Tabea Schwab, Rauchende Bolts 9-9 at Bärenschlucht Frankenjura © Ray Wood
Tabea is bright star in the Swiss climbing scene, effervescently keen and always hungry for more climbing. Her enthusiasm is infectious – just ask anybody who has spent time in her company.
She was born in 1983 and grew up in the countryside surrounding Zurich. Her first experience of climbing came in 1994 when, aged 11, her uncle took her scrambling in the Mettmenalp area. Yearly holiday trips into the mountains followed, but Tabea’s real connection to climbing was forged through regular visits to climbing gyms throughout her teen years.
As time went on the desire to get involved at a deeper level grew stronger. In 2002, when Tabea finished college, she decided to “go climbing for real”, as she puts it. A five month stint at El Chorro in southern Spain seemed just the ticket. This intensive period saw her fully immersed in the world of climbing. While her focus was on onsighting harder routes every day (F6c-F7as), a friend introduced her to the idea of working the moves on seemingly ‘impossible’ routes like F8as. This eye-opening experience left her gripped by the vision of climbing hard routes like these one day.
The following year Tabea went on a two month trip to Boulder in Colarado with friends she had met in El Chorro and managed to push her standard up to onsighting F7b. Back in Switzerland she organized her life around trips to the different crags close by, working in the gyms on ‘rest days’, setting routes and giving climbing courses.
In the summer of 2004 Tabea moved to Zürich to start Psychology studies and throughout this, and the following years, she climbed a lot of multi pitch routes in the ‘Wendenstöcke’.
In spring 2007 she tried out some Deep Water Soloing in Mallorca and got immediately hooked on this exciting climbing style. After being talked up to a certain height above the water, it seemed only reasonable to go and flash one of her first F7cs, rather than to let go and fall into the deep! The mantra: ‘Just think of the climbing’ gained a new meaning that day. Later the same year she redpointed her first F8a: No Time… at Engelberg. Tabea was starting to become more structured in her approach to climbing; in 2008 she trained properly and managed her first F8a+, Onan der Masturbator (also at Engelberg).
Unfortunately in that same summer Tabea fell sick with an extended bout of Glandular Fever which stretched on and on. Although not still at full health, she joined the national team in 2009 and did a few World Cup competitions. The mental game of competitions helped to enrich her climbing life with yet another challenge. She focussed on bouldering competitions and training strength to avoid the endurance training that would make her sick again. By 2010 Tabea was recovering a little and in August even managed to climb Encore F8a+ at Ceuse, the first sign that she had beaten the Glandular Fever.
Throughout 2011 Tabea’s health steadily improved; her best competition result was 20th place in Eindhoven. And come 2012 she was hitting stronger form, both in bouldering competitions (placing 29th and 23rd in the World cup series) and out on the crag. In June she flashed Steal of Stone F8a at Fräki (“One of the biggest fights in my climbing life!”), and followed it in July with a redpoint of Onanlater F8b at Engelberg. Tabea also stretched herself in a slightly different arena with the first female ascent of Land ohne Herren, a very exposed 9 pitch F7c on the north face of Titlis in Engelberg.
In the first couple of months in 2013 she stayed with her boyfriend in a little apartment in Chironico and immersed herself in the world of bouldering; working constantly on harder boulder problems she discovered “how much more than expected is possible”. In April Tabea climbed two Font 8As at Chironico: Souvenir and the amusingly titled: The Arete with the Pocket. In May she came over to North Wales, with the rest of the Euro team, and enjoyed sampling the many and varied delights of the area (rediscovering trad climbing). On the very last day of her trip, and in the last few minutes of available time, she nailed the Cromlech bouldering test piece, Bus Stop Font 7B+.
In autumn 2013 Tabea reached the top of another long time project: the route of studying. With her degree in Psychology there will be more time for new projects in the world of climbing... the first being six months spent travelling to surf spots, boulders and friends in Sri Lanka, New Zealand and Australia.
“Across my climbing life to date, what I love the most, far more than the end result or a number attached to the experience, is the process of doing it. For me, climbing is a riddle that I love to solve. I love working on the moves and uncovering the individual solutions that exist for each problem and each hold on the problem. Engaging in that mystery of climbing is what I love to do most. My favourite routes ever are the ones I haven't done yet, the ones I can dream about, work on and make possible.”