I didn’t specify back then but I knew this year was about getting out into Europe and indulging in foreign routes. Firstly I had exams to deal with and I have spent the whole year trying to prioritise the rest of life over the burning desire to push my current level of climbing. It is debatable whether climbing ever left the controls.
|Les Colonettes, ph. Robbie Phillips|
With all the hours of study and comparable amounts of crammed training behind me it was time to reap the rewards or sink in failures, the climbing has been a success... I find out what course I qualify for in a week or two, hopefully the balance was right!
Enough worry, where has the climbing taken me? From the start I decided competitions would place un-necessary pressure on me during exams. Being the youngest, in the oldest age category of junior internationals reinforced my decision to embark on a 2 year training cycle for the 2012 world championships. How unfortunate it was, that with this decision made, I could allow myself without guilt to plan a proper summer of real climbing! This was very exciting having never spent more than 2 weeks at a world class crag and how I found myself timidly looking up at the crown of the world; the many buttresses of Ceüse waiting to test me.
My three weeks at Ceüse saw successes come in three's, 8A's, 8A+'s and 8B's. Grades aside every route I climbed on that mountain was stunning from 6A to 8B and the lifestyle was so simple, intense but simple! That said it was amazing to see a years training come to a peak and my previous personal bests shattered. I climbed 3 super classic 8A's achieved my first, second and third 8A+ flash and climbed my first, second and third 8B!
|L'ami de tout le monde, Ceuse. ph. Robbie Phillips|
I could write an essay about all of these routes and would love to but I don’t have the time and I am aware I can wax lyrical like there is no tomorrow. I will tell you about my favourite ascent. Radote Joli Pepere was my second 8B, it is a stunning line starting up a classic 6a slab taking you 20m to the start of a double roof pitch. A 5 move boulder crux to the lip of the second steep section is the definite redpoint crux. It took 4 attempts to stick the slap to the lip from a sharp one finger crimp that took Robbies finger tip victim a week before. I pulled round on the still small pockets barely pushing through the pump and noticed the full moon standing proud behind me. I had to remain focussed! I delicately progressed up the flutings that crown the wall, flying in a foreign sky with playful swallows a grin growing as I clipped the chain, lowering to the song of foreign voices and a darkening sky splashed with pink. Walking down in the dark chatting away to Ed who also ticked the route that day we marvelled at how lucky we were to be there.
This trip was also much more than just climbing, that may be hard to believe I know! I met so many new friends, learnt new skills, picked up useful advice and observed cultural differences broadening my view on the world. I cooked for Gunnar and Inge my new American friends on what turned out to be Independence Day. Then was followed with a gourmet meal the next night by Gunnar who turns out to be a professional chef! I was taught the art of wilderness pancakes, the best camping breakfast by the French Canadians Julien and Yannick and absorbed their attitudes towards climbing and experiences of pursuing your passion. I thoroughly enjoyed spending my last week climbing with my friend and competitor Gašper Pintar who although a year younger has climbed 8c and has consistently beaten me in competition. It was great to meet outside of competition and to keep up with him on the rock. It meant a lot when Gašper said I looked like I climb effortlessly. I made friends with some super keen climbers and interesting characters studying in Leeds next year Jacob and Ben doing a Masters and a PHD. Staying with the Hammer lads was super fun and I am so grateful of their hospitality, letting me stay in their van. Looking back this has been the best climbing trip of my life Looking forward I have 2 weeks in the Ariege climbing with my family and then 2 weeks in Austria with a European Youth Cup and the Youth World Championships thrown in with my first taster of climbing on Granite!