Youths Tearing it up in France

Angle Alan 5+, the classic that Adam Ondra slips off in the recent Black Diamond videos. Of course, they all wanted to flash this, because if they can, they must be able to flash 8b+ too in the future!

Since this is the personal blog, I can write this differently to the official one that will be up on the Mountaineering Ireland page this week.

the short story is that I was out to support a Training Camp trip for youth in France. One week in Fontainebleau, one week in the south of France.

For the first week, I stayed with some people closer to my own age -  Naomi, Claire, Sarah and Kev -  although I climbed almost every day with the youth group either in spotting, advice, photos, whatever. What a laugh, it was such fun spending time with the kids. In the space of the week, I made it to Bas Cuvier, Cuisiniere, Buthiers, Rocher Sabot. On two of the nights, we were still climbing at 10pm.

Everyone was going brilliantly well, showing an enthusiasm for trying pretty much everything and anything. Ellie and Vicky were doing it all, doing extra work practicing with heel hooks, etc - vicky ticked a lovely 7a slab at Bas Cuvier also. Vanessa, only back climbing a month long layoff from illness, was looking strong on all she tried, with exceptional footwork too. Daragh was hiking 7a's everywhere I looked, and came close, oh so close, on Magic Bus 7b at Buthiers. Next time!
Eoin and Dominic both ticked Carnage (Sit) 7c at Bas Cuvier, can't remember if others ticked this (although I'm certain some others did?). Eoin had to halt attempts on the amazing slab of Duel 8a after tweaking a finger (he was second move from top....), Katie got close on loads, Dominic almost ticked La Balance 7c+, Jamie (fingers below!) and Andrew got close on one of the 8a variations on the front of the Carnage boulder. They were all hiking it, and committed to the core - the photo below was taken after 11pm after a lonnnng day at the boulders! I was blown away.... The biggest concern after the first week was whether any of them would have any skin left for the second week as some of them were looking highly dubious!

"Yes, Jamie, it's time you stopped!"

After this, it was time to say goodbye to Ellie, Vicky, Katie and Andrew as the rest of us jumped into myself and Eddie's car and headed for Apt in southern France. Central to numerous areas I was very stoked to see here as I'd never visited the region and as I've come to realize, one of my primary loves in climbing is just visiting new areas. One of my goals this year had been to visit a few different crags, I can now say I've done after getting to the areas of Vanesque, Buoux and St. Leger.
After a 6/7 hour drive south, we set ourselves up in a cosy gite just outside of Apt. All I knew was it was 20 minutes to Vanesque, 25 to Buoux and an hour to St. Leger. And Ceuse is only 90 minutes! insane how close everything is......
The first day was spent at Vaneque's best sector, the roadside crag. Lovely gritty limestone all angles from slabs to 30 degrees overhanging, it was a good intro for all to route climbing again after a week pulling boulders. Most of the routes weren't overly cruxy too so you could just concentrate on surviving the pump in the forearms. Vanessa got a nice 6c+ tick, and the boys were all flinging themselves at the steep headwall, a butress of overhanging 7b's. Can't remember who did what but it was evident that Eoin can't read a line of bolts (but has insane stamina), Daragh was showing HUGE improvements from last year and the others were looking strong.
In the end we only had one bad day of weather, the second day at Vanesque. The group split on the final day to knock off various final projects, but it worked out that there was two days at Vanesque, three and Buoux and one at St. Leger for myself) - some got one more day at St. Leger instead of the extra at Buoux. Let's get the main achievement out of the way - Eoin Acton ticked La Reve du Papillon  (8a) at Buoux. It's ultra-classic, very hard and he hiked it in about 5 goes. Go Eoin!
Everyone else was doing great. Jamie fought his way up a 7c+ at St. Leger is beautiful style by all accounts, fingers bleeding and all. Dominic, while suffering from skin problems for much of the final week, put in two strong sessions working La Rose et La Vampire (8b) on the final day. He's gotten all the moves, and was making good links. Watch this space next year........ Daragh ticked some lovely 7a's that he's struggled on last year (yeah!) and made big inroads on the classic No Man's Land (7b) at Buoux. Vanessa put in a brilliant final-day ascent of a 7a on the final day too, her first outside. Brilliant!
Eddie, of course, was going brilliantly well too, getting up a bunch of 7c's and c+'s. Awesome. And finally, and most importantly, Terry got his first 7b on the final day. Outstanding!

Personally, I was cheery throughout the trip, but gutted with my climbing in the second week. The first week, I could only do one day on, one day off as my ankle was so sore so I couldn't complain. I was holding back on problems too as I was so wary of jumping off. All sensible.
but the second week......I'd known I was going to be rusty after 8 weeks of no climbing but never expected it to be this bad. I was getting pumped on routes. This never happens to me! Since moving home to Ireland, my fitness has gotten steadily worse for various reasons which I won't go into here but  it's a culmination of lifestyle, work, type of climbing nearby, etc. I couldn't get up anything the second week, and it was infuriating to the point of bemusement by the end. The wonderful secret of sport climbing (and trad climbing really) is that you just need tons of stamina to climb hard, strength is only one small piece of the equation. because of the length of the routes, you're really only doing (at most) V3/4 moves continuously with a couple of harder ones thrown in for good measure on an 8a. So all it takes is fitness to climb V3 non-stop. I was getting pumped non-stop and it sucks! I know what I have to do to fix it though so it's all hands on deck for now to resolve it. It's interesting, I can happily fail on something because I'm not strong enough, but it drives me crazy that I can't get up something due to fitness.
Think of it like a runner. Comparing to climbing, the grade is the equivalent to the time they want to run their race/run in - there should be no concern that they won't be able to make the distance of their run! It should be fundamental to all to have great fitness for climbing routes (trad or sport).
Time to start popping ibuprofin and get this issue fixed!

Coaching with the group last week

Darragh topping out on Crescent Arete, Stanage