Eder Lomba talks about his climbing and Rainman ascent
- Tuesday 24th May 2022
In an exclusive interview, Eder Lomba talks to Climber about his inspiration for climbing and his second ascent of Rainman, the UK’s hardest sport route.
Originally from the Basque Country, Eder Lomba has been based in Sheffield here in the UK for nearly four years now. A veritable power-house climber, like many top climbers Eder is relatively short in stature. An passionate climber, Eder trains like a total beast. He also challenges the norm on how to approach climbs; his extensive use of knee bars/pads on Rainman – and the training to achieve the fitness to use them – as well as using a slightly different sequence on the headwall of Rainman being two classic examples of how he adopts a personalized approach which work for his strengths for climbing. Utterly dedicated and incredibly focused, once Eder has achieved radar-lock on a climb, it appears as though he’s there for the duration until he succeeds. Eder is older than many of the young-guns blasting away at the hardest routes today but he’s a fraction of the age Steve McClure was when he did the first ascent of Rainman. Given Eder’s motivation and climbing skills who knows where he can take his climbing?!
In this exclusive interview with Climber, Eder talks about his background, the journey he’s been on to repeat the UK’s hardest sport route as well as his aspirations as a climber and a coach in Sheffield and for GB Climbing.
Amazing effort on the second ascent of Rainman. Has it sunk in yet that you’ve done the second ascent of the UK’s hardest sport route?
No, really, I mean what a journey, is has been a hell of a ride, I still can’t quite believe that it’s over. It has been the main focus of my life for the past year, everything revolved around training for the route and going to the crag to try it. I never thought of Rainman in terms of the grade, or it being the hardest route in the UK, for me it was always about the challenge of the route itself and the journey that we shared with my friends Josh Ibbertson and Toby Roberts.
Have you been relaxing since doing Rainman?
I haven’t yet had a chance to relax, I have been really busy since the send and on some of the past days I set off driving to Malham on autopilot, before realising that I needed to go somewhere else, that the project is done.
I am however really looking forward to going surfing as soon as I get the chance and also going to Malham again to climb and to be able to look at the route and think: ‘I’ve got my arse up all the way up this’.
Let’s back track a little. You’ve been based in the UK now for nearly four years working in Sheffield as a climbing coach. What attracted you to the UK and Sheffield?
At one point in my life I had to make a choice of whether to stay in the Basque Country or to move with my partner to the UK, and the only place I would even consider living in was Sheffield. It was the combination of its climbing history and the proximity to the Peak District; ironically I ended up climbing very little in the Peak and having all my big projects in Yorkshire.
What and where were your hardest routes before coming to the UK?
I climbed a lot in my local crags Mugarra and Etxauri as well as climbing a fair bit in Siurana, Rodellar, Ceuse and La Saume. I’ve always liked to climb different style rock and I get inspired by the quality of the line itself rather than its grade. Some of the best lines I have climbed aren’t necessarily the hardest.
When did you first become aware of Malham and what attracted you to climb there?
Just as I started climbing I remember looking at climbing videos on YouTube and coming across the video of Ben Moon on Rainshadow. I thought it was epic and this was the first time I saw Malham Cove. What most attracted me was the shape of the wall and the whiteness of the rock, it reminds me of my home crag Mugarra. With the river underneath Malham is a really peaceful and unique place.
Many climbers find climbing at Malham quite different. What routes did you do first and how did they go?
First time I climbed at Malham I was climbing quite well, I just came to the UK straight after 4 months in Rodellar and was feeling fit and strong. I saw The Groove, a 40m route and thought it would be perfect for an onsight, I was wrong, I didn’t make it to the anchor. It was in the sun, had no feet and had impossible crimps, and I’ve only just climbed past the anchor of Something Stupid. I had three goes on it and got close on the last go in the shade, but dropped the top and I was broken! That day I walked back to the van with my ego torn to bits. Next day was cloudy; I warmed up on the route and worked the upper section Totally Free, which really suited me. On my next go I did the whole thing to the top of the crag, I reckon that is when the “poison” of Malham really sunk in!
Over the last few years you’ve done many of the hardest routes at Malham; which are your favourites and why?
Cry Freedom (F8c) hands down is the best route I have climbed in the UK. I can’t quite reach the crimp out right on the top so I had to do a coordination toe catch beta to go for the crimp, which is epic! But also the dihedral and the colours, the shape and the line of this climb are awesome; some of the holds are just beautiful. Cry Freedom and Rainman are on my top ten routes for sure.
Have you been building up to Rainman all the time?
I want to climb everything that inspires me, and Rainman inspired me, inspired me loads, it’s the history behind it and the line is right on the middle of the Cove that is just calling you every time you visit, so I guess inevitably that was one of my goals from the beginning.
You’ve done Rainshadow (F9a) and Batman (F9a); both are integral parts of Rainman. How long did they take you to do each and how essential were they to your journey/development as a climber to doing Rainman?
Rainshadow took me over 20 days and Batman around 10 days. I think the sessions on Batman were really important on my way to Rainman. When I started working Batman I started climbing it from Raindogs and worked the top and especially the kneebar, because I was very aware that if I wanted to do that route in the near future I had to be able to completely relax on that section and at that moment I couldn’t even conceive to get a no-hands rest there. These sessions really helped me to believe in myself and give me the confidence I needed to commit to Rainman.
Since you started on Rainman how many days has it taken you to get the send?
I’ve had 46 days on just Rainman and around 30+ days on Rainshadow and Batman, so around 76 days in total, and most of them in the last year, which is a lot. I pretty much lived up there.
Whilst your redpoint of Rainman was a little over 18 minutes you were shaking-out and/or using various knee bars rests for 11:45 minutes in total: 1:25 minutes at the top of Raindogs, 3:20 minutes after having done the crux bulge of Rainshadow, 2:30 minutes after the hardest section of Rainman before moving right to climb the final wall on Bat Route (F8c)and then two further shakeouts on the headwall of Bat Route of 3:50 and 0:40 minutes. Can you talk us through your training for Rainman please and in particular what priority you gave to the strength and power training as well as both short and long power endurance.
This is very interesting, first of all, the rests on the top section after the hard climbing of Rainman aren’t intentional. I actually got quite tired in that first rest before joining Bat Route, it is quite pumpy, I was just crying and I couldn’t move… so that got me really nervous for the top.
Also I’m not a very fit climber, I get really pumped very easy and I figured if I wanted to do something hard I had to get fitter and develop the ability to rest, where I needed to rest. The kneebar after the crux of Rainshadow is poor and really intense, both Josh and I have fallen out of it tens of times, battering our knees and ruining the redpoints. I have done a lot of training specifically to be able to stay in the kneebar for longer and in a more controlled and consistent way. Often on the subsequent redpoints I couldn’t hold the kneebar because my legs have had enough.
For me strength training was the key to get up this route; I needed my critical force to be as high as possible so I could go through the sections in the most efficient way possible. Obviously you also need a good fitness base, but I figured for me the best way to train this was by trying the route. During this winter I have done a fair bit of strength and conditioning training, lots of deadlifting, squats, calf raises, bench presses, shoulder presses, explosive jumping, rings and TRX exercises.
And what about overall strength and conditioning as well as general aerobic fitness; are you a fan of running for fitness, for example?
Running is for cowards, if I’m late for the train, I’ll miss the train. Hahaha! I just got myself an electric bike and I’m loving it, I ride it up the hill too. I’m not proud of admitting it but I don’t do loads of cardio training, I walk a lot but that is all.
As mentioned earlier you made extensive use of knee bars/pads during your ascent. How did you train for this and how significant was your use of knee bars/pads to your ascent?
I figured that I lack some of the strength that I needed to top this route so I worked on the skill of staying longer in the kneebar.
You used a slightly different sequence high on the route which means that you could also get a shake-out on the left after the crux headwall before committing to the final wall of Bat Route. Can you tell us about your sequence please?
I used the sequence that suited me the best and it lead me to some OK holds, but all the hard climbing of the route is before those holds, after them the route is over anyway. Dropping the top section could only happen due to nerves or bad luck.
You were clearly very emotional when you clipped the lower-off after the send; have you felt that way before about a route?
Did you feel confident throughout your redpoint that you were going to succeed?
Yes. Interestingly this is one of the only times when I didn’t say it out loud during the day, it was just at the back of my head.
You climbed a lot with Josh Ibbertson and Toby Roberts at Malham – how important has that been for you?
Very; Josh and Toby are incredible climbers, very different and they both inspired me in many ways. Sharing beta, emotions and moments and burns with them have made this process super special. Thanks to them both!
What are your thoughts on the grade of Rainman then?
The reason I climb is because I like to look at the rock, find the most impressive bit and try and get myself up there. I can’t explain the way this makes me feel but I love it and it is an amazing feeling for me. I know this sounds a bit of a cliché but I can’t be less bothered about the grade. Of course the grade of Rainman had an effect on my mind-set, I mean, it’s intimidating right? Am I good enough? I have to literally climb both of my hardest climbs I’ve ever done one after each other with a kneebar rest between and at the moment when I felt this way I barely could get hands-off. It’s kind of a big deal! I know that Rainman is the only route of the grade in the UK.
These facts were attractive and exciting but really scary to me. But really the reason why I got stoked for Rainman is because the line inspired me, the route is good, I enjoyed my time at Malham and it is one of my favourite places in the UK. So do I have an opinion on the grade? Yes I do. To climb Rainman you basically need to climb Rainshadow and then climb Batman.
Rainshadow is over after the crux once you move to the mini rest. That doesn’t mean you can’t fall on the top of Rainshadow, I mean, you could also fall off on Raindogs! I think the top on Rainshadow is not hard enough to add a plus [i.e. a grade] on these kind of routes. The same goes for Batman too; the route really starts on the kneebar on Bat Route. Is it harder from the ground? Of course, but it doesn’t add a plus to Batman because the rest in the kneebar on Bat Route is simply too good. Also, the start is too easy for a plus.
For Rainman, you climb pretty much all the hard climbing on Rainshadow into a kneebar into pretty much all the hard climbing on Batman. I don’t have enough experience on the grade to comment about it, but I’m sure that Steve [McClure] and Adam [Ondra] where bang on.
By climbing Rainman is that life goal ticked off then?
I just want to climb everything that inspires me, and share my passion for this sport with the people around me. I want to become the best coach I can, and the best climber I can, by all means. I guess we could call that my life goal.
When Steve McClure did the first ascent of Rainman he was 46 and he said it was right on his absolute limit. You’re a lot younger than Steve – where do you think you can take your climbing too?
I honestly think I can push my climbing a fair bit more, but it will most likely be at a crag where it’s easier to get stable conditions in! Hahaha!
You’re heavily involved in coaching in the UK at both a local level in Sheffield and a national level for the GB Climbing. How important do you think it is for a coach to be a top climber as well and can you say how the coaching is going and how important that is to you?
Climbing is my life, my passion, my job. I love coaching; I really get as much from sharing my passion as I do from practising it. The idea of having to be a top climber to be a good coach doesn’t make sense to me. I know incredibly good coaches that don’t climb at top level, and these are the people that have sunk climbing deep into my soul. Right now my coaching is going great, I have some of the best athletes that I could ask for, and they in turn teach me so much about climbing. I coach on a competitive level and my goal would be to witness Olympic Games as part of the coaching team. I really want to say thanks to everyone who has been a part of this incredible journey!
Follow Eder Lomba on his Instagram page here.
See more of Marsha Balaeva's photography and films on the Monoculturefilms Instagram page here.