Tornado Power 8c

John Thornton (Go Vertical Athlet)

The combination of bouldering and steep endurance climbing has given me a rise in progression. With my recent ascent of Tornado Power (8c) at Gimmelwald (Bern), it gave me an opportunity to look back onthe process.

Gimmelwald, one of the most stunning cliffs in Switzerland, if not the World. Filled with a multitude ofroutes from 8a to 9a, Gimmelwald is the perfect place to test your limits. Any climber visiting shouldexpect to perform bouldery and dynamic moves on an impressively steep, wave-like wall. With routesas amazing as the alpine backdrop, perhaps the biggest crux at Gimmelwald is choosing which routeto try.

Having sampled some of the classics of the cliff, such as Surfers Paradise (8a+), Hexenküche (8b/+)and Trümmelbach (8b+), I set my sights on a route closer to my limit. Although there are many routesto choose from, I somehow knew Tornado Power (8c) was the one for me. It had all the ingredientsthat I like in climbing. Crimpy, physical climbing, varied movements and a sustainedfight to the top.

Tornado Power 8C, Gimmelwald (© Marco Müller)

Though steep like the neighbouring routes, Tornado Power is perhaps more known for its difficult start. Many climbers have tried this route, but are often halted by this first, bouldery crux. Surprisingly, there are many holds to choose from, but none of them present a ‘straight-forward’ method. Fortunately, I wasn’t the only one trying this route and could team up with Solveig Korherr to figure out the best beta (for us).

Soon enough all the pieces of the puzzle were figured out and I could start trying from the ground. Although making it through the start I could not recover well enough to sustain the continuous climbing, roughly 40 moves to the anchor. With the Summer temperatures rising my chances of completing this route were becoming slimmer. In an attempt to escape the heat I decided to try something different; bouldering at Sustenpass.

Propellarhead 7C+, Sustenpass (© Oliver Futrell)

It’d been many years since I focused on bouldering so was anxious to see where my ability was. After doing some warm-up boulders I set my sights on the classic, Propellerhead 7C+. I had climbed one boulder of such grade, albeit many years ago and with considerable effort. However I felt strong. After some time I stuck its tricky dynamic move (what the boulder is known for) and made my way to the top. I couldn’t believe it. Skeptical of the grade I returned to Sustenpass a week later and climbed Der Kaiser von Susten 7C+. Apparently I was in good shape and that made me excited to return to Gimmelwald.

After checking out the moves once again it was time to give Tornado Power a go. I made my way through the start, feeling better than ever and quickly to the first rest. I could recover. Leaving the rest my arms felt fresh. I moved quickly and efficiently, trying my best to not over-grip. I made my way to the final rest, which isn’t that good but gives you opportunity to steady your breathing. I ran through the next moves but could feel my arms begin to tighten. I skipped the next clip and made it to the final quick draw. I was pumped but manage to clip it. That was my mistake. This had cost me the last of my energy and I was unable to move. With just 3 moves to victory, I fell.

Tornado Power 8C, Gimmelwald (© Marco Müller)

After a week Tornado Power was dry and I could give it another try. I didn’t know what to expect. I set off with an open mind and just tried to climb well. The start felt good. The first rest felt great. I flowed through the moves and felt fresher than before. I wasn’t running to the top, I was shaking out on the holds. I grabbed the hold where I had slipped. I was way less pumped and knew this was it, I was going to finish the route…

I didn’t.

I slipped and took the huge fall, again. Somewhere between disbelief and anger I tried to asses what had happened. I decided to change my beta and try a more powerful, but perhaps less risky method on my next attempt.

Again I set off. Again I felt good. Again I was shaking out as I approached the final moves. I used the more powerful method and knew that was it. Taking the final hold I could not fall – and I didn’t. I clipped the anchor and could put Tornado Power (8c) to rest.

From being completely wasted at the top to feeling fresh was unexpected for me on a route of such difficulty. Climbing a route at your limit is great, but doing it with the feeling of ease, is even better. This has made me realise that my limit is somewhere else and motivates me to start working on a harder project.

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Publish date:
August 9, 2023

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