Home »Climbing» Silvia Vidal’s extraordinary solo climbing style: ‘I’ll Go Alone. I am alone.’
The first ascent of Big Walls is inevitably immensely complex. Dozens of people can be involved in a single route, from ground staff to logistics experts to the climbers themselves. Silvia Vidal is the exception to the rule.
It didn’t take Silvia Vidal long to embark on her solo climbing journey. Whether she knew it back then or not, the deep independence would make her a climber.
At the beginning of a lifelong adventure, climbing with the help of the climbing aid caught their attention in the mid-1990s. She quickly found mentors and learned the ropes.
Climbing can be daunting. It requires tons of equipment, more logistics, and sometimes even more problem solving. Almost immediately, young Vidal decided that she belonged alone on the wall.
“I’ve learned what it’s like to sleep in the portaledge and use the hammer,” said Vidal. “Then I very soon felt the desire to go alone.”
Within a few weeks she was in Yosemite. After a test run on El Capitan, she decided to give it a try Zodiac (VI, C3) without a partner. And in her words “without a clue”.
This is how the legend of Silvia Vidal began. Since then she has developed her unique style of climbing the wall into a crystallized ethic. Weather forecasts, cell phones and ground contact are compromises for them. On the first ascent, she only trusts her ability and intuition for success.
Vidal on El Cap in the early days, deck chairs in tow.
In nearly 3 decades of climbing, this approach has served Vidal well.
Your robust first ascents span the globe and often require weeks or months on the wall. She spent 33 days carving one of the last routes “Magical Synchrony”, (3,900 feet, A3 +, 5.10c) in Patagonia’s Cerro Chileno Grande.
In Alaska’s Arrigetch Peaks, she spent 36 days hauling over 330 pounds of equipment to the base of Un Pas Més. In comparison, things went up quickly: Vidal only lived in her portaledge for 17 days.
“Magic Synchrony”, Cerro Chileno Grande, Patagonia.
Solo Aid Climbing as a way of life for Silvia Vidal
Vidal is known for her ascents as well as for her strict “capsule” style: She climbs large walls without prior knowledge (terrain, weather, route information, etc.) And once she starts, she is completely on her own – no radio, no cell phone, nothing but yourself, your intuition and your climbing ability.
“Walking in this style is a way of saying, ‘I’m really alone,'” she said. “Si voy sola, estoy sola (If I go alone, I am alone).”
The Catalan prefers to climb to the limit. She argues that the focused headspace on the wall is from climb hard enough that you are completely absorbed. In the vicinity of the upper limits of climbing ability, precision is crucial.
Placements are getting smaller and further apart. The execution of each one with attention to detail is of the utmost importance for safety, especially when you are alone, on a big wall for the first time, without ground contact and without a weather forecast.
Vidal is committed to the elements. Monsoon conditions in India on the FA from “Naufragi” (3,400 m, A4 +).
She speaks of being completely “absorbed” when climbing a pitch and not noticing the things around her. So much so that once she finishes she can’t tell you about the pitch.
A “personal requirement”
“Live in the moment” is an almost religious oath in climbing. Many swear they view it as the gospel, but most violate it almost constantly. Weekend warriors talk about work in the sports mountain; Detached bastards are stewing alone in their mobile homes over financial worries.
If there is one climber who lives in the moment, it is Vidal. Place yourself on a portaledge halfway through a 30 day climb, a week from the nearest village, and it will keep raining. You don’t know when the rain will stop and there is no way to tell. You cannot watch TV on your phone.
How are you?
“To me, [solo aid climbing] is related to the way I live, ”she said. “You should have to go alone because if you do [you do] not – you will give up. “
She calls it a “personal requirement” – a way to experience the full extent of an adventure.
Vidal looks fearless, but she is anything but reckless. Planning remote big wall expeditions requires extensive and comprehensive logistics. Big picture assessments like: “How much help is needed with climbing to get up this wall?” Distill them into scraps of little things like: “How many locking carabiners do I need?”
Large wall hands; Vidal works for it.
Walking alone without assistance greatly increases the scope of the task.
If their demeanor weren’t so calm, Vidal would appear rebelliously independent. Their attitude towards training is “anarchic” – there is no plan or system for them. She doesn’t climb or run; she just hikes and climbs long multi-pitch routes.
“Why? I don’t know; it’s just my way of working.”
Silvia Vidal received a special mention at the 2021 Piolets d’Or in Briançon, France. Stay up to date with your first ascent and motivational talks with her website.
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