Fast & Light with Andres Marin
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With Andres's permission, this interview has been edited for clarity.
(Photo: Austin Schmitz)
Looking back on your climbing career, you have excelled in so many unique disciplines (5.12+ OW, competition ice climbing, etc.) what has inspired you to be an all-around climber?
The reason I’ve developed the affinity or the curiosity for different types of climbing comes from my background. I wasn’t born into an outdoor community in Colombia. Outdoor activities weren't a way of life.
When I moved to the US, I landed in Grand Junction. I first started climbing in Rifle Colorado, on the sport climbing side of things. Not too long after I started going to Indian Creek. The geology and the scenery of Indian Creek is so unique.
Then I started ice and mixed climbing in Ouray. Once I built a strong foundation I Started doing competitions, but also climbing mountains. I guess my curiosity for climbing just grew. I was able to achieve a relatively high level on splitter cracks and steep sport in Rifle, but I was always kind of searching for what’s next.
I’m a very curious individual. I transfer that to alpine faces and mountains. I try to put all these different pieces together. I am curious about the terrain and how I can get to the top how to experience nature and explore the world this way.
Where was the turning point for you when you shifted your focus to high level alpinism?
I don’t know if there was a specific turning point. The first mountain I climbed was Tolima volcano in Colombia. I could see it from the town that I grew up in in Colombia.
The desire to return to the mountains was always there. I would read books about ascents in these greater ranges, and I wanted to explore for myself. I came to the conclusion and the realization that I needed more than one set of skills to go to these big mountains and put it all together.
Around the same time, I saw a slide show at the Ouray Ice Festival (one of my first ice festivals). A climber named John Varco was doing a presentation about climbing in Pakistan. I just remember seeing all the skills you had to put together to accomplish something like that. I was inspired.
Which discipline has been the most challenging for you to adapt to?
It’s kind of strange to say this, but I would say ice climbing.
I can come back from an expedition and pick up my tools and pick up right where I left off physically. But ice climbing is a beautiful sport with such high consequences. It forces you to stay as sharp as you can, either through retaining impeccable physical shape, but more importantly — you have to stay in mental shape.
Ice climbing is such a uniquely difficult discipline, it demands so much so I have to put a lot of effort and energy toward it.
(Photo: Austin Schmitz)
What does a typical year for you look like? Ice climbing winter in NA and then head south for winter below the equator?
For the past few years and what I have planned for the future years. My goals are based on alpine missions. I try to focus on my training for that medium.
In the winter I focus on trad mixed and sport mixed climbing. Start getting back into my tools. Focusing on hard, steep physical stuff where I can focus on difficulty and not be afraid to fall.
Then I’ll transition to ice climbing and start getting my head right. And during all this I started backcountry skiing to introduce more cardio.
Why do you do that?
In mountain climbing, one of the most important factors, no matter what you’re doing, a pretty solid foundation of cardiovascular training is important. I am doing this during the winter, then I start to add volume. I start doing bigger and bigger days in the mountains or on ice. I am also doing big lifting days in the gym. I also try to maintain my rock climbing shape.
My first trip is usually in the spring-time. I go to Alaska or Nepal. This spring, 2023. I am going to Pakistan. I start training and focus on that aspect.
If my objective is at higher altitude, I lean more towards back country skiing and running. But this particular project in Pakistan is much more technical, so I am focusing heavily on the climbing aspect.
For me it’s important to have a good time while training. Training can be painful, my knees ache, and my feet hurt; but I’m trying to make sure that I make time to have fun.
(Photo: Austin Schmitz)
How much are you able to draw on inspiration? When training does kind of suck, how important is it for you to have that inspiration when you’re training?
It’s super important. You have to be inspired.
A tip is to think about a really successful expedition. Bring those moments from the past into your training and visualize how well things went.
That type of stuff inspires me the most. I want to do the best I can to show up at the base of the mountain in the best shape I can. There are so many variables that you can’t control about climbing mountains, but you can control your fitness.
You've received the Mugs Stump and Cutting Edge Grants for fast, and light alpinism. Can you talk about your approach to fast and light ascents?
The vision of light and fast ascent is a way of moving through the mountains while in a very efficient manner. Is packing what is absolutely necessary while having the skill set to climb a variety of different terrains.
I think that it's an evolution of every sport. From sport climbers raising the bar climbing 5.15+ to people in high altitude doing huge linkups in the mountains and everything in between. This evolution has been happening since the very beginning. With time we are seeing bigger and bigger scale objectives being done in faster times.
I also laugh because a lot of things I am doing are actually light and slow. With technical routes you are kind of moving slow too. You have to pitch things out. You have to kind of balance those two things.
(Photo: Austin Schmitz)
What’s inspired you to continually pursue this style?
For me, it’s really cool to take inspiration from previous ascents to put that into context. Also, as a professional climber — as a part of this community — I feel an obligation to keep paving the same fast and light style that climbers have pioneered before me to keep pushing not only the sport but also the culture of alpinism.
Exploration is the most important thing to me. Being in a place where I feel like an astronaut. I am here with my teammates and this place is so vast. Bringing these techniques to this place and trying to move as efficiently as we can. It's a beautiful and amazing thing to experience for myself but also collectively with my teammates.
If the weather and conditions are in your favor, that focus on training really pays off. Combined with those other factors, showing up physically prepared allows you to do things you previously thought impossible — like going to the summit and back to base camp in a single push.
To move like that through the mountains, it’s a feeling that’s almost impossible to describe. You’re just going. You are just floating through terrain. Sometimes I’lI doubt myself. I should be feeling tired, but I am not. I get to the top and feel so small because of where I am, but also so big because of what I’ve accomplished is — it’s insane.
Who are some people who have inspired you and how so?
There’s so many incredible people out there doing so many cool things but to name one I would say Guy Lacelle.
He was an icon for ice climbing. His climbing really showed me how to flow through ice, and how to be methodical.
Lynn Hill was an early inspiration for me with my rock climbing, she was doing amazing things when I was coming up in the rock and sport climbing world.
Steve House is also someone I’ve always found inspiring. Putting it all together (alpinism, rock, and ice). And then doing it at high altitude, 7,000 or 8,000m’s, And then just climbing the other things he climbs is insane.
I’m also inspired by early mountaineers who would spend 60 days on a mountain. The level of commitment that they have and still have. It puts things in perspective for me. When I am feeling a little soft, I think of those guys.
(Photo: Austin Schmitz)
What are some of the things you are still learning?
I think that the first thing I think of is how to adjust myself to myself.
For me it's adjusting to myself. I am becoming more efficient. Working on becoming more efficient (because of age). One thing I am always working on is cardiovascular shape. It takes a while to build it and you have to maintain it throughout your whole life. No matter what type of climbing you practice, cardio is important.
You are always learning in these sub-disciplines. I always learn something new everyday when I am ice climbing. I focused on being really present on how to move my body and what to trust and what to not trust. I really try to work on climbing with intention.
How do you go about continuing to progress?
I am working on really enjoying the process and the journey. Just trying to be present, you know?
Don’t toprope just to toprope or to lead just lead but more so be present and put intention behind everything you do.
Life can change quickly. Recently, I was able to finish off this huge project. And then two weeks later my partner Anna had her accident. And I had to go into full time taking care of her. It’s crazy that something like this has to happen in order for us to slow down and think about not taking things for granted.
Every day we can’t take it for granted.