Liv Sansoz, 31, from Les Arcs, France, is one of the world's most fearless climbers. We follow her intrepid expedition into Hampi, India, to conquer a challenging Nike ACG SweetSpot.
How long have you been climbing for? 16 years
How did you get into bouldering? To go from climbing to bouldering was a natural progression for me. Bouldering looked fun and cool and it was just another part of the climbing. I wanted to experiment and have fun with it.
Have you always loved the outdoors? I was born in the mountains and I’ve been skiing since I was two years old. Running in the mountains, hiking, climbing, skiing are all natural things for me…
When did you decide to commit yourself to the sport full time? When I won my first world championship in Paris, in 1997.
Can you give us a run down of your average day? Thankfully, there is not one day like the other! It mainly depends if I’m on a climbing trip or if I’m at my 'base camp' in Bourg St Maurice.
On a climbing trip I usually focus on one or two specific routes or boulders I want to succeed on. And of course, beside this I always try to discover new lines or something different. In general, I'll start climbing in the morning and keep going until it gets dark… But of course you always have to adapt to the conditions. In India we had to wake up at 5am for instance, as it was quite warm there.
When I’m at home it’s more a training day format: running in the forest in the morning, stretching and climbing on plastic (I have a small personal climbing wall) to work power, endurance and stamina… Depending on how I feel I can include some exercises with weights and a campus board. In the winter I train more on plastic and ski as much as possible when there’s good powder.
And if you could have the perfect day, what would it include? A perfect day’s climbing would be only me and the line in a perfect harmony… Right moves at the right moment, right balance at the right place, right decision at the right time and to fight when it is needed. Good feelings and strong emotions. I'd also like my boyfriend or a few really close friends there to share it with…
Were you excited to take part in Nike ACG’s Sweetspots project? Sure! Speaking with a few of the other Nike ACG friends from the skiing scene really psyched me up. Also, I’m always very interested in doing something new and different in my life.
What made you choose to go to Hampi? I’ve always really wanted to go there since I saw the pictures of this unusual place! I was attracted by the amazing potential of climbing here, the history of this place and the unique mystic atmosphere we could feel there.
How did it feel to complete your challenge? I was quite happy and satisfied as I did it fast. Because there are so many variables (mental, physical), there is always a small amount of uncertainty. It’s always a good feeling when you succeed.
How did you prepare for the trip? Actually I did not prepare specifically for this trip. I was generally in good shape and I felt ready to try a tough climbing challenge - even if it involved walking for hours under the sun to find new areas… We did not know exactly what we’d find there or how the climbing conditions would be. We wanted to open new boulders, to find new areas where nobody had been before. I wasn’t specifically prepared for bouldering. The 10 days before I left, I was in Chamonix for ice climbing and skiing.
You travel a lot: what are your suitcase essentials? Skincare products like glue and hand cream for the fingers… Nike ACG clothes, climbing gear such as ropes, harness, quickdraws, and climbing shoes. Plus, Ipod, laptop and camera.
What’s your favorite place to practice? I’m never practicing, I’m always climbing… The only place I really practice is my own climbing gym (or other climbing gyms). Otherwise, for bouldering I love Bishop in California, Hueco in Texas, Rocklands in South Africa and of course Fontainebleau, close to Paris.
Do you still get nervous before a big challenge? Usually I’m not super nervous. I feel many emotions but not stress (or it’s just a good stress). But it can sometimes vary with the context (with a bad fall possibly, or the lack of good spotters, or time pressure…)
Do you consider yourself to be an adrenaline junkie? No, not at all. I love the strong emotion. I’d love to try new things like base jumping but for sure I don’t need that to be happy and serene in my life.
What have been your biggest career setbacks? The bad climbing accident I had in US in 2001. I stopped climbing for too long… But thankfully I've had no lasting physical after-effects and it showed me how important and strong my passion for climbing is.
What have your greatest achievements been so far? Winning the world championship twice in a row and the overall world cup three times have been great achievements for me. But the realization of 'Hasta la Vista', a hard route in Nevada, is still a super strong memory. There was a mental barrier to break as only one woman as succeeded one route in this difficulty grade.
What affect does your career have on your personal life? My personal life is climbing because I love to climb as much as possible. Therefore there are no conflicts and only good effects on my personal life.
How do you relax when you get the chance? Music, naps and my boyfriend are always the best at helping me to relax… I also love running, skiing and skydiving to stop thinking about climbing.
What’s up next for you? Climbing trips… I’m right now in Italy, Arco (Lake Garda) working on a hard route. Then I’ll stay and climb in the Alps, France, Switzerland and Austria throughout the summer (climbing conditions are better, cooler temperatures, altitude and wind). I’ll also have a few events this summer: the Natural Games in Millau in June, the Outdoor Games in Interlaken in July and a Roc Trip in Austria. For this fall, we’ve planned to go to Yosemite, climbing big wall, and hopefully Ethiopia in November…
Are there any spots you still want to conquer? Yes. There are many places in Asia, Arabia and even in South America that Id’ like to go in the next few years. I also want to do a few more serious expeditions on big walls. I have one place in mind where not so many people have been... Watch this space.
See all the rest of the Sweetspots on the Nike ACG website.