We have just arrived in Fontainebleau, ending a two month affair with Ticino. It was a great trip, a lot of bad weather, but generally fun and productive. In the last month of the trip the weather was a bit better but very cold. I had to leave a boulder in Brione as I couldn't really function in the -7 temps! At Cresciano and Chironico it was a bit milder and we enjoyed pottering around over the Christmas period. A few days before Christmas Big Paw saw its fourth ascent of the winter by Mickey Paige, a good end to a successful trip for him.
We were struggling a bit to maintain being psyched after so long and, like I said, struggling to try hard in the low temperatures. This resulted in a couple of weeks of easing off trying hard things and just trying to do more volume (which to be honest is just as tricky in the cold I think). On Christmas day we went out in the snow to Chrionico and bumbled about before cooking up a feast in Ludiano. Boxing day was our supposed last day climbing and we spent it at Cresciano in the sun! It was a lovely day and I decided to have “just one more go” at La Pelle Left (8A) (the one in Stone Love). I had been trying this boulder quite a lot and had worked out a sequence I could do pretty early on in the trip. I had thought it would go fairly quickly actually but it punished me for my optimism and refused to comply. The start moves were causing the problems, I could generally do the problem from two moves in every time but was struggling to keep a toe hook in to do the first two moves. This was frustrating because when I first tried it I could do those moves so I was trying to work out what had changed/gone wrong to prevent it working again. I still don't really know what had changed, but on Boxing Day I could suddenly do the start again! Who knows. I think perhaps it was partly mental and having a couple of weeks trying other things had helped me relax. I also wore a slightly different shoe (an old Talon rather than a newer one) which may have clinched it. So on our last day it was suddenly on again and I was psyched. My first go was encouraging but turned out to be my best – I dropped matching the good hold at the very end (last hard move really) because I didn't catch it far left enough. I just couldn't get back there again and left the crag pleased about the breakthrough at the start but a bit sad that I just hadn't quite pulled it out of the bag.
We went to Ludiano and packed up the van, ready to leave in the morning for Fontainebleau. In the morning it was beautiful and I couldn't help saying “maybe just one more go?”. So we went up to Cresciano and set a limit of midday as a leaving time. I warmed up and my skin was very sore, I felt a bit achy from the day before and honestly I wasn't very optimistic. Hoping maybe, but not optimistic. I had a few good goes but was struggling to keep my foot on a particular foot hold. It was pretty cold and felt very glassy. Kook then has a totally genius idea. He breathed on the footholds to warm the rock up just before I pulled on and it made all the difference! Soon I was topping out, psyched that it had been worth the last go. It was pretty much bang on midday when I did it and we packed up straight away and started the long drive to Fontainebleau! A nice way to end that chapter of the trip.