Climbing / Climbers / Ben Moon
Name: Ben Moon
Interview By: Moon Climbing
For the last two decades, Ben Moon’s name has been inextricably linked to climbing. Indeed, since 1984 when, as an 18 year old, he made the first ascent of Statement of Youth 8a, Ben has been in the vanguard of British and world sports climbing and bouldering. Since then he has made climbing his life, putting up many of the world’s hardest routes, including ‘Hubble’, the first 8c+ in 1990. A few years ago, he decided to concentrate on, what to him is the purest form of climbing, bouldering. In many ways Ben has defined this movement, leading the way with his extraordinary problems in Fontainebleau, the USA, India and Britain.
MC – When and where did you start climbing?
BM – I first started climbing when I was 7 years old whilst on family holidays in the Lake District. We used to go walking in the mountains a lot with this other family and the father of the other family did a bit of climbing and took us one day and I was bitten by it immediately.
MC – If you weren’t a World-class rock climber, what do you think you would have liked to have been?
BM – A footballer definitely. Probably an attacking midfielder in the mould of Frank Lampard although I probably don’t quite have the legs for it, or the skill for that matter. Seriously though I think it’s a fantastic game and I really enjoy playing in a team which is something you don’t really experience when you climbing.
MC – Where are your favorite climbing spots in the UK and Abroad?
BM – This is a tricky question really because I have climbed at so many great places. I have to say that I think the Peak District is one of the best places I have climbed at. I have been climbing here for 20 years and I am still enjoying it. The gritstone is totally unique in the world and has some of the best routes and boulder problems anywhere and in a way it’s a shame not more foreign climbers visit the area, I think they get put off by the weather.
As far as climbing abroad goes if you are into you bouldering then it doesn’t get much better than Fontainbleau and in the USA well everyone should try and visit Yosemite at least once.
MC – You’re well known for bouldering these days but do you still do other styles of climbing? (traditional, sport etc)? If so how often?
BM – Not really. I pretty much packed in sport climbing about 8 years ago. Up until that point I had done a lot of sport climbing and bouldering and a bit of trad in my early days but after I gave up on this new route in Yorkshire that I had been trying I kind of lost motivation for sport climbing. I still do the occasional route but nothing hard although a year or so back I probably had one of my best days out climbing when my wife and I climbed Amphitheatre Buttress in North Wales. This is a classic V Diff which was done at the turn of the century.
MC – What would be your top route recommendations in the UK?
BM – Amphitheater Buttress (V Diff), Strawberries (E6 6b) and Liquid Amber (8c) all in North Wales. Peapod (HVS) and Profit of Doom (E5 6b) in the Peak.
MC – And abroad?
BM – It’s got to be La Rose et la Vampire (8b) at Buoux which is one of the most classic sport climbs in the world but once you get to the break you might as well carry on and tick La Rage de Vivre (8b+). 50 meter of immaculate pocketed limestone climbing. And while you’re at Buoux you might as well do Agincourt (8c).
MC – What would be your top boulder problem recommendations in the UK?
BM – It’s got to be Crescent Arête and Brad Pitt both at Stanage. Two beautiful but contrasting lines on the best rock in the world.
MC – And abroad?
BM – Partage (8a+) at Font and while you’re there do the wall to the right Attention Chef d’Oeuvre (7a). These two will spice up your life a bit! And I guess you have to do Midnight Lightning (7b+) since it’s the most famous boulder problem in the world and not bad either.
MC – Where in the world that you haven’t already climbed would you love to climb?
BM – There are loads of places. I still haven’t been to Hueco in the states and I would love to take a road trip round South Africa. I would also love to go back to the Himalayas but particularly Shivling base camp because it’s such an amazing place and there is a really cool problem that I didn’t manage to do.
MC – What do you look for when choosing a new boulder problem?
BM – Holds! Without them it can be quite tricky. Okay serious answer, the line and the quality of the rock are the two most important qualities. You want perfect rock, preferably either gritstone, granite or sandstone and a really obvious feature which is totally independent from anything else.
MC – How often do you climb?
BM – I climb or train about 4 times a week.
MC – How often do you train and for how many hours per session?
BMIt depends what I am doing. Since I only boulder I am not that bothered about endurance my sessions probably wouldn’t be more that 2 hours long. I guess when I was training for routes and was bouldering and doing big circuits I might train for 4 or 5 hours a day.
MC – How many days a year do you NOT climb or train and what do you do instead?
BM – Not many to be honest but again it depends on what time of year it is and how busy I am with the business. When I am not climbing or training then I am resting and probably working on the business or if I am not doing that then I still try to get out in the country if just for a walk or something. I did use to play golf and football quite a lot but just don’t have the time now so have to settle for watching it instead and dreaming of my next life as a footballer!
MC – Where do you train?
BM – We are really lucky in Sheffield because we have three great training venues in The School Room, The Foundry and The Edge. All are different and very good in their own way and variety is so important.
MC – What kind of training do you do?
BM – Mainly bouldering, campus boarding, one arm pulls ups and weights.
MC – Your top training tip or tips?
BM – I think variety in the type of exercises you do and the places that you train and climb are vitally important in becoming a stronger and more rounded climber and remember quality not quantity.
MC – Has Nutrition played a part in your training now and in the past?
BM – I have never followed a diet and have been very lucky with my weight which has always remained around the 10 stone mark. However I have always eaten a very healthy and well balanced diet which includes lots of fresh fruit and vegetables, fish, rice and pasta and I really enjoy cooking.
MC – Surely the fags don’t help Ben?
BM – Nor the booze.
MC – Do you think the best climbers in the World are that good mainly through good genetics or through dedication?
BM – I think it’s both. If you have good genes but lack motivation or great motivation but the wrong genes you will never be the best. It winds me up when people say “Oh yeah he’s good climber but it’s only because he has the right body type” as if that’s all it’s down to. It’s about having the right body type and HARD WORK.
MC – What proportion of your climbing career have you been injured?
BM It must be a couple of years out of about 20.
MC – What do you feel are your best achievements in and out of the climbing arena?
BM – I am still pretty pleased with my effort on Hubble which is still the hardest bit of climbing I have done. I gave it 8c+ but I think it’s hard at that and has stopped a lot of good climbers. I am also pretty proud of some of the other first ascents I have done but not necessarily because they are super hard but just because they were classic routes or problems like Statement of Youth (8a), Agincourt (8c) Black Lung (8b) Cypher (8b)
MC – Has there ever been a moment during a climb where you were so scared that the words “If I get off this climb I’ll never climb again” have sprung to mind? And if so what climb, where, and when?
BM – There have been a few times when it’s all gone a bit fuzzy but you don’t really have time to think that much. I remember years and years ago soling up this polished HVS hand crack at Stoney Middleton to put a top rope up for my brother. I think I overestimated my jamming skills on polished limestone and only just managed to scrap through the crux without falling off. Not very impressive.
MC – If you could live anywhere in the World where would it be, and why?
BM – I don’t mean to harp on about Sheffield but it’s pretty dam good even if you aren’t a climber. It’s a reasonably sized city so there is plenty going on but it’s compact and only 10 minutes drive to the Peak District which is not something to be sniffed at. At the end of the day I am into my climbing so I guess I could handle most places so long as there was good climbing close at hand. Fontainbleau could be good or somewhere like Briancon in the French Alps or maybe even San Francisco, I imagine that could be quite a bit of fun!
MC – What is your opinion on competitions and their role in climbing today?
BM – I have done a lot of comps over the years and really enjoyed some and hated others. They can be incredibly stressful at times but there is no doubt that you get a big buzz from performing in front of a big crowd. Overall I think they are a good thing and I am all for anything that gets people motivated to go climbing or do sport in general. I have never understood the BMC policy of not promoting climbing which to me is the same as saying that you don’t want to promote physical exercise. Yes we see more erosion out on the hills and mountains but surely that’s better than everyone sitting on their sofas watching telly and getting fat.
MC – What do you think about the climbing scene in general today?
BM – It seems pretty healthy to me although I sometimes wonder if in the UK we are falling behind the standards being set abroad by some climbers. I would certainly like to see British women climbers climbing at a higher standard. I mean there are foreign female climbers and not just one of two who have redpointed up to 8c and bouldered up to 8a or 8a+ but in the UK the highest level is more like 8a or 8a+ for routes and 7b+ or 7c for boulders and it’s been like this for quite sometime. Why is this?
MC – If you could climb with any individual (alive or dead) who would it be?
BM It would have to be Colin Kirkus. He is one of my all time climbing heroes and was the leading climber of his generation back in the 1930s. My grandfather did a bit of climbing in the 30s and had a massive collection of climbing books one of which was Lets Go Climbing by Colin Kirkus which is one of my favourite books. In fact I think we might have a section on this web site a bit like “thought for the day” where have quotes from books like this which I think could be interesting and inspiring.
MC – What’s your favorite bit of kit that you’ve developed?
BM – It might be really sad but I love the bouldering chalk bag. It’s pure simplicity but works so much better than all those fancy bouldering chalk bags that cost twice the price. I think simplicity is one of the keys to good design.
MC – Do you think Lycra pants (especially in rainbow colours) will make a comeback?
BM – Just wait till you see my SS06 collection!
MC – Your goals for 2005?
BM To stay fit and healty, climb more and repeat High Fidelity at Caley.
MC – What would you say to aspiring new climbers?
BM – Get outside and climb as much and on as many different types of rock as you possibly can and always give 100%.