Maybe it’s something in New Zealand’s water. First there’s Mayan Gobat-Smith, who’s arguably the best female trad climber on the planet. Now, in the category of ridiculously strong young men, fellow-countryman, Wiz Fineron, is making a big splash by repeating some of the hardest routes in the Southern Hemisphere—including the iconic Punks in the Gym and, most recently, claimed one of Australia’s s most sought-after historic projects, Somalia. In between training and studying for his final exams, I caught up with Wiz to find out more about his recent climbs and background.
The big news is that you just did the first ascent of the notorious route, Somalia, in Arapiles. Why is the route interesting?
Somalia is an old project that has been sitting there waiting to be climbed for very long time now. It was first bolted by a climber called Greg Pritchard in the late 80s (well before I was born) and has been tried by many of Australia’s top climbers. The climb is on the front face of Uncle Charlie’s pinnacle at Mount Arapiles, Australia--Just around the corner from the very famous climb Punks In The Gym. It takes an unlikely looking line through a steep bulge before finishing up another amazing line called Ethiopia (30). After a few tries on the climb, the holds became more apparent and the line more visible creating high levels of psyche and getting me very excited to begin having some good red-point shots!
What was the hardest part of the climb for you?
The hardest thing was keeping my skin at a bearable level to hold the crystally crimps (the usual story I guess) not to mention pulling down on the one-pad one-finger pocket! It was the first time that I had been on a climb that included a mono and I was very careful on all of my attempts to make sure that my fingers were still all in one piece.
Didn’t you climb Somalia after a successful redpoint of Punks in the Gym?
Sending Somalia was a total bonus to my trip as my main goal was to climb Punks. But I was able to redpoint Punks way quicker than expected, so I had to open my eyes to what else was out there. A good friend of mine, Zac Vertrees, who had been working on Somalia at the time, told me to give it a go. So I did. Surprising myself and Zac, thanks to great Beta from him, I managed to do all the individual moves fairly quickly (linking them was a total different story) and that was it, I was hooked. For the rest of my trip I spent a lot of my afternoons on this thing but could not work it for to many consecutive days as my fingers were to thrashed.
What was your strategy on Somalia?
As my fingers were getting so thrashed, I couldn’t work on it for too many consecutive days. So I had the chance to change it up a bit and take my mind off things by climbing many other routes in the area, especially at Taipan Wall, Grampians. I found this sort of approach was good for me as it allowed me to progress on the route without letting it turn in to a mind battle. It became a bit nerve-racking towards the final few days of the trip, as it still had not been done. After a few crucial rest days it was down to the final day and good God was I nervous. I managed to keep my calm and on the third and probably final shot of the day (due to fingers reaching the point of no repair) it was done. Somalia (33/5.14b/8c) One of, if not the hardest, routes in the park.?
Do you hail from climbing heritage?
Um..... No I don’t. My Dad did a bit of mountain walking and maybe a bit of climbing when he was younger but nothing major. He always says that he struggled with the height factor. "Back in the day when I was young... we never had anything like this..." (Fancy shoes etc.) Ha-ha
Where were you born?
I was born in a place called Bangor in North Wales and lived in a few different little towns/villages through out the mountains of Wales including the major climbing village of Llanberis.
Where do you live now?
I now live in Mount Mounganui, New Zealand. An awesome place on the east coast of NZ. Unfortunately there is not very much good climbing around here but there is definitely enough nearby (if you have a car) to get strong on and have lots of fun.
How and when did you start climbing?
I started climbing about seven years ago when I was 10 years old. I was living in Llanberis, North Wales at the time and climbing was very popular in this area. From what I can remember I think I went to the local climbing gym for my tenth birthday and from then on I just couldn’t stop (the usual story I guess). I was very lucky to live where I was because there were so many classic routes right on my doorstep meaning they were so easy to access. I was lucky enough to get hooked up with a few of the local hard men of the area and they took me out on some of the trad climbing classics at areas such as Gogarth and the Slate Quarries, giving me a scary but a good first experience. I continued to trad climb and boulder as much as possible for the next two years before my family moved to New Zealand. Since living in NZ I have backed off from the trad climbing scene and have been focused on doing hard sport climbing and bouldering. An till recently I have also competed in many of NZ's indoor competitions such as the Nationals etc. But in the last two years or so I have moved on from that and focus purely on pushing my self as hard as possible on hard sport climbs and boulders outside on rock nationally and internationally.
How do you balance school and sport?
I tend to try and knuckle down during the school day to make sure I don’t get any homework because I know that once I get home all I want to do is start climbing/ training and there is defiantly no time for silly school work. (It has worked so far). I try and do this for the whole school term because I know that if I work hard at school and am doing well my dad will allow me to go on climbing trips for a few weeks at the end. This is the only thing that keeps me motivated during school. But now the magical time has come and I have finally finished my school days and now hope to be able to climb full time travelling to all the amazing places in the world.
What are your top 3 training secrets?
The main type of training that I do would probably be Power Endurance circuit on the boulder wall. Also long hard boulder sessions on a 45-degree wall working on my weaknesses such as big moves on bad slopes. And definitely climbing outdoors on the rock as much as possible! This keeps my psyche/ motivation levels up meaning I train harder when imp back at home. And of course don’t forget, having lots of fun!!! :)
Where do you see yourself in 5 years?
In five years I hope to be traveling the world, climbing at all of the most spectacular areas out there and meeting some awesome people on the way. I wish to continue to push my physical limits and climb as hard as I possibly can for as long as I can.
By Nancy Bouchard