Monday, 21 February 2011

Some Highballs...

We have been in Fontainebleau for another month since I last wrote. It has been a slightly mixed bag in terms of weather but has definitely been fun. There is a line in Fontainebleau that I have always wanted to climb: Misericorde. It is a stunning, high arete at Cuisiniere that I have always stopped and looked at in awe on previous trips; it is, for me, quite an intimidating line. I had played on the start a year or two ago with a friend but this trip I was determined to make a real effort to climb it. It is very high and, despite the good landing, I was nervous having recently hurt my ankle quite badly. I decided to go down it on a rope to give the holds a clean and some chalk and to try out the top moves. This really helped me confidence wise as I didn't find the top too hard and knew that if I could keep it together mentally, I could do it. The crux for me was a move about half way up where you go for a good crimp with your left hand (before setting up for the high rock up) and I knew in my mind that if I held this move then I could finish it if I kept my cool. After this session we had a bout of rain but next time it was dry I headed back over to try it. It took a good few attempts for me to warm into my sequence for the first couple of moves and then a few more to hold that left hold half way up. When I got that hold I switched my brain off and just climbed! For those of you that have done it you will know that the top hold is a massive jug and it is a great feeling getting that.... even better feeling when you are safe on top though!

Another line I have been keen to do is a 7C called Appartenance at Buthiers. Is is a beautiful arete with very technical climbing and a high finish. I don't know why but I seem to be attracted to highballs at the moment – I think because in Fontainebleau the are just so stunning! I tried Appartenance once earlier in the trip and was able to play on the start for a little bit but then it rained. So I was keen to get back to it and have another go. Yesterday, Kook and I set off in search of dry had rained all day on Saturday and are hopes were getting dashed as each problem we went to was wet. We regrouped by drinking a commiserative coffee in Milly and then picked up a friend and went to check out one last block : Appartenance. It was a bit damp. But closer to dry than anything we had seen and I decided to apply some drying techniques and have a go. The wind picked up and it just got better and better and Kook eventually joined in climbing too. The climb is very technical all the way up with a low and a high section separated by a big move. I had a good sequence (lent to me by Mickey Stainthorpe) and eventually stuck the big move that leads into the high section. Now I was on new ground but managed to find a method to get my heel, then toe, really high and rock up to the good crimp and then over the top. A bit out of the blue and very pleased! Very soon after Kook also topped out! The day was a success after all :)

Tuesday, 1 February 2011

Mojo Lost and Found

It has been a while since I last wrote, partly because of weather and party due to lack of psyche. We had a really fun new year with friends in Fontainebleau but most of that was inside playing games while it was rainy and foggy outside. So our psyche took a bit of a hammering at the start of our time in Font. I then went back to the UK for a long weekend to see family and to take part in the British Bouldering Championships that was held at the London Excel centre this year as part of the Outdoor Show. I was quite psyched for the competition and was feeling pretty strong on the rock after some recent successes in Ticino. I was hoping that this would transfer to climbing on plastic (as I hadn't climbed indoors for nearly 4 months), but it really didn't. I didn't feel awful but I felt like I didn't have the raw body power that you get from indoor climbing and also I didn't have the fitness to go with it. Indoor climbing can feel so different and be such a different style to climbing outdoors. I made it to the final and came in 5th place which wasn't bad but wasn't what I had wanted from the day. A real highlight from the day was Shauna Coxey. She flashed all the problems in the competition and was just brilliant. Very strong and powerful, very natural and definitely the rightful winner! 

So with my psyche and confidence a bit damaged I returned to Fontainebleau where the forecast was looking up.

However, back in the forest I was struggling. I was feeling pretty homesick after seeing friends, I had a cold and I was climbing rubbish. I had completely lost my mojo. I was trying a problem in the forest called Les Beaux Quartiers (on the Gecko block) and before my trip to the UK I had done it without the first two moves but when I got back I was getting nowhere near despite the good conditions. I felt very despondent for a few days and even considered cutting my trip short and just going home. I thought that, despite all the climbing outside, perhaps four months with no training meant that I was just getting weak.

 I decided to stop trying any of my projects and just climb things that I could do quickly to get some confidence back and rediscover my love for simply climbing with no self inflicted pressure. It worked a treat. I didn't do anything hard but I had a good time and I tried some things I had never seen before. My wish list grew as I saw more things I would like to try and do, and this in turn took the pressure off my desire to finish Beaux Quartiers.

Here is a little video of a soft 7C at Gorge Du Houx:

So, a week or two later with my mojo back in toe, I decided to try again on Beaux Quartiers. It was a perfect day, 0 degrees. I warmed up on a fingerboard at Maisonbleau and headed out with Kook. I was struggling with doing the first crux move on the link (a move I could do in isolation) but eventually I managed to hold the top of the shield from the start and then I knew it was on. A bit of a rest and I managed to pull it out of the bag. Very surprised – it could easily have taken longer!

Here is the video of how it went:

And some pics:

So now psyche is back and the conditions and forecast are perfect.... :)