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+(or a hard 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 bleau.info. 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. Next time...

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

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 bleau.info, 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, Bloc.fr (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!

Thursday, April 17, 2014

Up and down and up again!

Saturday, 5th April: Off to Franchard Cuisinière. I have been wanting to revisit La Mouche for months. I started with a long warm up on the blue circuit of Franchard Isatis and then went for Respect d'Intention (7A). It took me 25 minutes. That set the mood for the rest of the day.

I had sent all the moves of La Mouche (7A+) last year and in only one session. My beta demands for five extra moves but it is less painful that the classic, morpho beta. This time, there was one move I could not send. My finger tips had been burning from the day before so I did not want to exercise too much pressure. Plus I only had one pad and could not reach the holds to work that move separately.
There were two minor projects I had on my mind. The first one was Le Mouton à 5 Pattes (7A). I tried the dyno beta but found it too weird so I went for a static beta with a rough right shoulder locking. It took me 90 minutes to get it right. The Polish guys cheering me on and yelling "Dawaj!!!" (IPA [davai]) helped a lot.

About 50 m away, Blocage Mental assis (7A+). I tried the standing version (6C) last April but was a bit scared of the final dyno. This time, I kept falling and falling but I trusted my spotters enough and went for it. 

Once I linked the standing version, I tried the sitstart version. Last year, I couldn't do the move because the holds are too far apart and I did not have the strength to hold them with the tip of my fingers. This time and only 5 minutes after sending the 6C version... in the pocket!

My finger tips were weary and a five-day rest was necessary. Alright, I admit: I went to the gym during those five days but it was only twice!
Saturday 12th: we decided to spend the weekend at Maunoury and Dame Jouanne. The day started with Baloo (7B). There are only three moves in this boulder and I knew all three were morpho but I thought it was possible. The entire boulder is rather easy when you are tall. There is a great video comparing three betas. Watch for the first beta in the third video (grimpeur: Gary Goldfinger). The right shoulder move is very powerful and sent a chill down my spine but I got it on my third try. I also almost got the dyno at the end; I had my fingers on the last hold. Next time maybe or the time after that...
I sent Cuicuishovsky (7A) in less than an hour. Finding the beta was the tricky part.

5 metres to the right: Soupçon (7A). It took me two tries (I should have flashed it but I listened to a friend although I knew I should avoid the minor dyno). A very interesting boulder but definitely not a 7A.

We finished the day with Le Plafond (7B+). I got all the moves in two tries but could not link it. My beta was not perfect and given the reachy nature of most of the moves, I needed to perfect everything.
Sunday morning and after a mildly chilling night's rest, back to Le Plafond. I was given 30-40 minutes to link. Unfortunately, my climbing shoes are not rigid enough hence the heel hooks were too unstable. I fell twice on the last move but the real problem was the sitstart. My left heel hook kept slipping. I was disgusted. From now on, I will be taking my Python shoes with me.

And back to the Cuicuishovsky and Soupçon boulder to link the direct version of Cuicuishovsky: Cuicuishkaniev (7A+). A technically very challenging problem that took me less than ten tries.

We tried on to Oasis (7B+) but this problem was far too reachy for me. I was able to do the first dyno but the second move will be impossible unless I get stronger biceps.
The sitstart for Rituel (7A+) is massive. I was rather close yet too far in that first dyno. I think it is possible but I need to work more on those kinds of moves.

Sanseveria (7A) is a beautiful yet simple prow. The exit can be somewhat scary but I went for it. I took me three tries.

We ended the weekend with Jet Set biscuit (7A). I came up with a direct version for the dyno and only needed another two centimetres; I touched the rim of the hold but I needed to grasp it properly.

Tuesday 15th was a depressing day. Warm-up in Sledgehammer (7A). This trav needed some cleaning up but I was still able to do all moves except for two. Footholds were either great or nonexistant. I think I can link it next time but I am not very hopeful.
Then we moved to Zermatt Express raccourci (7A). I wanted my friend to try it out so in the meanwhile, I worked the mantle exit again, just to keep my juices flowing.
And then, the project of the day: La Mare. I put 10 sessions in this boulder last year but it still would not budge. This time, I thought I would send it like it was nothing. You can guess the outcome... Three hours of consistent tries and nothing :-( The funny part (it is funny now but not on Tuesday) is that I sent the two hard moves on my second try but I stumbled upon a new crux. I could not, for the life of me, switch feet on a certain hold. I spent the rest of the day being depressed. Not linking was a disgrace. But something kept bugging me... why on earth could I not do this move? I went home and immediately watched the video of a previous attempt from last year. I had the move all wrong! Within seconds, my mood changed completely and I finally realised that La Mare was in the pocket. I will be going back in a few days.
Tuesday night, the tip of my fingers was pink and burning like fire but I had told a mate that I would accompany him to Rocher Fin. He had a 7B project and I had many projects from last year.
Warm up with Soleil Levant (7A). There is one crux in the middle, with a right arm lock to get the arête on the top. I sent this beautiful line quickly. After the linking, I tried the crux of the left-to-right version, Soleil Couchant (7A); I sent it on my first try. Given that I wasn't alone, I left this trav for later in the day.

After 40 minutes on Les Serbes (7A+) and with no feasible beta in sight, we moved to Anak Krakatoa (7A). In this roof+crack, every move requires serious arm locking. Last year I could not send any move at all. This time, I went into it half-heartedly. My friend abandoned the problem after only a minute and moved to another boulder but I stayed behind; I found a beta within minutes. Cracks and roofs are very technical and the importance of footwork is paramount. This said, the last move is morpho and I had to pull a lot of my weight with my right index in order to reach for the hold. For me, that move deserves a 7A+ on its own. An hour later, done!

Before moving to the project of the day, I joined my friends at Narine à Voile (7A). I wanted to redo it and film it. It took me two tries. Probably a 6B. Last year it had taken me seven tries.

I was all warmed up, stoked and motivated enough to attempt Sous-Dur (7B). Last year, I missed the linking by nothing. The crux in my beta is when I let go of the left toe hook and start swinging while holding two crimps. The real problem is that you are only centimetres off the ground and you need to keep your feet and legs high enough. After touching the pad twice in a row while attempting to link, I removed it and tried again. The heel hook that comes after is wobbly and serendipitous. I fell twice because my heel was not rigid enough. I decided to use my old Python shoes for the first time after 10 months. They worked like a charm! This boulder represented a testing area for this year, just like La Mare. I needed to send it in order to prove to myself that I had become a better boulderer.

I now had to choose between two projects: Le Nain Vert Sait assis (7B) and Guerre et Paix (7A). I had finished all moves of the former last year but the latter was more challenging. So I chose the latter. I started with the crux: a 2.5-finger hole and dyno to the exit. I had watched two friends suffer on that move (the hole is painful) so I knew what I was getting myself into. I concentrated, tried to come up with a static beta and I got the move on the first try! I was dumbfounded. But within 2 seconds, I discovered another crux: an uncomfortable mantle deserving a 7A+ on its own. I got it on my second try (note: hours later I discovered a simpler beta). One move left: the sitstart. The hold was even worse and more painful than the 2.5-finger hole. I tried many things but my skin was too damaged. I wanted to dyno to the good hold but the starting hold was hurting my right index (the same index I used for Anak Krakatoa). In the aforementioned video, the guy is using a morpho beta so the sitstart is to be solved.
I finished the session with Soleil Couchant. I tried it to flash it but fell on the very last move. I spent 10 minutes to find a clean exit and then linked immediately.

My fingers are bleeding so I am taking two days off before attacking my big projects.

Monday, March 31, 2014

Linking old projects and speed bouldering

The new season has officially started for me! After a bumpy start and a few lackluster performances, this weekend has met (almost exceeded) my expectations. I have been yearning to try out my new biceps and shoulders so I selected the appropriate boulders.
Friday I went back to Canche aux Merciers. First stop: Poisson Pané (7A). I had spent two sessions (2-3 hours in total) on this boulder last year but could not send it. There is a reachy move in the middle (you need to reach for a crimpy sloper with the right hand) therefore I had to add three moves (including a compression followed by a heel hook on a non-existing hold). I tried to link for 15 minutes but the heel hook would not stick. The compression kept exhausting me and I knew I had to find a new beta. You can see what I came up with in the video that follows. I fell four straight times on the exit but the fifth time, I made it. I now know that the foothold i was using was too high.

Second stop: La Grande Marche prolongée (7B). I sent the shorter version within 90 minutes last year and had worked on the longer version but since then, the exit was wet every time I would visit the sector. This time and after a few tries on the lower traverse part, I sent the 7A+ version in only two tries and then sent the longer version in another two tries.

And the longer version...

By now, I was pumped up and knew my day was going to get even better. Next stop: Kéo (7A), a double dyno. Grabbing the exit hold with the right hand is rather easy but matching with the left hand is tough for someone with no coordination. Therefore I worked on my dynos during the winter to overcome my weakness. The immediate goal of my workout was not Kéo, obviously. Who cares about a 7A (probably a 6B)? But I knew the time would come when La Mare droite would dry up again and I would have to do that irritating first dyno. Anyway, I tried the double dyno for 30 minutes and would not stop. I was getting closer and closer with each try. And then, my body just got it. I understood how to free my left hand :-) I will now try to work on other dynos and get better.

And then it was time for Mardi Gras / Radio Crochet (7A). My beta consisted in using a heel hook that was hard to hold. It may seem easy in the video but it needs pure strength to pull that move off. As soon as I came down from the boulder, I sat on my pad and all of the sudden, I felt overwhelmed. And then, the unexpected happened: I felt so proud of my overall performance of the day that I got teary-eyed. Having inherited a "being-mediocre-is-not-enough" ideology from my family, I am very harsh on myself and everything I do but that day, I had surprised myself.

And a short "bloopers" video...

Just after that, I revisited Poulaga Run (7A+), a beautiful traverse that combines many types of moves: heel hooks, shoulder locking, arm locking, underhangs, ... Same sitstart with Mardi Gras, same heel hook and then you traverse to the left. The moves are fluid. The second part, however, is difficult. There are too many holds and too much chalk and I kept getting confused. I tried various betas but none seemed ideal. Here's a video of my linking of the second part.

During my warm up, I approached a seemingly experienced guy who introduced me to a lovely traverse (around 6A-6B) that I sent quickly. I will try the there-and-back version next time. I tried to be as technical and fluid as possible. After watching the video, I thought I did alright.

I was hoping to visit Rocher Fin on Saturday in order to send numerous old projects but decided to join my friends at Rocher des Demoiselles. I had two projects in mind: Les Guérilleros (7B) and L'Olive direct (7A+). I should remind you that last September I fell on the last move of Gueris because the handholds were wet. I started my warmup on this boulder but from the first try, I got frustrated: I could not send any of the hard moves. Disgusted, I left for another boulder.
We later moved on to Olive. This problem demands for two right shoulder locks. I could not do the second one last year and even in the first one, I was not stable enough to reach for the left underhang with sufficient precision. This time, the boulder "fell" in four tries!

On Sunday, we went to Rocher Canon. After a nice warm up, it was time to get revenge on Lévitation (7A+). For some reason, this trav' had resisted me for a long time (four sessions since 2012). My climbing buddy sent it on his first try, which pumped me up even more. I started fidgeting and had to calm myself down. First try: I fell on the second move. There are huge, over-chalked jugs that attracted my attention during the linking even though I use small crimps that allow me to send the first part in only four moves (instead of six or seven). Second try: I fell on the sixth move after getting a left hand hold with only two and a half fingers. By then, I knew I had it in my pocket. I did not want to take any risks and decided to use my secret weapon: I went into batshit crazy mode. I calmed myself down, replayed the entire sequence in my mind, took a deep breath and started sprinting like a maniac. This method has already worked on two boulders (Les Guérilleros and Poisson Pané) so it is a proven method. I am getting the video of the linking in a few days so you will see what I'm talking about.
We spent the rest of the day on two great boulders: Passage Piétons (7C/7C+) and Exposition Rétrospective (7B+). In the first boulder, I was able to send all but one move in two or three tries but the linking will be excruciating. Each move is exhausting. I linked the first 2.5 moves and I had flashed the second part a few days earlier. Exposition Rétrospective is much harder. I got the sitstart in two tries. The second move is hard. I linked the rest of it except for the exit. I spent an hour on the exit but could not find any beta for my size. Definitely going back for both boulders!
Speaking of La Mare droite, it was under 40 cms of water two weeks ago. I passed by yesterday and... surprise surprise... no water left! The ground is wet but with a few tree logs and branches, it will be ok. That means that we should start the countdown :-)
I want to visit Rocher Fin tomorrow but my fingers are in poor condition: pink and sensitive. Damn it!
P.S. I weighed myself two days in a row and I now weigh 58 kilos!

Tuesday, March 18, 2014

Back to Bleau!!!

These past four months of indoor climbing have had both a positive and a negative impact on my body. Strengthwise, I have made a significant leap forward. Since joining a new gym (Block'Out), I have been working on dynos, biceps, arm locking and, of course, crimping. The results have been encouraging; I now can:
  • lock both arms at various angles for more than 45 seconds without breaking a sweat;
  • comfortably lock with one arm at a-90-degree angle (20 seconds for right arm, 12 for left arm);
  • do chin-ups with 38 kilos attached to a harness.
All this without a single weight lifting session; it came from intensive bouldering.
The downside of my training has been that my entire body is aching. My left shoulder started complaining a lot in mid-January and by mid-February, five of my fingers were hours away from serious injury. After watching people around me get injured, I got scared and decided to take some time off. Two weeks without climbing is a heavy task to undergo. I felt my sanity fade away so I kept going to the gym just to do sit-ups. Meeting my buddies was crucial in keeping it together and probably the only thing that helped me through withdrawal.
Sunday (March 9) was my day back home (Bleau). After 3 days of climbing indoors, I felt confident enough to go back and see whether my training had paid off. First stop for the season: Rocher Canon. We started with Zermatt Express raccourci (7A). I got all moves but still wasn't comfortable so I couldn't send it. Then we went to Chasseur de Prises (7A). Last year, I just couldn't get the initial left toe hook. This time, I got it twice in a row (after 15-20 tries).
We finished our session with Lévitation (7A+). I fell just before the exit but was too tired to try again.
Saturday: new sector, Franchard Point de Vue. We started with Grains de Poussière (7A), a classic 12-meter trav. It took me quite a few tries to find the best beta, I sent it in two parts but fell twice around the middle, on a slippery left heel hook. The back-and-there version is a beautiful 7C+ that I will be working on for the next months.
We moved on to Burning Man (7A). The moves were not very difficult but we both fell one move before the easy part. We were too exhausted to link it although I think the real problem was motivation.
Despite the failures, we got compensated by the beautiful view from the top of the hill. Nothing but trees as far as the eye can see.
Sunday: back to Rocher Canon. After two sessions without a single send, I was getting pessimistic, frustrated and moody. I needed to send something, ANYTHING.
We started the day with Lévitation (7A+). We thought that we should send it during warmup, while we still had all our strength. I started working on the exit but kept falling. After 10 tries, I sent that part but got very pessimistic. I tried to send the whole thing twice but made too many mistakes. Once again, I had to let it go.
After that, I went directly to Zermatt Express raccourci (7A). I had done all the mov's a week earlier and knew I would send it easily. I got it on my first try!

Zermatt Express (6C/7A) is a variant where you need to pass the angle and finish with an arete up onto a 5-meter slab. It took me 4-5 tries to find a beta for the mov' you see at 0:25. I was trying to bring my right hand on the leftmost sloper. After consulting with a friend, I took my heel hook off the rock and got my body in a vertical position. As soon as I got that mov' right, I sent the trav on my first try.
While the others were trying Chasseur de Prises, I took a break to get some of my strength back. So on our way back to the parking lot, we stopped at Pareur de Femmes (7A) to give it a last try. I had found the right beta and sent all the moves during the day but the key hold had gotten a bit moist from all the tries therefore we had to stop trying. I got my hands moist, got some chalk et voila! Got it right on my first try :-)

I have selected five 8A and two 7C+ projects for the following months so I've got a lot of work ahead of me. I'm waiting impatiently for spring break so that I can spend two whole weeks on my projects. For the time being, I will be climbing at Bleau on Friday and weekends. The new season has started, the sun is shining and I am more excited and optimistic than ever.

Thursday, January 2, 2014

Just one step away from my first 8a!

These past weeks have been by and large the most productive period of my climbing journey. I have been climbing my ass off and it has paid off to the fullest.
December 14-15: the opening of a new bouldering gym, Hardbloc. The walls and holds were all new therefore aggressive as hell. For the entire weekend, people were bleeding left and right. On the up side, I climbed a lot (15 hours in two days) and sent more than 40 problems in the 6A-7B range. Under different circumstances I would have only focused on difficult problems but whenever I visit unknown territory, I try to get an overall impression of the route setters' taste and abilities. Globally speaking, the problems were beautiful although some were very reachy with no discernible alternative betas. The circuits were not homogeneous at all but in a couple of months, I imagine the setters will find their way. For instance, despite being announced at 6A-6B, the blue circuit went from 5B to 7A (my personal appreciation). I found the indoor psycho-bloc (the first of its kind in France) to be rather stressful and inadequate, probably because in one of the available problems, falling outside the mattress in the last two moves seemed a probability.
Monday: Back to Murmur Issy. The weekend had taken its toll on me so I only sent 6a to 6c's (as many as possible). Moreover, I had a mini-comp' the next day and didn't want to strain my body.
Tuesday: my second mini-comp' at our gym. I was 10th in November so I tried my best to get a better place. This time, I was sixth. I climbed quite well, most problems went smoothly. Best case scenario, I could have been fifth but nothing above that. The rest of the problems were above my current level.
Wednesday: we tried the Viaduc des Fauvettes despite the cold weather. It was my friend's first time there so I only got to try four routes (4c, 4c, 5c and 6a+). I had sent the latter once before a few months earlier but had gotten quite tired and had to push myself. This time, I sent it like it was nothing. Even though I haven't trained in lead climbing since July, I see that my workout regime is going great.
For the following week, I bouldered like there was no tomorrow and 7B's kept falling one after another at the gym. I got to climb with some cool people and learn new tricks. The most positive thing was that I almost flashed everything within my realm of specialty (vertical walls and slabs). I would just slide on the walls.
And there comes Friday the 28th... The day started in the best possible way: during the night my brain was working wildly so the moment I opened up my eyes, I had found a new idea on how to get sponsored by Weetabix (see last post). So now I have two projects on which to work for the next 18 months. I will reveal more information in a few months, as soon as I have finished the first part of it, but believe me, it's really cool. Anyway, breakfast and off to Murmur Pantin! I was hoping to send as many slabs as possible, at least one 7a+. I arrived at the gym, I wandered around and stumbled upon an 8a slab!!! The holds seemed decent and the moves were very organic. We started warming up, then sent some 5b-6b's and off to our projects! First try on the 8a: I fell a few times but was able to send all the moves. I tried three times to link but kept falling on a slippery right-foot hold. On that last attempt, I was able to link in two parts. All holds were dusty and slippery but I didn't have a brush on me. Unfortunately, my friend had to leave so I decided to go back on Monday.
Fast forward to Monday... I was very optimistic about linking that beautiful slab. I spent an hour warming up on slabs, took a short break and then gave it a first try. For some reason, I kept falling. I couldn't believe how bad I was. Second try was much better and I linked the first half. Unfortunately, some hard moves were rather serendipitous therefore I needed to improve my beta. It took me four or five tries to optimise every single move but by then, I was too tired to link. I was frustrated and disgusted but deep down, I knew I didn't deserve to link. On slabs, you need to be perfect and my beta still wasn't. Now it is quasi-perfect and next Monday WILL be THE day.
I spent the first day of 2014 at a new bouldering gym, Arkose. It was rather small, usage of space was not optimised, and many problems were reachy and with an ugly last move. The grand opening was two weeks earlier and the only shower head that worked had ice-cold water to offer. That's not cool. Definitely not going back there as a paying customer. All my friends seemed to reach the same conclusion: it is a local gym addressed mostly to beginners, maybe intermediates as well, and none of us would join it even if we lived nearby. This said, for a beginner living in the neighbourhood, it would be a reasonable choice.

Friday, December 13, 2013

The Weetabix guy

A few weeks ago we visited Bleau twice but temperatures were far too low for me to climb. My body cannot function at 2 degrees Celsius. I'm Mediterranean, for crying out loud! I'm definitely spending next autumn/winter in a hotter climate.
The second time, we went to Éléphant. It was my first time visiting and I was eager to try its famous two-finger pockets but my fingers were frozen all day. I only sent two mini-high balls to get my blood pumping.
This one was a bit trickier...

Speaking of high balls, here's another one I sent back in August at Gorges du Houx. We hadn't found it on bleau.info but all holds were covered with chalk. It doesn't seem very scary in the video but at the end of the diagonal trav, you're already four meters from the ground and then you've got another 4 or 5 meters of vertical climbing. I would give it a 6A.

A few days ago and after having cancelled at the last minute three days in a row, I gave Bleau another chance and visited Rocher Canon. According to the weather channel, no rain had dropped for at least seven days and I was ultra-motivated to send my big projects. When we arrived, everything was soaking wet. We were disgusted and frustrated. That was a deal breaker for me. I had promised myself that I wouldn't go back to Bleau for the winter if I didn't send La Mare (engl. "pool, pond") on that day. As soon as we approached the boulder, we discovered that it had succumbed to the winter rain and had become a pool at least 30 cms deep.
Since the beginning of November, I have been trying out my new training schedule - jumps, dynos, arm locking, a lot of contortions and violent shoulder locking - at the gym and it has been paying off. I am sending a lot of routes in the 7th degree quite easily and already have two 7Cs under my belt. My project for the next two weeks is an 8A, 15-meter trav in a 60-degree underhang. I have sent most of the moves and I'm rather optimistic for the ones I haven't sorted it out yet. I sent the 7B trav on the same wall in only two sessions and I'm almost done with the moves of the 7C route.
After spending five months without lead climbing, I went back to Murmur Issy for a seven-hour session. I sent two 7a+'s, finished all the moves of another 7a and sent another ten, <7a routes. I was rather pleased with my performances on the underhanging walls. Hopefully, I will have the chance to lead climb at least once a week for the next three to four months.
Tomorrow is the opening of a new gym: Hardbloc. The premises seem exciting and entrance is free for the entire weekend so I'll have the chance to climb with many of my new and old friends. That's a great way to spend a weekend. I'm being careful with my left index (I got a crevasse between the distal and the intermediate phalanges) because it started bleeding two days ago. I was working on an intriguing 7A at the gym, my finger started getting red, I knew it was going to start bleeding but I didn't want to stop. I wanted to give the route just one last try. You don't have to guess the outcome, you know me better than that :-)
Last week I made an important decision that will most definitely motivate me even more. Most climbers, even amateurs like myself, dream of getting sponsored one day. For me, it is not about the money. I know I will never become a professional climber; I wouldn't want that kind of pressure on myself and besides, that would take years and years. It's about your hard work getting acknowledged. I admit, it sounds absurd: we are climbers because we love climbing and not out of an insane need to please others and yet, we need an external source of gratification. Maybe it is vanity, I honestly don't know. 
Anyway, I decided to pursue the one company I have adored for many years: Weetabix. I have been consuming two to three packs a week of their main product and have a lot of respect for their mentality. Their biscuit format has been helping me control my calorie intake and from a nutritional standpoint, they are the best cereal out there (only rivaled by Kellog's All-Bran that are a tad more expensive and slightly heavier on sugar and salt). I have therefore given myself 18 months to come up with a project to attract their attention. If only half of my new year's resolutions go as planned, I will get one step closer to becoming the (new? first?) Weetabix guy. It's a bird, it's a plane, it's the Weetabix guy!