Andy Winterleitner

SONY DSCAndy Winterleitner on Rammstein F8c/+, Soyhières © Alex Winterleitner

Andy is one of Switzerland’s most prolific sport climbers. Over the last ten years he has delved deep into the climbing game and in the process built up an impressive tick list of grade 8 routes. But it’s not just about the numbers; the beauty of the crags and the creative aspect of new routing are very important to him too. To this end he has made numerous top quality first ascents, significantly expanding the canon of classic sport routes in Switzerland.

The roots of Andy’s climbing life began during his childhood. He spent a lot of time enjoying the natural environment with his parents. This initial contact with wild places piqued his interest in the outdoors and before long he was taken in by the lure of the rocks.

“I made my first steps into climbing while on holiday in the south of France. I was surrounded by flavoursome herbs and a nice landscape. On the limestone I tried to reach the top of a wall. The following year I was able to try another route which was a bit harder. Happy about this progress I was touched by the sport.”

Andy had also been captivated by the sight of other climbers out on the crags:

“From the early beginning I was inspired by these athletes who were climbing with an amazing flow on the rock with their tight lycra-pants. Almost like dancers. Such as the competitor, Francois Legrand.”

In 2001, aged 12, he started to train regularly for climbing. Even at this tender age he adopted a very methodical approach. “I have always documented every hour of training since the start. So there is a nice collection of small books with notes. One sort of perfectionism which I am still making.”

Despite an early interest in training and progress, Andy was still very much enchanted by the beauty and ambience of the crag environment. “It was still the experience of a nice day in nature which was really motivating me. There were some crags which were near my home. So I could often go outside. Places like the Jura. The routes were mostly vertical, short, with poor footholds and a bouldery crux.”

During his teenage years he was a regular participant in national competitions, but over the years his enthusiasm for indoor competitions waned. “I didn’t really have the spirit of a competitor. Beating others to be the best doesn’t suit my character. It soon became less important to me than real rock climbing.”

Out on the crags his standard had started to rise. In 2006, at the age of 17, he climbed three F7c+s and three F7c+s. The following year he broke the magic F8a grade, climbing five routes at this standard, three of which were first ascents. Andy then topped it all by redpointing his first F8a+ at the Swiss crag, Twann.

2008 saw him break into the F8b grade with Darth Vadar, again at Twann. He also managed to tick eleven F8as and nine F8a+s during this year, including the first ascent of La Choucroute du Gab F8a+ at Das Boot.

“I began to bolt routes and do first ascents. A necessary way because there are not so many steep and hard routes in the near Jura.”

In 2009 Andy’s arc of improvement continued to soar upwards with a breakthrough into the F8b+ level and an escalating number of grade 8 routes – to be specific: twelve F8as, nine F8a+s, two F8bs and three F8b+s! He also climbed his first 7C+ boulder problem: Luciano at Valais.

Andy’s preference for endurance routes was well established by now. His flexibility and static, controlled style suited the long, stamina test pieces. He also had built up impressive levels of fitness which allowed him to make repeated attempts when less fit climbers had packed up and left the crag.

2010 saw yet more F8b+s, but it was 2011 when Andy really raised his game, redpointing three F8cs, onsighting F8a+ and racking up an astonishing number of ascents: twenty F8as, eighteen F8a+s, eleven F8bs and two F8bs, one of which was a first ascent. “This year I pushed my redpoint level further and repeated some hard routes. One of them was Rammstein in Soyhières which is supposed to be a F8c/+.” (You can see some footage in this: Rammstein film)

During 2012 Andy focussed more on the upper grades, ticking four F8cs, five F8b+s and eleven F8bs. His taste for the creative aspect of new routing remained strong, for example, one of his F8cs and three of his F8b+ redpoints were first ascents, including the immaculate looking La Face Cachée du Mur.

2013 was less frantic, but still involved a F8c (Caresse Mentale at Gastlosen) and a trio of F8b+s, one of which was a first ascent. Looking to the future Andy hopes to keep on progressing and staying injury free, as he has done throughout his climbing life. Although he has climbed a lot in France (and is a fluent French speaker) he is keen to travel more to the best climbing areas around the world.

Andy is currently studying in Bern with the goal of becoming a teacher. He also provides some training for the regional cadre and occasionally sets routes for competitions. Check out his blog, which details both his climbing exploits and his love for art: http://gnomenwelten.blogspot.co.uk/

“I like the classic way of working on a route for a long time, even though this is often very difficult mentally. I never give up and that’s one of my strengths I think. It’s always a project which captures me. Then it can’t be thrown out of my head until it’s done - even if it takes weeks or years.”