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Anna Stöhr Evolution: Never Give Up.

Text by Marta Manzoni

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Anna Stöhr was born on April 25th, 1988 in Innsbruck, Austria. She started climbing as a child with her sister and parents, both climbers. At eight, things got more serious and she started taking part in competitions. Since then she has accomplished numerous first female bouldering climbs in every part of the planet.

In 2007 she won the gold medal in bouldering at the World Championship and in 2008 the World Cup always in the same category. In 2011 she won the two main bouldering titles, winning the gold medal both at the World Championship and during the World Cup. In the 2012 season she won her third World Cup, and in 2013 she got the fourth one. In 2017 she stopped competing in the World Cup circuit. Nowadays she’s trying to raise the bar of her own limits on rock, exploring climbing in all its forms.

 

You’ve been an international bouldering champion, then moved on to rope climbing on single pitches and finally to multi-pitch climbing. You look like the personification of the concept of evolution. How do you interpret this concept?

I believe that evolution means not being rigid, but curious, mentally open to new possibilities and willing to move forward.

 

How did your “journey” as an athlete between these extremes develop? What pushed you towards these choices? Have your motivations changed?

I’ve been part of the Austrian national team for fourteen years, and this somehow defined me as a person. It was very difficult to decide to step back when I realized that I would no longer be able to compete in the bouldering category at the level I was used to. It was a tough choice, but I think climbing is a unique sport also because it offers infinite possibilities: bouldering, multi-pitch routes, ice climbing, indoor, outdoor. It was enough for me to widen my view, change perspective and discover this new dimension of my sport.

You went from a discipline where competitions are important to an activity in the mountains where there are no competitions. What challenges did you have to win? What are the differences between the technical skills needed for bouldering and rock climbing? Has your way of training changed?

I had to train for endurance, which is essential for multi-pitch routes, because it happens to stay on the wall for ten hours. There is only one way to improve on the rock: climb, climb and climb! In bouldering, however, you have to be explosive for a few seconds, and therefore strength matters a lot. Nowadays I go to the gym very little. Then I had to overcome the fear: I went from climbing with a few meters below me to very high walls.

 

What is the strategy that you have adopted during your career?

Go ahead and never give up. If you really want something, go get it!

 

Previously your focus was on indoor competitions while now you have entered a new perspective, closer to nature and its rhythm, which dimension is the best for you?

I have always climbed outdoor and nature has always been a source of motivation for me, I used to do competitions indoor so I have always felt the desire to climb on real rock. I used to train in the gym even on great sunny days, now luckily that doesn’t happen anymore! Now I have the opportunity to appreciate more the ability of outdoor activities to put me in a good mood.

Multi-pitch climbing is much closer to mountaineering, do you like high altitude?

I don’t see myself as a mountaineer, and I am also aware that I don’t have the right skills. I will certainly never climb an eight-thousander! The routes I choose are all very well protected, it is important for me to feel safe.

 

Have you ever thought about free soloing?

No! Never. The risk is too high for me and it’s not something I want to do.

 

What do you think of those who practice it?

People can do what they want, I can only speak for myself.

 

You climbed a lot in the Alps and around the world, what are the differences? Where do you prefer to climb?

I guess the best thing about being an athlete is having the opportunity to travel the world and meet people from all over the planet. I was happy to meet different cultures. Now, however, I am just as happy while climbing my home mountains: I realized that I never took the time to appreciate the places nearby, where there are many wonderful routes.

Which place has fascinated you most?

Australia, because the quartz sandstone down there is truly a joy to hold, and it is very difficult to find that rock in Europe.

 

You are the protagonist of the Salewa spring summer campaign.

Yes, it is a real honor for me to be part of the team! I feel close to the values of the brand, for example I think about their commitment to protect the environment but also about the choice made during the pandemic, when they decided to import masks and produce lab coats for healthcare personnel. In addition, the company’s headquarters in Bolzano is close to Innsbruck and therefore it is easy to have personal relationships with the rest of the team.

 

The 2020 Tokyo Olympics have been postponed to 2021. We will have to wait another year to see the debut of climbing as an Olympic discipline. What is your opinion?

Postponing was the only possible choice. The downside of the climbing debut is the decision to combine different disciplines, such as bouldering, lead and speed, in a single gold medal, for which different physical and technical skills are needed, and rightly the athletes are not thrilled with this choice. For now it has been a compromise, the hope is that in the future there may be three or four different gold medals for each different discipline. I think this debut will be positive for the sport itself, because it will get more visibility and therefore more people will be able to love it. However, media coverage should be accompanied by education, explaining that indoor and outdoor climbing are different, and that nature has rules that we must respect.

In indoor climbing or on single pitches the performance of women and men is similar, while on long routes and in mountaineering there is less female presence. Why do you think there are these differences? Is it a matter of physical strength or a cultural problem?

It is a cultural issue, certainly not concerning physical strength. Just think about the evolution of climbing itself: when I was young I was often the only woman in the gym, while now women are 50% of the total. At the moment there are fewer women on multi-pitches routes, but I think this situation will change.

 

What would your perfect climbing partner be like?

It’s my boyfriend! We know each other very well, we know what our strengths and weaknesses are, we are used to train together, we understand each other in just a moment without having to speak and we always have a lot of fun together.

 

What was the most difficult route you climbed?

Alibaba, 8b+, one of the most difficult routes in France. I saw some photos long ago and I immediately fell in love with it. The rock there is wonderful!

 

Next project?

I would like to live more the present moment and continue to explore climbing in all its forms. Then I would like to climb in Morocco, in a magical place, “Taghia Gorge”.

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