Tuesday, September 27, 2016

Val di Mello hit&run mission

I just got back home from a five day climbing trip to Val di Mello. Although it was short, this was a pretty cool trip. Thanks to Siebe for making it happen.
We planned to go climb on the 800-metres Qualido face, but our attention was drawn to a sustained 16 pitch endurance climb on 'Prezipio degli Asteroidi' called 'Non sei piu della mia banda'. It was a good decision, and the day we did it was pretty memorable including Siebe onsighting the overhanging 8a crack pitch (a beautiful, athletic handcrack!), getting shutdown on the 7c slabs and then the 3,5 hour descent through steep grass, stemming a wet gully and looking for trails in the dark.
There's a few particular things I learnt
- dirtbag climber travelling can be nicely enhanced via embracing some technology i.e. a smartphone with a foreign countries data plan, and I believe this does not necessarily take away from the travelling experience. It's just taking us a while to realize communication and travel have exploded to a different universe and planning a short-notice, hit and run climbing trip can be as easy as buying bread at the corner store.
- travelling light is so much more fun (Siebe provided all the gear, so I kinda just brought my shoes, harness and a toothbrush).
- some things never change a.k.a. going up is only half the job, can also be interpreted as 'ReadTheF***Manual' or politically correctly, 'study the descent beta carefully'
- I only knew Val di Mello for the bouldering there but never did the trad, so here it is: there is endless, amazing and heady runout slabs and few, select pure crack lines, but all of it is amazingly good on awesome granite. It's perfect.
- 'steep grass' is a style of climbing
- 'Non sei piu della mia banda' felt like a mini-Freerider and I think it would be a good testing run before going on El Cap because it has a good variety of styles (except no wide pitches) and is always really, really sustained, so you will have a big day no matter what (even Siebe was tired). So, to all aspiring granite warriors and Valley freaks, go for it.
- Siebe is a granite climbing machine (he just got back from a sailboat expedition to Greenland, and is about to spend next two months crushing routes on El Cap)
- it's been a while since I last dropped a shoe from a wall, but just in case I would have forgot, I tried it again, and it's pretty lame (but it earned us an extra half-rest day)
- I will be psyched to go back to Mello because it is a unique mixture of beautiful nature, lots of climbing, a friendly atmosphere and not many people. I really, really liked it!

Other routes I climbed: 'Lavorare con lentezza' with Siebe and 'Piedi di piombo/Oceano irrazionale' with a mixed french/belgian team (David, Laura and Romerique)
it's a bonus when your bivy has grapes, (hitching through Italy with Xavier)

Siebe following on 'Lavorare con lentezza' - a great moderate crack route
crux of 'Lavorare'
selfie with 'Prezipio degli asteroidi' in the back on the right
morning on the wall! not a very alpine start, we were climbing by 8.30, but it turned into a massive day of 12+ hours of climbing
Siebe leading on 'Non sei piu...' a 7a+ pitch

me following the 7c slab... la Pedriza style! it doesn't get much thinner than this
Siebe questing accross the same slab on lead

Siebe following up a perfect 7b thin hands
me getting pumped on the wild 8a pitch, overhanging and exposed! One of the coolest pitches for sure, athletic and pumpy.
mega wrecked on the summit! the descent that followed is sadly not documented, but mostly it was a lot of vertical shenanigans

Monday, September 5, 2016

Chasing the shadow

Few lines are as awesome as the Shadow. Few offer such an intense experience of climbing. The Shadow is a 20 minute meditative journey that relates to normal climbing only by the fact you are using a rope and a rack.
It is the most unique pitch, intimidating and very tenacious and unforgiving to climb.
The difference between the onsight and redpoint on this route is not in knowing the sequence, since there is no sequence at all and you will always be improvising. The difference is rather in getting used to how it feels and the overwhelming intimidation of two slick featureless granite walls that you are trying to stem up between. It is about accepting the fact that you will never feel in control, accepting the peculiar feeling of a foot that could slip anytime, relaxing and going with the flow instead of fighting it.
I kept coming back to it on different days during the summer. My onsight effort was good, but it felt simply too big at that time. Then, on two consecutive tries, my foot blew due to pumped calves or a split-second of lost focus. I couldn't mind it as even those tries felt so epic, and the fall felt like somebody waking you from a dream. Yesterday, I busted out my sport climbing shoes (my TC's are worn out to the point of being dangerous), hoping for a last-ditch effort before my flight home. The tight shoes offered poorer smearing but I knew they would be solid.
I've usually sucked at the last day sending missions. I build it up way too big in my head, jitterishly fall off and am left with a bitter taste of defeat. Then I would usually take it all in, realize how cool it is to be sitting there under the cliff with a bunch of friends and how that tick never really mattered, except to the small selfish bit of your brain that is now still hurting and will make sure you will come back to the route one day.
Anyway, yesterday it all clicked and I latched onto the finishing jug with a huge smile. The Shadow was my dream pitch and I believe no sport route can match the beauty and excitement of this clean cut dihedral. This route alone is a reason to learn how to do trad. Granite is so wonderful :)
What a finish to the summer in Squamish! I feel it all passed so fast, suddenly it is September and everybody is leaving to the Valley or Smith Rock. I am returning home but for once feeling content because The Shadow was kind of icing on the cake. Peace :)
The best corner in the world! The Shadow 5.12d, on the Grand Wall of the Chief, Squamish

The 'jesus stance'

No hands! That's chill!
Many thanks to my friends who came out to belay and take photos. Martin, Daniel and Ben and Teresa yesterday for the great support. This was epic.