Lucien Cousin: Between lab coat and rock face

Last year he scored the two 9a routes Jungfraumarathon and Inferno in Gimmelwald within a week. At the end of February, the fifth ascent of Im Reich des Shogun (9a), the touchstone in the Basel Jura, followed. Time to get to know the young Frenchman Lucien Cousin a little better.

eat sleeping climb Repeat. Even if this philosophy of life as a T-shirt imprint comes along as hackneyed, it can be Lucien Cousins summarize current living conditions quite aptly. When the 26-year-old is not doing his doctorate at ETH Zurich, he climbs. And in between: Eat. sleeping

Whenever Lucien Cousin finds time, he is out on the rock.
Whenever Lucien Cousin finds time, he is out on the rock. Image: Carla Preuss

Climb more, work more

When asked how he manages to do his doctorate and climb so well at the same time, he almost apologizes: "It sounds a bit sad, I only do that. I study and besides that I climb."

Lucien attributes the fact that his sporting and academic careers go so well together to his team at ETH. «Everyone in my PhD group is super nice and my professor is also very helpful. I am very grateful for that." He is enjoying this very much at the moment, especially since he is very enthusiastic about both. "Well, I'm all for "climb more", but not for "work less".»

Important compensation for climbing: his doctorate at the ETH Zurich. Image: Govanni Bovone
Important compensation for climbing: his doctorate at the ETH Zurich. Image: Govanni Bovone

Practice early

Lucien Cousin was practically born with climbing. He grew up as the son of two parents who were enthusiastic about climbing in the French climbing mecca of Briançon. He was three for the first time on the rock, but he can no longer remember exactly when he first tried to walk vertically.

After elementary school and high school, he moved to the French capital to study, later to Zurich, where he did his PhD at the ETH in Zurich. With this geographical change of scenery, the climbing areas that he heads for in his free time have also changed. Instead of going to Ceüse, it's now off to the Basel Jura.

Lucien Cousin grew up in a climbing-loving family and was on the rocks from an early age. Image: Guillaume Mocquard
Lucien Cousin grew up in a climbing-loving family and was on the rocks from an early age. Image: Guillaume Mocquard

Bad friction, too much gravity

With In the kingdom of the shogun (9a), the 26-year-old was recently able to repeat the test piece in the Basel Jura. Since the first ascent by Eric Talmadge in 2001, only three climbers before him have succeeded: Adam Ondra, Alex Megos and Philipp Geissenhoff.

"In the realm of the shogun there was a great mental struggle for me," says Lucien Cousin. Two years ago he was already able to climb from the bottom to the upper crux. But not beyond that. Sometimes it's the wrong shoes, then he's injured. "If you then mention the bad friction and the excessive gravity, you have all the classic excuses for sport climbing together," adds Lucien and laughs.

Over time, the route increasingly degenerates into a mental challenge, especially since he knows the individual moves. "I kept making stupid mistakes and that increased the stress." Lucien is not sure whether he effectively overcame this on the day of the ascent. "It was the fifth attempt. Maybe that's why I didn't have high expectations."

He sees another possible reason for his success in his former climbing partner Solveig Korherr. “She tried the first part of the route and was able to make all the moves very quickly. That impressed me a lot."

In the realm of the Shogun, the sixth route for the native French is grade 9a. The sheer perfection of the grips and movement sequences appealed to him about this Basel cracking nut: “From below, the route looks completely blank. Once you're in, you can see the little holds and tiny steps, and they're all completely natural." He was also lured by the two best holds on the route: the two one-finger holes."

Lucien Cousin in the route Im Reich des Shogun (9a) in the Basel Jura. Image: Fabio Masero
Lucien Cousin in the route Im Reich des Shogun (9a) in the Basel Jura. Image: Fabio Masero

Next project? Hush-hush

Speaking of small holds: These are his favorites and one of the reasons why he has turned his back on competitive climbing. "I don't like the modern style of competition. I climb far too slowly for that and like crimps far too much.” It is not surprising that the last lover can often be found at the Voralpsee.

After his recent success in the Basel Jura, Lucien wants to do a 9a+ in neighboring countries. He is silent about what it is. He wants to save himself unnecessary pressure, the existing self-doubt was enough - keyword impostor syndrome. What is certain is that he will reveal his secret as soon as the procedure of eat, sleep, climb and repeat has been repeated enough times.

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Credits: Cover picture Jon Shen

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