Photo: Gilles Charlier



Sisu is extraordinary determination in the face of extreme adversity, and courage that is presented typically in situations where success is unlikely.

Finnish word Sisu got a new meaning 27th of December when Simon Lorenzi made third ascent to the “Burden of Dreams, 9A”. His determination was just from another level. He came to Finland in the middle of the darkest, coldest and maybe the most miserable time of the year, in November. I´m quite sure that no one thought that it is possible to climb one of the worlds hardest pieces on s**t in those conditions, but he proved us wrong.

In the beginning of his trip there were bunch of other strong fellows like Shawn Raboutou and Aidan Roberts working with boulder too, but they decided to leave when it started to get (too) wet and snowy. 

Over the course of next five weeks, he had to use every imaginable trick like tarping the boulder, using fan to dry the holds, skinfarming and training at the gym to stay fit enough… He was also running a instagram-channel “Simon´s adventure in Burden of Dreams” to give detailed updates about his progress (and setbacks).

Simon has now three 9As under his belt: His own “Soudain Seul”, “Alphane” and “Burden of Dreams”. With this record he is likely one of the only ones to comment on this mystic grade. We were lucky enough and had a chance to ask this (and many other) questions from the man himself.

Hey and Congratulations to your mind blowing performance! Are you mostly happy or relieved?

For sure mostly happy!

First of all, who is Simon Lorenzi?

I’m a 26 year old climber from Belgium. I don’t have that much to say about me except, that climbing is the way I found to be happy and have a cool life.

We have a finnish word “Sisu” and your trip to Finland was covered with it. Where does it come from, have you always been this determined (or stubborn)?

I don’t know exactly where it does come from, but since I remember I’ve always been an optimistic person. When I face a specific problem I`ll most of the time see more solutions than barrier to achieve my goal. I try every solution till everything work. Sometimes when it doesn´t work the way I want I can be disappointed for a few hours, but there is always a new idea poppi’n in my mind and I’m feeling good again knowing that it could make the difference. I also accept that failure is part of the process and every time you fail you get closer to your goal since the failure shows you that you have to change something.

You ended up using a new beta, can you describe it to us mortals? Did you figure it out yourself?

Instead of matching on the lefthand crimp after the first move I put a high left foot to put a dropknee. From there I cross directly to the gaston left hand and then I match on the pinch. It´s a supercool move and a much more direct beta, since you avoid one quite hard move. The first day I arrived Aidan (Roberts) told me that the small foot that Stephano (Ghisolfi) was using broke and is even smaller now. 

I was feeling quite weak in the right hand at the beginning of the trip due to a finger injury that last till end of October so I realized that I couldn´t do the move like Stephano and Shawn so I searched for something else. During that first session I found this dropknee beta alone and I felt it was super promising. After two or three sessions trying and sharing with other climbers to adjust it I had the perfect beta and didn’t change it anymore.

Spring is the best season to climb in Finland. You came here during the darkest, coldest and most miserable time of the year. Why on earth?

I know it was not the best season, but I want to qualify for the Olympics, so I adapted to the comp season and made the bet that I could send it in those conditions. When I was younger, I was used to go climbing outside with my father during winter no matter the conditions if I had a project in mind. We were sleeping under a rock in our sleeping bags or in a tent in the forest. It was for sure not ideal for the performance, but I learned how to deal with bad conditions and discomfort, I guess.

Will said that the most challenging part during the process for him was the physical side? Was it the same to you, or did you have some challenges with technical or mental side?

For me it was clearly the mental side. I’m used to climb a lot and have big sessions in my projects. I started here with the same strategy, but it was not working and sessions were getting worse and worse. At the end I had to rest and wait much more than I wanted to perform. It makes you feel that things are out of your control so it’s not easy when you are searching for proof that you can do it.

One of the main challenges was obviously skin game. How did you cope with it?

Yeah, some of the holds are so sharp that you got just a few tries a day. At the beginning I tried to do big sessions with tape, but quickly everything went wrong. I was unlearning the moves because it was not possible for me to feel what was the solution like this and I just got lost in my sensations in the moves. Elias (Iagnemma) was there and his patience really showed me that the true key was to rest till your skin is good enough to make good sessions and this is what I did at the end.

Boulder is nowadays covered with tarp. Anyway it´s still winter in here, how long it took during every session to make it climbable (and what kind of tricks you had to use)?

Yeah, the tarp is there to protect from the snow, which is ugly for sure, but very useful! Everything depends on the weather conditions. When it`s cold for a few days and it gets warmer suddenly, condensation comes and unfortunately, it’s not dryable in those conditions, because the condensation continues to appear till the air is warmer than the rock. In those conditions I realized, that there is nothing to do.

If it’s snowing you climb with the tarp on and if not, you remove the tarp and brush the top out or use a leaf blower which work pretty well, it’s done in just a few minutes with that technique!

The day I sent I also used my fan, because the temperature raised just a few degrees but enough to feel the hold a bit more humid and air circulation with the fan is enough to make it perfect again.

Did you find replica training useful / what kind of approach did you use?

I set the replica in my gym a few months ago. It was cool to train on it, but I have to admit that it was not as useful as expected. We had the old version and we didn´t set it so well, since we didn´t have perfect measurements. Also Imostly trained in move two and three due to finger injury (move that I skipped at the first session on the real one with the dropknee). The best strategy would have been to spend one week on the real one to find the details and make the best measurements and come back to train on a good replica… I tried to have a “fitness approach” so I was making the move easier and I did laps in them. Even if I did a lot for almost no gains it was a fun process anyway!

You were here almost month and a half. Did you do any training between sessions?

The first three weeks i climbed exclusively in BoD. Sensation in the boulder was going worse and worse at that point, so I figured out that I need to climb less in the boulder to preserve my skin and more in the gym to keep a good power and it worked pretty well from there.

Bod is your third 9A after Soudain Seul and AlphaneWill thought that Alphane is low-end 9A and BoD is a solid one. If I remember correct, you said earlier that Soudain Seul is a bit harder than Alphane. Is it possible to have a comparison now?

Alphane and Soudain Seul are closer in term of style, but I think Soudain Seul is a bit more complex to solve. Both feel more powerful and harder in physical addition of moves, but need less precision and you can work in them much more, because they don’t destroy the skin. BoD is more about pure finger strenght. It really felt like having only like 8 attempts per day to make a crazy precision shot and if you don´t succeed, you have to rest at least one day for your skin before trying again. In other words: for the same length of trip you have less opportunities to send BoD than the others and that’s what makes this boulder as hard as the others in my opinion. But as always everything depends always so much about your style that it can change a lot the perception of the difficulty for each boulder. It’s important to take count of that subjectivity because that means there is no absolute truth behind all those difficulty and grade things!

Future plans? Do you still have a Olympic dream, or are going to focus more outdoors?

First, I’ll do my best to be selected for the Olympics and after that I plan to go to USA to try ROTSW and Megatron! ROTSW has been on the top of my list since few years, so I’m super excited for that one! Megatron looks super nice too and actually they both look to fit my style, so let’s see what I can do.

Any other future goals (Imothep assis maybe?)?

I don’t know yet I’m not so attracted by Imothep assis, because the moves are not looking very cool to climb, but who knows?

The right exit of Alphane is in my mind. It has the potential to be the hardest boulder in the world and the line is crazy.

By the way are you a professional climber / do you have sponsors who can support your travelling?

I’m not pro yet, unfortunately! I got support from a gym, but Ispent all my budget for the trip to Finland. I had support from the government since a few years, but it´s ends now so I’ll have to find a job. I hope I’ll be able to find sponsors and be a pro climber someday, but climbing makes me happy no matter if I’m a pro or not, so I’m not complaining!

“Climbing makes me happy no matter if I’m a pro or not, so I’m not complaining!”

His mate, photographer Gilles Charlier, was also there during the whole and did document the process, so hopefully we´ll have a chance to witness this mindblowing adventure soon… But before that you can watch his amazing film ALPHANE and taste a piece of SISU.

Simon is sponsored by: Le Camp De Base and Gilles Charlier