I meet Jerry Moffatt at Lake Serraia in Baselga di Piné. He talks about his books, how to set a clear goal both in climbing and in life, and how to deal with failure. We met 37 years ago in Bardonecchia, during the first, legendary sport climbing competition in history. Then in Arco for the Rock Master, in Madonna di Campiglio for the World Cup, a guest in our home, us in England. A champion — in sport as in life. The input he gives us can be adapted to any situation in one’s history.
“Liquid Ambar” – Jerry Moffatt’s climbing
For a great climber like Jerry Moffatt who has been the best in so many different styles, it can’t be easy to pick a favourite route. He talks about Wales, his home’s rock, with passion: “Probably, my favourite route that I did was “Liquid Ambar”. That was a route I started climbing in 1987. I completed it in 1990. It was the first 8c+. I did it on a cliff in North Wales called Pen Trwyn.
It is just nice to do such a hard route in a local area for me. It is a very beautiful climb, really difficult and sustained. That was one of my favourites. Some of it was relief. I’d very nearly did it the year before. I fell off the last move And next year I crashed my motorbike, and I broke my ribs, my wrist, my foot. So I couldn’t try again that year. And then I went back the next year and did it very quickly. So it was a relief, it was just really nice. I did it very late in the evening, about 8 o’clock. I wasn’t go to go climbing, I was gonna climb it the next day. Then I got there and I felt really relaxed and nice, and I thought — I felt a lot of pressure, so I thought “I just gonna try now rather then in the morning”.
Jerry Moffatt: “In climbing – and beyond -you need a good goal.”
We talk a lot about motivation. But, especially for young people, it is not always easy to find good motivation. Jerry turns the tables and offers a different path: “I think the most important thing for motivation is a goal. So forget motivation, and think about the goal, and have a goal. Think: “What do I want to do?”
Have a realistic goal. Something you can achieve probably with a 90% of certainty in 6 months. Don’t have a goal, when you are at the beginner, to be a world champion, because it’s too big. But if you are climbing 8a, and you want to climb 8a+ — that might be achievable in 6 months.
So have a goal, and then set up a plan, how to get to the goal. Write some notes down on a piece of paper: I’m going to train every day, do stretching, eat good food, stuff like that. And try to enjoy it, and if you enjoy it, the motivation will come.”
The fall, the failure
In climbing, you learn to fall. Which is useful in everyday life, when expectations and dependence on the judgment of others, generate too much pressure. Learning to fail is part of the game. Jerry talks about accepting failure: “You have to fail. You never going to improve on a scale straight up. A good improvement will be: good day, good day, good day, bad day. Not-a-bad day, a good day, a bad day, a good day, a good day. You never going to do good day –> good day –> good day. It’s impossible.
Every day you’re going to have little failures, and you have to realise that and embrace it. It’s not nice. I’m the worst person when it doesn’t go well. You just have to get over it and stick to your goal, stick to your plan of how you’re going to achieve that goal.”
Two important books: “Revelations” and “Mastermind”
“Revelations” is Jerry’s autobiography, a must-read without a doubt, published by Versante Sud, as “Zanzara and Labbradoro.” Jerry says he wrote it “for the younger climbers — they wouldn’t have heard of me climbing in the 80s. That’s when I did my best things, so it’s just bringing back. It was a different time, before professionalism for competitions… It’s just a different world: nobody had cars, nobody earned money. People were hitch-hiking everywhere.
People with real dedication, real motivation. They were living in a cave, having no money, having to hitch-hike 2 hours when it normally takes you 10 minutes in a car. And then walk for hours to get there. I think the people relate to that decade. Not so much motivation, more for dedication to the lifestyle and the sport.”
For the second book Mastermind, “I was always interested in sport psychology. I thought it’d be very interesting to document it. Because I know a lot of the top climbers, I could speak to them and have my version of what I think to be thinking to perform well, along what they think they need to perform well. So I interviewed the best on-site climbers, the best red-point climbers, the best boulderers, the best free solo climbers. I interviewed all the people and said: “What are you thinking about when you are climbing at your best?”
After a visit to Arco at Rock Master with his wonderful family, we end by talking about Italy, his frequent visits, and his love for the environment. “Set an achievable goal. Map out a concrete plan. Have fun.”