Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Episode 20: Two months of Bleau (slabs excluded)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Sunday, December 7, 2014

Episode 19: My winter training on slabs

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

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

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

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

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

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

After visiting two old projects (non slabs) that were humid and meeting one of the greatest boulderers of the 20th century (you will have to wait for my next post ;-)), I went back to Le Mur de la Fosse aux Ours. This time, there were a French guy, an Englishman and a Swedish couple working on the boulder. Good company is a great motivator. I gave it a few tries but was having big problems with that initial vertical hold. I couldn't understand how to get it right. After falling twice with the final jug in my hand, I stacked 3 pads and explored the vertical hold. Within seconds, I found the correct place for my fingers. Next try: kaboum!!!!!!!!!!
Fausse Danse (7A/+) is located 2 meters to the right of Le Mur de la Fosse aux Ours. Same style but harder. After 3-4 tries, I decided to use the female climber's beta and sent the first two moves. I fell with the key hold in my fingers because the move was reachy therefore I had to put my weight on the point of my left foot and I kept falling. I knew I could do it so I pushed through pain (the right hand hold was a nasty, tinny tiny crimp) and sent it. This problem is simply beautiful (when done right).

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Thursday, September 11, 2014

Episode 18: Maturity

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Episode 17: Getting my confidence back

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Thursday, April 17, 2014

Episode 16: 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

Episode 15: 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 all psyched 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 most 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 moved on to another boulder.
We later moved on to Olive. This problem asks 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 problem, 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!

Tuesday, March 18, 2014

Episode 14: 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.