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Outdoors Passion A passion for steep climbs

3 minutes and 30 seconds

Hard to the limit

Luxembourg’s Annick Goerens wants to reach for the sky. Whether bouldering spots or rocks in the Mullerthal: Every wall is an invitation. She simply loves climbing. And she does it with energy and ambition. 

“Rope! Rope is coming!“ yells Annick. The sinewy, young woman dangles from the edge of a cliff in Berdorf. Her voice echoes through the cool, damp morning in the Mullerthal region. Trees tower just as high as the prominent rock where she stands with ropes. She throws one of them down now; in a moment she will abseil down herself. Below her, climbing partner Joe Haux casually steps aside as the rope falls and then neatly clears it away. The two are a well-rehearsed team.

This strong woman is full of energy. Sometimes while climbing, you can see the tattoo on her left forearm: a stylised mountain landscape with a full moon above it. Enclosed by a compass rose with the four cardinal points. The tattoo of an outdoor adventurer.

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One woman, two faces

If you see Annick in front of the camera - dressed in a muted trouser suit or blazer - doing her job seriously, eloquently and professionally, there is no hint of this other dimension. A dormant volcano. No tattoo, motorbike boots (she rides a heavy motorbike through the Grand Duchy) or dirt under her fingernails. 

The television studio world is tidy, controlled: a concentrated work atmosphere. The world outside is a gigantic playground with ever new physical challenges. Dr Annick and Mrs Goerens.

Annick grins as she abseils along the striking, dark grey rock layers. 13 carabiners - as the eyelets firmly placed in the rock face are called - dangle from her belt. She uses these to hook into the bolts. “13 is kind of a lucky number!” says Annick and nudges Joe in the side.

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Beloved challenge

This route is called Father’s Day. Each route here on the rock is mapped out, remembered by a specific name, and each offers up a different challenge. Challenges are what Annick Goerens seeks, finds and loves in climbing. The journalist travels a lot around the country and with people, and she likes to learn new things, to discover, and conquer. “I like to acquire everything systematically and I am strict with myself. I just want to do it perfectly!” says Annick. “While having fun, of course.”

Annick met Joe Haux, who works for the police, professionally during an interview almost 13 years ago. He was already a passionate climber back then, and he infected Annick with his enthusiasm. “She learnt really fast, is ambitious and a super climbing partner!” affirms the dark-haired man, who likes to wear bright orange outside; a colour that is easy to see and cheerful.

“The rocks here are ideal for learning and for sport climbing. I also like to go here alone after work, it’s relaxing,” Annick says. But she has also been climbing with Joe in the Alps and the Dolomites. “That’s something else, you have to put the wedges into the rock yourself, and it requires even more concentration. You have to know and assess the rock; you have to find your own way.”

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Each route is a puzzle

A few more climbers join the couple in Berdorf and are searching for a path on the wall. It can get quite busy at weekends in the middle of a famous hiker’s paradise in the Mullerthal. As a former sports presenter at campsites Annick certainly likes groups and community, but peace and contemplation are just as important to her. Fortunately, there are other climbing spots to escape to when it gets crowded, and other types of climbing, such as bouldering.

In bouldering, you pull yourself up without a belay until you reach a jumping height at which it is still safe to fall. You can do this in nature or on indoor and outdoor climbing walls. On climbing walls, the route is shown with coloured moulds that look like small stones which you can grip or step on. Each colour is a level of difficulty, each climb a puzzle to be solved.

The climbing wall in the park in Mamer is one of those places where you can choose new climbs almost every time, because the stones are always placed differently. The structure looks like colourful concrete origami. Alex Dermentzoglou is currently working on new routes.

“I have to make sure that the markers aren’t too far apart, so that shorter people like Annick can also get up easily!” grins the 1.93-metre-tall young man with a blond bun. He greets Annick with a hearty handshake. Annick is also the president of the Boulder Klub Lëtzebuerg. Bouldering  is another of her great passions, along with many other sports such as running, mountain biking, yoga and stand-up paddle boarding. 

The climbing and bouldering community is warm and open, and people help each other: that’s what makes this sport special. You don’t need an opponent to practise. No one has to lose to someone. It is a contemplative sport that requires concentration.

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Give up? Not an option.

Annick is constantly confronted with the world’s biggest problems at work. Climbing allows her to switch off. It is a sport made for people who want to go to the outer limits, who want to feel every muscle in their body without having to defeat anyone. On the contrary: people share tips, exchange information, even across borders, for example with the bouldering community in Trier, Germany. A large bouldering hall will soon be built in Esch in the south of the country.

Mamer hosts the Greater Region’s only specialised climbing shop. Alex works there and looks after the climbing walls as a member of Boulder Klub Mamer. When I visit, he is helping a young girl find her way up. In no time at all she is at the top, beaming before dropping onto the thick mat. Meanwhile, Annick hangs, lost in concentration, she is almost horizontal on a wall, every muscle tense, every sinew visible. Then she lets herself fall. This time she could not crack the difficult route. But Annick keeps at it because giving up is not an option.

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