The gang in Ceuse - you rock!
Has it really been two months since I last updated? oops!
Anyway, I'll put a brief update on Ceuse. Basically, yes, Ceuse is still one of the best crags in the world. The location, the walk-in, the people, the sheer atmosphere, make it truly special. It had been six years since I was last there and already I'm missing the place.
For anyone wondering, yes, it's still pretty busy (but no worse than I remember it, probably due to the 45 minute-ish walk-in, but there's not much more polish (although it is noticeable on some of the classics - can't see it getting any worse though) than I remember either. Hopefully that's a good sign for the future. Realistically we're all going to have to deal with polished rock because it's not going away!
The people are still what make it though, and on that note, we had some truly special people. Chris, Chico, Robin, Chris, Mel, Dan, Sean, Ryan, Dave, Isaac, you're all legends and will look forward to seeing you somewhere in the world again! Spending each evening hanging out in the MobileHome with a bunch of friends discussing the ways of the world (short answer to many of the problems? Countries/people need to work together!) and getting motivated over a mutual passion doesn't get much better.
So, the climbing. It's just sooooo good. I genuinely love the fact that it doesn't let you hide any weaknesses here. If you suck at slabs, overhangs, run-outs, there's something here to remind you that you need to work on it more :) Awesome and nothing like a challenge.
Since it was such a long time since I'd been here, I was also able to return with some old goals that I'd aspired to. There were primarily always two: an onsight of one of the classics, and a redpoint of first ever 8a that I played on.
Firstly, the onsight. Blocage Violent, 7b+. This is one of those inspiring, proud lines that had always inspired, especially after watching Dave Graham doing it as his warm-up many years ago. I'd always thought 'someday I'll do that onsight.' So, to up the ante, I did it as a warmup myself :) All I can say is that it lives up to the quality. Fun, friendly, moves up a steep bulge, without nothing that felt too hard. Everyone should do it.
And then the redpoint. Back in 2002, with my good buddy Dave A, I played on the initial moves of Cartle Blanche (8a). It's was a bit of an intimidating line (for me anyway) - steep start with hard, big moves, and at the time, I'd never really tried anything above 7b+. I didn't even go to the chains, I just didn't mentally believe I could do it - although looking back now, I would've been capable of it (put it down to a lack of mileage on routes of this difficulty back home). Still though, it's one of the classics of Demi Lune sector at Ceuse and one of the most popular 8a's at Ceuse (8a.nu alone shows 229 ascents of it!). So, in between playing around on other routes, re-acquainting myself with other memorable lines, I worked the moves and got an idea for it. Not too bad, and the holds felt way bigger than before. Even the crux, which I'd never really worked felt straight-forward. That feeling of progression is always good, realizing that you're much stronger than before.
In the end, it ended up being a bit of a rushed ascent. Big queues on it (average of 5-6 people on it most days), and getting distracted to try other lines meant that in the end it was a bit last-minute. It shouldn't have been this way, but a badly cut finger ruined all playing on the 2nd last day (I lowered to save getting blood on the route).
And in the end, like my acquaintance Mayan Smith-Gobat from NZ (and one of the strongest climbers in that region) with her successful ascent of her first 8c on her last day there (and before her 30th birthday at that), it ended up being the last go of the trip. The first go that morning ended up with me falling off the 2nd last hold after realizing that I had no idea of the sequence and having to make it up as I went along. I was super chuffed though, as psychologically for me, I now feel like this level is onsightable in the future..... But at that time, it was a mistake and could have cost me. In the end, my finger blew up completely (dipping in chalk the whole way to the chains so that I wouldn't mark the route) and my wrist just about survived (injured for the past few months and seriously inhibiting my climbing - I've barely climbed since) for a nice send at the end of my last evening in Ceuse. Things don't get much better.
Pulling the first bulge of Carte Blance (8a), Ceuse, France
High on the final prow of Carte Blance (8a), Ceuse, France