Author interview: Martin Mobråten and Stian Christophersen, The Climbing Bible
- Tuesday 28 July 2020
In The Climbing Bible, coaches and climbers Martin Mobråten and Stian Christophersen collate their forty years of combined experience into a single point of reference to help you train effectively to become a better climber. Both former Nordic champions in climbing and with routes graded F8c to their names, they're fully equipped to curate a bible of the best European training techniques. We caught up with them to get some climbing tips and to find out more about the book, their careers and European climbing techniques.
Which are your favourite ever climbs? What are your favourite crags? Do either of you have favourite climbing walls?
Stian: Ooh, those are hard questions ... my favourite climb has to be Chouca (8a+) in Buoux, France because of its diversity, history and scenery. Some routes are memorable because of what they mean to me personally, like the first ascents of Lierpillaren Direkte (8b+) and Shantaram (8c) and the ascent of La Rose et la Vampire (one of the first 8b’s in the world) in Buoux.
Best crags: Flatanger (Norway), Buoux (France) and Lier (Norway).
Favorite walls; Tivoli (Austria), Boulderwelt (Germany) and the home gym Oslo Klatresenter.
Martin: I must say a boulder FA I did on a deserted island at Vingsand – The Danish (8B). It climbs out a perfect overhang with amazing holds and movements, but the total experience of travelling out there with a boat to the most isolated place on earth makes it something special. Favourite crag is by far Flatanger. Best gym is Grip Klatring in Trondheim, Norway and Studiobloc in Germany.
What’s your favourite crag snack?
Stian: Chocolate in any form.
Martin: I prefer chips and beer after climbing ;)
How long did it take to compile all of the information for The Climbing Bible?
A lifetime of climbing ;) but from the moment we decided to write the book, it took us approximately a year and a half to finish it.
What was the most difficult part about writing the book?
To keep it simple, yet comprehensive. We had a lot of material we wanted to elaborate on and write more in depth, but we realised quickly that we had to cut the sections shorter to make room for all the elements we wanted to include. It’s difficult to write simply about complex stuff, and each chapter could’ve been a book on its own, but we wanted to write simply enough for everyone to understand and do as Einstein said, 'keep it as simple as possible, but no simpler'.
We’ve heard on the grapevine that you have a second book in the works – when do you expect it to hit the shelves?
Yeah, we really enjoyed the process of making The Climbing Bible, so we decided to make another one together. The new book is more practical with loads of exercises describing in more detail how to train, covering technique, strength and power and exercises for kids and adolescents. We expect to release the Norwegian version before Christmas.
Will you be following the climbing in the postponed 2020/21 Olympics?
For sure! We’ve watched competition climbing evolve over the last two decades, and it’s great that we can show our sport in the Olympics, and that the best athletes can show themselves on the biggest stage in any sport.
What are your opinions on the combination of the three disciplines included in the Games?
Personally, we're not the biggest fans of the combined format and would rather the three disciplines were separate, as we’re used to seeing them. It’s a lot to ask of the athletes to train and excel in all three disciplines simultaneously, and I would rather that they could be rewarded for training and specialising in their favourite discipline. On the other hand; it seems as though the absolute best athletes have risen to the occasion, with the lead climbers and boulderers taking the top spots in the combined format. Speed climbing is the most alien discipline, so if it has to be a combined format I think it would be better to combine lead and bouldering and have speed climbing as a discipline of its own.
From the men’s and women’s line-up who would you bet on?
For the men we would put our money on Tomoa Narasaki, Adam Ondra and Jakob Schubert and for the women Janja Garnbret, Akiyo Noguchi and Shauna Coxsey. Not in any particular order ;)
What is the difference between European climbing techniques and non-European climbing techniques, and are there any benefits or drawbacks of these?
Traditionally it has been the difference between the more technical European style and the more powerful American style. Then the Japanese came and excelled in both, but particularly on the technical aspect. As the physical strength of the best competition climbers seems to be relatively equal, it’s hard for the route setters to separate them on pure strength or endurance, so they now emphasise the movement part of climbing more. We see this particularly in bouldering where the moves don’t need to be very hard in the traditional way of thinking of hard moves, but they’re technically extremely challenging and diverse. This way of setting is also becoming more and more common in lead competitions, changing the demands placed on the climbers. It’s no longer enough to have the best finger strength or the best endurance or the best technique, you now need to work on all the different parts in order to succeed in competition climbing. For outdoor climbing in general, it’s the style of your projects that define the benefits and drawbacks of the traditional euro/non-euro techniques. If you want to do hard, steep boulders the American style seems to work very well, whereas the more technical European style can be more beneficial when bouldering in Font and on long limestone routes. If you want to succeed in comps, look how they’ve done it in Japan the last five years.
For someone looking to start their training journey, where do you think would be the best place to start?
Climb a lot, do both lead and bouldering, and climb indoors and outdoors. Climbing is movement and even though the physical part of training for climbing is extremely popular, we think most beginners will have more to gain focusing on climbing a lot of different moves on different walls, crags and angles.
Both of you have competed at a National level, what was that like?
The competition arena was a lot of fun and a lot of disappointments. It’s very hard to do competitions as good as you want to, so most of the time you feel like you’ve underperformed. The community was great, and doing competitions taught us a lot about ourselves as climbers and people, and laid the foundation for our understanding of climbing as a sport which has helped us a lot through our career within climbing.
Stian, you’re a physio, and you both are internationally renowned coaches, what is the most common preventable climbing injury that you see?
Both as a coach and a physio I see load management as the foundation in mitigating injury risk. Load management can be seen both long-term and short-term; if you want to train a lot over a longer period of time you need to manage the load over time so you have a steady progression and a load rhythm that creates adaptions through progressive overload and restitution. Proper load management in a shorter time span can be done by mixing up sessions with higher and lower intensity. Also remember that within single sessions you need to manage the load in a good way. A hard, fingery boulder session needs to include longer rests between attempts and fewer attempts in total than if you’re doing a more technical bouldering session, and by respecting this you can end your session before you’ve pushed too far. Mastering load management will at least mitigate the risk of both acute and overuse injuries, regardless of the injury type and/or location. Combining load management with building finger, arm and shoulder strength seems to be the way to go on the utopian quest of preventing injuries. That being said, the most common injury seems to be pulley injuries to the fingers, and avoiding excessive crimping, especially when fatigued, is a simple measure to avoid these injuries.