Bart van Raaij, 44 anos, Holandês, mais propriamente de Roterdão, pai de família, designer gráfico especializado em tipografia. É também um ávido e forte escalador de bloco, fundamentalmente conhecido pelos seus famosos guias de Fontainebleau, “7+8”e agora também o “5+6”, em dois volumes, autênticas bíblias da floresta, onde impera o detalhe, a precisão e um design sóbrio, equilibrado e moderno. Passou recentemente por Portugal, mais propriamente por Santo Tirso e Corno de Bico. Aproveitámos a ocasião para lhe fazer algumas perguntas sobre as suas impressõesacerca do Bloco em geral, mas também sobre o nosso terreno de jogo favorito.
Nota: Resolvemos deixar a entrevista tal qual foi originalmente feita, em Inglês, idioma natural entre os dois interlocutores. SM
Bart van Raaij, 44 years old, Dutch, more precisely from Rotterdam, family father, graphic designer specialized in tipography. He is also an avid and strong climber, mainly known for his famous Fontainebleau climbing guidebooks, “7+8” and the more recent “5+6”, edited in 2 volumes, which are true forest bibles, where there was paid lots of attention to detail, precision and sober, balanced and modern design. He recently came to Portugal,more specifically to Santo Tirso and Corno do Bico. We took the opportunity to make him a few questions and hear some of his thoughts about Bouldering in general, but also about our favourite playground.
NB: We decided to publish this interview as it was made, in English, since this is the natural language between the 2 interlucotors.
Bart, this was, I think , your second visit to Portugal , to do Bouldering . What areas did you visit and what impression did you get from them?
Yes, this spring I visited Portugal for the second time in my life. Both with my family and the same friends. The first time we went to Pedra do Urso (2009) and this year to Santo Tirso and Corno de Bico. On trips like this we combine holidays with our children and some bouldering. I like to visit different countries and get to know them a little more. The bouldering in Portugal is not very well know and we always have a hard time finding information and a topo.
What area you liked the most?
A hard question. The landscape in Pedra do Urso is weird and wild. We saw so much potential and we knew so little. We just climbed beside the road with very little information. So it was very good but a bit disappointing too. We didn’t meet any other climbers that trip. But we had a great time and enjoyed the area very much. The rock was very sharp and we hoped to discover less sharp rock in the northern areas. Santo Tirso is a very friendly place. Great for the children; water to play with and low boulders to climb on. We found only one sector and climbed only two days. Again we didn’t meet any other climber. We were happy with the less sharp rock. Corno de Bico was shown to us by you. The landscape is beautiful over there. We saw a lot of boulders and tried only a few. Again a great place but with very shap rock. You need to be very motivated to try hard in Corno de Bico. So, if I return to Portugal I would choose Santo Tirso to visit again because I left some unfinished business… But I think Pedra do Urso and Corno de Bico are better areas. I will only go back there with a guidebook or with a local.
What were the main differences you found between the Bouldering in Portugal and in the areas that you frequent regularly?
The area were I climb the most is Fontainebleau. The main difference is the information to be found. I own 30 Font guidebooks and I have written three of them. So I always know were to go and what to try. Another difference is the sharpness of the rock. In Font I can climb for four days without splitting a finger. In Santo Tirso I split a finger the first climbing day and I have very good skin…
During your passage through our country, you ended up repeating some reference problems.What do you think about their grades, comparing them towhat can be found on other places in Europe?
I don’t know which are the Portuguese reference problems but in general the grades are a little friendlier in other areas than in Font. Because there is no guidebook I didn’t know the exact grades of the problems I have done. In Pedra do Urso I did Mantorras Reloaded which I thought was graded 8a at the time I climbed it. I think 7c+ is the correct grade and I recently discovered this grade on NorteBouldering. Rosa Negra is a very good problem and when I climbed it in 2009 I saw it was graded 7b+. Compared to most European areas this is correct but my personal grade would be 7b. In Santo Tirso I repeated Descola Estático 7c. I could do it very quick and with my arm span it could be 7b+ too. I did all the moves of the sit start but I could not finish it with my split finger and high temperatures. It did not feel like 8a+ but I need to do it first to have the right to say something about the grade.
In general terms, what do you think about grades and rating systems, especially on Bouldering, where there are, on one hand, many constraints that make it extremely subjective, and on the other hand there is a media pressure, coupled with a growing professionalization of the sport, which require anextremely objective and precise grading system ?
I like grading! I think it is fun to discuss grades and for me it is an important part of the sport. As a guidebook writer I like to be as precise as possible when I grade problems. But a grade is always an indication. It can feel different for other people. It is logical that some people think a 7c problem is 7b+ and others think it is 7c+. But talking about grades is only fun if everybody is honest and without pride. It doesn’t matter to me if a problem is 7b+ or 7c, as long as the grade is as precise as possible. I downgrade a lot. Not to show how ‘easy’ a problem is for me (or to show how ‘strong’ I am) but to be as honest as possible about how hard it really felt to me. I also upgrade problems. Some classics in Font are extremely hard and there are people blaming me for upgrading classics as l’Abattoir, Marie Rose and Angle Parfait. I don’t feel any media pressure and I think professional climbers shouldn’t either. If a boulder is just opened it’s obvious that the grade might change after some repeats. If every repeater says what he really thinks, the correct grade of a problem appears automatically.
In 2002 you created the Fontainebleau guidebook 7+8 . This is, in my opinion, one of the best guidebooks ever produced, either in terms of information accuracy, as well as in terms of design. What was at the genesis of this project?
Thank you! Well, in the nineties I had completed a list with all the straight ups graded 7a and harder in Fontainebleau. Just because I was interested. This was just a long list with problem names, grades and some other information, almost the same as the right pages of my 7+8 guidebook. To carry it around I had made a small book of this list, just one copy. Made by hand. People started asking me for a copy. One person asked me if he could publish my information on internet and this is how the website bleau.info started. In 1998 I decided to try to make a real guidebook. I am a graphic designer, so I know how to make books, I like photography, I like to draw maps and I love to climb. So why not? Four years later I had drawn topo’s of all the areas and brought my book to the printer. It was very expensive but in three years I had sold all my copies and people kept asking for more…
Now we have a second edition of 7+8 and 5+6 recently.What led to the emergence of these new guidebooks?
The third edition of 7+8 already! Well, the first edition was sold out after three years I had been updating my book all those years so I decided to publish a second edition in 2007. And again, all my books were sold within three years and the shops kept asking for more… And then the crisis came. My graphic design studio wasn’t doing very well and I didn’t make much money with my 7+8 books. I decided to make a 5+6. For commercial reasons, but also because I like the work combined with climbing in the forest. I published 5+6 in 2012 and the third 7+8 in 2013.
When the second edition of 5+6 is complete how many problems will be described in both 5+6 and 7+8 books? Does it make sense to think about a global guide for Fontainebleau, or it would be a monstrous task?
The next 5+6 will list more than 3000 problems. I hope to publish this book with Buthiers, TroisPignons and the northern areas at the end of this year. Together with 7+8 and the other 5+6 there will be about 10 000 straight ups in my books. I don’t know if I will ever find the time and the motivation to describe the 1+2 and 3+4 problems too. But I have said this about 5+6 for years, so who knows… But honestly, I don’t think so. A total guide for Fontainebleau will be almost impossible to make. To the north-west of the areas which I describe the are many more areas… There is a German book whith all the areas but this book doesn’t describe all areas in detail.
In the Netherlands there is an exclusive magazine aboutBouldering, on which you are involved.At what point is this project now?
For five years a friend and I were the owners and editors of the magazine BLOK. A rock climbing magazine. Sport and boulder. Four issues a year. It was great but last year we decided to stop. We just couldn’t make enough money with a magazine like this in such a small country.
In the U.S. there was also an attempt to create a Bouldering magazine with Vbouldering , which did not work. Do you think the sport has not grown enough to have an exclusive publication?
I think publishing magazines is hard these days. My partner for BLOK works at Reed Business, a large publisher, and they also have a hard time publishing magazines. Sending our publications to our subscribers was so expensive. People are used to read information for free on the internet these days…
Finally, what sectors you recommend for a quick visit to Fontainebleau ?
This depends on the weather, your climbing level and how busy it is in the forest. I love all sectors but not at all times. If you like to meet people, go to Bas Cuvier, Apremont, Isatis, Éléphant, Cul de Chien or Sabots. These areas are crowded and for a reason; lots of good problems, all grades, circuits with colored arrows, nice landings and close to the car parks. If you like all this but are looking for a little more quiet place, try Rocher Canon, Cuisinière, Petit Bois, Buthiers, RocherGuichot, Potala, Canche aux Merciers and Bois Rond. If you like it even more quiet and don’t care about circuits or a longer walk in, try Gorges du Houx, Mont Aigu, Rocherd’Avon, Rocher des Demoiselles, Restant du Long Rocher, RocherGréau, Rocher Fin or Roche aux Oiseaux. All these areas have a lot of good problems.
If you want something very special, try the three different areas of Cassepot, walk along the ridge of Marion les Roches, explore la Padôle (don’t forget the western part) or try one of the very quiet areas in Beauvais.
And … if you had to choose a problem in Fontainebleau , what would it be?
Just one? Amok. The most finger friendly 8a in the world.Technical, powerful, dynamic, precise, good looking, pure, short and in a quiet setting.A true bold star in my guidebook.