Tuesday, July 31, 2018

The incredible Fish

The summer has arrived and this year it brings plenty of free time to climb! After discovering Grenoble and its local climbing scene earlier this year, I was keen to bring some people over to Slovenia. I always wonder how other people might think about the climbing here. I am obviously biased to like it, but since getting to know our mountains a little bit in the past years, I think there is particularities that one finds nowhere else. On the other hand, it's true that our Alps are a pile of choss compared to some places in Italy and France. So I lured Mathieu into Slovenia by promising him the best of what we've got (according to my humble opinion) and then a short trip to the Dolomites as well... and all the trauma of chossy Slovenian rock was forgotten when we got to climb on Marmolada south face and on it the mythical Fish, La via attraverso il pesce or Weg durch den Fisch.

First off we warmed up by doing Metropolis in Triglav North Face and Črni biser in Travnik the next day. Those were some routes I wanted to do for a while. Especially Travnik was quite a long day, but I knew it would be good preparation for some big routes in the Dolomites.

the traverse pitch in Metropolis

the good stuff

climbing in Travnik

tired from Slovenian beer, still managed to send  Ritem v zraku!

 Arriving to the Dolomites, the Tre Cime di Lavaredo popped up on the horizon so we decided to start there. We did Das Phantom der Zinne on Cima Grande which is a bit of a modern hard classic. The Cima Grande north face is steep, at times overhanging, and the route is equipped with enough bolts to make the climbing flow fast, while staying exciting with some run-outs and athletic moves on positive holds. Quite a climbing treat! The first taste of dolomite rock left us hungry for more, little did we know how stunned we'd be by Marmolada!

the Tre Cime di Lavaredo

žganci for power the night before :)

under the Cima Grande, cold fingers in the morning

the first pitch on Das Phantom

product placement

yehooo! high off the ground!

the amazing view from the summit of Cima Grande (shot with my phone :O)

We were a bit intimidated by doing Il Pesce so we took extra care to make sure we'd be fast enough to climb it in a day. The day started at 4 AM at Rifugio Falier. At 6 AM we were blasting through the lower easy pitches. By now the Fish has become a classic so route-finding is made simpler by following vague traces of polished rock. Soon enough we were in the crux pitches around the characteristic fish-shaped niche, grinning from ear to ear. The rock quality and the itinerary are simply outstanding. It's like one took Ceuse and stretched it out into one 500m slab of grey limestone (plus 400m above the mid-way ledge). The climbing is super technical on tiny holds and some run-outs between gear, but rock is completely solid so one can pull on small holds with confidence.

It is 40 years since the first ascent of this mythical route and I guess it was regarded as groundbreaking for the amount of free-climbing necessary between pieces of gear (or even sky hooks). There are no bolts on the route except a few in the lower, easy part. It is amazing to consider this achievement nowadays! Some sections look truly improbable and only after careful inspection one finds passage.

We climbed by swinging leads and managed to onsight everything until I popped off a tricky 7a section while following Mathieu, right before the end of difficulties. I started from the jug but didn't repeat the whole pitch. It was definitely not good style, and I admit I was quite nervous about taking too long or taking some rain (there was some rain in the forecast). Eventually we topped out at 6 PM and even a failed onsight couldn't spoil my satisfaction. During the week of climbing together our efficiency improved and it was a pleasure to go fast on such a big route.
quick change of clothes for Mathieu. no, we were not THAT scared... it was just warm in the sun

perfect climbing on Specchio di Sara

'Parete de l'Argento', the Silver face... south face of Marmolada

cruising through a sea of gray on the Fish

tricky moves right before the belay

kind of ecstatic on the top!

...still with some descent to go

We are much, much obliged to the Slovenian alpinist camp (organized by KA PZS) for the good company, useful information and logistic support. I was a bit lost in the Dolomites since it was my first time and you helped us a lot (the second time already, hehe).

routes climbed (all onsight and swinging leads unless otherwise stated):
Metropolis, Triglav
Črni biser, Travnik
Das Phantom der Zinne, 7c+, Cima grande
Specchio di Sara, 7c (up to the halfway ledge, we didn't redpoint the two hard pitches)
The Fish (swinging leads, as mentioned above I missed one pitch)

oh and to put everything in perspective, 9 years ago The Fish was done in free-solo... gulp

I hope to climb on Marmolada again soon. It just looks like there's so much good stuff to do...

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,