Magnus Midtbø was one of the most promising youth climbers of the past years. In 2000, 11 years old, his mother signed him up for a climbing course. After one year he won the Norwegian Youth Championship and one year later he had already climbed his first 8a. From 2004 till 2007 he won 12 gold medals on international youth events, one championship title included. After gaining some more experience in the senior circuit all seems to come together this year. He only participated in two competitions up till now, namely the World Cup in Chamonix and the Championship in Arco, but a bronze medal in the first and a 4th place in the second make it clear that he’s in good shape. We had the opportunity to talk with him after the qualifications in Puurs.
Belclimb: Looking at your results in 2011 and knowing that you pointed out the Klimax climbing gym as your most favourite competition venue may we presume you have high hopes?
Magnus: I do have high hopes. I always hope to get in finals and in finals pretty much anything can happen. It’s anyone’s game. I like the style of the routes here. In the first route today I gave maybe a bit too much of myself so I was a bit tired for the second one. Maybe not so good strategically spoken but now I have time to eat and rest for tomorrow.
We saw that you only participate in the World Cups taking place in Europe. Is it too hard to participate in all competitions on the calendar this year? (10 WC’s Lead from July till November)
Honestly I don’t care about overall results. I think most people don’t go and check the overall results or world ranking. So I just want to go to the comps where I have the most fun. Also I think that the comps like Chamonix and here, where all the good climbers are, are the more prestigious ones. So to me they’re more important. I believe there should be less competitions on the calendar, only the important ones.
Last summer there was a deep water soloing competition near Oslo where you won. Do you think it might become a new competition format?
Yeah, I think it is fun to watch. People enjoy climbers splashing into the water. You don’t have any gear, that’s a good thing. No harness, no rope, no clippings. The only thing is that it might be harder to organize. You have to find a bay to put up the wall and if you don’t get the water moving through waves or so then it’s to hard to fall in. You need bubbly water like in diving competition. You go deeper but it’s much softer.
Is it more pure climbing, since you don’t have to clip etcetera?
Yes. I think some people will be afraid of it especially if you have a roof or make like a dyno or something like it, you can potentially hurt yourself. Even in this comp there were some ‘almost accidents’ but to me it’s much more fun. Climbing is supposed to be an extreme sport…
At this very moment there’s the run for the Olympic status of our sport with a decision being taken in 2013. Speed is being used as big anchor. Do you believe that changing the format is the way to promote a sport or should it be the sport itself that has to become olympic?
Personally I don’t think that if you have to change something it’s not worth being an Olympic sport. It’s not important to me, the Olympics is just a comp like any comp. Climbing has always been kind of an underground sport. People don’t really know about it. Of course it’s annoying if people ask me how fast I climbed but at the same time it’s our thing, our community and no one else knows about it. To me, that’s kind of cool.
It’s an underground thing but also a rock thing. Last year you were one of the first climbers ever to top a 9b. How is it going this year?
This year I’ve been focusing more on competition. Some Norwegian comps and some World Cups next to the World Championship and I wanted to train really well for them. That’s been good. Also I wanted to bolt Flatanger and I’ve dedicated a lot of time to that.
We heard a lot about this Flatanger. How did you find the spot and what are the plans?
I’ve heard about it before. Some three years ago someone talked to me about this spot because they bolted some routes on the very left side of the cave where it is not steep. But people told me about the central part of the cave and its potential. It’s 10 hours up north from where I live so it was kind of a big hassle to go there. Also if there’s a big roof sometimes it’s blank, they’re no holds and I don’t want to chip. That’s also why it took me so long to go there. Now that I went I was just amazed about the potential. I have a route in mind going maybe 180m up the wall but if you go from down left all the way up following the natural cracks you might find routes up to 200 or even 250m. You have to see it to believe and even if you see it you have to climb it to really understand it.
In the month of May next year we plan a big, not too official event over there. Just having fun. I think it’s going to be cool because a lot of people ask me about the event and the crag so I think we’re going to get a lot of people there. It’s going to be something like a Roctrip but I hope with more routes. Not just one ultimate route for male and female.
How important is climbing as a sport in Norway?
It’s important but not as a sport like football or skiing. There’s a lot of us Norwegians that climb, 1 out of 100 do climb. It’s a very popular sport and maybe the most or second most growing sport in Norway. It gets some television coverage, for example a documentary about my competitions in 2011 on NRK, Norway's biggest TV-channel, this fall. Also we have some youth climbers that are getting really strong, like Tina (Johnsen Hafsaas).
We know you from the training videos on the internet and we heard you never had a coach. Where did you pick up all the knowledge for training?
In Norway we were not really strong in climbing so I had to travel a lot and train with other people like David Lama. I stayed a long time in Innsbruck and I’ve spent a lot of time with other climbers. I learned something from each climber, I put it all together and found something that works for me.
Which climber, you think, really disserves an interview and for what reason?
I think Jorg (Verhoeven) disserves an interview. He’s like an underdog. He’s not so much in the media lately but he gives a lot back to the climbing sport and he’s not asking anything in return. That’s a really nice thing. He doesn’t really want attention. He’s just doing it because he likes it.
Ok, thanks a lot for this interview and good luck!
Magnus Midtbø's website