Monday, May 5

the route

Ever since I first visited Southern France for climbing 2 years ago, it's become a pillar of quality in my mind - the near perfection of routes and the beauty and purity of the stone. By all means, the climbing here is the standard to which I measure almost everything I see - consciously or subconsciously. This doesn't necessarily mean that everything must measure up, it only means that I am aware of how unique these places are, and also how special this degree of quality really is. Just as I remembered it, I'm again blown away by the climbing, the setting, and the almost impeccable nature of experience that is Ceuse climbing. 


I've been dreaming of my return ever since I left 2 years ago, and furthermore, I've been anxiously planning for an objective. Since last December I've been approaching my climbing differently. For the first time in my climbing life I solicited the help of a trainer. I've quite dramatically changed the way I train - finally trying some new things. I've adjusted my lifestyle, and like I once did many years ago - in pursuit of my first 5.14s - I've anxiously looked ahead and worked hard towards a lofty goal. It has been an awesome awakening for me. I had a great line of success in Las Vegas, while also maintaining a relatively strict training program, and continuously looking ahead. In general, I feel like I saw the end of the line for my long used methods for training and my general approach to climbing - and that line did not include my new climbing goals, so I made some changes and now I feel more prepared.... hopefully. In the end, I'm satisfied knowing that I've improved, and knowing that I worked really hard - so in many ways, regardless of the outcome of this specific trip, I'm quite happy that I took the plunge and made a change.

Rest day exploring Briancon.

So, as some of you know, I, in essence, came to France to climb Biographie, or as many Americans know it, Realization. I can remember the first time that I saw the route - it is truly magnificent. I was shocked to see that such a bold and impressive, seemingly perfect line exists. Add to that, the historic significance of this climb not to mention its unique and brilliant holds and movement -- it really is a proud route. I trained to improve my climbing, not necessarily for this climb specifically, but I had it in mind all throughout. I've been here in France for a little more than a week, and already it has been an exciting journey. 

Alpine glow every night from our brilliant gite!

I met the always stoked Caldwell family here right away, and on my first climbing day I began trying this amazing climb. Immediately off the ground is a burly 4 move boulder problem - which broke in 2010 - rendering it several V grades harder. To me it feels similar in difficulty to the opening boulder on Necessarily Evil. Some 5.13- climbing right after leads to the main rest - a huge right facing flake. It's a very good rest. After the pause, a series of super resistant two and three finger pocket moves, with cross-throughs and underclings and high steps and all kinds of interesting and varied movement, lead you to the old anchor (now removed). To here the route is considered 14c, although some have suggested an upgrade due to the bottom boulder breaking. I'm not sure really, it's hard though! There is an okay rest at the old anchor, then a bolt more of resistance climbing leads to a slightly better rest just below the finishing crux. The finishing crux is essentially 12 moves, with a bunch of foot movement, and some very fickle pockets and crimps. It's hard to say how difficult this crux section is on its own, but it is certainly the effects of climbing from the ground that make this crux - and thus the entire route - so difficult. From above the crux there is an okay rest, and some 5.11 climbing (that is deceptively hard when you're pumped!) for another 50 feet leads to the anchor at around the 35 meter mark. 


It took some time for me to suss the route, especially the finishing boulder which has quite a few options depending on your size and strengths. On my third day I climbed up to and beyond the old anchor, which was very very exciting for me and also encouraging. But I was still quite baffled by the upper crux. It took some pretty serious time hanging and experimenting to find a method that worked well for me. The next step was a one hang on the route - falling setting up for the crux move and then taking it to the top. And yesterday I fell off what I feel personally is the *last* hard move, and also I have linked now several times in various states of fatigue from the final rest below the biz to the very top - an important link both mentally and physically. 

Find the longest, darkest, most prominent blue streak on the left side of this photo. This is Biographie. 

So, on paper, it seems I've very close. But I also want to remain extremely humble in my efforts. I know how many times climbers much greater than I have fallen in this upper crux and yet never broke through. I know that even though I have 2 more months, there are a plethora of ways in which my efforts could be fruitless. I'm confident that I can do the route, but that's not to say that I will do the route. Sorry if that sounds pessimistic, but the best road for me is to stay stoked on the process and to not get too hung up on the results. I'll keep trying my ass off, resting well healing skin and giving it everything! 

Wish me luck! 

11 comments:

  1. Hell yeah dude! Great progress, looks like an amazing route.

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  2. Thats very humble and realistic approach.Awareness is a virtue of real srportsmen.Go go get it , good luck!

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  3. Thanks so much for all of the support everyone! Today it was very very close. I remain psyched and hopeful. Keep sending good vibes!

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  4. Nice work Jonathan! I was wondering if you might share what Gite you're staying at? I'm hoping to plan a trip to Ceuse in the coming year and have been trying to find a great place in the region. Bonne chance!

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    1. I'm staying at the Grange Aux Loup which has been great Chris! Although there are many good options around here. Cheers!

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  5. Super inspiring, good luck man! Wish I could be there again with ya. Sending tres good vibes!

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  6. Good luck man! You got this!

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  7. Very well written. Congrats to sending. Great achievement, great route. I consider this route way more prestigious than most of the 9a´s in Spain. Your writing style is humble and honest down to earth. Internationally speaking this makes you distinct from many `´top athletes´´ from the US!

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jstar salutes your comments! remember: profanity is the tool of the inarticulate