Free soloing is not for the faint-hearted. It’s a good thing, then, that climber Matt Bush is not easily spooked. He climbs mountains for a living – and we don’t mean hike, we mean climb. Without ropes and harnesses. He’s even been called the Alex Honnold of South Africa.
And he doesn’t do it for fame or to win competitions. ‘I left the competition scene many years ago for the elementary simplicity and beauty of rock climbing,’ Matt says. ‘My motivations for climbing are not competitive as much as intrinsic and personal — to achieve new creative expressions in nature.’
He’s scaled the face of Table Mountain, and this video of his adventures will get your palms sweaty just watching him climb.
‘I’ve made mistakes. I haven’t died. I’ve gone off balance and then reversed my moves or climbed myself out. When your skills are there, you have margins to work with, more than those who don’t climb would understand,’ the once told Red Bull.
‘The popular perception is one mistake and you die, but it’s not quite like that. If I misjudge the sequence of moves, I can often re-correct. If my hand pops, I can put it back on the wall. Free solo is a language. When you climb, you speak it.’
The 37-year-old started climbing with his dad when he was four, and he never really stopped. We had a chat with him.
Where is your favourite place to climb in the world?
The Cederberg, for sure.
What led you to free climbing instead of using equipment?
Free soloing grew out of curiosity for the next-level challenge, it was a natural progression from the ropes. After many years of climbing and having developed the trust and confidence in my ability, I started free soloing.
Do you experience any fear or nerves when you do risky climbs?
Yes for sure. Fear is present in the free solo experience. A certain measure of fear is important for survival. It keeps me alert, focused and sharpens the senses for action.
How do you navigate the risks and ensure your safety?
Free soloing a new climb involves planning and preparation. If it’s a new challenging climb I prepare with the ropes. This gives me knowledge of the route and builds my confidence for the rope-free ascent.
The process involves identifying hazards like loose rocks, learning the sequence of moves until automatic and gaining physical strength and endurance. The process is guided by my feelings, too. Once I’ve prepared properly, I feel ready.
Check out some more of Matt’s moves below.
Pictures: Matt Bush
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