Sunday, June 24, 2018

The French connection

It's been three weeks since I'm back to Slovenia after completing my Erasmus year in France. I was glad to come back after 10 months of living in France, having had a great year and feeling a new surge of climbing motivation.

Who needs hamstrings anyway?
Back in September while climbing in Ceuse I put a partial tear in my hamstring. It set me back considerably, since it was taking a long time before I was able to climb and run pain-free, but it's clear my irresponsible way of going about it prolonged the healing process. Just putting it out there as a note to self. Is there anyone who had the same? I would love to hear your thoughts. Even if less common than upper body injuries, hamstring tears in climbers are serious. And living in Grenoble not being able to climb or ski kind of sucked, too.

from the trip to Ceuse in September

Au revoir, Rocher du Midi (a la prochaine fois)
Between Grenoble and Chambery stretches the east barrier of the Chartreuse massive with numerous steep limestone walls cropping out. I grew to hold dear this unique enviroment of dense forests, interesting rock formations and alpine meadows. The few big birds are your only company up there, yet it's so close to the buzz of the life down in the valley. Taking the car ride back home, I passed in front of those walls for the last time: Dent de Crolles, Rocher du Midi, Aulp du Seuil, le Grand Manti...
In May I've been sieging a multipitch project on Rocher du Midi with friends Laurent and Romain. Romain was madly motivated for this route and it became a Saturday routine to get up early, make the hike to the base of the 250m wall and play on the various difficult pitches. The route is called Carnet d'Adresse and it came to people's attention after Nina Caprez gave it its third ascent a few years ago. Even if with Romain we both managed to climb the crux pitch, twice we were forced to bail due to rain and so the project of linking all the hard pitches remains (a much bigger challenge than the crux pitch alone).

hard sport climbing with an 'ambiance', Carnet d'adresse on Rocher du Midi
Romain levitating the crux pitch
rising above the clouds on a different climb on le Grand Manti, photo by Eirik
'ambiance Chartreuse'

hiking out past L'Aulp du Seuil

The Grenoble school of climbing
While 'saucissoner' (the act of being a saucisse) in my harness, I was inspecting the rock for miniature blips and bumps that would permit advancing the gray slab of the 35-metre crux pitch. It's a vertical wall, at times maybe even a degree of slab, but it's really, really thin. In a typical fit of desperation, I was cursing the rock and my lack of shape, wondering how is this even possible. Romain yelled at me and I looked down. 'Dude, just do this' he said, flexed his fingers and brought the thumb on top of the index. I had to shut up...
Romain, climbing bare feet at Saint Ange, just because...
 flying under the radar but sending like a beast

Climbing in Slovenia
Not long after I got home, I got out for a day with David. It's been since our trip to the amazing granite walls of Kyrgizstan that we haven't climbed together. Predostenje Križevnika is a north-west face on Križevnik (1909 m) in the Kamnik-Savinja Alps. We climbed on Rajčeva, a route I'd already been on a year ago with Kruder. This time, things ran smoothly and I managed to free climb all the pitches. The route is an amazing trip up a very steep wall, an exhilirating mix of trad and sport climbing and a true pleasure to climb. Despite 10 hours of climbing we topped out feeling mega psyched. The next day I woke up feeling completely trashed. I'm running out of superlatives to describe this route. What a day!
Robanov Kot at 8.30 AM, feeling motivated... climbing becomes really fun
on the immaculate slovenian rock. First pitch, 7a+. David has a new camera and I brought my haul bag so we hauled, took photos, climbed, hauled...

me seconding the second pitch, 6c

Dave on the crux 8a pitch, a pumpy 30 metre crack line

me setting off for the next, an steep dihedral in 7b+.

Dave following the 7b+. That was a fight till the last move!

still happy despite sick with lactic acid

the wall. it's not very tall, but it's very good
The French connection
I am much obliged to my old and new friends in Grenoble and everybody who climbed with me during my stay, I've always felt welcome. Slovenia's reputation as a nation of mountaineers and climbers is widespread - one shouldn't be surprised, yet I've always felt secretly flattered. Since Eastern Europe sounds similar to Eastern Block, I've always had to dispell the rumours of our secret training methods. In a way, for the big nation and culture that is France, which sometimes turns out to be ignorant and self-centered, it's cool how climbing kind of puts us on the map. Suddenly I felt proud and started bragging in front of my friends about the performances of our athletes in the bouldering World Cup. Yet few people come to climb in Slovenia, I think they would if they knew how good it is.
a long overdue tour of history in Buoux! I spent 4 great days there during New Year holiday with a bunch of grenoblois. We talked to Antoine le Menestrel at the foot of the routes he opened 35 years ago. And I managed to send La Rose et Le Vampire, still proud about it ^^

Thanks for reading! I hope to post more, provided I get up to some nice climbs this summer. 'Till then, yours truly,
Pinti

Thursday, December 21, 2017

Slovenia has an access fund!

Contrary to the general zeitgeist, when climbing is concerned 2017 was an awesome year for  Slovenia. Apart from being completely dominant in competitions, our rock climbing community has taken a major step forward. The ever-growing access tensions and the need for re-equipping routes have finally given birth to an access fund. It will seek to keep access to our crags free and employ people to re-bolt  routes with old gear, take care of trails, parkings, give a facelift when needed.

All ran on a non-profit basis by climbers who care. All funded by the rest of the climbers, us, who want to enjoy climbing safely. I am impressed and all I can say is bravo to my friends behind it. And now, I'm off to donate my part!

go visit it at Projekt OSP

(I am actually 3 months late and I know all of you good people out there have already participated. But let me spray some more.)

It has been interesting following the heated debate on a similar issue that sparked up in France in the meantime. It makes me think that for once, we have things running smoother than France. It seems true all they know to do is complain. Joke aside, let's take a look at the issue, which is something that could have happened to us (but now, with the awesome Project OSP, won't).

A well-known website called CamptoCamp (C2C) was called out for piratising climbing topos. It is probably the most widely used page dedicated to sharing climbing information, a peer-to-peer exchange of betas, informations on conditions, route sketches etc. It is true that there are some left-to-right topos of crags, litteral copies, straight from the printed topo. After failing to find common ground with C2C, a climbing club uniting most of the equippers active in the Isere region, is demanding from Camptocamp to take those topos down. The group is obviously fighting in the good interests of the people who put in their time and money to equip the crags of the Isere region. They are also the publishers of 'Ze Topo', the reference guidebook for the wider Grenoble area. They accuse C2C of not giving accurate route infos, not giving credit to the equipers and first ascentionists etc. The final point is the fact that some of the profits from topo sales go back to fund equipment of new crags, so in effect by not buying a guidebook you are compromising the future development.

It is clear that with the advent of forums like C2C, we are witnessing a new way of information exchange. Printed topos are becoming obsolete. It is quite common now to leave for a multipitch route and consult your topo online, mid-climb. Some decades ago information on climbing spots was scarce and hard to come around. I think we should embrace the amazing possibilities Internet brought us and try to make the most out of it. It's not clear what the future of the printed topo will be, but this is only one little part of the complex equation. I don't want to side with anyone in the C2C debate because I suppose it's not as black-and-white as it seems. However, I'm excited we have been able to offer a solution with a clear objective where people have a clear incentive to donate, and by providing money we've already taken care of the cardinal problem.
Why not crowd-source the necessary funds, make the information shared free, completely up to date, paper-free. Reality is, a lot of work will still have to be done on a benevolent basis, but luckily there are people willing to invest their time and force for the climbing pleasure of all of us. The hearty welcome the project received in social networks makes me believe it really will take off. Let's take pride of this high level of awareness in our community. Chapeau bas!

climbing one of the hard testpieces of Mišja Peč, Popolni mrk 8c (very much an archive photo!)
i see a bolt that needs replacing! photo: Luka Tambača
May all your future whips be safe. Don't forget to donate to Projekt OSP!
photo: Luka Tambača

Tuesday, November 14, 2017

Sandstone cracks in Annot

Et bah voila,
I finally got around to editing the few bits of footage we took last year with David, Ante and Gianluca while climbing in Annot. I hope you enjoy my amateur efforts :)



Let me say a few more things. Since living in Grenoble (since September), I found out I now live a mere 3 hours and a half from Annot! A trip there was very much due then, for I remembered how much I enjoyed climbing there last year during my big climbing year. So we went to Annot two weeks ago, and upon coming home I re-viewed the shaky GoPro footage we took and thought the shots of David on the finger splitter are too cool to be left rotting away on the disk! There we go then, a little video, sadly my editing skills and/or creativity didn't allow for anything cooler, but luckily David puts on a fine display of his jamming skills. Without intending to be mean, my friend, I will just remind you that you haven't sent it yet, so I think you will have to go to Annot again.

On my recent trip, I put my fingers at the new hardest route of Annot, 'le Voyage' freed by James Pearson in April this year. I have tried it briefly last year, but signed it off quickly thinking it is both too hard and too serious for me at that time. Seeing that he did it got me interested again. After watching his video (look for it on YT, I refuse to post it here, mainly because it's way better than mine) I was very psyched in fact.
I worked it again on top-rope, but still I can't find my method for the two last moves of the crux. But I am quite keen to try it again, it's cool having such a mega-project which is not too far from you either! What I must say is my respect to James, the line is pure and hard, and myself I know I am going to pass a lot of Zen meditation before comitting to the runout on the sometimes-slightly-non-confidence-inspiring sandstone of Annot!

Oh and how amazing Annot as such is! It truly is a little sandstone paradise, sticking out of nowhere amidst of all the limestone of southern France. Every time I went there, I found the chestnut forest quite enchanting, the rock formations as if they were sculpted by some deity, and the climbing very unique and brain-stimulating. Plus, there's really good bouldering (like, seriously good) and some bolted sport routes as well (sometimes chipped).
Definitely keen to get back.
Thanks for reading, Pinti

Thursday, September 28, 2017

On est bien ici!

it's already two months since we've been climbing these badass Kyrgyz walls! time flies... i am preparing a few stories&photos for this blog, stay tuned
Sat down with a little glass of red wine to help me channel some of the pysche into the internets. It's almost a month now that I've been living in Grenoble, in the very west end of the Alps. I came here as part of an Erasmus exchange programme with the intention to complete most of my exams for my 5th year of medical studies. Yes, that future doctor guy is not that far away now anymore and it is both exciting and scary at the same time. So far it seems like it's been a good decision and I will learn a lot in my time here (I'm staying until June next year).
The decision to come here was no coincidence :) beside the studies, Grenoble is
a) really pleasant to live in
b) literally surrounded by mountains, with little outcrops of rocks and crags well within biking distance
c) 2 hours from Chamonix and Ceuse
d) full of like-minded people motivated to go climbing

So far I've been doing a stage in Ophthalmology which is very interesting and a great way to start. It's not too action-packed which lets me follow even despite my inadequate french level. I am so looking forward to my fluent French after a few months here... hopefully. So far I've mostly been observing but also learnt some examinations and gave a few injections in the eye, just to practice steady hands...
It's interesting to learn the workings of a different system. The french medical students begin their "stages" in their 3rd year of studies. They kind of become a helper hand, a level below the specialist of the service. They spend 3 months in certain departments of their choice, their presence is obligatory, they have some 5 weeks of vacation per year, but they also start receiving a small salary. It's cool because I think by the time you exit med school and are looking for a residency, you'll have already done a lot of practical work and know your way around. It seems to me on the contrary we (Slovenian students) might be better trained in theory and knowing the scientifical background.

hiked "la Grand Sassiere" in Val d'Isere on the way to Grenoble. At 3700m it was just a hike. Pretty cool!
student life in Grenoble
So, the climbing... ahem. I've been having solid sessions every week now. The move to a new enviroment is great - I have a whole new surge of motivation. There's new crags to climb at, a bunch of strong climbers, a whole culture built around it.
I love the little afternoon sessions squeezed in after work/school. You're doing your job (texting people on where to meet), finishing early (because you have an important meeting), next thing you're speeding down the road on the bike and in an hour since you've taken off your coat, you're tying in for the warm-up. A few hours later and 5 pitches in the bag you're packing your stuff with the sun setting behind the mountains, you're back in time for dinner and early sleep, just to do it again the next day...

I keep fond memories of several winter seasons in our beloved crags in Slovenia... the odd day off during the working week when there was nobody at the crag except for a few of the motivated friends. Those days of perfect conditions... I want to re-experience it this autumn in Grenoble and its wonderful surroundings. After almost two years of not really thinking much about sport climbing, I am finding it very exciting again. It is hard not to be motivated with so many new crags and psyched individuals around. I hope my physical shape plays along (I have to put in some hours on the campus board!).

One thing I really admire is the passionate french climbing scene. It could be a consequence of Grenoble's location between that many rocks, or simply the fact France has such a history in sport climbing. But still, it seems to me here, on a random day you are likely to meet more people than in crags in Slovenia... and then there's this whole culture built around sport climbing. Clothing brands (ABK), slang (a "falaisiste" is somebody who climbs mostly outdoors, compared to climbing gyms), a bunch of motivated people who bolt (Quentin C., himself a prolific "equipeur" in the area, once told me they bolt approximately 2 new crags every year only in the Grenoble area), and what not... it's a place with mountains in every direction and this city lives and breathes outdoor sports.
on the way to go climbing!
just a little afternoon session at Espace Comboire. Resembles Osp quite a lot...
crimping down at l'Abbatoir, THE hardcore crag of the Grenobloise... I hope I will become a local :)
projects, projects everywhere! 
my Czech buddy at the classic old-school crag of Les Lames (just next to the famous Bastille). Polished and tough grades, but still a must
he's from Adršpach!

Rocher du Midi - the local "big wall", just out of Grenoble
a cold day on Rocher du Midi. Haven't been that frozen in a while.
les trous, les trous, les petits trous
To inaugurate the arrival to France, I had to make a pilgrim voyage to Ceuse. I found few places in the world as inspiring as here, and despite having spent many days siting under this piece of rock, I think I will always want to return. The immaculate rock, the super aesthetic lines, the amazing view... words don't do justice.
This time, the summer buzzing has already weaned off - there were not many people at the crag and nature was changing into automnal colours. Together with my Czech Erasmus buddy Jakub we made a quick hitch hike to Gap and got to savour two days of perfect (even a little hot!) weather.
I've been wanting to do the mega classic Natilik for a while - the picture of the ramp stretching out to the sky looks so crazy, but the climbing is not really difficult. Even better, the rest of the pitches are beautiful too and the fact that it's actually a trad route (bring a set of cams and stoppers) makes for a perfect airy and exposed experience.
Apart from that it was just classic good times at the best crag in the world. I managed to send one of my old projects and was very pleased about that, but sadly I also got myself injured at the same time :( I think I partially ruptured my right hamstring - I was doing a wild heelhooking move and was really in the heat of the game, and then I heard the crack and it was pretty loud... I really hope the pain will go away soon so I can at least climb a little bit (pretty bummed about the fact heelhooks are out of question for some months now - how will I send anything then?). Gotta take care of our bodies... I heard red wine helps.


GAP! There we go, Ceuse is not far away, long live dirtbag style!


back to Ceuse after some years, hoping to get out there soon again!

Biographie, in that magical evening light. I just missed seeing the magic happen though (Margo sent 20 minutes before)




I think I have something in common with this guy
so good! it's like these walls, clean as mirrors, always expose your weaknesses... to climb well at Ceuse you really need to have an all around skillset. the grades are never given, but once you learn it, you crack the code, it's there for the taking, like a gift from Gods
approaching the traverse pitch on Natilik
is this speleo or climbing?! and yet the grade of this is 5c (there's a little crux at the end :P)
...and all the air beneath!
belly flopping like a seal
  
taking in the automnal colours at the top of the cliff... we'll be back!


Wednesday, June 14, 2017

Sfinga

A few things happened that made yesterday kind of historical (for me):
- we broke one of the key holds in Obraz sfinge which makes this very historical, cult route now significantly harder and definitely ups the grade
- I completed a huge wall with no pain in my toes. I don't know what's going on, but this has really been a pain in the ass the last few years -> really happy!
- I went climbing in the Julian Alps for the first time and can definitely attest to their notorious chossiness. 

So me and David went to try and repeat what is supposed to be the hardest route in north face of Triglav, Obraz Sfinge. The line goes throuh the center of the formation called Sfinga - the Sphynx. Originally given the french 8a grade, the grade now seems to have settled around 7c. Well, we'll have to write the books again (after somebody repeats in in the current state!).
I was very excited to have a go at this historical route, free climbed back in 1995, it's had many repeats up to now and it is considered a hard classic.
Also I hoped to summit Triglav, the highest peak of Slovenia, for the first time, but sadly we took too long on the route (I'm getting closer :D).

Anyway we started at 4.30AM from the valley, scrambling up Skalaška, an easy classic route in the middle of the wall. We reached amfiteater at about 9AM and started climbing up the left side of Sfinga (Kunaver-Drašlar) and traversed right via three short pitches through uncharted terrain (the most horrible choss of my life - it took us two hours to climb 50 metres). After reaching Obraz sfinge, we played around the crux pitch. I sent it on my second attempt, thinking it's about 7c. David came really, really close on his second attempt and then realized one of the holds cracked while he was pulling on it. He inspected it and the jug just crumbled away. Ooops?! I checked out the moves on top-rope while cleaning the pitch and I think it will still go, but it definitely created another crux and will make it at least 8a (!). I wasn't feeling like trying it more (I'm not sure if I can still claim my ascent :P) since we were kind of running a bit late. Too bad for David, who actually passed the move from the jug on his go, and then fell a few moves after, right at the end of the pitch - having sabotaged a potential third go, anyway.
So Obraz sfinge received an unlucky makeover and will further remain a testpiece, which is ok, since the young generations are climbing stronger and stronger.

At the top we took in the amazing views and made the leg-killer hike down. Pretty battered after 1000m of climbing (even if most of it is easy). What an amazing day out, and not a single living soul, except a few solitary goats.

early morning approach to Triglav north face

Vrata


srčni mož

Sfinga - the right pillar, supposedly has the best rock of the whole wall and is the steepest. The rock is better, still chossy at times, much less things break, but the crux hold apparently had to go.

good thing he has an ice axe

changing conditions

David getting into the bussiness on the crux pitch - the roof. I was feeling really sleepy from the early start and not so psyched on the very chossy climbing we were doing before, but trying this pitch was fucking mega! I've heard people commenting they didn't like it, well I think it is a really fun and considerably hard pitch!

Dave  finishing up the second-to-last pitch

topping out to this beautiful sight

plush grass for my poor feet after a whole day in climbing shoes

his third time on Obraz sfinge, couldn't have been any closer to send, but still a very psyched David!

perfection