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I am over the moon to have been able to interview Fred Nicole. He’s is by far one of my biggest inspirations. I love his humble attitude, his true love for climbing, and his simple way of living. Fred Nicole is a constant reminder to me that climbing is so much more than chasing grades. It is a way of life, a reconnection with nature, and a journey beyond your personal limits. Check out my interview with him below. What an awesome way to end the year!!!

1. You are a pioneer in the climbing world. You were amongst some of the first to begin exploring and establishing climbs. From where or who did you find inspiration during the beginning of your climbing career when the sport of climbing was still evolving?

I don’t see me as a pioneer. Climbing exists since over 100 years and many more important figures have written history. (Paul Preuss, Pierre Alain, John Gill and many more) To go back to my personal history my first inspiration was my brother François who introduced me to climbing. Back then the climbing media where extremely limited which left us a lot of personal interpretation of the activity. There were of course some charismatic characters like Patrick Edlinger that played a decisive role in my practice. But where I grew up only very few people practiced bouldering back then. It left us with lots of possibility to use our creativity.

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Photo by Mary Gabrielli

2. How have you changed as a climber from when you started to now?

My climbing has been on a constant evolution already because of natural biological changes. I was 13 when I started climbing and I am now 44. My body has of course changed in all this years. Then I had to adapt to different styles that I found travelling in other regions. I was mostly a route climber when I started, bouldering became my main activity step by step. Now I’m a boulderer who climbs routes from time to time. I also had periods where I felt stronger on little edges, then slopers, then periods where I felt week on everything. Then suddenly it changes again without really knowing why..

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3. You’ve been climbing for about 30 years. What advice do you have for climbers that wish to see themselves climbing strong well into the future?

It is first and foremost a question of desire. Depending on your personal aspirations you can prepare yourself with training and practicing the activity you want to get better regularly. You have to keep the motivation going even if sometimes the results are not what you expected. Let the things happen as they do without forcing. Try to climb with your body and the rocks without focussing on numbers and difficulty. Even if it is hard, try to distinguish yourself from the competitive attitude.

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4. I read that your first experience climbing was not good. What changed to make you fall in love with the sport?

It is difficult to answer. Maybe just an idea that pushed me to go over the failures of the first days. The desire to overcome the very deep fear of heights. I was the opposite of a sportive kid, I was shy, introverted, dreamy and unfortunately quite lazy as well.

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Photo by © Fred Nicole archive

5. Do you ever experience fear when you climb? How do you overcome it?

I’m an anxious person at the base. It doesn’t help to block your fears as they will catch you sooner or later. I work with them, try to understand them and sometimes I overcome them. But they stay with me and like old friends they appear from time to time.

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Photo by © Fred Nicole archive

6. What has been the most inspiring line you’ve climbed? What about it was so inspiring?

Every line is unique, which makes rock climbing magique. Saying that, every period of my life has had some lines that inspired me. It would be too long to mention here.

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7. Do you do anything to mentally prepare for a climb?

I try to visualize it and feel the flow. (Not always working…)

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Photo by Andy Mann

8. Do you train for climbing? What do you do to keep improving and pushing your limits?

I mostly only climb. I have many projects a little bit everywhere and with different styles. I should do more, but it is hard for me. My level is not linear. Things that were easy to me feel hard now and I have to force myself to do them. It is mostly due to my lack of flexibility. Training is surely very efficient but it can be overstraining. It would be good to find a balance.

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Photo by © Fred Nicole archive

9. What is one of the most important lessons you’ve learned so far during your climbing career?

That a way is never easy to take and never perfect. Climbing has become a mainstream activity when it was completely marginal when I started. Even if there is still a small marginal movement hidden in our community, we live in a star system where unfortunately only performance is valuable. Personal achievements are great of course but they should be seen as part of a context.

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Photo by © Fred Nicole archive

10. What do you think are the most important things for climbers to be educated in?

One of the most important issues is the environment and our impact on it. It seams to me that climbers don’t think much about it, when I see how they cut trees and plants and move rocks to be able to climb a line. I’m also shocked when I find garbage in remote places where only climbers/boulderers have been before. One easy step: take your own garbage out of the climbing areas, collect the garbage others have left and speak about it to your friends.


Thank you Fred Nicole for the interview! Keep on inspiring! 🙂