Life continues here in the french country-side. Nice and slow. Most days are quite mellow and the pace is very relaxed. My gite is just across from the trailhead so between eating, sleeping, walking to the crag and back, there is plenty of time to just... chill. The last week I've been by myself here - Tommy and Becca had moved on to their next objective and flew over to Kalymnos for some fun in the sun.
In some ways it was perfect timing to have a lack of partners, because the weather over the last week has been less than desirable. The wind is mostly what made things rough. Temps were typically comfortable but when the 'ice wind' - as we've been calling it - started up it was over, for me at least. I took the chance to take some rest and tried to remain patient as I waited for my skin to heal, weather to improve and partners to emerge. It all worked out quite well really. I met some amazing people and shared a few belays, took plenty of rest and also got to escape a few times and enjoy some other amazing parts of Southern France.
As for my project- it's been going really well. I felt like I was getting closer and closer before Tommy left, which made it difficult to take basically a week off from the route, but this last Saturday I had without a doubt my best try yet. I stuck what I imagined to be the 'last move' for me - literally shocked that I had made it there - only to fumble the crux exit while trying to adjust my grip. It was inspiring and exciting and also humbling. I was beginning to worry about sticking that move from the ground so in that sense it was an enormous break through. For a moment I felt like, maybe, just maybe, I was sending. And despite the fact that only a second later I was in flight, I remained exhilarated. Back on Earth I was describing to my friend Thibault that sometimes for me, these attempts - the ones that are so close, the one hangs, the near misses - sometimes these are the most exciting moments. Knowing that something is within your grasp, that it could be a reality, is a cool feeling.
Unfortuntely I tore a pretty big hole in my skin, so after a rest yesterday, I will go up to the crag just for some fun, taped finger climbing, and save a good attempt for tomorrow. It really feels close to me, but I'm still not expecting anything. Patience is the key for me at this point. Patience and psyche.
Wish me luck!
Tuesday, May 20
Monday, May 5
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!