TNB: Klem Loskot is Back Climbing V15 and 5.15

Klem Loskot talks about his return to the top of the game.

By Jeff Jackson | December 17th, 2012

  Klem Loskot is one of the giants of rock climbing. For one thing, this pale, freckled dude with ginger hair that stands up like hay stems, is literally a big guy. Also, in the late 1990s and early 2000s his routes—and particularly his boulder problems—were among the worlds hardest. Nanuk (V14), for example, a weird little traverse that Loskot put up in 1997, was only repeated last month, and Bügeleisen (Loskot called it V13), an angling line of crimps and dynamics, is probably still unrepeated despite attempts by very strong boulderers.

When he was active, Loskot was always breaking new ground. He traveled a lot, and discovered and developed some of the most famous boulderfields on earth. He was one of the pioneers of deep water soloing and wrote two idiosyncratic books about the peripatetic climbing lifestyle, Der Elfte Grad and Emotional Landscapes. The latter is a combination of arresting photos, apt metaphors and peculiar English usage that is one the most unique climbing books ever written and, in my opinion, one of the best. People called Loskot “the climbing philosopher” because he could articulate arcane concepts in cogent, energetic koans like: “The visions are in your head! The strength lies in your stomach!” or “The license to send: an unbreakable will and the release of expectations.”

Despite his obvious world-class level, Loskot never seemed to take the numbers seriously. When asked how he trained he once answered, “I never did that, therefore I never did anything really hard.” He was more concerned with “cool feelings you want to feel again only more intense.” It seemed like Loskot was just getting better and better, traveling the world and penning poetic aphorisms like a happy, athletic Nietzsche, when, quite suddenly, he stopped working with his sponsors and dropped out of climbing.

Yesterday I asked Dave Graham what he thought about Loskot and he replied, “Klem is my biggest inspiration as a first ascentionist. I tried to adopt his notoriously radical climbing style, and the types of moves he searches out changed my perspective on what to look for myself. I am determined to someday climb all his problems and I was totally gutted by the rumor that Klem quit climbing to surf.”

Loskot stopped climbing seriously in the early 2000s, but now, as abruptly as he disappeared, he’s back.

During the same month that Nanuk saw its second ascent, Loskot, now 38, popped up on and reported the first ascents of 38 problems V12 and harder, including 12 V14s and a V15, all put up on boulders near his home in Salzburg, Austria. In addition to the boulder problems, Loskot has recently redpointed two routes that check in around 5.15a.

I contacted Klem this weekend and asked him about dropping out and re-entering climbing at the top level.

When did you stop climbing?

In 2001 I got typhoid in India and it was kind of the beginning of the end. I was in the hospital for more than one month—couldn’t even stand up to go to the toilet or turn my head when my parents came to visit, and I lost a lot. I came back quickly, climbed Emotional Landscapes (V14) in Maltatal, [Austria], which was one of my very hardest, but my spirit turned and my focus went out slowly. Finally, in 2006 I totally stopped climbing and stopped work with my sponsors.

I got more and more into backcountry skiing, hiking up and flying down on skis in remote places and the feeling of being out in the wild, and also the feeling of going down straight and accelerating and getting the brain blowing out was just making me addicted. Then I had the opportunity to visit friends on their boat in Indonesia for surfing and also got addicted. The passion went away from climbing and I knew surfing is exotic for an Austrian so now or never …

Finally I got tired of traveling and also felt kind of lonely sometimes and then I met a girl. We married fast and I have a son and a little girl just one-year old. I’m even more happy and I started to climb again in my home woods and I have all I need. Paradise is at home in front of my door …

You returned to climbing three years ago and have done some really hard problems. Why no reporting?

I got the passion back by climbing in my home woods and I felt like it was 1989 and it was nostalgic. I had no sponsors and no publicity and three years ago I wanted to keep it the same. Today I feel like sharing my experience.

Why report the ascents now?

I recently climbed the Balcony Project (5.14d/15a) and also repeated the Zunami (5.14d/15a) and it felt like a good time to come out. The Balcony is my greatest experience in climbing. It makes me very happy. Also Zunami is for the region here, and even over the borders, a long-time benchmark.

Does hard climbing matter? Is it important?

It matters a lot because it gives you access to the flow, the feeling of climbing weightless, dancing up with smooth moves. It’s amazing, like in skiing or surfing! This feeling is what “sport” is all about. It is hard to get it in climbing because you need to be very fit. Also I like the process of finding something hard and trying until I climb it. When I was young I was without patience and wanted to get the thing done straight away. Now I am fully into projecting and I have now climbed so many lines I never thought would go … It’s a great feeling.

Do you train now? How did you get so strong?

I don’t really train. I just try to climb new things and get totally into my own world and “live” there and evolve and adapt and it all comes by itself. Training is just a possibility when motivation is high but no rock is available.

Your hardest problems are just now being repeated. You did Nanuk, for example, in 1997, and again in 1999 after a hold broke, and it was just repeated. Bügeleisen has never been repeated despite tries by some of the world’s strongest. Why has it taken so long for these problems to be repeated?

Yes, I just read about Nanuk this morning. That’s very nice to hear. I was curious for a long time. I just sent a message to Martin [Schidlowski] who I think climbed it. Congrats to him! It’s great to see other people come and climb, try whatever, and we all can share it together.

I wrote to Paul Robinson, Adam Ondra, Daniel Woods, Nalle etc. some time ago to come and have a look. They seemed not so up for it. Maybe the stuff was not in the media, just me telling them.

I heard Bügeleisen got tried by Daniel Woods a couple of times as well. Should be his style. Maybe he had not the best conditions, but it seems to be not too easy.

Dessertfox [new V15] felt way harder for me, so it could be really hard too. The thing is, I’ve just climbed new first ascents for the last three years so I don’t have anything to compare it with except some old project which I climbed [Balcony Project (5.14d/15a]. Anyway, doesn’t matter to me so much, more important are the feelings.

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