Sunday, 27 July 2014

French life, Part 2...

Ceuse|Part 2

Since writing this post the weather has improved a heck of a lot and we've finally been able to string together a few days of back to back climbing. Currently sat enjoying scrambled eggs and fresh French bread under clear blue skies. All is well in the world.


The rain is once again lashing it down outside, bouncing off my tent as  I lay warm and dry tucked up inside, wrapped in my down sleeping bag. Just another summer moutain storm passing through the valley, that seems to last a lifetime.

Today however it has fallen on a rest day for us so we can't complain and it should hopefully cool things down to make good conditions tomorrow at the crag. Hard to believe just a few hours ago we were chilling in the hot french sunshine, eating a leisurely lunch, drinking coffee and reading. Letting our aching bodies recover from the previous few days of climbing and walking. The perfect way to spend a rest day out here.

The days are flying by however, as they usually do on these kind of ventures. When there is nothing to think or worry about other than getting up each morning to go climbing, they very soon begin to blend into one and no sooner than you realise, that thing we call time has eaten into well into the halfway point of your trip. It is an inevitable thing that we have to put up with but when all said and done we cannot have any complaints really. We are in the south of France after all, climbing on some of the best limestone around!

My time here has continued in the same vein as it started and I could not be happier with how things are going. I only wish we were staying longer so that it would be possible to really get stuck into some of the harder routes. There are sooo many it boggles my mind! For now I'm quite content to keep ticking my way through the crag classics, and maybe by next week it might be time to check out something a notch harder...

Yesterday was a pretty special day. We awoke slightly earlier, had the usual breakfast and set off up the hill to Cascade, hoping for cooler tempertures. It was certainly much better up there than the previous visit and our psyche quickly shot up a gear. On the agenda  today was the uber bouldery 8b 'Violente Illusion'. The route is a game of two halves. A super sharp and powerful V9 boulder problem guards a brilliant 7b+ route above, on big buckets and perfect scollops of limestone. I tried without success a few days previous, in less than ideal conditions, which very quickly sped up the process of destroying my skin. After a warmup on the upper section I set off for a burn on the lower boulder but after 2 or 3 failed attempts decided to change things up. Sometimes you just know something isn't going to work so I reverted to another method, and with this my foot positions automatically found footholds that before seemed impossible to use. I stuck the crux slap into the groove virtually static. It was such a breakthrough for me I could barely contain my excitement. I lowered down for a brief rest and within a few minutes found myself climbing through the boulder problem and hanging out on the biggest bucket of a hold you can possibly imagine. From here I was left to enjoy the upper wall just as the warm midday sun started to sneak its way onto the crag.

The send train continued later on when my South African friend, Jamie, managed to send his route too. 'Face de Rat' one of the best 8a+'s at the crag, featuring perfectly sculptured holds, perfect moves with one or two typical spicey Ceuse runouts to keep things even more interesting along the way. I came so desperately close to flashing this thing a few days prior, falling at the final hurdle where with a little more luck on my side things may have been different... However it succumbed with ease on my second go and while slightly dissapointed it was just great to feel that fitness again and clip the anchor on another fantastic route. Big thanks to Michelle for guiding us up the wall with inch perfect beta!

We finished the day over at the Berlin sector and just as we were preparing to make our way down to the campsite for dinner we were lucky enough to witness Ondra take down Realisation. Very inspiring to see such an awesome feat of climbing from someone so crazy strong and dedicated. The perfect way to end the day!

The King shakes out after nailing the final boulder problem crux of Chris Sharma's world famous route 'Realisation' (9a+) 

With a little luck this rain will stop soon and we'll be able to climb again tomorrow. For now though there is not much else to do other than get fired up for the next routes on the list, play some Candy Crush and read Sherlock Holmes!

Cheers for checkin in :)

Saturday, 19 July 2014

Ceuse | The Return

It feels amazing to be out here with so much fitness in the tank. All the training and preparation have already been worth it, yet as I write this it is only the end of the third day of climbing. Even the BIG walk is feeling good, much to my surprise!

Each morning so far we are awake early and buzzing to set off up to the crag. This place really is one of the best climbing destinations on earth and its great to finally be able to truly appreciate it. The routes are incredible, the setting a thing of beauty. The campsite is full of life as usual, packed with super friendly people from all over the world. It's been fun to get back into the scene and simple lifestyle here and again meet bunches of new and cool people.

I can totally understand now why the last time I was here the others were so keen to get up the hill each morning. When you are sending and climbing well you almost forget its often tedious nature and as you spend the time thinking about your next project the 40-50 minutes that the hike takes quickly flies by. But if things are maybe not going your way then it can become a real drag every day and your motivation quickly dissapears, which was exactly my experience on the previous visit.

The weather so far has been questionable... In fact I have only just dried out after getting totally drenched on the walk down earlier. It is certainly not as hot as 3 years ago when we wore nothing but shorts and vests for nearly a month, but conditions in general have been decent, just super cold at times. Down jackets and beanies are a must!
The clouds roll in...

Once again there are a whole host of international WADS out here including Alex Megos, who has been on fire this last week on his first ever visit to Ceuse. Unfortuntately we missed his ascent of Realisation a couple of days ago by 5 minutes! But then saw him cruise up one of the crags more recent routes, Mr Hyde (8c+) in absolutely baltic conditions. Very inspiring for sure to see people so strong!

Waiting for shade to arrive with the German crew

The amount of quality routes here can sometimes be overwhelming. Every sector has classic after classic all within a few meters of each other. So far the goal has been to just try to get through as much of the routes I failed on last time out, and then we'll maybe see about trying something a little harder after.

Favourites so far have got to be L'ami de tout le Monde (8b) and Les Colennettes (8a)! Both are world class lines and so much fun! Clipping the chain on L'ami was surreal as the mist was so thick you could barely make out your belayer on the ground! Climbing in the clouds! It was also pretty special on a personal level being my 100th 8th, nothing significant really but a nice landmark to reach.

Today is a rest day but tomorrow if the weather holds then it'll be back up the hill and hopefully carry on the send train. Off to rustle up a power curry now for dinner after a quick hitch down to Gap earlier to pick up fresh veggies! Rollin'

Cheers for checking in!