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!