Ege Duman | Interview on ”Master of Puppets”& Climbing Life

Ege Duman is a young and successful climber that has been under our radar for a while. After his recent send, the ”Master of Puppets” (8a+) at 13 aged, we as Climbing Posts were curious to know more about himself and his targets. Ege’s main supporter, his father, Atilla’s comments were also significant for us as. We were sitting behind our computer screens in opposite corners of the country. After agreeing upon meeting on the actual rock as soon as possible, I hit the record button on my old stereo…

Ege, can you tell us more about yourself?  

Hi everyone! I was born in 2007 in the city of Gaziantep. My family and I lived in here until I was 10 but for the last three years, we’ve been living in Adana. I study in Bilim ve Sanat (Secondary school) and I’ve been climbing ever since I could remember.  As I grow up, my idea of climbing has changed and matured but it’s still a game for me and I quite enjoy it.

Are you interested in other sports than climbing?

I was interested in gymnastics for a while but due to my allergic asthma, I had to quit as the gym was indoors. Straight after, I started climbing.

Ege Duman Archive

Atilla, your father has had a great role in you started climbing. Atilla, how did you start climbing yourself and steer Ege to this direction?

It started with mountaineering actually. I wanted to summit the mountains of Turkey that we learned in geography classes such as Mount Agrı (aka Ararat), Erciyes and Hasan. In 90’s, Nasuh Mahruki was a famous mountaineer who summited the Everest and was quite popular at the time. While I was travelling places, I wanted to climb the mountains I saw during the journey. As I was researching online, I found out that there was a Federation in Turkey that provided trainings which I attended and that’s how I met mountaineering.

My introduction to rock climbing happened when I was top roping as part of the Federation’s training and observing other climbers at the crag. I tried and enjoyed it a lot. There was a little climbing wall in my local area which I used to visit. Since I enjoyed being there, I started taking Ege with me since he was 2 years old.

It was University of Gaziantep’s wall and other climbers there showed interest in Ege which he enjoyed. I never stopped climbing except a few months due to injuries and thanks to that, Ege learned climbing in both real and artificial rock. I have an older daughter as well who tried climbing too but wasn’t very keen.

Ege, what do your friends at school think about climbing? Are they interested in it?

They usually ask about it and some want to try it too, but they don’t really mean it when they ask; except some, who are genuinely interested and listen to my answers. Majority of them don’t take it seriously though…

Could I ask you which locations you enjoy to climb at?

I have climbed in Adana, Gaziantep and Aladaglar so far. I enjoyed Aladaglar more as it’s a rich area and the routes are closely packed. Adana is quite nice too. I wouldn’t want to discriminate any of them, they are all great in their own way. I may favour Aladaglar more as I spent more time there. I recall that the routes in Gaziantep were shorter.

What does the word ”climbing” mean to you Ege?

To be honest, I leave all thoughts away as I climb. It’s just me and the route, like therapy. A line I want to climb and send gives me a sweet excitement, makes me happy.

Ege, what are your thoughts on competitions?

I mean, they are great but I can’t love the climbing conditions and routes.

Is it OK if I ask why?

Except my first competition, we topped all lead routes hence the ranking wasn’t very reflective of the climbers. Also, it’s demanding economically, such as it’s difficult to travel to competitions in Samsun for example (as it’s far from Adana). It doesn’t worth the travel.

Atilla: Competitions are both in far away cities and the routes can’t distinguish climbers with different capabilities.

Atilla, I suspect you have trained Ege for climbing. Has any other person supported Ege?

Ege: No, I’ve only trained with my father.

Regarding competitions, which developments would encourage you to compete in them again?

Instead of more competitions for my age group, I’d prefer to have more distinguishing and difficult routes and a smaller number of competitions. I haven’t been but (a group) were sent abroad once in the past years. They travelled by bus instead of plane and slept in the bus rather than a hotel which was very challenging on my friends who went.

In the case that conditions improve, would your perspective change towards competitions? Do you have goals in competitive climbing as well?

Of course, it would! I’d like to win the national championship and then win in European and worldwide competitions. One day, I would like to win an Olympic medal as well.

Where would you like to visit abroad?

I really want to see Japan. Climb in the gyms there and meet and spend time with local climbers.

”Master of Puppets” (8a+) – Aladağlar / Ege Duman Archive

With this question, I’d like to move to Aladaglar; Master of Puppets route. Can you tell us about the send and its story?

After lockdown, we went to Aladaglar but we were not really in shape. In about a week, we tried to regain the shape through adaptation routes.  

I was able to send the routes I couldn’t last year. Some moves on certain routes were too high or required more power hence the number of routes I could climb were limited. Then we visited the sector where Master of Puppets was located where I tried another route in the same difficulty. There was a really high move and as far as I know even adults complete it dynamically, which I was unaware of at the time.

As I was trying other routes, we saw that there were quickdraws on Master of Puppets; someone else was projecting it. I wanted to give it a go as collecting the draws wouldn’t be an issue.  In the first attempt, as it was the last route of the day, I couldn’t get past the crux move. I asked couple of people around, learned the beta. I realised the crux was easier after clipping since the moves were scary. I hardly clipped and started working on it. After reaching the anchor, I attempted for a clean send after each fall and in the end, I managed to do it.

Atilla, we would like to hear the story from you as well.

Due to the pandemic, there were strict measures in place and we were all locked in our homes; even without the precautions, people were afraid. Going out on the street, touching places or spending time in a closed environment was a source of stress. We were hopeful that climbing days would resume but after a while we were bored at home and started thinking about what we could do about it. We tried spending time with home training and fingerboarding. We were releasing the excess energy while staying in shape.

Summer arrived and we were on the road to Aladaglar straight away. We were curious about our performance as we haven’t been to the gym, rock or artificial wall. I was keeping a record of Ege’s performance. We had quite a shock at the rock as we weren’t even close to our performance before lockdown. For more than a week, we tried to recover from this. There was a threshold. After passing that, I was expecting a great success from Ege. Previous summer he climbed 7c, 7c+ which I also climbed and broke my personal record. They were solid routes! I was glad that Ege was climbing at this level. Last year he managed to climb “Billur” up to the anchor, the send was imminent.

”Master of Puppets” (8a+) – Aladaglar / Ege Duman Archive

I was asking around, looking for a route that would push him a little, something at the edge of his capability. This season, I was expecting a 2 7c+ routes from him as he was at that level. After the adaptation week, he started flowing through the routes. He sent ”Billur”, ”Kırım Kongo” and ”B12”. Occasionally he gives me quite nice beta too. I managed to send many routes thanks to his beta.  

“He is a fighter. Ege’s scream when he sent the routes was quite unique for me.”

We were targeting 8a’s now. Routes in the ”Podyum” sector seemed obvious from the ground with their negative angle almost creating a ceiling. They are far from technical moves and target large muscles mostly. Hence we targeted ”Krallar Vadisi” (another sector) next. We were on a detailed search here, looking at moves, lengths of the routes. He tried a couple without success before trying ”Master of Puppets” and on this one, he managed to land all the moves.

So far the grade has changed depending on the climber, first it was 8a then 8b, 8a again and finally landed on 8a+. Very few people have climbed this route as Ege is just the 4th. Ege has projected and sent this route. On the day of his send, he told me that it was the day and he was feeling good. In the first try he fell on the crux but next attempt after a rest was beautiful. I was very pleased as a father. After the crux, I knew he would send it. He is a fighter. Ege’s scream when he sent the routes was quite unique for me. The rock became abstract for us. He came down, we hugged and celebrated.

I promised Ege that after his send, I was going to make a film out of it. My friends Süleyman Vardal and Mustafa Gürhani have helped me with that which I am very grateful for. We shared this on YouTube as well for people to see, hear and learn.

”Master of Puppets” (8a+) – Aladağlar / Ege Duman Archive

I want to come back to Ege now, when was the breaking point in this sport for you?

I never thought about quitting climbing but after 2019, I started to pay more attention as that season in Aladağlar, my goal was to climb VIII+ and IX – yet my performance increased my confidence as I managed to climb harder than we expected.

In the future, what would you like to do besides climbing, what to do want to be?

I’d like to be an architect or a veterinary though I’m closer to being a vet thanks to my dog. I have a great affection towards animals. I hope either one will come true.

Atilla, what are your thoughts on this? Which profession is more suitable for Ege in your eyes?

I believe he’s more suitable to become a vet. His communication with animals is amazing see, he trained our dog himself on both fundamental and advanced obedience. This is significant as usually specialised trainers give these trainings to dogs. Ege has made extensive research online, watched videos, read articles and trained our dog. He also has a very soft heart for animals. These are the reasons why I believe being a vet is quite suitable for him but personally, I’d prefer him to be an architect. Of course, in the end it’s going to be his decision, above all, I would like him to do whatever he’s going to be happy with. 

Ege, how do people react when they see you climbing? What do you think about their comments or reactions? Do these cause extra stress on you?

When they see me for the first time, people sometimes comment like ”Look he’s about to fall!’’, which is annoying but mostly they watch quietly or make positive comments which makes me happy.

Recently, sustaining and maintaining climbing areas has become a hot topic, at least in US and in Europe. Can you comment on the areas you have been to? Are they kept clean? What are your comments on this?

Ege: I take utmost care on this topic. So far, I haven’t detected anything unpleasant myself as they are rather clean. I believe climbers are cautious on this topic. Though this doesn’t mean climbers never litter. Some still may do that.

Atilla: Routes in Adana are completely isolated. No one goes there besides us climbers and local shepherds. Except Zeytinlik in Çakıt area which is popular among families to visit and have a picnic and as transportation is widely available, the forest is in a horrible state. We must act as these areas are our own homes. I can’t think positive about Aladağlar’s Kazıklı and Cımbar Canyons, as they are in a bad shape. Sometimes I get the opportunity to compare locals with international climbers but unfortunately neither parties hold on to their litter. Geyikbayırı is no different.

I believe maintenance of climbing gardens is of great importance and should be kept alive as a discussion point. Hence, I would like to ask, do you think a group would be formed that aims to clean and maintain climbing gardens and would it be viable?

Ege: On a voluntary basis, this could happen yet I don’t expect support from the government. People willing to clean these areas would come from within the climbing community. If an NGO or any other organisation wishes to support this cause, we are happy to support them too.

Atilla: If we take a bag with us to the crag, we can both carry our own litter along with other people’s. Actually, we need to raise awareness for the whole public and this would start from kindergarden level. Education comes first otherwise all the proposed solutions will all be temporary.

Ege, as a final question, I’d like to ask about your short-term goals and targets?

Next year when I’m back at Aladaglar, I would like to beat this grade level. That is pretty much my only goal at the moment.

Anything else you would like to add or wish that happens in the future for the sport?

I wish government invests in climbing more, supports the federation and in return, federation supports us climbers. As I mentioned before, we need more competitive routes. Also, people who have the licence to open new routes could be supported with equipment which would develop the sport in our country in the future.

Atilla, is there anything you would like to add at this point?

Our country is vast and has great potential (in terms of climbing). Obviously, not every city has rocks or mountains to be conquered but at least an artificial wall in each city that are supported by local governments would be nice. Successful young climbers all stem from cities with artificial climbing capability hence as the number of walls increase, so will the number of successful climbers. As this number increases, I am hopeful that in the coming 10 years, we will have successful young athletes to represent our country on the international stage. Not only athletes, we need more trainers who are experienced not only in climbing but also in the science of the sport, nutrition, physiology and anatomy. It all boils down to experience… With experienced trainers and route setters the sport will cherish.

Acknowledgements

As Climbing Posts, we would like to thank Ege Duman and his father Mr. Atilla Duman for taking their time to answer our questions. We also thank Süleyman Vardal and Mustafa Gürhani as they supported our young friend in his ventures.

With this interview, we would like to send our respects and love for young climbers all around Turkey. We wish to talk about you and your success both on national and international level in the future. With lots of love, we wish a happy new year to all!

-Climbing Posts

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