We speak to Sam and Liam Healy, identical-twin crushers from Sydney who prove that no matter how similar two people may be they will still not climb boulders the same way.
Sam and Liam have been climbing extremely well of late. At home in Sydney, recent ticks for Sam have included Double Demerit (V13; which seems to have dropped a grade of late from V14), One of a Kind (V13), Deep Blue Sea (V12; down from V13), Tyler Durden (V12) and J2 (V12), while Liam has done the rarely repeated Saxon John’s test-piece, J1 (V13). More recently the pair were in the Grampians, where they quickly repeated a bunch of hard classics, including (amongst many) In the Clouds (V11), Point and Shoot (V11), Killer Dwarf (V11), Dead Heat (V11), Dead Can’t Dance (V11), The Outsider (V11) and Leviathan (V11).
Can you tell us a little bit about yourselves?
Sam: We’re from the depths of western Sydney (Doonside). As identical twins we both turned 20 not to long ago. I’m an arborist, so I climb trees for a living, and Liam’s an engineering student. Apart from work and study we pretty much just climb.
How did you start bouldering?
Sam: I started climbing through school. We went to different high schools but Liam joined in and we got hooked pretty quickly. We started taking it seriously and took to bouldering pretty early on.
What is it about bouldering that grabbed you? Do the like the same things about bouldering now, or has it changed over time?
Sam: Early on it was just a lot more accessible with Sydney bouldering being so vast and close to home. I think now it’s just about the joy of hard movement. I like trying as hard as I can and dislike getting pumped, so bouldering’s the go.
Liam: I boulder because I like to fall off when it’s hard not because I’m tired.
A lot of brothers are famously competitive, what is your climbing relationship like?
Sam: I’d like to say we’re not to competitive. Outdoors isn’t a competition in the first place so we support each other, maybe with a little bit of sarcasm here and there.
Liam: He may say that but there is definitely a little competition sometimes.
Do the two of you climb together much?
Sam: Quite a fair bit. Most of the time outdoors, although we train separately half the time just due to differing locations.
Given that you are identical twins, do you find that you have very similar strengths and weaknesses on the rock or are there some noticeable differences? If so, what are your different strengths/weaknesses?
Sam: Generally I’d say we’re pretty similar in terms of strength though there are a few considerable differences. Liam’s a lot better on small crimps, mostly because I was too lazy to do dead hangs for a while. I’m a little better at basic strength exercises like pull-ups and front levers, but apart from that we’re pretty even. On rock I’d say we’re close to even, but we just tend to use different beta.
Do you always use identical beta? If you don’t give us an example of a problem you had to solve differently.
Sam: Definitely not. Most of the time we use different beta. Though our strengths are similar our climbing styles are fairly different. Abacus would be good example. For the crux jump Liam jumps straight out to the gaston while I go to an intermediate first and use an extra toe-hook before the huck out.
Do you think the different beta is because you have a different approach to problem solving?
Sam: I’d say our approach to problem solving is generally the same. We will have an idea on how we think the boulder will go before our first attempt. And with that beta in mind we will try to climb it. However, we will adjust that beta while climbing if a position feels awkward or if we see something that looks easier. If that doesn’t work we just try a new sequence until something clicks or it feels even slightly possible. And work it until it is. Our betas are different because of our strengths and simply because we like to do different things. For instance, I might feel a move is completely awkward but Liam might find that it’s comfortable and flows well.
You’ve both been climbing some big numbers on Sydney boulders of late, what have been some of your favourite sends?
Sam: There’s been a few but the top three would be Double Demerit (V13), J2 (V12) and Tyler Durden (V12). Tyler Durden would probably top that list. It’s a pure hard line, with really fun movement. The crux revolves around a big move off two good holds with a high left foot at your left hand. You move to a small edge then to do a series of bumps off poor slopes to a decent hold. So sick.
Liam: I haven’t been able to get out as much as my bro, but I managed to tick off J1 (V13). For me it’s definitely one of the best boulders in Sydney – and maybe the world – with crimpy moves down low followed by a powerful jump to the lip then double toe-hook above your head to finish off.
Do you ever get on a cord or do you strictly boulder? Any notable route sends?
Sam: Not really… the last time would be about a year ago. Maybe in the future.
Liam: When we started out we did go leading a bunch but as of now bouldering is the only focus, maybe in the future?
You’re down in the Grampians at present, and seem to be tearing it up, how have you found the bouldering there?
Sam: The Grampians is seriously the best. If only I didn’t live so far away. Gotta love the fact that you get to top things out instead of matching a jug in a dank cave. The rock in the Gramps is amazing and varies so much between crags, I could spend a lifetime here.
Liam: The Grampians definitely offers the best bouldering in Oz and, like Sam said, it’s nice to top out almost every boulder you do. We haven’t got round to much projecting this trip but it’s been fun going around to as many crags as possible and trying to send things fast.
What have been some of your favourite sends?
Sam: Hard question when they’re all so good. The ones that stick with me the longest would be the scarier ones. American Pie (V10) would be up there, although it’s not the hardest, the committing last move over the lip makes it one to remember.
Leviathan (V11; at the Shire) is definitely a favourite. All the effort finding the boulder made it all so much sweeter when I topped it out. The line consists of sustained climbing on perfect edges to a final huck to a slot.
Pigeon Suicide would have to be the best moderate I’ve ever done. Sits right next to Leviathan and starts with a committing and surprisingly far jump to large slot leading to funky moves on decent holds.
Though sadly the best boulders in my eyes are the ones I haven’t done yet… On the Beach (V13) and the X-Pinch (V13) would top that list. Total dream lines. High, hard and stunning.
Liam: Every boulder I’ve gone up has been a classic so it’s real hard to decide. I’d definitely agree with Sam on American Pie (V10) as it feels real nice to commit to hard moves up high. Other than that, Point and Shoot (V11) and Killer Dwarf (V11) are definitely not the nicest looking lines in gramps but have some of the most fun moves in them.
How do you find the style in the Grampians compares to Sydney boulders?
Sam: It’s hard to say. I mean the Grampians is so vast with each area holding its own unique style and stone. The biggest difference has to be that most boulders in the Gramps top out. Sydney bouldering is generally a little steeper as most of the hard climbing is in caves. Though both areas probably favour a more dynamic style.
Liam: Both the styles are pretty dynamic, although the Grampians does have a lot more variation in the types of moves you’ll try.
Do you have any big climbing goals for the future?
Sam: Definitely. I’d like to be strong enough to go to any crag and try the best and proudest lines regardless of the grade, though a lot of those lines are ridiculously hard. So I guess my goal is to be strong enough to climb them. At the moment looking at boulders like Owning the Weather (V14) I get bewildered by how hard they are. I’ll have to get a whole lot stronger and better before I can try my dream lines like The Nest (V15; Red Rocks) and ‘Livin Large (V15; Rocklands).
Liam: I want to see just how strong I can get and where that can take me, hopefully the future holds exciting experiences and sends. And, like Sam said previously, being strong enough to try any of the best lines in the world and get up them. A dream line for me would be Defying Gravity (V15) among many others.