Sunday, 6 October 2013

"Memories are the best thing you'll ever have" By Jen Wilby

Switzerland 2013

UK -> St Gotthardo -> Chironico -> Cresciano -> Chironico -> St Gotthardo -> Magic Wood -> UK in 3 weeks

Prayer flags in Magic Wood - used to promote peace, compassion, strength and wisdom
Memories are a funny thing, each moment passing becoming a memory stored within. We use them to remember good times and bring back nostalgic feelings we wish to re-live. So I guess it's true; memories are the best thing we will ever have. In September we left for Switzerland for a three week climbing trip and already its a distant memory, a happy one and I have spent the past week day dreaming at my desk, thinking of the road, the woods and the climbing.

We left mega early on the 7th September to head on the Euro tunnel, through France and into Switzerland. Having not left the UK since February, I was more than ready. Ready to leave the stresses of work, the colour coded boundaries and fish bowl feelings behind. 

The drive there was really good, with an over night stop in Metz, France where we managed to watch a kayaking competition for a few hours. This was my first up close experience of this and these guys are amazing! How they twist, stop and turn around the pole with the currents etc - amazing to watch. Sadly I didn't take my camera, why would I, there were no rocks! Fail! 

Posh camping in Metz, France

We had decided to head straight to St Gotthardo to see if the weather would be kind to me and let me get back on Homomouse. The answer was no! We got there an it was wet, the drizzly kind of rain which really annoys us climbers as its makes the whole place wet but its not visually chucking it down! So we got out the van and released some cabin fever from the 2 day drive and let Podey have a good old run around!

Chironico was our next stop and we were VERY excited. We headed straight to the sweet little village pub where we were told we could find the Cresciano guidebook (that's a different story)! We had stopped for all of about three minutes, went to re-start the engine and it was dead. WHAT?!?! But we have just driven from the UK! My better half is Italian and continued to shout many things which his mother will not approve of and will require many Hail Mary's for. Fortunately, it was mid morning and the good old tradition of a pre lunch drink meant there were two very concerned old Swiss guys who proceeded to shake their heads at the snapped alternator belt Marco was waving around! After lots of "huumming" and "arrring" they eventually gave us a jump start and we made our way into Biasca in the hope of finding a Toyota garage. Note: I had a conversation only the day before we left about Toyota's and how they never break down and Jackie's taken us all over Europe with no issues. 

We managed to find a garage and get it fixed with no issues, however this did mean a delay to the start of the climbing! Cest La Vie!

Jackie in the hospital
On to Chironico! We decided to go an explore the different areas and it soon became apparent that there are some awesome lines there, but you have to go an find them and there isn't a large concentration of problems in the 7's in the same areas. Therefore we spent a lot of time driving / walking between the different sectors and we quickly realised that this wasn't going to be a volume trip - it was going to be a quality trip.

I don't really watch climbing video's and I certainly never become psyched by watching someone else climb something, preferring to go out, explore and try. However, I watched Ben West's video of when he was out there earlier this year and there is one problem that caught my eye, Dr Crimp!

Crux holds on Dr Crimp - aptly named.
I'd never before gone out on a trip, having seen a problem on a video and wanted to do it. So this was a whole new experience for me. We found Dr Crimp pretty quickly and I jumped straight on it. It soon became apparent that I couldn't touch any move but the last one - which, judging from the video I saw, was the one I was worried about. Error! Therefore I spent a few hours trying to figure out different way's of doing it - and walked away, submitting to the fact there was only one way to do this.

I returned the next day, and started to link sections of it and walked away from this session with only one move not being done - the first one. This worried me, I've had problems before where I can link it from the first move onwards, but have never done the first move. Dr Crimp - as its named, really tore into my tendons and skin so I decided to have a rest day before getting back on it, thinking this would be enough for me to do the first move. 

Returning the next day, I started to warm up on it and I felt good. Marco went wondering off in the forest with the dog, so I had some peace and quiet to contemplate spending so much time on this with the possibility of not doing it. I quickly decided that not doing it was not an option and I would do what ever it took to do it. Again, another new experience as I am normally happy to walk away from problems, I never become too attached. 

Just after the 1st move on Dr Crimp
The first move soon became a nightmare, it involved two small crimps, poor feet with a sideways and upwards move to a slot. So inevitability I spent a long time bashing my fingertips either below or above the slot and when I did get them in there, promptly fell off as the slot was sloping towards me, that, along with many pings of the feet resulted in sheer frustration and it was only through dogged determination that I persevered. The first move must have gone 1/5 times, and towards the end of the day 1/2. So I had to really get my head on and be "on it" for when I did catch the first hold. 

After this, getting up to the crux, which involves a balancy match, whilst holding on to a poor crimp (and that's by my crimpy standards!!!) was OK, there were no issues. However, coming in for the match spat me off a lot and a few silent strops started to appear. 

Making the match and eyeing up the "last" hold
It's thanks to the German that I persevered a little more. By the time he turned up, my skin was raw and my tendons were screaming at me, then the following conversation occurred:

German (after falling off the start) : " How are you doing the start?"
Me: "I put my left foot here *points* and my right foot here *points*, which is a little higher than the ones you are using, however there is a lower option for you" (he was significantly taller than me)
German tries and falls off.
Me: " How did that feel?"
German: "No it won't work"

He then proceeds to fall off the crux numerous times by trying it a mega hard way (I tried it that way originally)

German: "Is there a smarter way to do the crux"
Me: " Yes, your way is very powerful, do this *points and tells method*
German tries once! and falls off.
German: " Ah no this is chicks beta, it will not work"
Me: *thinking of Uli Gygax doing it this way" "OK"

The lovely man then proceed to claim it was too hot, there was too much chalk on it etc etc.

The next go I did it, packed up and promptly left. Happy Days! Chicks beta my "ar*e!

Going in for the first hold before the crux

After this I had to think about what I wanted out of the rest of my time here.My tips were shredded and I couldn't close my hands as my tendons had taken a beating, it was also difficult to get alot of time on problems as there were two of us and we each had different things, in different areas we wanted to try. Its thanks to Marco that he was having a rest day when I did Dr Crimp, so had all day! I took a few days of just pottering and came across one of the best lines I have ever seen!

A few moves into Tomahawk 7b

Tomahawk! It's a stunning curved arete which goes into a slab at the top. Its an awesome line, ground up! You can't practice any of the moves, you have to figure it out as you go along. LOVE IT! We quickly figured out the beta and the crux turned out to be getting your left foot high onto the face to enable you to stand up and work your way up the slab. Being a little smaller than Marco I had to figure out other ways of getting my hands higher to get my hips over the little over hang and I had 1 good shot at getting my foot up - I was almost there! Then I promptly flew backwards back on to the mat having whipped off the arete! 

I decided to return the next morning - psyched. Its stunning! The morning came, along with the sun, it was far too hot and the prospect of grappling up that arete with sweaty hands was not appealing. So I decided to wait until the evening. This was a mistake which I won't make again, I was too tired, it was starting to get dark and it was still warm. I tried anyway, but kept slipping, tore my skin to shreads and bent my wrist long out of its range of motion so it was game over for me on Tomahawk. I was gutted - its a stunning line. 

We checked the weather forecast and it was getting hotter in Chironico and Cresciano, however, Gotthard was showing this:

I started to sweat and became nervous. It was looking this mother nature would let me get back on Homomouse - the problem I really came back to Switzerland for. So the next morning we drove up - I've never been so on edge! And then we got this:

Not wanting to back down on this, and seeing clear blue skies across the other side of the valley I wanted to wait for a couple of hours to see if it would clear. It was such a hard decision to make as it would clear for about 5 mins and then it would return to the above. The wind was incredibly strong, so the chance was Homomouse would be dry (its a hike to get to it!) however the wind was also incredibly cold so I started to doubt that even if I hiked up there that I would be able to climb. Fearing the wind would numb my fingers before the crux. A coffee later I made the call to leave, it wasn't clearing up for significant periods and it was incredibly cold. 

Its a no!
Words can't describe how gutted I was. I'd trained for this - was mentally ready and love the problem and the place. I wanted to be there so much. I still wonder if I made the right call, should I have just hiked up there and see what happened? Probably not, after all - look at the dog - he wasn't too keen!

I grieved a little and then we decided to head to Magic Wood - which we didn't want to do after spending a month there last year, however it was the only place with stable weather and cool conditions and it was the best call we could have made. We met some amazing people, had a heap of fun and it didn't rain in seven days. AMAZING!!!

View from Gotthardo down into the valley

One of the reasons driving around Switzerland is a must   

It was time to contemplate getting back on Exclusive (7b+ in 2 guides 7b in the other - irrelevant!) which I couldn't do last year as it was one of those first move problems I couldn't do, but could do it every time from there. 

I got back on it the first day and quickly figured out what I had to do and the first move went, most times. The times I didn't I ended up being spat off rather violently and rolling down the hill! The landing was less than ideal - as is the wood :) However I kept falling off the middle of it and getting powered out. Again, I started to doubt I could do it, so walked away and rested for the rest of the day. 

1st move of Exclusive
Returning the next day, I warmed up on it, decided to have one quick go before having a rest and it went without any issues. I was shocked but oddly I wasn't super happy. I was happy that I'd progressed from last year but it wasn't a stunning line to me and I guess that's when I'm really happy about doing something, its got to look good - something for me to keep in mind. 

Making the 2nd move

Starting the awkward top out
I was at a loss as to what to do next in the Wood. I love the place, the people and atmosphere the wood provides, however I wasn't in love with the place. Not like I am with Gotthard, so I spent a few days checking out some things and spotting my partner on what he wanted to get on. 

We then met Ross and Lucy from Bristol who had just started off on their 9th move road trip around Europe and they were awesome guys. Ross had mentioned that he wanted to get on Hohenrausch 7b+ which has a very high committing move and a bad landing. I remember I wanted to get on this last year and I did once - before it got soaking wet and I couldn't do the large move after the start,  which I have seen many girls jumping for. Ross & Lucy had 3 pads, we had 3, Hugh had a mammoth pad so we arranged to all get on it at the same time. As is the way with the wood and the landings, if you see pads under something you want to do - chuck your pad in and jump on. So in the end we had 9 pads protecting the landing. It was now or never! 

1st few moves

The first large move I couldn't do last year
I made the mistake of reverting back to my "I'll let everyone else get on it before I do", there were 5 of us wanting to try it, so I decided to take a back seat, avoid the crowding and do some spotting and photo taking instead. This was a mistake as I was the weakest climber there and everyone else did it pretty quick, which meant they were waiting for me! Something which influences my performance as I end up rushing. 

It took me a few goes to get the start move, and then getting into the crux wasn't an issue, I had one back slam when a heel pinged but the landing was OK. The crux move at the top is a large dynamic move off two small but positive crimps to a large flatty. It's intimidating due to the height and the landing! 

After bottling it the first time I got up there, I gave myself some harsh words and imagined ten people behind me, all spotting, on a flat landing. I went for the flatty twice, each time taking the worst falls I could, which were OK, however people wanted to move on so the pads were taken from under me. I was quite upset as I felt I could do it. So the only result from the time spent under this was one sore ankle :(

Catching the first large move

Going for the two small crimps

First crimp before the large move to the flatty, Dont let the closeness of the spotter fool you, he's perched on the rocks!
I'm getting more and more attached to certain lines and this was one of them. I spent the rest of the day contemplating getting on this with our 3 pads. Which was met with wide eyes and disbelief from my climbing partner. It wasn't really fair to put him in that position. However, I was ready to do it, I wanted to get back on it that much. It flows so well and I was happy I had the commitment to take the fall, which no one else did. I think fear propelled them up :)

The last day arrived and I managed to do Gaz's 7a/+ (guidebook inconsistencies again!) warmup. Last year he said "there's a good little traverse to get warmed up on" . So off we went. After Gaz warmed up on it we spent the next couple of hours projecting it whilst he sat on the sidelines looking bemused :) I was determined to do it this year, its a long one and got me mega pumped!

1sr crux coming back down

Rest in the middle which pumped me out too much!

Second crux

Getting to the jugs before the end
I was happy with this, again progress from last year. I was still holding out for Hohenrausch, hoping pads were under it or that I could go for it with just the 3. The chances of pads being under it were slim, the forest was pretty empty - it would have to be the latter option. 

Then the rain we sat and hid for a while and it became apparent it wasn't stopping so we headed back to the van to wait it out. It was out last day, so we were not too bothered about the day being cut short. However, its not over until its over. I waited for it to stop raining then headed back into the woods to see if it was dry, again a slim chance as I know it seeps, but there is always was wet. That was the end of that! Should have done it when I had the chance, I might not be so polite next time :)

So that was that, it was time to start driving home. We had allowed to days so we didn't rush it, stopped off in Metz again, enjoyed some fine French cuisine and was back in England by 10pm three weeks later. 

I have some odd feelings about our time there. Chironico was OK,  not outstanding, in my opinion. Cresciano looked amazing and we will go back there, when its colder, but Magic Wood was the unexpected high point by meeting some cool folks and having good dry conditions for so long. I did 1/2 projects and the latter I couldn't get on due to conditions - so all in all it was a good trip. It showed me that my training is working but there is more to do. So this week I've been eating and drinking what I like and just done some pottery climbing. 

I'll start training again tomorrow, ready for the Grit Season, which I feel is getting close and I'm super psyched about this!!!

That's all for now, hope you've enjoyed some light Sunday reading.

Here a link to a video we made - its all on a iphone and my first go at something like this - so don't be too critical :)

Happy Climbing x

Nothing like a good camp fire

View from Cresciano

Podey got cold and tired

Spot of night climbing for cooler conditions

6c+ warm up trav in Chironico


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