|Al on 7b at Orpierre|
Anyone who’s read Dave MacLeod’s book, 9 out of 10 climbers (amazon link), will have seen the sections discussing the different types of climbers. The burly one, the tall, the skinny. I definitely fall into the latter and tick many of the habits that are consistent with such a climber, i.e. I’m light so can (usually) hang on for ages and climb quite slowly. One of the things I’ve been really trying over the years is to work things that I’m just not particularly good at (or perceive I’m not good at). I got really strong on pockets but my crimping was crap so spent a lot of time on routes of a really crimpy nature. And lead to a lot of progression (that’s a polite way of saying that I failed on many of them but I learnt something :).
The same with run-outs. I’d lost a lot of faith in trad gear (comes around when you’ve seen some of it fail, and having seen enough accidents to seriously respect the danger of climbing). So I’d get on routes with big run-outs and no beta and go and work the moves. Femme Noire last year was one of those, 10-15 meter lob potential at the chains but it seriously manned me up and I’ve progressed from that too. I’m not concerned whatsoever by the run-outs this year which is really fascinating! Of course, the first day was a bit of a shocker, but once I’d remembered what they were like, it was game on.
And of course this year it’s no different. I ticked a lot of routes that were my strength to begin with vertical to slightly overhanging on small holds. Confidence building stuff. But now I’m looking for a challenge so have picked Bourinator, which comes out of one of the steepest roofs at Ceuse. It’s burly, thuggy and bouldery. Basically all the stuff I thought I was crap at. This was based on a brief go last year where the first few moves just felt so physical and I wandered off in search of something less overhanging :) So this year, it’s time to man up and get on with it! Of course, sometimes your perception of what’s hard is actually wrong. My first run on it yesterday was purely just to check out the moves, learn what I need to do and it feels way easier than I thought it would be. Not easy, but the moves at the start are not as bad as I expected. We’ll see now how long the battle with it takes now - although I’m wishing the kneebar was still there - it seems that in chipping the guy out of the rest a few weeks ago, it’s now gone so means the route is a little pumpier. Which just means more of a challenge :)
Of course, there’s other times when you should work to your strengths, and one of them is for when you’re looking to improve your onsight grade. Naomi took that opportunity yesterday, after we’d gotten a recommendation from one of the Sheffield gangs about a really long friendly 7b with good rests. Naomi has ridiculous endurance on vertical rock, and promptly cruised up it for her first 7b onsight. She had to fight for it in sections, but some reverses to rests and some sheer tenacity meant that she was clipping the chains 40 meters above pretty easily from all appearances!
Naomi’s challenge is steeper rock (as it is for many females who struggle more with the more powerful nature of it) but she’s found some projects that should give her the right challenges.
In between that, I tried the moves on L’ami du tout la Monde, an 8b. On my first trip to Ceuse, where we met Sean Villanueva for the first time, he was working this route and I remember thinking how ridiculously hard it looked, tiny holds on a 40 degree wall for 25-odd meters. I couldn’t really imagine myself at the time trying it, but after getting a recommendation from Enzo Otto (“oh, L’ami du tout la monde!!!!! it is fantastique, you have to try it!) and his Dad (“yes, this was Enzo’s first 8b at Ceuse. It is one of the most beautiful lines there is. A king line”), I couldn’t really help it. Honestly, I’m blown away by it, powerful moves on some small pockets and crimps with two big jumps. I am so psyched to spend some time on the route in the next few weeks! No idea if I’m capable of it right now but again, I can only improve from it.........