Felix is clearly in his element. He is ‘reading’ a rock face. Visualising the route up. For this climber, focusing on the here and now, concentrating on the next move or hold makes him totally relaxed. Being outdoors, surrounded by nature, is his way of relaxing. Felix is a calm, softly spoken person. But being surrounded by tall trees, mountains and open rock faces sets him even more at ease.
“I like to find a balance between excitement and control. I am naturally a bit careful. The times I have been frightened I have either turned back or hurt myself. I have learnt to listen to my fear – it is a natural warning signal.”
Felix’s love of nature, climbing and mountains started when he was around seven years old. He lived in Switzerland at the time and although he was used to a landscape dominated by mountains he’d never really considered climbing those peaks. But that changed the day his babysitter rigged up some ropes and harnesses on his bunk bed. From then on, he was obsessed with climbing.
“That first experience was fantastic. And soon afterwards we were out trying to climb in the mountains. Even if we thought it was a big adventure then, we probably only crawled around on a little rock. But we learned the importance of equipment, safety and of being careful.”
Felix’s love affair with climbing continued to blossom. He spent summers trekking in the Swiss Alps with his parents and younger brother and sister learning how to use ropes and belaying devices. And over the years his experience has grown along with his respect for nature.
“Being a good competitive climber, who is strong and fast after hundreds of hours indoors is not worth much if you’re never outside. The hours I have spent in the mountains have given me invaluable experience. Nature can never be perfect theoretically. It is practical.”
And this experience has made him wise beyond his years. He notices the small things. He pays attention to changes in the weather, landscape and temperature. It actually feels as though he’s probably more comfortable out here than at home.
“When you’re outdoors you have to be able to see changes. A climb that was straightforward on a warm summer’s day is entirely different in bad weather. An icefall can be stable one metre and porous the next. Experience lets you operate at a higher capacity and makes more things possible. Challenges and experiences can always be found, regardless of if you are a beginner or a professional.”
But now Felix and his wife have a new challenge. Their first child together will change their climbing situation. Their focus has now changed. For these climbers, climbing will now come second. There is something – or someone – that’s more important.
“The most important thing now is to make sure our daughter enjoys being out in nature, that she thinks it’s fun to be outside. For me it was always about fun when we were outdoors when we were small, never about performance. That was how we learned, my brother and I. Climbing in trees, on rocks, going up to a hut in the Alps with our parents and having fun in the mountains. I’m really looking forward to it to showing our daughter the fun side of nature. And in time, I hope that she will take an interest in climbing too.”