Listening for the Echo: The Klem Loskot Profile

For years Klem Loskot was a driving force in the evolution of bouldering, raising standards in some of the world’s most famous areas. Then he dropped off the map. Ten years later he resurfaced, still hovering near a ceiling that’s difficult to define.

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Our image of Klem Loskot began with the Yell: a shout of exhortation, elation and insistence. The thundering exclamation threatens and dares you or anyone to try your hardest. Its reverberations conceal the source. Has this voice come from within?

The call hammers across alpine meadows scattered with blue blocks. Aimed at a climber 60 feet above the battling, roiling sea, it blasts out like a foghorn, amplified by the cave. The climber leaps—to catch and, swinging mightily, hold.

These shouts have been in our heads since the year 2000, when Loskot’s marshaling call hit the States with BigUp Production’s Dosage 1. You still can’t go to any bouldering area without hearing a Klem impersonation. The yell is a power-boosting Kiaa! that frees up the chi and fires us like burning arrows. Or maybe when it booms across the gym as you hesitate on the big swingin’ huck, you laugh yourself into a heap, crumpled at the base of the wall. The yell centers and disperses, tricking you into focusing and also reminding you to lighten up.

Loskot was a developer and standard-shifter in the 1990s and early 2000s, during what 10 years from now will be called bouldering’s golden age. Those from that subculture knew bits about his climbing, knew his face, and especially knew his yell, primarily from video taken of him at the height of his powers.

Loskot’s routes and especially his boulder problems were some of the hardest in the world. Nanuk, in Berchtesgaden, Germany, done in 1997 and a contender as the world’s first 8B+ or V14, only finally saw a second ascent last year. Bügeleisen (which he guessed to be V13) may have only one repeat. Loskot contributed dozens of new routes at nearly every major bouldering area in the world, from Mallorca to Haampi to Vietnam, from South Africa to Australia to Austria. Behind the war cry, he spoke like a shaman, wrote a beautiful, ethereal book called Emotional Landscapes, and then suddenly, and completely, dropped out of climbing.

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