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," he says. "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," says Andy. "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 7cs and three 7c+s. The following year he broke the magic 8a grade, climbing five routes at this standard, three of which were first ascents. Andy then topped it all by redpointing his first 8a+ at the Swiss crag, Twann.
2008 saw him break into the 8b grade with Darth Vadar, again at Twann. He also managed to tick eleven 8as and nine 8a+s during this year, including the first ascent of La Choucroute du Gab at Das Boot.
“I began to bolt routes and do first ascents," explains Andy. "A necessary way because there are not so many steep and hard routes in the Jura.”
In 2009 Andy’s arc of improvement continued to soar upwards with a breakthrough into the 8b+ level and an escalating number of grade 8 routes: twelve 8as, nine 8a+s, two 8bs and three 8b+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 built up impressive levels of fitness, which allowed him to make repeated attempts after less-fit climbers had packed up and left the crag.
2010 saw yet more 8b+s, but it was 2011 when Andy really raised his game, redpointing three 8cs, onsighting 8a+ and racking up an astonishing number of ascents: twenty 8as, eighteen 8a+s, eleven 8bs and two 8bs, one of which was a first ascent. “This year I pushed my redpoint level further and repeated some hard routes," explains Andy. "One of them was Rammstein in Soyhières, which is supposed to be a F8c/+.” (You can see some footage in this: Rammstein film)