Weekend Warm-Up: Beginner to 9a in Four Years

The German-born Martina Demmel oozes natural talent. When she was four, she took up skiing. By 15, she skied with her regional team and carved an enviable racing career. She enjoyed podium success and continued to progress.

Martina Demmel. Photo: @martinademmel


Then by chance, a friend invited her to the local climbing wall. Demmel immediately knew climbing was “something I wanted to keep doing”.

Leaving snow for dust, Demmel started indoors before quickly crossing over to outdoor rock. Although climbing differs from skiing, there are plenty of transferrable skills. For example, Demmel has spent most of her 19 years fine-tuning her physique for the purpose of moving on uneven surfaces.

Skiing requires plenty of core stability, strength, and balance. When she started climbing, she was already ahead of the pack.

Photo: @martinademmel


Plenty of climbers will never manage the difficult routes Demmel achieves. Indeed, her ability and rapid progress have caught the world’s attention.

Recently, a national coach spotted her. Invited to a competition, Demmel landed in fifth place, qualifying for the World Cup in Briançon, France. At her first International Federation of Sport Climbing competition, she also made the semifinals, finishing 24th.

Less pressure than skiing

Demmel puts her success down to the fact there is less pressure in beginning as a rock climber than continuing as a competitive skier. She says she is simply climbing for the fun of it. The beauty of the environment, rather than rapidly advancing through the grades, is what drives her.

At the same time, Demmel doesn’t seem like the kind of person to dabble in pursuits with mediocre drive. In the past year, she spent more than 200 days on rock. It’s fair to say she is a naturally driven soul.

Her 9a ascent last April isn’t a career pinnacle. It’s a career start.