The first time I tried the Island was in January 2013. What a beast! I could desperately make (most of) the single moves, but not the transitions from one body position to the next. Nevertheless I was intrigued by this problem, the most brutal and perfect compression climbing I've ever encountered. At this time I had never climbed anything near the level of difficulty of the Island. It weights in as a hard 8b+, and the full line ‘the Big Island’ is 8c. I knew I had to get a lot stronger to make a chance at climbing this problem, but I also knew that it would be a huge motivation for the upcoming years. Over the next couple of years I gradually started to train more and with that I became a better and stronger climber. In that period I visited the Island every now and then, and almost every time I made some progression. I think it was in the winter of 2014/2015 that I had the feeling of making an actual chance of climbing this problem in the (near) future. By that time I had already done my first 8b+ and felt a lot more confident to try those grades. I could do all the single moves and the necessary body position transitions. I also started to do some links, but after every link I was totally exhausted. At the end of the season I could do the full problem (the 8b+ version) in two overlapping links. Motivation stayed high and I started to do more specific strength training with the pullup-bar, rings and - my personal favourite - campusing boulder problems. All my training is as climbing specific as it can be without adding any extra weight. Physically training was paying off and this also had a great effect on my mental state. I was (and still am) climbing with a lot of confidence. I think that truly believing in your abilities makes you a better climber. Doubt, on the other hand, holds you back. At this time I knew I could do the Island, I actually wasn’t speaking of the Island anymore but of his big brother; the Big Island. I wasn’t feeling any pressure or doubt, the beast would go down during the upcoming Font season. My first opportunity was one week in October Read that adventure HERE. The Island went down, but the Big one still had to wait. I already had a two week trip planned in December, so I knew what to do. Never before have I felt so motivated as I did in those months between trips. Normally there are some days in the gym where I find myself wandering around a bit, not really knowing what to do (it can be a bit boring sometimes if you have done all the problems in the gym), but not this time. Every time I felt a little bit bored I did extra exercises or started to campus boulder problems. December, I knew it would happen this trip. In hindsight I have no clue what would have mentally happened if I would have failed that trip. Maybe nothing, maybe a lot of doubt, maybe even frustration. I will never know because on the first day of the trip: ‘Bam, I went big!’ It all went rather smooth, physically I am in the best shape ever and mentally I couldn’t have been more confident. Temperatures were a bit high, but a nice breeze provided good friction. When I stood on top of the Big Island (my first 8c) I shouted so hard that my throat was sore for the next couple days. The funny thing was that the total awareness wasn’t there yet. It is a bit of a cliché but I really needed some time to realize it. I think I have spent a total of 7 or 8 sessions on the problem, but it was on my mind for three years and a big motivation for my training. Later that evening, while drinking victory champagne, it kicked in: satisfaction.

The Big Island 8c from Michiel on Vimeo.

Back to Blog
Share this post