Part 1 - Ceuse
After finishing my 3rd year Chemistry exams I was ready to trade in the silent confines of the library for the variety of rock climbing France has to offer. As far as sport climbing goes Ceuse ticks all the boxes and the hike up is just what I needed to get back into shape. Steadily I felt fitness coming back and really enjoyed climbing some of the classic 7c/7c+’s Ceuse had to offer; especially Berlin and Femme Noir.
After two weeks I decided it was time to try out the tactical approach on an 8a: L’ami Couette. I had seen people on L’ami Couette and most of them seemed to be falling repeatedly at the second bolt, which didn’t fill me with hope for my first attempt. However, I managed to find a good sequence on the initial boulder problem which is followed by sustained fingery climbing. After the 7th bolt the angle kicks back providing a powerful crux with long moves between flat holds and I knew that this would be the crux for me. It was time to put the tactical approach to the test: the next day was a rest day. After a day of swimming and eating ice cream I felt energetic. I warmed up and went up the route to remind myself of the moves. The climbing felt harder than I expected and I realised that a rest day wasn’t going to work miracles. So, I set off on my first red-point without high expectations. I managed to get through the first boulder problem and relax enough to recover from the pump the first hard moves left me with. The mid section of the route wasn’t too hard but I felt like I needed to climb it efficiently to reach the crux with enough juice. Before I knew it I was clipping the draw above the crux and all that remained was to recover enough to climb the technical wall above. I was surprised to climb the route so quickly. Maybe tactics are the key to sending routes but I don’t think my ‘climb every day’ attitude will be shaken that easily!
Part 2 - Chamonix
Seen as I haven’t done that much crack climbing or long day routes I was psyched for ‘Republique Bananiere’ (6c+, 25 pitches) at l’Envers as individual pitches wouldn’t be too hard. The walk up to Ceuse meant we had the fitness to enjoy the hike and ladders up to the l’Envers. After setting up camp we decided it might be a good idea to go and find the base of the route and stash our gear for the next day, although, the quote Hazel “it will probably only save us about 10 minutes”. What felt like four hours later (and probably was) we were looking back at our winding tracks up, around and down, firstly, the wrong glacier and then the right glacier. The next morning we arrived at the base at an ‘alpine start’ of 7am and set off across the ‘moat (also known as the bergschrund). The route had some amazing corner and slab pitches, separated by wandering pitches over easy ground and was a great adventure.
The highlights were the 14th,16th and 17th corner pitches and the final slab pitch. After many, many abseils our feet touched back down on the snow at around 10pm and we were ready for some chicken noodles after a great days climbing in an amazing position!
Part 3 - Caderesse
After our first mission to Caderesse failed miserably we were ready for a second attempt (in a more reliable vehicle). On arrival the crag doesn’t look particularly breathtaking. However, as we entered the forest the true beauty of the crag could be seen. Caderesse provides amazing granite cracks, corners and overhangs of a good variety of grades. The routes definitely required a different approach from limestone climbing and the 7a-7b’s demanded good technique rather than good pulling power. After getting some millage in on the bolted sector of the crag we headed over to ‘sector trad’. It was here in the 40 degree heat that I decided to try a 7b chimney on gear as an introduction to chimney climbing. I think this is the hardest I have ever tried on a route and although I managed to onsight it (after A LOT of huffing and puffing) the exhaustion detracted from the success. The difficulties started almost immediately and by the crux (at about half height) I was already drenched in sweat with burning calves. The crux was passing a constriction point in the pod where it steepened and since almost all my energy was being put into staying in the open chimney not much energy was left for upwards progress. After the crux the crack seamed out, becoming useless for the hands and pretty useless for gear. I don’t understand why I didn’t give up but it definitely gave me an insight into how hard I can try! When I finally reached the top I felt like I had done enough chimneying (in this 20m route!) to last me the rest of the year.
Part 4 - Home
Back in the UK I was keen to catch up with friends. I always enjoy going back to Warrington climbing wall and it was fun playing around on plastic after not climbing indoors for so long. Despite the poor weather forecasts I managed to get out to Shipley Glen and Millstone. Shipley Glen was a great place to start the grit bouldering season and I really enjoyed Manson’s Wall (V5) and Red Baron (V7).
London Wall at Millstone has always stood out to me and I was really psyched to try it before my summer holidays ended. After slipping off about two metres of the ground on my onsight attempt I lowered to the ground and climbed the route next go. The initial crack was hard because there aren’t any good feet but the climbing soon eases off after the traverse. The rest about two thirds of the way allows you plenty of time to admire the final crack. Before leaving the rest I told myself “don’t place too many wires - just go!” and I enjoyed the airy feeling as I grabbed the top with a good pump on. Now it’s time to get bouldering ready for a trip to Font!