10/31/12 - Climbing caught up with Mayan Smith-Gobat for an interview about her first female ascent of Punks in the Gym (5.14a) at Mt. Arapiles, Australia.
How many attempts have you given this route over the past two and a half years? Too many... I really have no idea, and do not want to know. At a certain point I find that it is simply better to stop counting!
How did you prepare for this route, both mentally and physically? On previous trips, I did not really do anything to prepare, just scheduled enough time to train on the route. However, this time around, I decided to put other goals on hold and spent almost a month training specifically for Punks. I worked mainly on crimp strength and power, knowing that the endurance I need for this route would come easily. But then I went to Yosemite for 10 days to speed climb (the total opposite of what I need for this route), and then warmed up my fingers at Smith Rock for a week. I am not sure that this was the best idea for the last few weeks of training, but at least the crimps on Punks felt big after Smith Rocks!
Mentally, I did not do much before coming down, but once here I basically tried to remove as much pressure as possible. I tend to have very high expectations of myself, to a point which can be detrimental—so I tried to relax and enjoy the climb.
In 2010, you were using a super-direct beta sequence that avoided the main rest. How was that? When I first tried the route, with the usual sequence, I thought I did not really stand a chance, until I found this direct beta. It cuts out an almost hands-free rest, just before the crux sequence and changes the route into a very sustained crimp-fest, rather than two distinct boulder problems, but all the moves are much more repeatable for me.
How does it feel to be finished? Amazing! Clipping the chains on Punks meant more to me than I ever thought it would. I actually expected it to be an anti-climactic, because I had worked the route so much. But it was the opposite: I was in utter disbelief, totally ecstatic, and could not sleep at all that night because I was still so excited. I just kept staring at the full moon repeating to myself, “I just climbed Punks! It's done...”
I am extremely happy and relieved to be finished, but now am also starting to feel that emptiness and loss. Punks was a major part of my life over the last few years, and now it is gone. Great, but also kind of sad... Now I am excited to sink my teeth into the next project.
10/30/12 - After almost two and a half years of work, New Zealand climber Mayan Smith-Gobat has made the first female ascent of Punks in the Gym (5.14a) at Mt. Arapiles in Australia.
Punks in the Gym is best known as the first 5.14a (or Australian grade 32) in the world; Wolfgang Güllich's April 1985 first ascent was considered a major achievement in sport climbing. Punks combines both super-technical and powerful climbing.
Smith-Gobat began working the route in late spring 2010. Then, she blogged that most of the moves were just slightly out of her reach, forcing her to take a more direct line; this added quite the pump, as she was not able to use a rest in the middle of the route. She came very close in 2011 to a send, but winter conditions sent her packing. In April 2012, she blogged, "This year, I am focusing all my energy on this route alone and doing everything in my power to achieve this goal! It is making me think about everything I do, analyze my climbing in utmost detail and really try to control my emotions." Adidas reported on Facebook that on Sunday, Smith-Gobat finally succeeded on Punks in the Gym.
Date of ascent: October 28, 2012