Gu bouldering in Namibia – South Africa © baboonmaster.com
Guntram, or Gu as he is commonly known, is a phenomenal boulderer with a mind boggling track record of hard ascents. He is a well travelled man who has made his mark, not just in his home country of Austria, but all over Europe, and even South Africa and Tenerife. Gu has a very distinctive approach to bouldering – he is a strong believer that the best way to improve is to climb on real rock as much as possible. He rarely trains, preferring instead to maximise his time at the crag – this purist approach has yielded him an extraordinary tally of high standard repeats and first ascents.
Gu was born in 1988 in the Austrian town of Bregenz and started climbing at the relatively late age of 17 in 2006. His entry into the climbing lifestyle came almost by accident:
“When I first found climbing I was a really passionate downhill mountain biker. Together with my friend I thought ‘How is it possible to get bigger muscles?’ Yeah, we had a great idea - let’s start climbing! That was a totally wrong choice because in climbing it’s not about getting muscles, it’s about getting to know how you really use your muscles. Muscles are heavy, so you need to find the right balance between being light and strong.”
Climbing quickly became an all consuming obsession and soon Gu found himself conflicted about which path he should take in life.
“If it had been up to me, I would have quit school in order to strictly focus on climbing. However, by the pressure of my family and friends and my internal consciousness, I knew that finishing my degree was the right thing to do. After I finished school, another distraction from my true passion came along. I was on a bouldering trip in South Africa, and I found out that I was summoned to join the military.”
After a 6 month stint in the army Gu was clear that he wanted to pursue his dream and climb as much as humanly possible. His natural strength and talent had already begun to show; in his first year of climbing he managed a 7C boulder problem: Spirit 11 at Lorüns in Austria. In 2007 he blasted through a range of increasingly hard problems, including eight 7C+s (three of which were first ascents), five 8As (one of which was a first ascent) and two 8A+s (Zwiederwurzn and X-Ray at Silvretta).
The following year saw him break into the 8B grade; in fact he climbed three problems at this standard. Many good climbers focus their energy on a few hard projects but Gu was hungry for it all. He worked quickly through the established classics and in the process racked up 13 8A+s (including three first ascents) and 33 8As. This pattern continued over the following years as he settled into his modus operandi: climb hard and climb lots!
Gu was also developing his creative side, discovering and climbing an increasing number of new problems. In 2010 he was particularly active in Norway where he made numerous first ascents up to 8B. A trip to Sweden in this year also gave him his first 8B/+: The Hourglass sds at Västervik.
With strength and skill improving all the time, Gu kept on pushing to ever higher levels. The very next year (2011) he broke the 8C grade with Big Paw in Chironico; he also climbed three 8B+s (Sur le Fil in Switzerland, Phase 2 at Sustenpass in Switzerland and Anam Cara at Silvretta, Austria).
Yet it was the astonishing volume of hard climbing that he continued to pack in which marked Gu out as a really special player. In addition to Big Paw and the 8B+s he also climbed 20 8Bs, 44 8A+s and 51 8As. In 2012 the whirlwind of activity continued; his tally for that year came to one 8B+ (Mooiste Meisie at Rocklands in South Africa), 17 8Bs, 50 8A+s and 66 8As!
One could be forgiven for wondering how Gu finds the time to climb so many hard problems and still train. The simple truth is he doesn’t really train at all. If there is dry rock to be had, he’s on it, and usually all day if possible. This approach may not yield the greatest strength gains but it certainly leads to high levels of fitness and exceptional crag skills. The results, of course, speak for themselves.
Bouldering is Gu’s primary focus, but he does tie on occasionally; for example, in 2012 he climbed Boiling Point F8b in the Frankenjura. He has also wandered up various F8as, and even the odd F8a+.
A major highlight of 2013 was a visit to the island of Tenerife. Gu climbed many classic problems and cleaned up some superb 8A and 8A+ project lines along the way. He topped it all with the first ascent of Ninja 8B+, a last great problem which had lain unclimbed since it was first discovered 10 years ago by Austrian ex-pat, Walter Goller. After a four day battle Gu topped out this remarkable line. Make sure you check out the Teneriffa Tension / Bouldering with Gu film.
As 2014 rolls on Gu continues to operate with the same spirit and passion; he is particularly happy with the first ascent of Cosmic Chaos 8B+ (at Murgtal in Switzerland), an epic route-length line despatched in fine style by a man at the height of his powers.
Gu is currently studying economics and economic law in Innsbruck and after some frenetic years is perhaps at the most settled stage in his life so far.
“I’ve got really great friends here and having a home base here is a great feeling. I still haven’t found this really last step which makes you happy 100 percent but more and more I’ve started to realise that it is maybe not about making this little last step, it’s about how passionately you’ve searched for that last step. The feeling for climbing has changed a lot. Once it was everything to me, but that wasn’t great all the time. Many days I was unhappy with my performance and if I couldn’t succeed sometimes I was angry the whole day. Now I can see everything from a different perspective, I can enjoy every aspect of the sport and if I fail, I fail. I don’t care that much any more because climbing is not everything in life!”