About Marcel

Introduced to climbing in 1989, i was hooked from the beginning and from the moment i started climbing... i couldn't stop. Unfortunately, the Netherlands doesn't have any mountains, and in those times climbing gyms were still quite rare, so i saved all my money as a student to go climbing in Belgium, Luxembourg and Germany as often as i could. In between trips i would climb the walls or stairs of my house until they break, or climb objects in the city late at night until the police showed up :)....  Buildering was born! Some of the boulders i opened can still be found online at the website of ESAC.

For me, climbing was and still is a combination of gymnastics, dancing and playing chess. In my first climbing years i'd rather fall out of a route while trying to climb with perfect fluidity, motion and style than to succeed with the climb in an ugly manner without proper footwork or technique. Harder routes i just toproped without the need to lead them which i found only added extra stress. I just wanted to dance to the music composed by the rocks! How abstract this may sound, for me it was real. I remember dancing in the local clubs like Effenaar while in my mind i was visualizing and climbing my projects.

In 1992 the first climbing gym appeared in my city, which allowed me to climb more often. I write 'climb' not 'train' because i've never been much of a hard-core trainer, but still, the gym made me stronger and my level rose accordingly. In the years after, my personal climbing ethics swifted more or less from focussing on style to focussing on succeeding the climb. My study suffered severly from my climbing trips abroad, and i was dreaming of climbing crags all over the world.

Then, one day, while walking in the city one day after a normal training session, a sudden pain struck me in my shoulder. Two weeks of intense pain followed due to a trapped nerve, and when the pain stopped the damage was done. The nerve was cut and i couldn't move my right arm higher than 90° in front of me. Examination by a neurologist revealed that my nervus longus was damaged but that i had a fair chance of recovery. I didn't climb for 10 months in a row while slowly my arm started to work again. When i went back to climbing i felt weak but motivated as ever, and within a few months i could climb again at reasonable level. Everybody who is climbing has had their share of injuries and i was hoping i had mine. Alas, a few years later i was walking with a big backpack while i had the flue, and the same thing happened again but now it was my left arm which paralyzed. I freaked out, not again! This time a scapula alata was the result, my left shoulder blade didn't stay in position when i moved my arm. To releave the pain i tried acupuncture but without success. A different specialist told me that the syndrome i had was rare, but those who have it have it more often. The fact that my joints are hypermobile also had something to do with it. My flexibility, allowing me solve several climbing puzzles in my own unique way, was now turning against me. During the recovery period i felt depressed. My life revolved around climbing and all my friends were climbing friends, i felt empty and sad. My dream of being a full-time climber collapsed.

I looked around and took up other hobbies and occupations to have besides climbing. As an ENFP person i needed to redirect my creative needs elsewhere and i took up photography, (video) film making and playing theatre and combined it with a deep dive into the party scene. Climbing became "one of my hobbies". I had periods where i climbed more frequently but i always had to watch out not to get injured again. Being carefull apparently didn't matter, in the years after i had repetitive nerve injuries in my back and shoulders which did not always heal 100%. Right after my first climbing trip to Thailand i was out-of-order again for months, another case of a trapped nerve... I lost interest in climbing hard. I was not as strong as i could have been, and due to the permanent injuries even some movements were just impossible for me. Nowadays i'm unable to carry a backpack without the waist belt on for more than 50m, and i cannot hold a drill above my head. This means that drilling and opening routes is a no-no. Technique, stamina and old-skool finger strength stayed when i climbed regular but only go so far, sometimes you just need pure power.

For years i climbed, but without a lot of passion. Then i started dating Sandra and Sandra got hooked on climbing. It was a joy to watch her going through the process of learning and discovering the joy and excitement of rock climbing when i took her on climbing trips in Europe. While climbing with her, i decided to not work in 'hard' routes which might risk injury again and which i couldn't do anyway, but to focus myself on onsighting everything i climb. To on-sight a route demands a certain level of focus, experience, technique and creativity and to succeed onsighting is very rewarding. When redpointing a route you can try as often as you like, but there is only one chance for climbing onsight! And when you struggle your way up, your fore arms are on fire, and with your last breath you are barely falling but still manage to clip the anchor... that is pure gold! As a result... i got my passion back! This encouraged me to re-focus my life and pursue one of my long forgotten dreams: a climbing trip around the world!

So there we are! I'm in the middle of a Chinese language course to be able to speak some words while in China, i already speak a few Thai words and Sandra is fluent in Spanish. We're busy with planning and arranging exiting as well as boring stuff. Does anybody want to rent a furnished house in the middle of Amsterdam for 10 months? :)

Work less, climb more!
Marcel Heemskerk

Some photos will come...


  1. Veel succes met jullie trip. We wachten op volgende mooie foto's. JOANNA.

  2. veel succes !!! JOSEFIEKE.