Friday 2 May 2014

Back from the Continent

So here we are, a month and a bit down the line.

What have we done?

It started with some training, then proceeded to some job resignation and rounded out with a month long climbing trip and a blunt slap to the face by reality.

Exciting right?
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Training was...difficult, after coming back I realise how woefully under-prepared I was for the raw stamina nature of the climbing. I didn't struggle with any single move that I tried while in Ceuse, but I still fell off... a lot.

Training with a finger injury is always hard, especially when the only realistic method to improve stamina is to hang on your fingers for extended periods. Sadly, this is what I had to contend with during the weeks prior to the trip. I did what I could, but in hindsight, it was never going to be enough. I put on too much weight, and didn't do enough climbing before the trip to really stand a chance on anything serious that was longer than 10-15m. Unfortunately Ceuse is almost entirely populated by routes of at least this height and as a result I was given a bit of a schooling.

However, that said I still had a fantastic time.

The first few days there, we spent trying to find the path up the hill. You might have thought this would be easy what with the path markers existing all over the place, but you would be wrong.

The first time we walked up to the cliff it took us almost 2 hours, and we were thrilled to find that there was a crystal clear pool of snowmelt at the base of the waterfall. After drinking our fill, we moved along the cliff, checking out potential lines and standing in awe at the base of the famous classics.

Face de Rat
I'm not even sure if we climbed on the first day.
If we did it was only a couple of 6a's or so.

The next few trips up the hill proceeded in a similar vein, with us failing to find the appropriate path, and instead fighting our way up the hill for far longer than it should have taken, bushwhacking through bushes, grasses and weeds. All of which seemed designed to scratch and scrape at our arms, legs and faces for as long as it took for us to arrive at the path, covered in blood and sweat and panting hard.

I'd complain more, but damn! If it doesn't make you fit!

Once we had become a little more acquainted with the rock, and the climbing on offer, and a little more aware about the space between the bolts, it was time to start looking at a couple of harder lines and maybe some projects.

First port of call was an amazing line called Lapinerie. This route takes in the base of a slab in the 'Demi Lune' sector of the crag, before ploughing on up through the overhang via a series of jugs, big moves and then a tricky sequence before a dyno finish. It is probably a bit soft for 7b, but regardless of the grade I think it is definitely one of the most fun climbs that I have ever done outside. A range of angles and styles, a nice rest, and some fantastic expansive moves between some semi spaced clips to reach the chains. All in all, well deserving of its claim to 3 stars.

A French chap on the classic Cent Patates
After finishing off Lapinerie, I moved down the wall towards the Berlin sector to find a project to get stuck into. After looking at the guide, and looking up at the wall, I decided to try my luck with putting in the draws on the eponymous route - 'Berlin' 7c/+.

I soon found out, as many have before me, that the difference between a short, soft one and a long, hard one, is that the second will leave you feeling sore and bruised in the morning.

The route starts with a small crimp for the right hand, and a single pad two finger pocket for the left, from here, you get your feet high and go straight up to a fair right hand edge, a slight balance adjust and then into a filthy sharp undercling for the left, after working your feet up onto some polished smears you make an edgy slap to another bad crimp for the right hand and bring your feet up high and left to bring your hips high enough to make an accurate deadpoint to a left hand first joint pocket. After all that, you are now about 2 metres up and able to start the route proper.

I knew by the time I made it half way up the climb that I was never going to be able to do it this trip, I simply didnt have the stamina. I found good sequences, and gained the chains on my first go on it, but it was never seriously in my mind that I would be able to put the whole thing together in one single redpoint.

There was something quite nice about that though, a certain release from pressure, not that I felt particularly pressured to begin with, but now it just felt like training. I was simply climbing for the sake of enjoyment, and learning about a whole facet of the sport that up till now I literally had no comprehension of.

Despite this, I stuck with it, and trekked up the hill for my couple of burns a day on the route. By the end of the trip I was linking together 3 bolt segments in the top half, and had almost done the bottom half free.
Despite the beating I received, I am deeply in love with this route, and I can't wait to get back on it in a year or two's time once I am lighter, stronger, and most important of all - packing some unbelievable stamina credentials.

I'll leave it there for now, and come back to the rest of the story after the weekend.