Wednesday, May 6, 2015

Lost in a sea of gray

So here is what we climbed last week.
The stop in Oltre Finale was a welcome detour that let us get some climbing done and wait out the rain in nice company. I see now a visit here was long overdue, it's a sport climber heaven and basically just a great destination for a week's holiday. Take Mišja Peč, select the best 50 climbs from 6th to 8th grade, add only a moderate amount of polish (most of the stuff was bolted post 2000) and you get an average crag in the valley. Plus it's scattered around, you can get shady or sunny sectors with various route lenghts, there's not much chipping... It's also very tourist friendly, there's lots of places to stay. We were sorted anyway with our friends booking one of the cosiest flats I've slept in. Ahh the luxuries of being in the know of right people :D thanks guys!
it's nice there!

strong men!
When going sport climbing to new crags lately I've been chasing that first 8b onsight. It's a matter of trying lots of different ones, getting lucky with the pick and also getting lucky in that particular moment. They don't come easy though. Where are those soft ones now??
I've had a good try in one 8b but eventually settled with an 8a+ and an 8a while getting massively pumped on every route I did. It's been a while since I've climbed lots of long routes onsight and one definitely needs to get into shape for it. Training only on the campus board obviously takes you the other way. It was tempting to stay for longer and try more of the endless list of routes here, but we made the decision and bounced to Verdon.
planning, sorting gear, and some staple food of "clochard grimpeurs"
We were an un-even team of a sport climber with a great appetite for hard routes and a mountain climber with not so much cragging experience. Thus we compromised between shorter, up to 150 meter and easier multipitches that Eva lead and harder, old-school single pitches accessible via rappel that I was getting on, with Eva following with a jumar.
"but what if we cannot climb up this thing?"
It was great nonetheless. I set up belays and carried water when Eva went and lead "Saut d'homme" for her first 6a multipitch climb with great, committed climbing between fairly spaced bolts. For me it was a valuable learning experience too, I learnt some rope manouvering from her (us free climbers are just so ignorantly unexperienced for such big walls) and got accustomed to the big air. I was forced to revise my big-wall skills and scouted the terrain for some future trips here. The list of routes I want to do kept growing as I flicked through the guidebook. I am coming next year to spend a few weeks to cover every inch of that wall!
corner stemming on "Saut d'homme", a 1970 classic. A bit polished but great nonetheless. We didn't bring any gear and this was one of the few easier-grade climbs that are entirely bolted.
summit smile the previous day after "Dalles grises" an easy intro climb

One time I was going to try "Haute tension" 7c, a J-B Tribout testpiece. My abseil rope was too short to reach the anchor though. It was late and nobody else was on the cliffs any longer. A strong wind picked up just before and I knew now why everyone was gone. I hung there with a terrible runny nose, slightly anxiously sorting out my prussik ropes to reascend, I must have looked quite miserable. I've had a similar experience back in 2008 when we climbed in the Verdon for the first time with my brother and I dropped my belay device halfway up the wall. I did feel more confident now, but I can't say it didn't go with a bit of that cold sweat. Always a lesson learnt!

I tried "Pol pot", a long 7c+ famously onsighted by Jerry Moffat more than 30 years ago. It probably sounds stupid but I think due to that I was a bit nervous, I wanted it for myself too. Also due to the exposure I was a bit gripped and hands were sweating more than I'd like them. It's pumpy climbing, long lock-offs on gouttes d'eau (pockets that gush water when it seeps) and technical and tricky to read (I didn't try to work out the moves on rappel). Climbing inefficiently, I pumped out right at the top. Don't know if I'd claim the ascent anyway since you're always rappeling down the same routes? It's dangerous today with that many climbing purists/trolls out there in the internets. Still an amazing pitch, that part of the wall is so reminiscent of Ceuse... immaculate bulletproof limestone everywhere... and all that air! Man... I dream of going back. Hopefully a weekend escape to the mini-Verdon of Paklenica will sort me out for a while :) till then, youtube.

Last but not least. I got to lay my hands on a piece of climbing history. Destined to become the world's first 8c (felt like that) then downgraded to 8b+, no matter the grade today it is still prized as a major route. Doing it in one day was an ambitious call (I lacked beta, my knee sucked too), but I had a blast anyway. It's inspiring to imagine how far ahead of time mr. Tribout was back then. Such a crazy steep climb. And all those underclings... I'll be back one day to climb it. Here's a video of a french friend doing it.

...and the ambiance
'Ljubljana sucks' selfie

Anyway... onto the next, thanks for reading, stay psyched people!

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