balanced diet. "The only supplement I take is vitamin B12, which I supplement with zinc, L-lysine and vitamin D3 during periods of high training and climbing."

chris-frick-stop-sika2
Chris Frick: «I can definitely say from my own experience that training is also useful in the older days.» Picture: Isabelle Bier

Climb at the last moment

On Friday, September 16, he clipped the deflector after a perfect go. "I kept my focus, didn't hesitate and didn't have any doubts." The ascent came at the last moment, as it turned out the next day, when the first snow fell up to the foot of the wall in the alpine environment.

And as far as targeted training is concerned, Chris Frick has a clear stance: «I can definitely say from my own experience that training is also useful in the older days. The physique has also changed for the better. The definition looks even more like climbing. It was and is exciting to see what is possible. Venga!»

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Credits: Cover picture Isabelle Bier

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