Back To Experience

What It Takes to Climb V15—BD Ambassador Kaddi Lehmann Shares Her Experience

Wednesday, April 22, 2020
For BD Ambassador Kaddi Lehmann, climbing a V15 boulder problem all started with fixing the gears on her old mountain bike. But those accumulated miles she pedaled uphill to Kryptos—an aesthetic limestone seam in the Swiss Jura—pale in comparison to the internal journey she endured to reach the top of that boulder. On that intrepid internal voyage, Lehmann discovered that success didn’t hinge on physical power, but on motivation, belief and happiness. This is her story.
Video and story: Kaddi Lehmann Photos: Michael Steimle

“If there’s something you really wish to do, don’t be scared, just do it." 

Daniel Jung, a friend, once said this in a movie.

I like word games and take sayings like the one by Daniel quite seriously—not only in climbing, but in life.

For me Kryptos was a boulder that I really wanted to try after I saw it. It's just a beautiful line.

In middle of May 2018 I was able to climb Kryptos.

I'm very happy that I could do this boulder. It didn't feel easy and I think it is the hardest boulder that I have done.

ski image 4
ski image 5

Motivation, belief and happiness was key and I learned a lot in this process.

The first time I saw Kryptos was in March 2017 when I checked out the area with Micha Steimle and my brother—BD EU Marketing guru Christian Lehmann. It was already dark when they showed me the boulder. I didn't think about the difficulty much and was just motivated to try this beautiful line a bit. I couldn't do much on it—just hold some of the positions and get a sense that some moves were maybe possible. I remember that the first move felt very big, and that I couldn't leave the ground using the holds on the slopey seam. 

Since that first night, the boulder was stuck in my head, and a week later, I went back to try it.

It was already summer by this time. I decided to drive there the night before so I could try Kryptos early in the morning. Already at 10 a.m. it was hopeless—it was just too warm to hang on any of those frictionless limestone slopers. So, I left the boulder in the heat.

In autumn of 2017 I tried Kryptos again, but I didn't feel ready for this boulder yet. I was more motivated to spend a lot of time in Fontainebleau.

One good thing was that the boulder isn't high. In 2015 I had an injury in my lower back, a herniated vertebral disc in the spine that had forced me to rest for a long time. I have to avoid certain moves and jumping down from high up is still painful.

At the end of 2017 I had the idea of making Kryptos a big goal and seeing all other climbs as smaller goals—just like small steps on a long way.

And I thought: if not now then maybe never.

Every other boulder besides Kryptos or any move I tried anywhere else—I saw it as a chance to get stronger and as preparation for this bigger goal. It was a very positive and helpful mindset.

It all started with fixing my bike.

The drive to the area takes about 1.5 hours by car from where I live. From the parking you walk uphill on a long trail through the nice forest. Alone with 2 pads it is quite a hike and it takes some time.

I thought it would be fun to take a bike in the car and ride to the area. So, I fixed the gears and brakes of my old mountain bike, put it in the car, drove to Balsthal and cycled up to the boulders. It was faster to get there and much more fun on the way down. It kind of felt like a triathlon with the drive straight after work if I could finish work early enough and when temperatures were still cooler. I’d cycle up, run up the last part of the steep trail, rest, cool down, brush the holds, warm up, try the moves, train on the boulder, run down and sometimes a bit scared and alone in the dark, cycle down to the car, drive back ... I was falling into bed super tired but with a smile on my face after a nice day out.

Climbing-wise, in the beginning of 2018 after the seemingly never-ending winter, as a smaller training goal for Kryptos, I focused on a boulder in Basler Jura. It was a project and a possible link-up of two existing boulders: 'Tod' (Death) 8a and 'Ernst' (Serious) 7b+. After a trip to Fontainebleau over Easter, I was very motivated. I managed to link the project 'Todernst' after Fontainebleau and did two short trips to Ticino where I climbed with Nalle and Giuliano Cameroni. It really helped me a lot to climb with them and to share the experience of seeing new places.

I was feeling stronger than ever before and I had this huge inner motivation. And now it seemed like a logical time to go back to Kryptos and really focus on it. It was already the beginning of April 2018.

Most sessions I went to the boulder alone. 

I started to film my tries so I could analyze the moves and see what I could improve.

At the end of April 2018, I still didn't know if it would work. The first move took me a very long time to do it. It is a big move and I couldn't leave the right foot on the foot hold for support. The hardest for me was a big powerful move to a very slopey hold that you have to hit perfectly as a gaston and then move from there again. You have to stand on very small footholds with a lot of body tension.

All in all, it took me a long time to find out if and how I could do the moves. The way that Franz Widmer, Fred Nicole or Kevin Heininger did the boulder just didn't work for me. I'm 5’2” tall and have a negative arm span. The so-called Saddam hold they used, I can hold it well, but it didn't help me to get further on the boulder.

Slowly I noticed some progress.

I remember I had a bad day just not feeling so strong when I tried the moves, but this day was a breakthrough because I tried different options again.

Just a little change made it all possible. I had found a way to really link it all. Crazy!

When I started to realize that this could really work out, the problem was that inner pressure started to build up. It felt like I could run out of time and it would get too warm as it was already the middle of April.

Sometimes I was even scared that I would injure myself, or that I would have to give up because of conditions and that I would never be that fit again. Also, I knew in May I wouldn't have much time to try this boulder. There was the normal work in the office, there were a few boulder competitions that I had to set boulders for, I was invited to help out at the German team training camp in Innsbruck, climbing events to organize, giving bouldering training, more wet thunderstorm days ...
It was hard not to put pressure on myself. I didn't tell many people what I was trying and most of the time I went there alone.

It was quite a mental game.

I wasn't allowed to expect anything but I had to want it a lot.

Luckily, most of the time I managed to turn pressure into excitement. I used my motivation quite well, put negative thoughts away, made up solutions for hindrances, and just enjoyed every session. It was always a fun day out and also the downhill cycling got better.

Temperatures started to be really warm and humid and this area stays wet for long periods after rain.

A few times I drove to the area late in the evening, slept in the van, got up at 6 a.m., had coffee and some quick breakfast, cycled or walked up to the boulder, warmed up, tried some moves, trained on the boulder, cycled down to the car and drove straight to work.

It was hard to get up so early and try hard. People who know me a bit better know that I am not really an early morning person.

For me all that effort was worth it. 

Even if it didn't work out, I had a nice time outside.

Maybe no one ever checked the weather forecast for this area as many times as I did.

In May there was a lot of rain and also heatwaves predicted. Thunderstorms were on the way ...

On one long weekend I had three free days so on the way to Magic Wood I stopped off at Kryptos and tried it early in the morning. 

I gave everything as I knew I would probably run out of “ok conditions” as there was bad weather predicted. I had some really good tries from the start and I could link bigger parts without much rest in between.

I couldn’t climb the boulder that day, but I was happy as I had really tried hard, I got close and it felt good.

Super tired back at the car at midday, I checked the weather and rain was predicted for Balsthal the next few days. I drove further to Magic Wood. I spend the rest of the day with friends just carrying crashpads. After a good sleep, I had a nice climbing day checking out Pura Vida.

In the evening it started to rain in Magic Wood and the whole night through until the morning, even though it wasn't predicted. Toby Saxton, Marissa Land and I decided to check out Murgtal. I was constantly checking the weather for Kryptos and was hoping to get another chance. It had rained there as well, but that day it would only start raining in the evening.

We drove to Murgtal and were happy to find some dry rock. I climbed three nice easier lines.

Just after midday I felt that I had to go and check out Kryptos.

I said goodbye to Toby and Marissa, pretty much ran to the car, drove almost 2 hours a bit too fast to the parking lot of Kryptos. I ran up the hill arriving at Kryptos to find out that it was quite wet.

One of the finishing holds in the overhang of the ending was completely wet. It was 2:30 p.m. and I thought I'm here, so I might as well try to dry some holds with toilet paper. I did this for 1 hour and at the same time I started to warm up again.

Luckily and more as a habit to evaluate my tries as I went there alone, I even put up a camera. I sat down at the start of the boulder with no expectations, started to climb and realized at the undercling pinch after the hard part that I really shouldn't let go now.

I focused on the pressure of my feet, so I wouldn't slip of any of the footholds, held that one wet hold with toilet paper on it as precisely as I could and managed to top out. I almost couldn't believe that it had worked!

I stayed at Kryptos until the evening and 1 hour later, it started raining “cats and dogs”. Water ran down the boulder onto the holds of the limestone seam and the rain wouldn't stop for three days. After that, I had to work in the office for a few days, and directly after I worked in Innsbruck at an office again, set boulders for the Swiss Championships, office again ...

It's funny when you think that something taking just under 2 minutes after all this ... suddenly ends.

I will never forget this process.

I enjoyed it, learned a lot and I am so thankful for many things that all came together to make this possible. The Lehmann brothers and parents, especially one brother who introduced me to climbing—to me it's so much more than just a sport or a physical activity. Thanks to Scott and the whole climbing flat WG family, thanks Christi & Esther, Fred & Mary, Nalle and Martin Kälble for the “climbing together happiness”. I’m thankful that my back is getting better after a herniated vertebral disc and I can play on rocks again. Thanks nice guys at the Swiss border, thanks Jan Novak for the cool music for all those driving hours, thanks Maxi for the chocolate I put on top of the boulder, thanks Micha for believing, thanks Joachim for helping me figure out the first move, thanks Martin for the funny times and beer, thanks for warming up together Toby and Marissa. Thanks a lot to Black Diamond for supporting me. Thank you!



Featured Gear