I am out in France right now, Ceuse to be precise, the climbing mecca of the world! I love this place so much, I've been out here around four times now and I never get sick of it. I think the reason for this is that everytime I've been here, I have achieved a new level in my climbing beforehand so new routes and challenges always await me.
My first trip to Ceuse back in 2007 was a real eye opener for me. I had all these expectations of doing amazing hard ascents on the famous Ceuse walls, perhaps onsighting 8a's and ticking 8b's? How very wrong I was... I think sometimes growing up climbing at one wall and not really venturing outwith your own little scene sometimes can be quite bad for the ego. I was 16 at the time and had only really been on one climbing trip before (with my parents), this was my first big trip and I had all the expectations of ticking hard routes outdoors that I would usually do at the wall. The things that never came into my thought process at the time was the change in environment, the style of climbing, the fact that i had never climbed much outdoors before and of course, nutrition and living and looking after myself. Of course, only what you would expect happened - I crashed and burned! I ticked one 7c, a pretty crappy direct start to a classic 7b called "Super Mickey". Not to mention - I got food poisoning and blocked intestines which sent me home early.
My second trip was much better - in 2008 after a year of focussed training and getting out on British limestone more, I returned for my revenge. With a year under my belt of mummy's teachings on how to cook, I was not going to lose out on my nutrition either : P I was on a mission this year to see how much mileage I could get under my belt. Everyday I ticked wave after wave of 7b+'s, 7c's and 7c+'s not to mention a few 8a's. 4 weeks of firing up the hill everyday doing 10-13 hour shifts at the crag got me into shape quickly, but by the end of the first 2 weeks, I was broken! Again, too eager to prove myself - Ceuse slapped me straight in the face and I learned a valuable lesson of pacing - a shame it took me 4 weeks to learn this : P
My third trip in 2010 was only for 10 days and i didn't get much done, however, this was after a long stint of training hard indoors doing a lot of endurance training of which I thought would have set me up well for the long routes at Ceuse - once again another lesson, routes at Ceuse have hard moves as well as being long!
Finally we are in the present - 2011 trip! Its taken me 3 trips to learn how to climb in Ceuse, thats 10 weeks, one fifth of a year spent in France learning how to climb on one massive bit of limestone sticking out the ground... and its worked! This has been by far my most successful year of climbing yet, every trip, every day of training and every year of learning has built up to this amazing year of climbing. Returning to Ceuse now has been such an eye opener for me once again. I have climbed the routes I aspired to climb when I was 16 and its only taken 5 years : D
So far I have ticked:
- Petit Tom (8a)
- Dolce Vita (8a+)
- Seurs Froides (8a+ Flash)
- Violent Illusion (8b)
- L'ami de tout le monde (8b)
- The Black Bean (8b+ - 70m)
I am currently working an 8c called "Dures Limites". I have only had two attempts on the route so far but its looking good. I can do the whole crux in one bit and then with a rest do the final crux. Its the most amazing route I have ever been on with such incredible climbing. The holds are absolutely tiny, crazy sharp and the moves between them are bloody hard! Its probably got a crux similar in difficulty to the "Violent Illusion" starting boulder problem however, you climb a bouldery f7b+ to get there and then have a section of V6 to finish of! We will see...
Today I am going up to get some pics and video of people climbing and also hopefully on-sight an 8a+ called "Femme Blanche". The route is an amazing clean blue line up a slightly overhanging to slabby wall, with very run out bolts - scarey! Wish me luck : )
Anyway, I will be updating again in the next week so stay tuned - also, if you want more up to date news on the trip, check out my personal blog. If you also want to keep up to date with Natalie's (Berry) trip, then check out her blog here. And finally, Luke Tilley has been blogging on the alpkit blog as well, check that out here.