Interview : Charles Albert

Interview : Charles Albert, the young Font phenomenon who climbs barefoot

Source: Fanatic Climbing
Photos: Neil Hart

Chares Albert, an 18 year old Font local, yesterday repeated the original version (left exit) of “L’alchimiste” in Apremont, 19 years after Marc Le Ménestrel. Fanatic Climbing have had the opportunity to join him to hear the news direct.


• Fanatic Climbing : You just posted on your facebook page that you climbed « L’alchimiste » left original exit – barefoot!. Am I dreaming ?

• Charles : No, you aren’t dreaming! I did 5/6 sessions on the boulder overall. I was trying the right exit as Nalle and Alban and 2 sessions ago I saw Seb Frigault trying the left exit with this superb shoulder move. He was trying the move with a little bit of supports from a spotter and it looked so nice so I wanted to try it this way, because it’s nicer than the right version with the mantle. Yesterday I was climbing alone without pads and luckily I met Kevin Thibaut and Mounir (strong but low profile Font locals) who were trying it. I joined them and I managed to send it on my first real session trying the left version. Regarding the grade, I would say for me it’s not harder than “Gecko assis”, the 8B+ I did barefoot last year… I also tried the sit start of “Alchimiste” which adds an easy but beautiful move but doesn’t change the difficulty. I have not done the sit-start version but will come back and try sending the whole thing because it makes the line even more beautiful !

• Fanatic Climbing : Before you seemed to be happy playing on the 7C/8A problems in the area for the fun. Now it looks like you are taking on more serious problems with more of a focus on succeeding in really difficult problems barefoot. Is it a deliberate shift ?

• Charles : No, not really. It came about in a natural way. When you able to walk up the big 4 or other hard classics it becomes a little bit boring to stay at the same level. So I decided to try some barefoot extreme ascents, some real challenges for me because my level was improving. For example, I did “La pierre philosophale” (editors note: a hard 8B with very few repeats) twice this summer. At the end of 2015, Mael Bonzom showed me “La valse aux adieux” the 8C traverse in Rocher Canon. After 2 or 3 sessions I was able to send the short 8B version. As I didn´t know what to try next I started trying the long 8C traverse version, and 2 sessions after I did it. It’s a friction dependent boulder, it must be the right conditions if you want to have any chance!

• Fanatic Climbing : How did the idea to climb barefoot come about ?

• Charles : I don’t really remember. I watched inspiring films of Patrick Edlinger, and 3 or 4 years ago, I started to try it. For me climbing is better barefoot because the footwork is harder. With climbing shoes, you have just to find the right angle to get the friction on the foot hold. Barefoot, you must choose whether to crimp with your toes or not, you need to be precise with the position of your toes in the foothold like you do with your fingers on handholds. So for me it’s more focused and more complete. This is this game that I love. Climbing shoes suck! Barefoot your feet aren´t squashed and they don´t smell !

• Fanatic Climbing : I´ve heard you have an extreme project in the forest. Tell us more about this problem.

• Charles : It’s very hard, it’s a 6 moves roof which finishes via a blue circuit boulder problem. I fell 3 times in the last left hand swing which slipped off…close. I think it´s 8C. I have another project in Bouigny, but shhh!

• Fanatic Cimbing : I heard that you have tried recently « Le pied à coulisse », Guigui’s 8C+. What can you tell us about this?

• Charles : I tried the stand start because the sit start didn’t really inspire me. I was close to sticking the top lip using a static version instead of the dyno crux with the left hand. After that the mantle that Guillaume described as the crux suits me quite well so I think I have a chance. But I don´t like the boulder that much. I was that area Rocher Gréau trying some classics 8a´s like « Tigre et dragon » and « Le toît du Gréau”. I might go back if the occasion arises but after I´ve finished some other projects – it´s not my priority.

• Fanatic Climbing: Are you following a specific training plan?

• Charles : Sometimes I go to the little gym belonging to my club in Avon near Fontainebleau and I have climbed 3 or 4 times in the Font Karma gym. That’s all. So I can’t claim that I’m training in indoors to improve my climbing level! The only thing I specifically do as part of training is stretching. And climbing outside in the forest…

• Fanatic Climbing: Paradioxically you recently appeared in indoor boudering competitions around Paris and climbed with climbing shoes! What is your long term aim in climbing ?

• Charles : I’m young, only 18 and I started climbing very young with my parents when I was child. Last summer I finished my baccalaureate. I started language studies at University but it didn’t capture me so I decided to stop. More over I hardly had any time for climbing. I realized then that I was quite good at climbing barefoot, so I decided to dedicate my time to my hobby. I would like to be a professional climber in the future, to live more my passion so I decided to try some competitions to be a bit more known. So far I´ve only climbed in Font and I want to travel too to some of the other world class bouldering places that I see in videos and that make me dream. That will happen in the future I hope !