Monday, September 7, 2015

Episode 22: That's what I am talking about!

So after four or five weeks of abstinence from Font', I went back all psyched up.

16-05: First destination: Éléphant. The project of the day was La Barre Fixe (7B+), a classic. It took us a few tries to send the standing version (a blue one!) and then started working on the sitstart. I quickly found a nice beta (I dynoed to a left shoulder sidepull very far) but could not find the appropriate footwork. So there's only half a move to find for the next time. All in all, a great problem.
Envie d'Ange (7A) is a rather high problem. The crux consists in locking the left arm with a rather decent crimp and go for a jug. Given the overhang, the move is somewhat scary. It took me three tries. There is a crimpy 7C on the left but the others wanted to move on. It seemed within my style.

The Gruyère boulder is a big classic: eight meters high with huge jugs. We sent the right-to-left traverse, La Traversée du Gruyère (7A), which demands for beautiful crossing and arm locking.

30-05: Roche aux Sabots. I had been there once back in January and had only tried out Graviton (7A) and L'Oblique (7A), which, according to The Weekly TickList #10, are two of the three most climbed problems with 651 and 502 ascents respectively.
Graviton... don't you just love mantles? Unfortunately, some people don't understand how cameras work so you can't see the first part of the problem (yes, I am talking about you, Momo...).

L'Oblique is a roof with a dyno at the end. The dyno is morpho inasmuch as I would have to let go of my left hand during the dyno, which is out of the question. I was given another beta so I got a three-finger pinch which I then used as an undercling (the switch is not that easy).

We finished the day in the Roche aux Sabots Sud sector. There is a boulder presenting various problems, sometimes not very distinguishable. I did a sitstart on the right which was supposed to be a 7A but after sending it within 2-3 minutes, I thought it was too easy. Later that day I found out it was actually Rien Zen (6B+).

Zen (7a) is a nice roof as well with a beautiful top-out.

06-06: The beginning of a beautiful weekend. We visited Apremont Ouest for one problem: Crazy Horse (7B). I had tried this one two years earlier and had almost sent it within an hour. We then had to move to the following project so I had never gotten the chance to link it since. This time, I got all the moves (except for the first one) instantly so I knew I was in good shape. After 4-5 attempts on the start, I realised that I was not pushing my body enough; I was at around 30% of my power. I find myself doing that very often and I have yet to understand the reason behind this laziness. Sadly, when I sent it, I made a mistake during the top out and it turned out ugly.

After that, I tried the longer version, Crazy Horse rallongé (7b+). Two years ago, we could not even do the sitstart. It seems ridiculously easy since you only need to move on the ledge 40-50 centimeters to the left but the start is tricky. The convention is that you need to start with your feet under the roof which means going at it no-foot is not allowed. And the moment you try to make a move, the swing makes you fall. After a few tries, I found a beta and was able to link up until the first move of the 7B version.
Before leaving, I was given 15 minutes to try Sitting Bull (7C). Even with a very bad beta, I was almost able to get all the moves. What is weird, however, is the fact that everyone is trying the 7B version (top out on the right). I am very curious to try the 7C version next time.

07-06: Gorge aux Châts. I started with Opéra Tchétchène raccourci (7A). We had doubts over the eliminants. I tried a version which felt like a 7A but after a friend skipped the crux and dynoed to the jug, I knew this was not the correct version. Got to do it again :-(
Un Franc du Kilomètre (7A) is a long rtl traverse. The first two meters are quite ugly to be honest, the second part is all jugs and the top out is a bit tricky. All three of us fell on the last or second-to-last move. What a disappointment.
Le Pare Dessus (7A+) looks easy: during the first 5-6 moves, you have huge jugs and then you have got a hard top out. We flashed the first part but did not understand the top out. We kept reaching for a high crimp which you are not supposed to take and we could not move after that.
Chien Assis (6C+/ 7A) was rather easy for me. A two-meter traverse to the right, you get an decent right-hand undercling, you lock your arm and give it a go. I love locking, it feels so powerful.

I also checked out La Tour d'Ivoire (7C), the sitstart version of Maudite Arête (6B). I gave the crux three of four tries and got very close. Another project to finish.
And of course, when you visit Gorge aux Châts, you do not have the right to leave without testing Rubis sur l'Ongle (7B+), one of the most well-known problems of the forest. We tried it for about 15 minutes (I should have insisted more but I wanted to do a few 7A's...). I got through the first half very easily and almost got the crux. After that, it is quite easy. I am going back soon for these two projects.

20-06: Back to the Apremont area with three friends. I had planned a heavy program so I was hoping the others would keep up with my rhythm.
First project: Mandela (7A). As I was saying in the previous post, we had made a mistake with the beta and had done a new problem one or two meters to the right. This time, it took me four tries to get the correct beta with the undercling. That move destroys your wrist but it is so fun that you keep trying.

I then tried the sitstart version. With this obvious beta, I could do the first move and get the right shoulder diagonal crimp but being stretched to the max, I could not move afterwards. I then tried to dyno to another crimp. I got the move once but then could not find the footholds I had used. Probably a 7B.
Update: while writing this post, I contacted to suggest our two "false ascents" of Mandela as new problems: Madila and Madila assis. The idea for the name is simple: I combined Madiba and Mandela, the names of the two neighbouring problems :-) After exchanging with the administrator, I found out that the standing version was already considered as a variant of Mandela but the sitstart should be a new problem.
So here's the standing version...

and the sitstart version...

And then... trumpets screaming and pumping... Féérite (7C). It is the reverse problem of Électrochoc par le bas - (7C+) about which I wrote last time. In the former, you get out of the roof whilst in the latter, you get the heel hook first then reach for a left-hand crimp very far. I was having doubts over which project I should try but Féérite won. And then... the big surprise! After having watched a friend trying for 2 hours and not getting the move, I had considered the crux extreme. This time, I summoned some courage and got the hard sequence within five minutes and without even pushing. I was honestly surprised. I linked on my second try :-)

12-07: My first visit at Petit Bois. The texture of the rock was quite greasy so I was not expecting much. And that's exactly what I got.
I started with Les Vacances à Bombay (6C+/7a), a basic mantle problem. The top out holds are very far and you cannot even see them so it took me quite a few tries. After a while, my friend climbed on a rock and showed me the part of the sloper for which I was supposed to aim. After that, it was a matter of time.

Big Jim (6C/+) is a very famous problem. Five meters high and the crux is at the top. I gave it around seven tries but the last move was risky and scared me a bit. I missed the hold by two centimeters but did not want to try again. Every time I would fall, it would feel like a year was passing by. I have fallen from a high boulder but this one felt weird.

La Baleine (7A/+) is also high and a big classic. I gave it around ten tries to find the right beta but we used the wrong foot (right instead of left) and could not do the dyno. And the height did not help.

25-07: Apremont once again! After trying Sitting Bull and failing because of the post-rain glueiness, we moved to Égoïste (7A) and Égoïste assis (7A+). After a few tries, we fond the perfect beta and sent it.

After an extra two attemps, I sent the sitstart version as well.

01-08: Trois Pignons! We spent the first half of the day at J.A. Martin. The sector is very scattered and the topo did not help a lot so we could not find anything interesting. We ended up working on La Voie de Kim assis (7A).

We moved to a more interesting sector, Roche aux Sabots. Le Jeu du Toit (7A) is a seducing little roof/prow that sucks you in. All three sent it rather fast. The best beta in the video is the one used by Guy. I came up with the beta myself but could not apply it since I did not have the reach. That pissed me off because I found it very cool. Oh well, at least someone used it and now we can all enjoy it :-)

02-08: We started at 95.2. After failing at Coince et Danse (7A), I decided to retry Le Smarty in order to film it.

In the afternoon, we went to Rocher des Souris. I thought the guys would enjoy Extraction Terrestre (7A+) and I had been wanting to go back and film it. It only took us three tries tops I think.

16-08: My first time at the Coquibus area. Coquibus Auvergne is famous for two boulders, each offering various distinct problems.
We spent our warm-up on Boîte à Lettres (6A+) and Tétutéton (6B) and failed at both. The key hold of the former was too moist and the latter was morpho. I gor very close but could not link. Maybe it was a matter of motivation since they were not my main goals. I visited that boulder mostly to check out Libertaire (8A) and Révolution (8A). They seemed within my reach.
And off to the Crotale and Cobra problems! I started with Little Crotale (7A+) and Little Cobra (7A+) which I flashed since the crux (the top out) was very easy for me (long live heel hooks!).

The other two problems were somewhat hard because the top out is morpho. I knew the final move would cause me some grief so I worked on it directly. I got it right after seven attempts and then sent Little King Combi (7A+) and Crotale (7B/A+) on my first attempt.

I then tried King Cobra (7B+) and sent the crux within 2 minutes but my partner needed to leave so I did not have the opportunity to link. I also gave King Crotale (7C) a try; I think it will fall next time.

18-08: A long but very, very exciting and pleasant day. After warm-up, we joined some friends that came from Pau so there were six of us in the group; can one ask for more?
After a loooong warm-up, we visited Bleau's Art (7b). I had tried it last year with the same partner but could not get the top out. By the time we got to the boulder, the sun started hitting the key sloper. We instantly got frustrated and pessimistic. I started with the second part and after two attempts at trying to get the right heel hook right, I locked it on the hold, got the slper with my right hand and topped out very easily. I was very surprised. I linked after about five tries.

After that, I repeated Festin de Pierre (7A) and finally sent Roxane, one of the most difficult 6B's I have ever seen. It took me five tries. Unfortunately, I was too stupid and pessimistic so I did not film it. now I have to go back and tear my skin on that nasty first crimp all over again...
We finished the day on Duroxmanie (6C), a classic I sent two years ago. For two years, I had considered it to be very hard so never tried it again. This mental blocage kept me from flashing it. A second try and a fear-free mind was all it took.

I then tried the sitstart version (7B/+). I got the first moves instantly and worked my way through the crux. I almost got it so next time, I will try it during my warm-up.

19-08: My first visit at Les Béorlots marked my reunion with my Antrebloc climbing buddies. As always, the rhythm was fast and we kept hitting one problem after another.
After failing at two problems during warm up (both were morpho yet feasible but I got irritated very quickly and did not want to spoil my session), I moved to the main meal, the Yalla boulder, which offers two problems in the 6th degree and four in the 7th degree.
We decided to work on the left-to-right traverses. The first one, Yalla retour raccourci (7B+), tops out in a 6C called Cavaporcis. I sent the latter on my first try.

I then moved to Cavaporcis droite (6C+), the top out of Yalla retour (7B+/7C). This problem is a bit tricky and I spent around twenty minutes trying to find the perfect beta. I needed something economical or else linking the traverse would have been a problem.

As soon as both top outs fell, we started working on the traverses. The crux is not that difficult and we knew it was within our reach. After 15-20 minutes, I found a great beta and then sent Yalla retour raccourci on my first attempt.

Same thing happened with Yalla retour!

74% de Cacao (6C+/7A) was quite easy but since I was trying it on my own, I had to work on the moves one by one. After four tries, I tried to link and made it. Falling would have hurt a lot.

After getting an extra two pads and a spotter, I tried Purée de Noisettes (7B+). After a few tries, I almost got all the moves. Every single move was reachy and I had to stretch my arm to the max but strangely, it did not feel unnatural (which always happens to me with similar problems). An overall very enjoyable problem.

21-08: I had been wanting to go back to Marion des Roches for two years to send two specific problems.
Pierrot (7B) is a great roof with a reachy move that I could not figure out or avoid last time. So now I knew that I had to find a new beta. I started warming up and coming up with ideas. Being alone, I had to work one move at a time and move the pad because of the tree roots and the rocks on the ground. After about an hour, I came up with a genious beta but that meant I would have to risk falling on a root. I tried it once and while trying to hold the momentum, I slipped and fell on a root. The fall was quite painful and lasted for a few minutes. After that, I dissipated and I was able to climb but it insisted for another two days during which I was having difficulties walking. So I had to change my beta. It took me another hour or so to link the project. As you can see in the video, my choreography is a bit odd.

The second item on my menu: Bi-Steack (7A). I had the moves from last time. I started with the last part and got it within 10 minutes. And then I started working on the dyno. I got it within five-six tries and thought the project would fall. After an hour of dyno-ing and missing the jug and getting my fingers slashed by the sharp edges of the rock, I got VERY pissed and started yelling. Since noone was around, I let everything out. But it did not work so I tried to calm down. Lately, whenever I get angry with myself or a project, I move away and try something else. So I tried the 7B version, Franck (7B). I started with the crux and linked up to the end on my first try! After another three tries, I linked the entire thing.

I went back to Bi-Steack but during a failed dyno, my fingers got damaged (there were only a few nanometers of skin left) and I decided to stop climbing. Plus, I had to save some skin for the next day.

22-08: Back to Les Béorlots for the Yalla (right-to-left) traverses. We spent about thirty minutes looking for a good beta for the crux. One single move was left: the top out. You get a bad sloper (or tiny crimp) with your left hand, you jam your right heel and toes in a ledge and start pulling and pushing to get a very, very bad crimp and then reach for another crimp with the same (right) hand. After working at it for more than an hour and failing at it, we gave it a rest and took a break.
That break was Fat Cat (7B). Two friends had tried it three days earlier and it had seemed very reachy, possibly impossible. But whenever the word "impossible" is thrown around, I get curious. Within minutes, I found the right beta for the crux so the only move left was the dyno at the end. Most (if not all) people will dyno to a pinch with the left hand then go for a jug with the same hand. For me that was impossible so I thought I could keep the pinch and then get my right foot up and go for the jug with my right hand. For this beta you need seriously strong shoulders. The problem was that the pinch was painful; it would sink into my skin. I thought getting it with my left shoulder (therefore only the right side of the pinch) would be better but the rocks on the ground and behind me scared me a lot but I decided to trust my shoulder and my spotter. It finally fell and it only took me 30 minutes tops.

We went back to work on the top out of Yalla but nothing...
After 10 minutes of walking, we arrived at the Kaiju (8A) boulder. We started with the two 7A's. Unfortunately, the first one involves a big dyno so I deleted it from my memory immediately. The second one, Cherno Alpha (7A/+), is a right-to-left traverse with big jugs and two huge moves. The top out took me more than thirty tries. You get a huge ledge and then go for a distant hold. I tried a heel hook, a Yaniro, a no-foot beta but nothing. Then I used a toe hook which I placed next to my hands and got it. The second crux... ouch! You get a painful three-finger pocket and reach for a good hold. I got the move only once in twenty tries and I tried to link twice but failed. I need to work on my dynamic moves at the gym.
We finished the session with Égérie sans Vergogne (7B/+). It took us twenty minutes to get to the boulder; the sector is huge and scattered. My friend was tired so I tried it alone. It seemed very difficult and yet too seductive to pass on. I got all the moves within fifteen minutes but could not link since the hlds in the cracks were wet. I need to get back for this one.

These last months, I started setting problems and routes at the Karma gym. You can find the videos on this playlist. I also set my first two routes! In addition, I visited Targasonne for some bouldering. I am currently doing the montage and hope to come up with a decent video.

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.