Monday, June 22, 2015

Episode 21: Winter training, mental fatigue and a new approach to climbing

It has been six months since my last post but I finally decided to finalise this one. This delay was largely due to the fact that I had to switch software for the video editing. I could no longer do it manually with a classical piece of software (I had been using VideoPad Video Editor). I need speed and efficiency in my life so I decided to learn how to use Avisynth. You write a simple script in a simple programming language which you encode/decode/compress with Avidemux, Virtualdub or another tool. I highly recommend this way of editing; it is ten times faster. And even though manual editing is fairly straightforward for a one-minute video, I am going to start on longer projects in the following months so Avisynth was more than necessary.
Although I rarely keep the promises I make to myself, I did keep Font'ing (trademark pending) during the entire winter. I do not think I took a break from Font' for more than three weeks. And even though I did not send a single 7A for three months, at least I visited easy circuits to maintain my feeling of the rock.
First things first: in my last post, I talked about my send of Plein Ciel assis (7A). Here's the video.

And here's Scout Toujours (7A).

And of course, my send of Zermatt Express (6C/7A) shot and edited by Marin Menant (thanks again, mate!).

For my last 2014 session, I visited Rocher de Bouligny to check out two classics: Gecko and Les Beaux Quartiers. The sector is very calm but some problems are lichenous; plus, no circuits are available so finding certain boulders was tricky. And given the tree density and the recent rain, half of the problems were wet. The best omens for a great day...
After observing the two aforementioned problems, I did not feel inspired and I moved on. Being alone and with a single pad, I refrained from certain expo boulders so I wasn't left with a lot of choices.
Hypotension assis (6C/+) is a nice overhang with good holds and a somewhat scary exit if you are alone but I enjoyed the moves.

Damoclès (7A) is a cool ltr (left-to-right) endurance traverse. All moves looked easy but linking was not. I spent an hour working on each move, trying to find the smoothest beta possible but did not send it.
After walking around the entire sector and observing every single ≥7A problem, I arrived at Des Boules au Nez (7A). That was one problem I very much enjoyed. A nice sitstart, a wide, undercling-y pinch that twists your left wrist by an extra 30 degrees... what's not to like? It took me an hour to get all the moves properly/statically and then, for the first time ever, I decided to take a break before linking; my wrist was on fire. After walking around for 20 minutes, I went back and linked it twice in a row (to film from two angles).

05/03: After a few winter sessions during which I could not send anything harder than 6A, I visited Vallon de la Solitude with a friend. The sector did not inspire me much. We only found 3-4 worthy projects.
Deltaroc (7A) is a definite must. It might seem easy but falling from it can be messy. A large rock to the right, a tree to the left and a slop-y ground with big roots in the middle. My friend fell twice in different positions and the second time, he got a hematoma by landing with his right hand on a root. It took me about 8 tries even though I could have flashed it indoors. I was being cautious so whenever I did not feel comfortable with a move, I would release. Plus, I could not find a good beta.

07/03: Four friends and visited Apremont Fond des Gorges, my first time there.
Warm up with Électrochoc (7A). It took me about five tries because I was trying to send it properly and get my heel hook very high instead of keep moving without footholds. I appreciated the top out, though.

After that, Strate Eau Sphère (7B+/7C), a ltr traverse/roof. I saw two friends having slight problems with the crux (right heel hook, a crimp for the left arm and then you reach for a right-hand jug; all of my strong points). I sent the move on my first try. After giving the final mantle two tries, I linked on my second try. A very nice feeling overall. Definitely not a 7C, rather a hard 7B or a very soft 7B+.

The rest of the day, I kept battling against two 7As, Chicken Skin assis and Chicken Noris assis. Same sitstart but for Chicken Skin assis, you exit in the prow whereas for Chicken Noris assis, you traverse to the right. For Chicken Skin assis, the crux is very simple if you are tall enough. I was able to reach the hold with my left hand but being entirely stretched, I could not move. I tried and tried but nothing. My friend held my back so I could test my reach but, again, nothing.

08/03: We started with Le Piano à Queue assis (7A+) at Apremont Vallon de Sully. This is a classic but the description is unclear. It is indicated that the left crack is forbidden but we found it far too easy for a 7A+. A friend told me that for the 7A+ version, you do the mantle by doing a muscle up (using your triceps and without feet). Next time I am there, I will try it that beta. I will not upload the video for the time being. I think what we sent is a 6C.
I then went back to Chicken Skin assis and Chicken Noris assis. After trying the same beta again and again, I decided to take a risk and try a very, very high left heel hook. I sent the move on the first try statically.

Before retrying Chicken Noris assis, I went back to Électrochoc to explore Électrochoc par le bas (7C+), a lower variant. I tried the three hard moves and linked them in only five minutes. Instead of getting out of a roof, you go inside by first sending your left heel hook really deep and then matching with your left hand. Very physical but within my kingdom. But, the fool that I am, instead of trying to link the whole thing, I went back to Chicken Noris assis. I was obsessed. It took me about 30 minutes. I enjoyed both "Chickens" a lot.

We finished the day with Mandela (7A) and Mandela assis (7A+). We sent both versions very easily but there was something bugging me the whole time. For my first attempts, I tried a different beta and almost got the standing start by using a small diagonal undercling. My friends insisted on an easier beta (right heel hook) so I followed their advice. When I returned home that night, I checked on and I was right on my beta. The sitstart, on the other hand, was largely "undergraded". I found the move to be very hard, probably because of my height. I was able to reach for the crimp but then I could not move. I think I can do it, I will go back next week.
After checking on, I saw that our versions (~6C and ~7A+) had not been entered into the database. I consider our versions to be well distinguished from the neighbouring problems, especially the sitstart. I will send the info and see what happens.

12/03: I tried to warm up in Électrochoc par le bas but was feeling very heavy and lacked the motivation so I left for Cuvier Rempart. After exploring the entire sector (dozens upon dozens of difficult problems), I was in the mood for slabs.
I started with Avec l'Arête (5C). Nice little problem. I then worked on its arete-less variant, Sans l'Arête. It took me about an hour because I could not reach the hold with the most obvious beta so I found a new beta (right hand/foot matching). I fell once on the last move because I could not find a single hold to stop the barn door and lacked the reach to get the final hold directly. On the next attempt, I found a tiny (and I mean tiny) bump for the right hand and sent it.

I finished the day in La Dalle directe. The tip of my fingers was pinkish but I kept trying. For the hard move, you dyno to a small, flat, slippery crimp while trying to control the barn door. You need that door to hold the diagonal crimp. If you dyno straight ahead, you slip. After twenty or thirty tries, I gave up. Losing counting of the attempts, that's when I know I've been trying a lot...

14/03: Back to Cuvier Rempart with friends. I started my warm up alone in the black circuit, a definite must given its difficulty and exposure. Almost all problems are high and guarantee a nasty fall. It has been opened in the 50s, I think, by alpinists who knew no fear. I tried eight or nine problems and got freaked out. After sending a few and failing miserably at the others, I moved to black no9, a nice slab which I had refused to try a few months earlier. I moved up the rock confidently but when I reached for a small crack, I touched some mud and moss. I tried to clean it only to discover I was getting the footholds dirtier. And as you can imagine, I started slipping on the newly dirty holds and after a few seconds, I fell. Even though it is not obvious in the following video, my butt landed only a few centimeters from the rock.

Laser (6C+/7A) is the kind of slabs I like. The crimps are decent and painless and the secret is in the body position. We all sent it instantly.

Manolo (7C) is an elegant roof/mantle problem. Its difficulty lies in heel hooks and slopers. I gave it a few tries but the sloper was too hot so I moved to my project for the day: Verdict (8A). My friend kept pushing me "this is the perfect problem for you, go check it out". It lies less that 30m from Manolo so I went to check it out. Sloppy crimps that don't hurt (except for the last one) and very, very powerful arm locking. I started salivating and got anxious. Unfortunately, as soon as I touched the rock, it started sweating. Given the high temperatures of that day and notwithstanding the fact that my fingers are naturally quite dry, I could only try each hold only twice. Each time, I was not very far from succeeding and I was not even pushing my body so I will have to wait for the right weather conditions for this one. I really loved it. For the last move, however, the top out of the 6C standing version, you need to hold a horrific vertical crimp that can send you screaming. I will have to deactivate my pain receptors next time.
Point d'Interrogation (7A+) is a strange problem. At first sight, it seems like a piece of cake. After your first fall, you start cratching your head.. "how the hell am I supposed to reach for that crimp?" We tried one beta after another... In Cuvier Rempart, the non-major boulders are lichenous and Point is certainly not a classic. Lichen made the miniscule crimps even less usable. After many tries, I found a beta that worked. As you can see, I sent the crux in a slightly dynamic manner; I could not do it statically. I have mixed feelings about this problem.

21/03: Isatis. My projects there keep piling up as usual. I sent the last blue ones I needed for my big comp video (I am still missing one blue, I think) before my friends started arriving.
First project: Beurre Marga (6B+). This one is a classic and I wanted it under my belt. The holds were very slippery but after many tries (20+?), I sent the crux, I reached for the final jug, I got it with my right hand and... I fell. Lack of concentration or over-confidence, I imagine.
I stumbled upon a friend who was trying L'Envie des Bêtes assis (7A), one of my must-do projects. After a few tries, I got all the moves. I tried to send it but my heel hook kept slipping off of a good flake. It pissed me off. A gave it another two good tries but I was too angry with myself to concentrate.
I had been avoiding L'Angle Ben's for two years, mostly because I knew the crux was reachy. This time I tried it but unfortunately, as soon as I reached for the good hold on the arete, my left foot would slip because my body was stretched to its limits. I think there is a possibility but I am not strong enough to try the alternative.
La Memel (7A+/B) is another classic. I never had the chance to try it. All four of us sent it within four or five tries. Apparently, there is a doubt on whether the sloper/crimp on the right (before you reach for the left-hand undercling) is an eliminant.

Here's my linking:

and here's a mini-montage of all four of us:

Footrix le Retour (7A) is a pleasant little prow. The obvious beta was too reachy so after a few tries, I found a better one that fitted me. I got the crux and almost linked it. The sitstart (7B+) is certainly feasible.

06/04: Apremont Envers. What a disappointing and joyous day at the same time! I was going to start with the red circuit but stumbled upon a guy working on Tijuana so I joined him. I kept falling on every single move. I was disgusted. Finally, my climbing buddy arrived and we moved to the red circuit. I spent half the day doing easy stuff, helping friends with their projects and not pushing myself. After all that, I took the guys to my project: Religion verticale direct assis. After 10 months, four one-hour sessions and a lot of humidity, I thought this was going to be the day. The key holds were dry! I first tried the standing start (7A) to be sure I was in shape. Sent it on my first try!
Let me remind you the whole sitstart debacle. According to 7+8 and, the real sistart is two meters to the right of the main crack. When I visited this problem back in May, I had the idea of doing a direct sitstart. The description of the existing sitstart seemed incomprehensible. Anyways, after a few tries, I felt I was not very far but I was getting moody/frustrated because of the second move. In the meanwhile, my buddies tried the 7A and wanted to try something else. I took them to Poséidon (7A) and explained the two possible betas. But Religion Verticale was eating me up, I knew I had it... so I went back. After 3 or 4 tries, I finally linked it!
Note: Later that day, I sent an email to a administrator about my first ascent. He went to check it out the next day and wrote back that the previous sitstart must be the same as mine. Although I am almost sure this is not the case (I asked on the forum last year), I did not insist. Maybe someone will watch my video (I will be editing in a few days) and give us some additional info about the first ascent.
I then went back to Poséidon and sent the sitstart on my second try.

Sunday 12/04: Apremont Envers again. We started with some red ones to warm up. Plus, this is one circuit that I really want to film. After 3 or 4, I tried the 44bis. What a trainwreck... When climbing this type of circuits, I am always under the impression that back in the days, climbing in Font was somewhat of a pissing contest. When you see the dangers of a potential fall, you cannot but think that. 44bis has a scary top out. My second try was the worse. I fell on the very last move (the boulder was lichenous so I could not hold on anything). My spotters saved my butt. As a friend noticed, the last thing you hear me say in the video is "Belle adrenaline" (nice adrenaline rush).

First project of the day: Masta boulda. The virgin rock felt perfect, you can feel the stickiness of the grain. We were not aware of the conventions so we didn't know which were the starting holds. We decided on a version and sent it. I then tried a lower sitstart, with two hands on an undercling. At least a 7B. I did the first move but couldn't sent the next one. And that first move being very painful, I only tried it three or four times.

Paul's boutique is a weird problem. proposes a very strange convention:
Standing start with both hands in a little oblique crack and exit directly by convention
and the 7+8 topoguide says:
start with two hands on undercling
The first description being irrational, I tried the second one (the only one that looked like a 7A+). I sent it very quickly. I then tried the sitstart version (7C). I almost got it. I think I need another session on that. Since the rest of the moves are easy for me, it will fall soon. Plus, it's not exposed to the sun.

At the end of the day, I went back to Tijuana to try the move that was missing. The second try was perfect. Dumb as I am, I didn't think about sending the whole project on the spot and said to myself "I'll come back tomorrow, all fresh and motivated". This dummy never learns...

Monday 13/04: The forecast being very positive, I decided to go back to Tijuana. After a few red ones and stumbling upon Sean McColl and Jeremy Bonder working on L'Apparemment, I was ready. The rock, however, was not. Two straight days of heat made the boulder sweat like crazy. I got all the moves right but was pushing too much; I knew the linking would be a struggle. After an hour, I decided to switched to some boulders with a northern exposure. I knew exactly where I had to go.
I had tried Festin de Pierre (7A) two years ago but needed an extra centimeter or two to reach for the key hold (right heel hook then cross with right hand on a good crimp). I had gone back to that boulder a few times but the crimp was always humid. First try, I got my right heel hook perfectly, got my left foot higher and went for the crimp. Everything was fluid, I got my left foot to the left to control the barn door and, being distracted or rather too arrogant, I fell. I finally got it on my fourth try. I tried the sitstart (7B+) but the moves are very reachy; I tried to come up with a beta but did not insist. I think it can be done.

La Nuit de l'Éclipse (7A+) starts two meters to the left of Festin. People had told me about the nastiness of the holds. Nasty, sharp crimps indeed... I tried a low start but after a few tries and a lot of pain, I started with my left hand directly with a crimp. I sent it on my second try. Painful but beautiful.

A fellow Bleausard, Marc, had suggested the 25 black (La Psyssure, 6B). It seems very easy but the top out is messy. You see chalk everywhere so you're expecting jugs but I don't think there are any. By then, my nails on my middle fingers were moving too much (I knew that was bound to happen). After falling twice on the third move, I found a hold for the left hand and changed my beta. I reached the top out and kept looking for good holds. Damn it! I knew a very nasty fall was to come about but kept calm. Fabien (the guy I met there) saw me struggling and came running to spot me (that's what real Bleausards do :-)). As you can see in the video, I don't look pretty sending this. My nails were already in bad shape and then I had to push and pull for the top out. As soon as I climbed down, I noticed that my nails were bleeding. It was the end of the day and two days of rest from climbing :-(

After many falls on Welcome to Tijuana and numerous three-or-four-hour round trips to Font', I reached a point of mental fatigue. I just could not imagine myself going back there; I needed a break. So I did Mudday Paris (a great experience), a lot of indoors sports climbing (I sent every single project I tried) and bouldering (same thing, I feel like everything is possible; I have gained a lot of strength these past few months). No Font for a month. What I really needed was to change my attitude towards climbing. Even though I had the confidence and strength that I lacked last year, I kept stressing out about sending problems. I was too impatient. So I calmed down and let it go. I know I can send all the projects I have tried, no need to worry, the right time will come.In a few days, I will be publishing a new post covering my sends from April to June. I will also be presenting the first compilation of an entire circuit (blue of Isatis). I have yet to choose among the following options:
  • one video per circuit in normal speed (around one hour in total?)
  • one video per circuit in higher speed (30 minutes?)
  • one video per problem (too many files?)
  • one video per 10 problems

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Episode 20: Two months of Bleau (slabs excluded)

These past months I have been to Font' very often and my sessions have been quite prolific.
In September and after an intense month of sports climbing in Spain (the story of that trip is coming up soon), both my knees and some of my fingers were in bad condition so I slowed down for a couple of weeks. In addition, weather conditions were not ideal.
On September 23 and accompanied by friends, I went back to Rocher Canon for Rocking-Chair (7A). I had tried it on another occasion and had fallen towards the end. This time, I sent it twice in a row (the second time to film it). I really enjoyed this problem. After sending it and while spotting my friends, I worked on the longer version of  Lévitation (7A+), Vagabond des Limbes (7B). I sent the second part without significant effort so linking should be possible.

Note: a big, big thanks to Marion Oberli for filming me!

We finished the day in Styrax assis (7B). I had almost sent it on my second attempt in spring but it had rained a few minutes after my flash attempt and the final slopers were wet. This time, the slopers were very greasy and things didn't look good. Even the sitstart was giving me trouble. The hard part of this problem is its height: you can't afford falling from the top thus going for it without being 100% sure is rather frightening. After getting the sitstart, I went for it and topped it around 7 p.m. and with little sunlight (the video below has been edited). Three minutes after the sent, we couldn't even see the first holds.

A week later, I went to Apremont Envers to finally do the first ascent of my 7B/+ project (the sitstart version of a 7A) as well as to send Welcome to Tijuana (7C) and its 7B version (Clandestino). As far as my project is concerned, I had tried the move back in May and June. I had been able to reach the hold many times but was too afraid to crimp the aggressive two-finger hole. This time and after 15 tries, I decided to look for a different beta. I scanned the rock for other holds but could not find anything! My desperation finally made me realise that there was a tiny, slopy crimp that is actually a foot hold. I thus decomposed the hard move of the previous beta into two distinct moves. By the time I had sent the first moves, I was too tired to link. I've since been back to that project at least four times and that slopy crimp is always wet :-) I think it will be my birthday present (January 10).
I tried Tijuana again but could not figure out the last move. In June, I had found a great beta but later deleted the video and could no longer remember the correct sequence. What an idiot... Plus, the slopers were humid. I will have to wait for Christmas, when the humidity goes down.
Since I was not alone, I repeated two 7A's and then tried a recent project, Striés Guidés gauche (7A). There is only one hard move: going from a huge undercling to a jug far away with the left hand. It fell after a few tries.

A week later, I went back to Envers to link my project but once again, it was wet. I have been very unlucky with this boulder. I got grumpy and pessimistic but after climbing the first part of the red circuit, I headed for Apremont. To my surprise, I stumbled upon some friends and we started working on Onde de Choc (7B). I almost sent it but for the last move, I used a beta meant for taller climbers. I thought I could get it like that but it was an obvious mistake.
After that, I tried Tailler en Pièce (6C+/7A) three meters to the right of Onde. It took me about 5 tries. You dyno to a mediocre sloper and then get your left foot very, very high. It's all about abs. Nice little problem.

At the end of October, I had 10 days off. Thanks to quasi-perfect weather conditions, I made the most of it and climbed for ten straight days. To get motivated, I set for myself a nice little challenge: to climb fifty 7As. I knew it was possible. When I climb alone, problems fall very quickly; when in company, you wait for the others to finih, you chat a lot so the rhythm is slower. But it is a matter of perspective. I prefer having a great time and sending fewer boulders; climbing is a social event, after all. My idea was to only visit new areas and send at least five 7A's a day and then locate new projects around 7C-8A.
Day 1: the Cassepot area. It is a wild sector with sparse boulders everywhere and easy to get lost in. After wandering for two precious hours in Cassepot Roches Roses, I moved to Cassepot Roches Oranges. The topo of the area is much clearer and I found my way easily.
First problem: Le Logis Ciel (7A). An intriguing problem with original moves. It took me 20 minutes. I had to warm up on it so I took my time. As soon as I got the second move, I went to the top but made a mistake and topped 50 cms too far to the right. On my next try, I was able to stay within the (invisible) line.

Second problem: Plein Ciel assis (7A), 3-4 meters to the left of Le Logis Ciel. This was really, really tricky. The exit is at 4 meters from the ground with a tough move and I only had a small pad and no spotter. My crashpad would suffice for the exit but I needed it for the sitstart. I first sent the second half of the problem twice in order to avoid any surprises and get confident enough to repeat it without a pad. The sitstart was a pain in the butt (literally). I could not reach the first hold so I used the pad. That only helped by little: I could now reach one hold with two fingers so I folded the pad. The good parts of the holds were still far away but I could at least lift myself from the ground and dyno to a better hold. But by folding the pad, I was taking a risk: falling on any of the first 4-5 moves meant crashing against a flat rock. Which is what happened. During my first attempt of linking, I made a dumb mistake and dynoed and I crashed with my lower back and my left thumb against the rock. After cussing for a minute or two, I got back into position and sent it. The pain and the bruise stayed around for quite a while. I haven't finished the montage of the send so here's me falling on my ass.

After trying a beautiful but wet 7B, I moved to Vol à la Tire (7A) but it started raining. I was hoping it would stop and stayed around under a roof but within 5 minutes, everything was soaked. The next day the rain came back so I hit the gym.
Day 3: The temptation of sending old projects made me abandon my original plan of visiting new sectors and led me to Cuvier Rempart. I had visited the sector once before but everything was too damn difficult. Really not my style of climbing so I hadn't been back for a year or so. After a loooong warm-up, we went up the hill and found Les Médisances (7A+). This boulder offers two problems, the other being the reachy Controverse (7A).  The sitstart for Les Médisances was one of the best and most technical ones I have done: right foot very far, a flag with your left foot, right arm lock and go!

About 15 meters to the left, there was C'est tes Deux Pieds (7A). I honestly don't even know if I enjoyed this boulder because it was very high (7-8 meters) and I had to disconnect my brain. After two silly falls on the fourth move, I got the move right and then the adventure started. I was 3 meters from the ground and had to grab an almost invisible crimp while getting a barn door. After that... surprise! The next 3 meters were covered with lichen. There was no way I could jump because a rock was waiting for me on the ground. I just turned off my brain and went for it. The toughest part was switching feet. I could not see the hold my right foot was on so matching was risky. Albeit the risk, I like this kind of boulders; they teach me how to stay calm under pressure.

After that, I tried a scary, scary 6B a few meters away. The entire six-meter boulder was covered with moss. I just had to test my nerves and flash it.
Day 4: Cuvier. After sending La Chicorée (see previous post on slabs), I tried La Joker (7A), a classic problem. I sent it on my second attempt. Instead of getting a right hand shoulder and then crossing with the left hand, I preferred getting the right hand shoulder, matching with left hand on a small vertical crack then getting the next hold with the right hand. I highly recommend this boulder.

Seeing many people in front of La Marie-Rose (6A) made me want to send it again. I sent it three times, each time with a different beta. This is how my idea of preparing a video of 20+1 betas for La Marie-Rose was born. I will have to go back and come up with new betas. I have come up with another three or four choreographies.
Day 5: Cuvier again. After a very long warm up, I started moving around to find my first project for the day. I was lucky enough to stumble upon a cool German guy who was working on La Conque à Doigt (7A) and joined him. After a few attempts using my previous beta, I knew I had to change something. I went for the sloper with my right hand, got my right foot to the right and trusted that my hand would not slip. When I finally sent the move, it just felt right.

We spent the rest of that cool session on La Rhume Folle (7A, 5 meters high and very reachy) and Banlieue Nord direct (7A). I had already sent the latter in 2013 but I had to repeat it since I was planning on working on the longer version (7B+).
Day 6: the day started with L'Épaule, a beautiful 7A/+ slab. The key hold was wet therefore after an hour, I accepted the inevitable and moved to Apremont Envers. And yes, you guessed it right: my project was wet once again, even though it had not rained for days. After going through the whole "Why Mother Nature, why? What have I done to deserve this?!?!?!?! I am treating you with the utmost respect, why don't you let me have a little bit of fun?" emotional roller coaster, I decided to try the sitstart version of Le Soupir du Menuisier (6A), about a hundred meters away. I was heading down the hill when I heard a loud thump-thump noise. It was coming closer and closer. I got wary and excited at the same time because I knew what it was: a wild boar! It was running towards me, then heard me walk and hid behind some bushes. It was now standing between me and my project. I was so eager to send that line... but wild boars are 80-100 kilograms of pure muscle! They are fearful creatures but messing with them is simply stupid. But nothing was stopping me. I got my climbing stuff and camera and headed towards my project. I was not letting that boar trump my spirit. It heard me coming and ran away.

Anyway, I had discovered that boulder while sending the red circuit a few weeks earlier and the sitstart looked cool. There was a LOT of chalk on the first holds so I knew it was not going to be a first ascent but who cares? The first move is physical: you start with two nasty crimps and a lousy left foot hold, you do a pull up and dyno to an unpleasant but good crimp. It took me less than an hour. I loved this problem. It am hoping it will soon appear on

I headed for Exit (7B). Back in June, I sent the traverse part without pushing too hard but the top out simply seemed impossible. I could not understand the move. As I was approaching the boulder, I recognised a familiar figure: Tony Fouchereau, a very prolific first ascender with more than 800 FA's under his belt. After breaking the ice, we started chatting. He was working on the same traverse but in the opposite direction (left-to-right). We both worked on our projects for about two hours, got very close to sending them but failed. For some reason, I sent the exit on my first try without breaking a sweat but could not get the end of the traverse. I was trying to get an undercling with my left hand and then cross to a crimp with my right hand. I had done this move so easily in June! I found a new beta with a move that, by itself, should be around 7B. It took me more than ten tries just for this move. And every time, it was haphazard. Very technical but even more physical.
Day 7: Although it wasn't about to rain, I hit the gym to get my moral up. I had a great work out session, saw some friends and recharged my batteries. Sometimes, failure can get in your head and you need good company and a change of scenery to power through it.
Day 8: back to Apremont Envers. I needed to finish Exit. I was happy to find Tony and his friends working on their projects and got extra motivated. Exit fell within the first attempts. The battery of the camera went off seconds before the send so I tried to send it again. I was confident (too confident, to be honest) I could do it again. I cruised through the traverse, got the last crux and thought it was over. That's when I got distracted and fell on a silly move; a precious lesson for the future.

After the linking, Tony suggested a new project, La Fin d'Exit assis (6C+/7A). He could not send it himself because he is too tall for the top-out. I flashed it since I knew the moves.

Tony did not mind that I work on his project. I did not want to get the first ascent, it was his project. We kept going at it for more than an hour and both fell on the last move twice in a row. It got frustrating. The funny part was the huge difference in our betas. He was doing the traverse in 4-5 moves, it took me 10. After the guys left, I took a 20-minute break, concentrated all my energy into my project and put everything in my first try. I fell on the last move again! Second attempt... badaboum!!! In the video, the moves seem very easy but it is certainly not the case. We both agreed that 7B/+ was the appropriate grade.

Day 9: Apremont. After sending Lamentations and Le Mur des Lamentations, we moved to the Onde de Choc sector. First project: Tango Triste assis (6C+/7A). I love sitstarts so my sending this in 3-4 tries was not a surprise. You start with two hands in an undercling and pull yourself up. It takes a lot of power but it is mostly technical. You need to turn your body in a certain way in order to get the most out of that undercling.

Fosse Ailleurs (7A+) fell very quickly. I tried one beta that seemed very hard and then knew what was to be done. It took me three tries I think. The crux is one of my specialties (shoulder + arm locking) so it was a piece of cake. The beginning, however, was a bit tricky. The first holds were too far, which added an extra two moves.

Day 10: Isatis! The forecast was not very optimistic but we gave it a try. I started my day with Les Inverses (Traversée de Composition des Forces) (7A). This problem was a delight. Underclings, underclings and then a beautiful top out. My beta for the traverse part was very hard. I would get it right every time but it would wear me out for the second part. A new beta was suggested to me, which made things easier. After 10 tries, I found a clean beta for the second part and linked minutes later.

We all were psyched to get on with our projects when it suddenly started to rain :-( We waited for a while just in case but to no avail. Everything was wet except... the first part of Iceberg raccourci assis (7B+/C). I had sent the standing version 16-17 months earlier and had almost sent the first part within a few tries. This time, I was able to link the first part within 20 minutes maybe. I will have to wait for the right conditions to finish this problem.
A week later, I visited Gorge aux Châts. Being accompanied by friends, I didn't have the chance to try out as many projects as I wanted.
La Grève des Nains assis (7A) is difficult to grade. After a fluid sitstart, you get a morpho move: an undercling with both hands, then cross with the right hand to a crimp. I might be able to dyno to the crimp. I sent the boulder by using a ledge on the right (only the jug on the ledge is forbidden). Even with this ledge, it still seemed like a 7A and definitely harder than the two problems hereafter. I will have to send it again because my beta didn't feel right, especially the second part.

It takes more strength than technique to send Sa Pelle au Logis (7A). Nice boulder but too easy for me. I played around by introducing eliminants on the right (the entire arête); that version would be around 7A+. I sent the classic version very easily.

Variaspal (7A) is a variant of Sa Pelle au Logis. It felt more like a 6B.

November went away too fast. Rain and humidity settled so I didn't visit Font' as much as I wanted. I was lucky enough, though, to spend the last weekend of the month in the forest. We even slept there.
Saturday was all about 95.2. The main projects of the day were Indestructible (7A+) and Rudeboy (7A). Indestructible is a really cool prow that I had been wanting to try for a long time but never had the chance. It took me about an hour to get all the moves. The hard move, however, was random at best: right hand on the arête, left hand on an unpleasant crimp, left heel hook on a slopy ledge and a right toe hook on the arête. That left heel hook gave me a hard time. As soon as I got it right, I tried to link. As you can see in the video, I did the hard part but then gave up because after the crux, my foot slipped and slightly touched the crashpad. Damn ethics!

Rudeboy was a nightmare. I spent more than 90 minutes and 50-60 tries and it did not budge. I finally found the right beta up until the top out yet that last move was indecipherable, I was too exhausted (physically and, above all, mentally) to give it any more tries.
While spotting our friend, I sent Duel dans la Lune (6C), the left variant of Rudeboy. Apart from the swing, the rest of the moves were rather easy.

The next morning, I woke up around 10 a.m. and did not feel like climbing. Too bloody cold. After a sugar-packed breakfast, I followed the guys to Cul de Chien. My moral was at its lowest. We had been promised a sunny day and at noon, the sun was yet to appear. I started working on the red circuit and felt very weak in the beginning; after three or four boulders, though, I got motivated and was ready to try the main dish of the day: Le Toit du Cul de Chien (7A), a major Font' classic. I struggled getting my left heel hook on the ledge because I was using the wrong hold for the right foot. After observing another guy that joined us, I tried another foot hold and it worked immediately. I gave it a real try and fell on the dyno. The next attempt worked.

On our way back to the car and amidst complete darkness, Jaume suggested we try Extraction Terrestre (7A+), a nice little "prow". After studying the holds, I thought Jaume's beta was too reachy for me and came up with a new one. Curious enough, I gave the crux a go: it worked like a charm and I topped it. On my second try, I linked the whole problem (the first part is ridiculously easy). Given the complete darkness, I was not able to film but next time I walk by, I will.
While exploring the forest, I stumbled upon these formations (I think they are mushrooms) which I found fascinating.

The rest of December seems very gloomy and I will only be visiting Font' in my dreams. That's the great things about objects of obsession: you carry them with you all the time :-) My goal to reach 150 boulders in the 7th degree by December 31 (I am at 140+) is within my reach. I only need two rainless days... Come on, I am not asking for that much! Let this be my Christmas gift. I won't ask for anything more, I promise. Santa, can you hear me?

Sunday, December 7, 2014

Episode 19: My winter training on slabs

My time away from this blog does definitely not indicate an absence from Bleau. These past two months, I have been in great shape. This means spending a lot of time for climbing and less time for anything else. Alright, I admit I was a bit too slaggish to write but mostly I have been having some problems with the video editing. I decided to edit all the new videos and add scrolling titles but this turned into a nightmare. During conversion (from .mov to .avi), my usual software went crazy and all videos got distorted. I knew I could only correct this by learning how to manipulate some video editing software (avidemux, avisynth) with programming and got to work. This has been taking me a lot of time but once I am done (I'm not very far), the gain in time will be huge.

Only days after my return from Spain (I have yet to finish that post; lazy, lazy, lazy...), my fingers as well as both my knees started hurting so I decided to take some time off. And as we all know, with time off (slacking off) comes lack of motivation for Font. But after one week away from the bouldering Mecca, I went back with some friends and my hunger for bouldering came back at once; this time, greater than ever. Given the amount of climbing and sends of the past two months, this post will concentrate solely on slab climbing.
Last year, I wanted my first 8A to be Duel, the most classic slab of the forest. At the time, I loved slab climbing but had never tried one in the 7th degree. When I finally did, I rapidly found out that slabs are painful as hell. Each time I worked on a 7A slab, I would leave the boulder with one finger bleeding. So up until very recently, I had never sent a real slab.

This all changed this past month. In order to gain some physical force (shoulders and biceps) and avoid finger injuries, I had stopped using nasty crimps and had somewhat changed specialties. Then, a close buddy of mine uttered this insult "this year, I don't find your finger strength very impressive". That irked me a lot and hit a sensitive note (probably because it was true). I decided then and there to go back to slabs and get some finger strength.
My first slab was La Chicorée (7A) at Bas Cuvier. This problem offers too many holds so finding the beta was a bit tricky. The first move is rather hard and took me 5-6 tries. Then, I couldn't understand what to do. I would take a crimp and just pull. After my 10th try, a female climber joined me and went for it. Her beta was so obvious that I could not believe I had not thought of it! She fell just before topping it. I sent the problem on my next try. I only had to use two holds where most people use four or five.

A few days later, we went to Apremont. There is a beautiful slab, Le Mur des Lamentations (7A/+) that I wanted on my "resume". The first two moves were quite easy for me (I took a diagonal crimp with my left hand, I put my right foot rather high and locked my left shoulder. This is how I sent La Chicorée as well. The last move took me more than 8 tries. I could not find the right foothold. Too low, then too high, then too far away... My slab partner of that day suggested a specific hold that he was using and badaboum!!!

On my next try, I sent the easier version of Le Mur des Lamentations, Lamentations (6C+/7A), which consists in using a jug just before the final hold.

A week later and due to uncertain weather conditions and humidity, I went to 95.2 whose boulders are known to get dry quite fast due to the lack of trees and a high altitude.
First boulder: the classic Le Mur de la Fosse aux Ours (7A). Due to my practically being a dwarf, I could not get the first left-hand hold correctly so I had to do an extra move and rotate my body to the left in order to get the best out of the left-hand vertical crimp. After 4-5 tries, I almost sent the boulder statically, which is not an easy feat. I fell while touching the top jug. After that, something went wrong (fatigue maybe?). I kept trying but nothing would work. After an hour of one fall after another, I moved on to other problems to give my fingers a rest. No, I was NOT giving up.
I moved to Les Sabots d'Hélène (7A/+). This one was a bit tricky since I only had one pad and no spotters. My first try failed because my beta was too reachy. On my second try, I got the two holds on the ledge, I put my right foot high and started pushing. I pushed and I pushed and then realised that the final hold was very far away. I locked my left arm and went looking for a hold for my right hand. I found an almost invisible crimp on which I put my index fingernail, I locked my index with my thumb and started putting weight on it. It worked! That move was insane! Oh... that's why there was no chalk on it!

After visiting two old projects (non slabs) that were humid and meeting one of the greatest boulderers of the 20th century (you will have to wait for my next post ;-)), I went back to Le Mur de la Fosse aux Ours. This time, there were a French guy, an Englishman and a Swedish couple working on the boulder. Good company is a great motivator. I gave it a few tries but was having big problems with that initial vertical hold. I couldn't understand how to get it right. After falling twice with the final jug in my hand, I stacked 3 pads and explored the vertical hold. Within seconds, I found the correct place for my fingers. Next try: kaboum!!!!!!!!!!

Fausse Danse (7A/+) is located 2 meters to the right of Le Mur de la Fosse aux Ours. Same style but harder. After 3-4 tries, I decided to use the female climber's beta and sent the first two moves. I fell with the key hold in my fingers because the move was reachy therefore I had to put my weight on the point of my left foot and I kept falling. I knew I could do it so I pushed through pain (the right hand hold was a nasty, tinny tiny crimp) and sent it. This problem is simply beautiful (when done right).

Last week was another "slab week". On Friday 21, I went to Cuvier. I had some slabs to send, I was with friends and in top shape so my motivation was up, up, up! Unfortunately, the rocks were quite humid. After working on a 7B+ traverse and a 7B/+ boulder (they should fall next time), we met Michel Buisson, a real "Bleausard" (an experienced Font "resident") who showed us the beta for La Vie d'Ange (7A). Real nice problem with the crux on the last move (at 3-4 meters from the ground). I almost sent it on my fourth try but with the key hold being humid, I could not apply the necessary pressure on the undercling. Another 3-4 tries and I got it properly. My recent experience with risky boulders has helped a lot and I am now able to stay calm when far from the ground.

After flashing a nice 6B/+ traverse opened by Michel, I went to try La Ricoré (6C/7A); the difference in grading depends on whether one uses a good hold for the last move. I decided to go for the 7A version. Having already sent its neighbour, La Chicorée, I was very optimistic. Onsight!

Then, Igor Bogdanoff, a well-known Bleausard with whom I had climbed before, told me about La Cocktail (officially a 6A; 6A my eye...), one meter to the right of La Marie-Rose, the first 6A of the forest. La Cocktail was 10 times harder than La Marie-Rose and apparently, many experienced climbers can not send it, which motivated me even more. Since then, I have asked around and everyone seems to agree that it is undoubtedly a 7A. After two silly falls, I fell on the crux. You get an aggressive crimp with your right hand, you get your left foot high, lock your right arm and reach for a sloper that is quite far. While reaching for the sloper, my right hand slipped (the crimp was wet) and lost 2-3 layers of skins. On my next try, I was determined and sent it like it was nothing. The moment I did the last move, I turned around and said "Definitely a 7A".

Michel and Igor took me to Le Croque-Mort (6B). The only hard part is getting off the ground and reaching for the next hold. After that, it was easy. I flashed it. That first move was beautiful and demanded good abs to hold the barn door.

I finished the day in La Moussette (6C/7A, another problem with two versions). It was my second session on this problem. This time, I was able to do the first moves and got the sloper with both hands. I got my feet up and then, I was supposed to turn my left hand (which is holding a crimp) and use it as a support (apply pressure on my wrist). I tried many times but could not find the right balance. I am going back for this one.
Two days later and after a sucky weekend during which almost everything was soaking wet, I went back to Cuvier. I had tried Lady Chatterton (7A) before. During that first session and after 25 minutes of painful crimping, my fingers could not take it any more. This time, accompanied by a friend, I tried it again. After 2 tries, Romain suggested another idea. Two attempts later, ... :-) My original beta was much, much harder and I definitely want to get it to work so I will go back and try again.

Update: I just discovered that this beta was actually Pied Main Lié, a 6B+ version. It felt more like a 6C+. Oh well, I was going back there anyway...

Last weekend, I went back to 95.2 with two friends. After warming up, I saw two guys working on a wall. I checked the Jingo Wobbly guide: Manchuria, 7A. I sent it on my third try. I found the moves to be quite difficult, especially the second-to-last; getting the right foot higher demands serious abs. The guys then told me it is actually a 6B+ (not again!). The next day, I checked on, they were right. To me, it felt more like a 7A (and much easier than Les Sabots d'Hélène (7A/+).

These past days have been rainy so I've been hitting the gym. As soon as the rain stops, I am going back to Cuvier for La Super Prestat (7B+, 8 meters), La Super Forge (7A, 6 meters), C'est en Forgeant Qu'on Devient Fort en Jurons (7B) and Super Stalingrad (7A, 6 meters), and Gorge aux Châts for Rubis sur l'Ongle (7B+, 5-6 meters).
"Stay tuned for our next episode" dealing with various boulders (anything but slabs) from the past three months.

Thursday, September 11, 2014

Episode 18: Maturity

I haven't posted anything on my blog for almost four months because of the endless rain we've been having around here. The weather conditions notwithstanding, these past months have been a major revelation. I got rid of many mental blocks I had been carrying around and which were due to my inexperience in climbing, I learnt how to push my body to its limits and, most importantly, I finally got through my thick skull that external (weather) conditions are a major part of climbing. From now on, I will wait for the right conditions to send certain projects.
The second half of May was rainy so I took some time off Bleau and went back to the gym. Unfortunately, the artificial holds were too brutal for my fingers and the pain came back.
I spent most of my late May sessions at Apremont. This huge sector containing at least 5 subsectors is filled with great projects. I also wanted to try an 8A traverse that looked feasible.
My first problem there was Ménage à Trois (6C+). This problem is also the exit of Remue-Ménage à Trois, a 7B traverse. The real crux is finding the correct foothold. Funnily enough, I could not send the 6A problem just 50 cm to its left (the exit of a 7A variant of Remue-Ménage à Trois), even after at least 25 tries.

I spent the rest of the day trying out three problems with a group of Canadian and British climbers and then with two French guys. Nothing fell but I had a great time. That's the beauty of Bleau: you can go all alone and yet come to spend the day having a blast with complete strangers.
Two days later, I went back to correct my previous failures. After failing to send a very hard 7A mantle (still do not know its name) and then Happy Boulder (a reachy but fun 7A+), we moved to Faux Contact (7A+). Last year I could not get the double dyno at the start. With the new beta (using a left undercling), it took me 20 minutes.

Two days earlier, I kept falling on the last move of Légitime Adhérence assis (7A). This time and for an unknown reason, I sent it on my first try. This is the maturity I lacked last year: even after having sent all the moves, it would take me for ever to link a problem. This year, as soon as I get the last crux, I link within minutes.

I finished the day in Les Caprices de Benje (7A). I fell on the final move which I had already sent without breaking a sweat. Go figure... Anyways, this traverse is the first part of my 8A project (its second part being Légitime Adhérence assis) so now I am confident I can send the entire thing. The only thing missing is linking the two problems. I haven't tried the move but it seems within my reach.
Two days later, I went back to the same sector. Among other things, we tried Le Rétablissement (7A), a very cool but stressful boulder. Falling on the mantle was definitely not an option. After sending it, I tried the longer version (La Traversée du Rétablissement, 7A+) but fell on the crux.

A week later, I went back to Gorges du Houx. First project in hand: Ligne de Mire (7A). I wanted this really bad after two sessions last year but was pessimistic. The crux consists in using a very polished left foot and dyno-ing to a sloper. I tried many betas in order to avoid that blackened foothold but nothing worked. It was time I learnt to trust my feet. As soon as I got the crux... surprise surprise, it was not over yet! I fell on those last moves quite a few times before getting it right.
After spending the day on Mille-Pattes (7A), L'Arête (7A+), Jessica Hyde (7A+) and Écaille de Lune (7C), I went back to Bicarburation (8A) but I was not very motivated. I tried out the second part again and linked it within 10 minutes so I left happy.
June 12: Rocher Canon. For the first time, I tried Retrouvaille (7A), a very simple mantle problem. I liked it so much that I sent it twice.

My friends wanted to try Les Câlins de Kim, my very first 7A last year. I was not very sure I could send it again but I wanted to film it. After five tries, badaboum!

The was a cool traverse I wanted to try, Gros Câlin (7A) but that meant I had to first send Red 04. Last year I could not send a single move; the crux is very reachy and for someone my height, getting that undercling with the left hand means adding 3 moves. After many (and I mean many) tries, I got it! I then moved to the traverse. Once again, there was a move that was out of my reach. I tried many betas but the only one that worked seemed more like a 7B/+. I need more strength for that move.

The following week: Apremont Envers. Religion Verticale (7A) took me five tries. So while I was waiting for my buddy to send it, I started working on the sitstart (7B). I almost had it three times but was too afraid to dyno toward the two-finger pocket. Later that day I discovered that what I was doing was not the "real sitstart" (7B) which starts 1 meter to the right and seems much easier. In my version, I start with a painful left-hand three finger pinch/undercling and a slopy right-hand crimp and then dyno to the two-finger pocket. I am going back in a few days and will do the first ascent. It should be around 7B/+.

After failing miserably at Scout Toujours (7A) and Poséidon (7A), we moved on to the main attraction of the day: the famous Tijuana roof. I sent El Paso droite (7A) and Tous les Délices du Mariage (7A+) in 10 and 20 minutes respectively. I then started working on Clandestino (7B) and Welcome to Tijuana (7C). After about an hour, I had all moves but by then, the slopers had gotten too slippery and I called it a day.

Next day, back to finish my projects. We started with Poséidon. I went directly for the sitstart version (7A+). For some inexplicable reason, I sent it like it was nothing whereas the previous day, I could not hold on to that left-hand sloper. I even sent the crux statically!

Very confident, we moved to Scout Toujours. Once again and whilst I had failed miserably the previous day, I sent this one within 20 minutes. I was ecstatic. I will upload the video as soon as I do the montage.
The description of Paul's Boutique (7A+) was not very clear on We flashed it but it didn't make any sense. I tried the sitstart (7C) but it was very uncomfortable: you sit between two rocks, the pad makes your body tilt to the right or to the left... simply infuriating. We then tried Tactic (8A) and Exit (7B). The former is a dyno to a sloper whereas the latter is a nice traverse on two-finger pockets with a powerful arm lock. I linked Exit up until the mantle. Then, it's all about nonexistent slopers. Definitely not a 7B. Both have to be done in winter.
Bali Balan (7A) was too hard for me so I tried a static version (FA?); maybe a 6B.

After having read that La Fissure des Alpinistes had been the first 5C of the forest (FA in 1934!), I just knew I had to try. The second part is tricky but I did not want to use the left arête. It is called "fissure ..." (crack) for a reason, isn't it?

We finished the day in Welcome to Tijuana. I found out that I was missing the 3rd move so I worked on it. Again, slopers were too hot for a link.
I spent the following week at Franchard Cuisinière. The first day started with two 7A mantles: La Débonnaire and La Récréation. The description of the former is inadequate so I think I did not respect the line. I then moved to the latter. This mantle is really, really hard. I want to go back and spend another hour on it. I just love mantles!
The Wall (6C+) is a technical dyno. I was surprised to have send it within 30 minutes.

The sitstart version (7A) went down 5-10 minutes later. I also tried Syphilisse (7A) but all the moves were hard.

The day finished with La Réta Franklin (7A). I sent this cool mantle in 2 tries.

I went back the following day. Syphilisse did not fall so we moved to Bizarre, Bizarre (7A). After this arête went down, I tried the sitstart version (7A+). I was getting close but we had to move on.

I had tried Fighting Spirit (7A) the day before and had sent all the moves except for the crux. I had come up with MANY betas but nothing worked. In every single beta, I was only centimeters or milliseconds away but it was too difficult. I had tried the most obvious beta (the left shoulder lock in 00:19) twice but it seemed too tough for me. This time, I was accompanied by a different friend. I showed him the line and he immediately asked "Have you tried using a left-shoulder lock?". He insisted I had the power and I wanted to prove him wrong so I went for it. The first try was pathetic but in the second try, I did the move! What the hell?!? I linked 15 minutes later. I was very proud about this one.

At the end of the day, we went to Échine (7B+). What a beautiful problem... Slightly overhang-y (not my style) with shallow monos. I did not want to work on it but my friend motivated me. I only sent the first move. I worked on the next ones and got close on all of them so maybe after another two sessions?
Two days later, I went back but the heat was extreme. All the pockets were moist, the air was heavy... It just felt like torture so I took some time off Bleau and went back to the gym. Rain settled in for another few weeks.
Around July 25, we went to Saussois for three days, one of the most legendary spots for sport climbing. It was our preparation for the month of August. Not surprisingly, holds were completely polished (legendary = much visited). It was the first time I had ever encountered this type of slippery rock. The first day was a bit stressful but after we got the hang of it, we started feeling more comfortable. The second day welcomed us with a lot of rain; we didn't get to climb at all all day. The third day, we tried as many routes as possible, up to 6c. I tried a largely undergraded 6c crack (most probably a 7a/+) but was too afraid to trust my feet. I did, however, link it top rope. I know, I know, but it's better than nothing!
And then came August. But I think this post has already become quite lengthy so I will dedicate a new one to the incredible trip filled with awesome moments. To be continued...

Thursday, May 22, 2014

Episode 17: Getting my confidence back

This past month I have been picking up the pace and trying to climb harder problems. But the rain has been a real pain.
Sunday 19th: Isatis. I have been wanting to try La Fissure Évasée (7A) again. Just like L'Olive direct, it's all about shoulder locking so it was a piece of cake! Last year, I also threw my back on those shoulder moves. Note: in the video, you can see I am using 3 pads to reach the first holds. I tried the problem a few days later with a single pad and it didn't make a difference.

I spent the rest of the day on Boudin Noir (7B+), a newly established version of Le Lot de Boudins (7C). It consists in doing all the hard moves of the 7C version but exiting earlier with a shoulder lock. That last move took me more than an hour. Here's a successful attempt of the crux. I tried to link but I was a bit tired and my fingers were too damaged.
My friends were working on Plastikman (7A) so I sent it again to get it on film.

On the 25th, the weather forecast was bad but we still gave it a try. First stop: Isatis. The boulders were soaking wet so we headed to Dame Jouanne for Le Plafond (7B+). At least that roof would be dry. After 1-2 hours, we were unable to link. My problem was with the first move: a left heel hook. My climbing shoes (Madrock Drifter) are not rigid enough and the heel tends to bend when pressure is applied. I had all the moves but nothing... We got very pissed so off we went on a boulder hunt.
Luckily, the sky changed its mood and we got sunshine for at least four hours. After checking out the entire sector and trying out various things, we found Usbek (7A). We both flashed it but it seemed too easy so we introduced a few eliminants. It felt more like a 7A but still not there.

We moved to Maunoury and worked on Armoire et Merki (7A) and Waimea (7A). I got almost all moves on the first one but could not link more than 2 moves. The holds were too far apart and compression was hellish. The crux in Waimea was a huge dyno. I don't see myself sending this for another year.
We finished our session in Petit Sablé (7A+). We were advancing quite well but the rain started pouring and we had to stop. We waited for a while and then headed back to the parking lot. But in the back of my mind, I still had hope for Le Plafond. Roofs fear no rain! The night was settling in and I didn't have any time to waste; I only had 10-15 minutes before darkness would overwhelm that beautiful roof. After falling on the first move a few times... badaboum!!! Three minutes after my send, the cave went dark and the holds were invisible. It was my last chance and I made the most of it. Unfortunately, the video is all dark; you can only see a shadow moving on the rock. Next time I'll be there, I will send it again and film it. I loved the moves too much.

The weekend of May 3-4 was another surprise. On Saturday, I went to Isatis to try three 7B+'s: Le Cachou, Boudin Noir and Iceberg raccourci assis. However, it was too hot and my fingers kept slipping. I am now wise enough to know when to renounce an effort if the conditions are not there. I headed for Canon to join some friends.
After hitting the blue and red circuit, I joined two friends that climb in the 8th degree so it was time for crunching! After sending a 6B/6C (more like a 6A), I started on a project on the same boulder, the sitstart of red 25. Red 25 (6A+) is quite morpho: 6A if you're tall, probably a 6B+/C for shorter climbers. I wanted to do the sitstart but my friends told me they couldn't figure it out. According to their topo guide, it was a 7B. After 30-40 minutes, I was able to link it and was ecstatic because the moves were physical but beautiful. During a short debate on, some expressed the opinion that it was hardly a 6B+. That shows how controversial grades are.
After that, we joined our friends who were working on Full Metal Jacket (7B+). I was rather apprehensive about this one since a mutant friend had told me it was very hard. Four tries later... I sent it! The real problem with this rock is that the starting point is very high so many pads are needed for short climbers. I was told to use the rock on the right and I did. That didn't change anything (compared to stacking pads); the moves were within my realm of expertise: a heel hook and arm locking. So I worked on the sitstart. I got all but one moves within 20 minutes. I am going back in a few days. I think two one-hour sessions will be more than enough.

The next day was spent at Isatis. I did some circuit and then sent Le Faux Baquet (7A) and La Traversée du Faux Baquet (7A+).

I spent most of the day doing easy problems. I did, however, send L'Angle du Sérac (6B+) which I considered hard (I am bad at arêtes). This made me think L'Angle Ben's (7A+, to the right of the arête) is not impossible. I will put 10-15 tries every time I pass by. I also did a mantle exit that was too hard for me last year. It only took me two tries. It is the exit of an unnamed 7A. Last time, I had all the moves except the mantle.
May 8: We started at 95.2 and Symbiose (7C). There were two moves that were morpho and I had to find a different beta. After 2 hours, everything was down except for a move and a half. I need another two sessions I think. I also tried Symbiose gauche (7c), its left version, and almost sent the crux. Before leaving for another sector, we sent Tentation (7A). It took us a few tries to find the beta.

Next stop: Roche aux Oiseaux. Brazil (7A) did, once again, not budge. It is starting to get on my nerves. I almost sent the crux but in the linking efforts, it would not work. My beta is too physical but it is the only one that has worked. I then tried Le Mandarin sans convention (7B) which consists in getting a pinch with the right hand and then matching. Last year I had deemed this impossible and during this winter, I worked a lot on my pinching, having this boulder in mind. This time, I sent all the moves. I tried to link but had forgotten the beta for matching. I would keep my left heel hook under the roof, which made the matching impossible.

Ça Tend à droite (7A) is probably the easiest 7A I have met. We all flashed it. I sent it another time out of curiosity; still a 6A. Satan m'Habite debout (7A) took me 5-6 tries. I then tried the longer version. I sent all moves in two or three tries and tried to link before leaving the sector. I almost got it but my fingers were bleeding. I did not film any of this since my battery was dead and I had forgotten all 5 batteries at the previous sector.
While working Symbiose, the skin of my right index ripped/tore and I got a huge wound one centimeter wide. This made me take a break for about a week.
Tired of all the Paris-Fontainebleau back-and-forth, I decided to camp there for three straight days.
Day 1 (Saturday 17th): Franchard Sablons and Franchard Hautes Plaines. I went to the former to check a project a friend had suggested. I spent about an hour discovering the sector but found no boulder to my liking and went back to my project, Fragment d'Hébétude (8A), a traverse on an underhang. The crux is very tough and reachy so it will take me a lot of time. I thus tried the last part. After an hour and many, manys betas, I realised that I had the arm span to do the move that I was trying to avoid and circumvent for an hour. I was introducing 4 extra hardcore moves for no reason whatsoever. Go figure... I linked the last part (starting right after the crux) and left.
I had only been at Franchard Hautes Plaines once. After looking around for a while, I stumbled upon my first project, (7B). I am known for my lack of orientation (I need a map, I am not a bee, for crying out loud!) so I was glad I had found it. Last year, it seemed very reachy (because it is). First move is a right shoulder locking, then you've got more reachy moves. I was curious whether I could do that first move, I didn't care much about linking. After about 90 minutes, I sent the problem and was getting very happy with my physical development.

I had been told Lapin ou Canard (7A) was a piece of cake!

The left version, Ah, Plus Facile! (7A+), was a wholly different story. It took me more than an hour to find the right beta. Climbing without a spotter made me too cautious and I was looking for safe betas. Every single beta I would use, I would hit reach an impasse after x moves. And then it hit me. I had an idea, tried it out and was able to do the crux. I immediately linked it. I later discovered there was a 7B version, Tom et Géry, that I can send with the same beta. Call me vain but I can't say no to another line on my resume...

Sunday: Gorges du Houx Oiseaux de Proie to try another project, Bicarburation (8A). I started my warm up on Le Bi se Marque (7A+) but it was too reachy. I needed to take a swing with two fingers and sacrifice them in the process but it wasn't worth it. An hour later, we started working on À l'Envers (7C+), the shorter version of Bicarburation. I sent all moves except for one and was able to link in two parts. I think I have the beta for that move but didn't try it out. I should be sending the 7C+ in June.
We left for Gargantoit (7A+). After a couple unsuccessful attempts during which my mind wasn't letting me try the move (falling from this boulder can be quite dangerous), I found how to take the key hold and gave it a good try. I almost made it. I needed another 20 minutes but we needed to move on to other projects since I was the only one working on that boulder.

Next day: Apremont Ouest. Temperatures were very high and climbing was going to be insufferable. I had three projects in my mind but one was expo and the other one was exposed to the sun. I thus spent my entire session on Orphéon (8A). I did the first and last parts but the middle needs work. I tried many betas for a single move and almost got it. I think I can send this but it will take me at least 10 sessions. I have to match my right hand while holding an undercling with the left one and my biceps are not powerful enough. I am hitting the gym in a hours for some weight lifting.
The positive thing about my three new projects is that they are not exposed to the sun so I can work on them during the summer!