Future stars. Super-kids showing us all how it's done on every climb of every difficulty you can imagine :)
I read a fascinating article recently about the fact that in soccer, back in the late 1900's, that passing was frowned upon in the game! As the game evolved, it turned out that the original principle had been for loads of attackers and that much of the game revolved around solo-playing. But the sport evolved and is now the amazing, and hugely popular version that it is now.
Climbing is going through tons of these changes/adaptions right now. The sport is still relatively new so standards (think about it, trad is only 150-odd years old and sport is only 30-ish?) and methods of climbing/improvement are rapidly changing and adapting. It's been over 6 years since I was last in Ceuse, and wow, what a change. Back then, for me, 8a was mind-boggling, and while lots of people were climbing this level, it wasn't that regular, and 8b's and c's were serious. Interestingly, I met the original owner of the local climbing wall at Ceuse and he said that in the past three years, he's seen a massive jump in standards.
What do I mean by this? Mayan Smith-Gobat hints at this in her blog, 6 people climbing her project 8b in the space of 5 days (one of them a Swiss girl ONSIGHTING it!). Or Alex (left in the top photo), the 15-year-old Polish kid who ran around and was general inspiration for all (see photo of the large crowd watching Alex's attempted final redpoint of Les Collonettes, 7c+, on his last day below). And the fact that Carte Blanche, at the stout grade of 8a, had several people attempting it every day (to the point that it was actually hard to queue for it) and that the 8b/c? beside it was having regular ascents/attempts on most days. Now these grades have all been climbed for years, but the difference is that loads of people are climbing these grades now. It's amazing and inspiring and a whole new reason for me to keep pushing and challenging myself!
By the way, those kids above? They all climb 7c and above! Super inspiring!
In the middle of all that, and ironic that I'm writing this piece after a whole paragraph about grade improvements, that there were still loads of people climbing and trying at every grade in the spectrum. Pretty much every grade 6 in some areas got at least a few ascents every day. Truly inspiring. And the wonderful part is that there still isn't a huge emphasis on what grade you're climbing. Yes, you feel a bit intimidated at times by whatever everyone else is climbing, but everyone is super-motivated for each other and in many ways, discussions about grades only crop up if you bring them up yourself. The lesson is for everyone that no matter what grade you're climbing, just get out there and as long as you're looking motivated, people will get behind you :)
This whole crowd of people watched Alex having his final redpoint attempt at Ceuse. Unfortunately he didn't succeed, but he was close!
Sean Marnane working the moves on Berlin, before a successful ascent
From an Irish point of view, it's great to see people continuously working away and earning new and outstanding grades for themselves. Naomi was rocking on 6c's and ticked her first 7a. Sean Marnane showed that he's the legend with a quick ascent of one of the 7c's (Berlin?) on Berlin Sector (when's the next one going to happen?!?!? :). And Ryan, one of the new Northerners to my knowledge, was romping with some awesome sends of some 7b's onsight. Not to mention Eddie Barbour kicking ass (from reports I've heard) in Siurana earlier on in the year. I can only hope we all get chances to pass the knowledge we're all gaining onto the newer climbers coming through! and with the rise of a new National Climbing Competition back home in Ireland, hopefully people have reasons to be getting out and pushing themselves on rock and plastic.