Josune Bereziartu, a peaceful transition

Josune Bereziartu climbing

Known for being the first woman to break the mythical 9a barrier in rock climbing, Basque climber Josune Bereziartu now leads happy days, far from high performance. But still passionate about climbing. The one who, in the early 2000s, climbed Bain de Sang at Saint-Loup in Switzerland, is now a technical sales representative for Petzl in Spain. She reflects on her transition for La Fabrique verticale.

Do you still climb? If so, is it still with a focus on performance ? Or have you shifted to a different approach?

Josune Bereziartu : If I think about how I used to climb, how I lived climbing, it could be said that I don’t climb anymore. What I do now is satisfy a friend by letting myself be dragged into climbing, in a very relaxed way, on some classic route, etc. Or when my niece pulls my ear and reminds me that she climbs because of me (laughs), we go to the rock to do bouldering. I take advantage and with great joy observe the great atmosphere that climbing lives in these days. I am surprised, I see that half of the climbers are girls and I think that it is truly wonderful!!

In 2002, Josune was just 30 years old when she succeeded in climbing ‘Bain de sang,’ the first 9a route by a woman

Sometimes we talk about the need to mourn at the end of a high-level career. How did you personally experience the end of your climbing career? Sorry for the hard question 😉

Josune Bereziartu : No worries, Laurence, disconnecting from professional climbing was a necessary and healthy step in my life. I had experienced all possible emotions in my climbing years, great joys, continuous unhappiness, satisfactions, some disappointments with climbing friends. The experiences lived pile up one after another in the warehouse of our memories, the more intense and frequent they are, the less free space there is for new ones. Any change you notice in the way you look at climbing becomes difficult to assimilate or bear.

Logical Progression 9a josune bereziartu
In 2004, she achieved her second 9a ascent: ‘Logical Progression’

Regarding your retirement, did you anticipate the date, or did injuries/psychological wear and tear gradually lead you away from high level ?

Josune Bereziartu : When you look through the perspective that time gives you, you realize that it was something progressive and natural. In my case, it was a mixture of fulfilled expectations, lived experiences, frustrations. And as I mentioned earlier, great satisfactions. I am a very committed and idealistic person with what I do. I cannot hide from anything and I feel that I must give my all to what I undertake. That’s why there came a time when I felt I was going to prostitute my climbing ideal. It’s like an artist who has run out of creativity and the only thing he can do is repeat himself over and over again. Realizing that he is prostituting his ideal of art by creating a very dark blot.

josune bereziartu escalade

Have you ever experienced or do you sometimes feel frustration at not performing at the same level anymore? If yes, what strategies have you used, and what resources have you relied on to overcome it?

J.B. : That bright, luminous intensity you once had gradually turns into dimmer, more sporadic flashes. Goals become spaced out over time, putting effort into a focus becomes increasingly difficult, creating a declining trend. This is something natural. My small world is coming to an end. On the other hand, the relationship with sponsors, do they bring dignity to your efforts? Recognitions, what do you expect from them? Do you feel valued? I have asked myself all these questions at some point. Confronting them with my own conscience, with the values I hold inside and that climbing and elite sports entail. I gradually closed a chapter, guided by the passage of time, supported by those around me, and seeking something that would fill me in the same way that climbing had filled me.

josune grimpeuse basque

Have you found another area in which you find fulfillment and that has helped you navigate this transition more smoothly? Not being Josune Bereziartu as a climber but someone else ?

J. B. : Of course, I have been someone who has most enjoyed training, physical exercise, and ultimately the satisfaction derived from it, whether it’s chaining routes or simply pursuing that coveted send. Nowadays, and for almost ten years, my passion has been road cycling. Training, progressing as much as possible, doing routes, climbing endless hills. It’s my excitement and what I am passionate about today. But I also do some mountaineering in winter, ski touring…

Read also : End of climbing career: trauma or transition

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