Interview with Petr and Danka about climbing and business

Interviews

28. 04. 23

Petr and Danka have been in the Rafiki family for some time now. We finally found time to have a proper chat about how they got into climbing, how it became a lifestyle in addition to their hobby and, through the Climbbetter Academy, a livelihood. You will also learn a lot of information about Climbbetter, including some tips for getting started with climbing.

Could you start by introducing yourselves in a few sentences? Could you start by introducing yourselves in a few sentences?

Petr: I make my living as a climbing instructor and coach and I am also a route setter. The combination of routesetting and coaching people is the most fun for me. When it snows I'm still drawn to the mountains. Outside of climbing and skiing, I enjoy exploring other sports. To keep me mentally fit, I play guitar. Lately, I've been enjoying learning the intros of songs on electric guitar.

Danka: I am a native of Bratislava, a coach and climbing instructor. In the past I was involved in canoeing and quadriathlon, later in mountain sports and climbing. After years of toiling in the gym, speed kayak, swimsuit, running sneakers, cycling or caving, I stayed where I like it best. Between heaven and earth. I love the ridges of the climbing kind. The purity of nature. Climbing, mountaineering, ski mountaineering, mountain running and winter nature.   

A trivial question to start with: How and where did you start climbing?

I first climbed a long time ago in college. The wall was seven meters high, I was climbing in sneakers and I was pretty scared at the top.
Petr

Danka: My first memory of climbing is with my dad, who used to climb in the mountains. I was about three years old, but my mom told my dad not to take up this hobby :). I came to climbing after I was done with peak canoeing with my brother. 

He sport climbed and I "escaped" to the mountains with friends right after I learned to belay. At first I was enchanted by the frozen winter landscape and icefalls. However, I have been doing pure sport climbing for the last two years.

Peter, you have a history in competitive skiing. What convinced you to take up skiing only recreationally and devote more time and effort to climbing.

Petr: It wasn't really competitive skiing. I was involved quite intensively in ski instructor training. Of course, I also taught and skied as much as I could. A turn on skis at proper speed is a great feeling, I recommend it. 

What made me change it... Mostly time! So far no one has cloned me and so normal family life, climbing, work and endless stays in the mountains can't be managed.

Is there a skill or advantage you've transferred from skiing to climbing, even though they are quite different sports?

Petr: They are different sports, instead of trying to get down fast I had to switch to trying to get up:) Ski legs are the most useful for climbing, strong heavy thighs are a great climbing excuse. But seriously, strong legs and core are great for kneeing, that's why I like climbing crags so much.

Danko, you've done canoeing and quadrillon in the past, among other sports, and even won silver in them at the 2016 and 2019 World Championships. What drew you away from those sports to climbing?

Danka: I can still remember that moment very precisely. I was standing at sunrise at the top of the Tatra Rys mountains. After a difficult hike from the Polish side, I was catching my breath and enjoying those beautiful minutes alone, surrounded by the mountains, until the morning frost drove me down the Mengus valley.

I was looking to the west and felt a kind of sadness that I couldn't continue along this steep main ridge of the High Tatras.

I have to start climbing" I thought.

It was my very first visit to the Tatras. It was my birthday and I guess I was in shape. On this trip I ran all the hiking trails and peaks not only on our side but also on the Polish side. There was nothing else to do. It was decided.

Soon after, my colleague and fellow climber Dominik came up with the idea that we could sign up for an ice climbing marathon. This started the real training in the mountains and I fell in love with climbing.

Is there a skill or advantage you've taken from more endurance/water sports to climbing, even though it's a pretty different discipline?

Danka: Knowledge of sports training in strength and endurance sports is a basic skill that can also be used in this field. Together with continuous and regular climbing training, progress is fast.

As a trained coach, I am an advocate of general sports training in childhood, in practice it is also visible for me that this is an indisputable advantage..

It has taught me to feel when a movement is "right". This is an advantage in technical sports, guaranteeing efficiency and economy of movement.

How much time in the year do you spend on the rocks, or on an artificial wall?

Petr: It can't be counted, when we have a rest day we often have work and so we have to go to the rocks or artificial wall even then. 

Since Petr and I met and founded Climbbetter climbing school we are in the crags all the time.
Danka

Danka: Other days are at a minimum.

How much of it with clients and how much just the two of you?

Petr: We often have combined days, we work and have time for our own climbing. So, for example, 60/40.

How often are you at home in Slovakia, whether on the artificial wall, in the Tatras or in the crags near Bratislava, and how often abroad?

We are very close to the Austrian Rocks, so we can be abroad for an afternoon, so 60/40 is popular.

What climbing areas would you recommend to people around Bratislava?

For athletes who want to tire their biceps, Alternativka is great. Hard climbing on overhanging slippery lime. For athletes who want to train, Kršlenica is great. Long slabby routes in beautiful uncut and compact limestone. It's not really my style, but you have to work on the weaknesses.

Is there any climb you've particularly valued in the last year?

Petr: Paradoxically, I appreciate the non-climbs the most. Several times I was very close to climbing 8a on OS, so I can see that it's possible. That made me happy. I didn't do anything harder last year, so I'll have to attack the hard scalps in the years to come.

Next on the lists is Hatchi Bratschi Luftballon, a multi length for 7c+ at Hohewand. Danka and I didn't manage an OS here either, at least we have a reason to keep coming back, the line is magnificent!

Danka: I never grew through successes, but through failures :). Knowing how to shake it off and get up, even when it seems impossible. Those are the moments I cherish.

Success is the reward - failure is just the lesson that leads to it.

So, in general, these are all my climbs in the overhangs, which I've been trying to climb outdoors and indoors for the last two years (most recently in Spain in the Mocline route of Mundello 7b OS or the Calymnos route of Tufantastic 7b+ OS).

You have both been ambassadors of Rafiki for several years now. What is important to you in climbing clothing? What are your favourite products and why?

Petr: I like comfortable materials and a cut that fits me. And of course nice colours don't offend, it's better to take pictures. The TRAVERSE hoodie is TOP for climbing and rolling:D This winter I fell in love with the FUEGO down jacket, and its women's version MORENA in gold. Danushka is irresistible in it :)

Danka: I would add that the multifunctionality of climbing clothes is also great especially when you need to pack clothes minimally, for rocks and for the city.

In Rafiki's Cerro jeans you can comfortably shred the crags all day and star in a bar date in the evening :)

My comfort on winter crags has been incredibly lifted by a new item for climbers from Rafiki's fall collection - the Autana belay skirt, which even the men around me envy in the wind and cold :). Peter steals it from me while belaying :).

What is it like to be partners, climbing partners and also to build a business together?

Petr: It's great. But the challenge is to find the boundary between work and free time. But it saves time, we finish the work, we are together right away and we can hang out together. There's no downtime!

Danka: I can't imagine anyone else I could spend so much time with and not kill each other. Peter is even a great colleague with all the benefits :). It's great to have common priorities and goals, both personal and professional, and complement each other harmoniously.

Together you run the Climbbetter Academy, can you briefly introduce it to the readers?

The academy was founded in 2021. From the beginning we have been trying to combine learning on the wall and on the rocks. Both forms have their benefits for clients and it's best to combine them! We prefer quality over quantity. That's why we teach with a maximum ratio of 4 clients: 1 coach. We like to end workshops and individual lessons with the feeling that we have done a great job with each client.

What led you to start Climbbetter and how satisfied are you with the project/current operation?

We are both trained sports educators and coaches. It would be a sin not to take advantage of that! In the beginning there was a lot of debate and teaching climbing and how to do it in the commercial sphere. We decided that the best way to teach effectively (we are both quite demanding of the final standard) and so to be happy was to start our own school.

What do you offer for beginners and what do you offer for more advanced climbers?

This would be a separate article, but I'll try to keep it simple.

We reveal the secrets of climbing movement to novice climbers. We teach them everything they need to know to make their climbing well, smooth and make sensible.  We are also dedicated to climbing methodology, so we also teach them everything they need to know to climb safely!

More advanced climbers usually already have goals they are working towards, race projects, etc... We work with them on everything that limits them (climbing technique, climbing tactics and rhythm, fitness training and psychological preparation).

Working with fear is a separate chapter. Not only beginners, but also many good climbers struggle with some form of fear (of falling, injury, failure, etc...) We have our own methodology for dealing with this. The "FLYBETTER" workshop is one of our most popular.

What do you see as the advantages of starting with climbing with professional guidance, compared to starting on your own?

Definitely a huge time saving.

As in any industry, self-taught climbing is useful as a form of learning, but it is lengthy and not very efficient.

Another advantage cannot be neglected, and that is SAFETY. Learning proper climbing and belaying habits on the wall and on the rocks is a prerequisite for safety.

What are your plans for this year with Climbbetter?

Big ones :). So far we only have plans on paper for the summer. Besides training on the wall, we are planning weekend events on nearby crags and longer summer trips with clients to our favourite places (Maltatal and Dolomites). We are also preparing a comprehensive methodology course.

What are your plans for the more distant future?

We have quite a few plans for where we would like to go with our clients. Our goal is to look for locations where there is not only nice climbing, but also an environment for our clients to enjoy the restday.

We are trying to find skilled instructors to help us with training in the academy.  In order to make the search easier, we cooperate with Palacký University in Olomouc to create materials for instructor training. We hope that the courses will make it easier to search for instructor talent for our academy.

Where can people book a course or get in touch with you? Alternatively, where can they meet you in person?

They can meet us on the Bratislava indoor walls and even more often on the rocks in Austria . As we travel a lot it is definitely easier to contact us by email climbbetter.sk@gmail.com or via social media facebook and Instagram. Information about the courses can be found at www.climbbetter.sk.

PHOTO GALLERY

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