Sunday July 21st at 15H02 an SMS from Nina Caprez arrives on the phone : "DONE !!!" Nina has just free climbed "Carnet d'Adresse" at the Rocher du Midi in the Chartreuse massif (Isère -France). A week ago her partner, Cedric Lachat, made the second free ascent. "Carnet d'Adresse" was bolted a while ago by Philippe Mussato, a renowned specialist in this style of route. The route got it's first free ascent in 2011 by Yann Ghesquier. Nina's third free ascent and first female is definitely a highlight of her career in extreme sport multi-pitch climbing. A few hours later, they gathered around a bottle of champagne to celebrate the couple's achievement.
On this occasion we were able to ask Nina a few questions.
Petzl : What motivated you to try this route ?
Nina : This year I was looking for a project close to home. I often heard stories about the fabulous multi pitch climbs around Grenoble, and Rocher du Midi was always part of them. I can even see the cliff from the windows of my apartment in town. This route's profile was pretty much the same as Silbergeier (Ratikon) that Cedric and I did last year. "Carnet D'adresse" should be in my style. It's also very motivating for me to go out and try routes that have been seldom climbed so that I'm sure it's going to motivate some other parties to give it a go. Philippe Mussato is such an inspiring route setter, every single one of his climbs are unique jewels of high difficulty. Rare are the climbers that dare try them… With Cedric we also like to bring back good photos in order to also motivate other climbers.
Petzl : Can you describe the climbing style of the route and what you needed to succeed ?
Nina : The style of "Carnet d'Adresse" suits me very well: it's varied but the key pitches are on vertical to slightly overhanging slabs. The first three pitches are alpine style, with a little bit of loose rock, you have to climb softly like a cat. The real game starts on the 4th pitch, a , 25/30m section of five-star pure grey limestone, it's the hardest (8b+) and you can fail on every move on those tiny holds that demand perfect foot and body placement. Pitch 5 is a tough crack and slab rated 5.12. Then it's my favorite pitch a big 8a (i'd say 8a+ for me) that starts by a strange mantle on slopers, goes to a tough crux on tiny crimps that is slightly overhanging. Then we have a 30 m 7c+ pitch, definitely another five-star pitch with a key balance "no hands" move. Then you've reached the last pitch, a solid 8a+ starting with a sideways dyno followed by a series of tough bouldery moves. With Cédric, we figured out a method relying on edging and finger crimping synchronized with perfect hip placements. I loved it.
Petzl : Together with Cedric it's now a speciality of your couple to attempt extreme sport multi-pitch routes, and your tick list is starting to be well filled with routes like Silbergeier (Ratikon,, CH), Delicatessen (Corsica, FR), Ali Baba (Aiglun, FR), Ramirole (Verdon FR). How do guys go about getting organized for these kinds of routes?
Nina : As a couple, we like to have common projects. We always start ground up and try to check the whole route in a couple of days depending on the level of difficulty. For "Carnet d'Adresse", on Day 1 we just went on the first four pitches and fixed the static ropes. On Day 2, we checked out the following four pitches and finished fixing ropes on the whole route. Often Cedric works on the hard pitches straight on lead, he's got more margin to play with! I try them out on top rope, but I always do the easier pitches right away on lead. Once we've got our methods well set we trade off climbing day of climbing for each of us. Cédric generally goes first, that allows me a bit more time to work on the key moves. Otherwise the rest of his days I just follow on the fixed ropes to save my skin and energy. The next day it's my turn to climb. It can seem a little strange, but in order for both of us to free climb the route it is a very efficient technique. When we are working on the route, we do it quickly because we really work together on all the moves and try out each other's methods. I always look for less physical ways of climbing and Cedric can use them. On his side he can guide me through the more physical moves, it enables me to do some things I wouldn't even have thought of. When he's showing me these moves, describes with minute detail the precise body positions required to succeed. It's a super motivating way of climbing, makes me progress and do improbable moves. This team work is definitely our force, and of course spending long days up in the cliffs are some of the best moments of living together.
Petzl : How many days were necessary for you to do this route ?
Nina : So two days checking it out and rigging, then Cedric did it with Quentin Chastagnet belaying because I wasn't available at that time. I worked on it two more days, one full day on the 8b+ and a photo day with Sam (Bié) allowed me to get fully confident on all the other pitches. Then on "The Day" I actually wasn't expecting it to work - the 8b+ was still uncertain. But in fact, I was feeling good that day, I felt light and precise as I climbed and placed the draws and hauled the bags. It's really this kind of day I like - being super concentrated on each pitch. Every move is then such a pleasure and I feel powerful. I love it!
Petzl : And now what are the next projects for you two ?
Nina : This past spring I jumped on many projects and had little success, didn't send much stuff and even hurt one of my pulley tendons on my finder and I started to feel really depressed. So I took a really good rest and healed it up correctly and now I'm back in full shape. On our menu for a near future there is an 8c in Saint Ange (the new hard spot around Grenoble), then we want to try "Les Specialistes" in Verdon. Also I have a couple of other ideas: "Digital Crack" in the Mont Blanc Massif and another mythic Mussato route on the Pestel of Glandasse (south of Grenoble). Well that's already a challenging program.
Also for a change from climbing, with Cédric we do some big caving explorations.
Retrouvez le profil de Nina Caprez dans la rubrique Petzl Team.