domenica 12 novembre 2017

Scandinavian Files - 39 days in the North

Sandviksberget (NOR). Photo Stefan Kuerzi

The Journey

More than three years have passed since my last visit in Scandinavia. Once again, the suggestive nature and the beautiful granite rocks of the North made me unable to resist at their call. After some long planning days, I decided to make a trip back leaving home by the end of August.
This time I chose an alternative way to go: no flights,  no rental cars and no pad-sizes restrictions from inefficient and opportunist low cost companies. The first time I flew to Sweden, Rayanair really kicked my ass with all of those bag regulations which are never really clear and fixed. I thought I would have been way more flexible driving my own car: I could move everywhere I wanted and I was free to carry all the pads I needed.
The fact to drive a car towards such a far and savage place, can easily delete the major impact that you would have dropping out of a plane instead. During the long journey of 4 days, I had time to adapt myself to the different light and to cooler air.
The impact has been smoothed thanks to the long drive and, once I got there, despite the atmosphere was wild and a bit spooky, I was still in my comfort zone.
Apart from a silly mistake in Oslo, I didn’t miss any directions in my route and I was glad to have made the entire journey by using just an atlas and my personal paper notebook
For the entire length of the drive, I was lost inside my head and sunk into a deep sense of solitude.
This feeling of loneliness made this journey shorter and it featured my drive with a loose flow of thoughts.
Besides a handful of trite words with the owners of the guest houses, I haven’t met any other people on my way and I was only led by the melodic sound of the latest album of the Children of Bodom, which have been looped for almost 35 hours of drive.

My goals

The preview of every trip starts way before than the trip itself. I began to realize I want to go to Norway several years ago, but only at the beginning of the last Summer I saw the first window opportunity.
My priority was to check Vingsand, a little fishermen’s helmet near the village of Osen, located three hours North of Trondheim.
My summertime has been filled up with several doubts, painful injuries and other troubles which made me shaky about my choice. But then, in August, I finally got a clear idea: I wanted to go there to do Shantaram, the famous and infamous strength-endurance testpiece put up by Bernd Zangerl.
The name of Shataram is probably correlated to the homonymous novel written by Gregory David Roberts which I still have to read.
Besides Shataram, I saw other bouldering pictures from Vingsand, but they were not really inspiring to be honest. This made my Norway trip seem like a solo-mission to climb a single boulder problem: it was of course a risky deal, but I believed it was worthy to try.
I knew I needed a good dose of patience: big efforts were for sure necessary to climb it and having a wide dose of time could help me to deal with the weather changing and the decadence of my skin.
It was more than one year than I didn’t try something that hard. So the fact to have just a big aim in my mind made me more relaxed to avoid the trap of the “to-do” madness, which makes you feel in rush to climb things. 
Despite Shantaram was at the top of the list and I was open to invest a lot of time in it, I didn’t want to run out of my 20-days stay. I thought 20 days would have been enough, considering all the downs of the weather, the skin managing and the resting time. If I would fail, I could always come back. 
After this window of time, I really cared to move towards Helsinki for my second goal: The world classic Nalle Hukkataival’s The Globalist.
Then, before coming back home, I wanted to stop in Vastervik with Rudy to check all the new lines put up by the myth and good friend of mine Stefan Rasmussen.

Ups and Downs

- Diamanten

The first UP regards Diamanten, a majestic granite diamond put up by Nalle Hukkataival in 2011.
I can’t hide I was really doubtful about this one: I wasn’t sure if my weak finger would have borne the traumatic effort on the key-crimp. That hold seemed to be way too awkward and painful to be used on such a steep angle. But I was wrong
The first day, half part of the line was soaking wet, but the hard sequence was dry enough to pull.
I was extremely excited to crimp such a nasty crimp without feeling any pain after 6 month of suffering. That was actually one of the best feelings I had during the whole trip.
Everything was bright and promising as I hoped.
I sent Diamanten on my second day.

Diamanten, Vingasand (NOR). Photo Stefan Kuerzi

- Shantaram

Shataram obviously involved much more time and fatigue to be achieved.
Three sessions on it were long, tough, complex and very intensive for my muscles. But above all, during most of the time I faced an apocalyptic wind and some harsh climate.
The third day the weather was on my side, presenting sunny vibes and a clear sky: we could finally open our pads without any keepers.
To be honest I thought it was too perfect: It’s hard when you wake up in such a crispy day, but then you know you are still in the working process. So, considering how rare it was to find that friction, I desired to have that weather for my sending day.
I mean, I was almost sure it was going to be another simple day in the office working on sequences. But, once again, I misunderstood my body’ signs.
For several reasons my feelings switched to the positive side go after go. At some point, I found a really interesting and smart beta for  the middle part: Instead of climbing that part normally, I focused myself in running away as quick as possible, keeping energies for the sequences where I needed more precision and a longer hanging time. Since then, everything started to work in a smoother way.
This beta made me save skin quality, energies and core. Finally, noting this progress, I got an ultra mental boost which replaced my physically energy drop.
When I set up for the last go I knew it would have been the last shot of the day. And, that was probably the last day with that perfect friction.
In my imagination, the window opportunity was very open before pulling. Somehow I passed through that window and I reached the top!

Shantaram, Ramsoy (NOR). Photo Stefan Kuerzi

- King Size

Unless you watched “The Northern beast”, it is hard that you can bear King Size in your mind.
King Size is a 50 degrees overhanging face, features by a brown/red rock which goes up for 11 meters. Fortunately to me, the line cut it off towards left at 8/9 meters high. The prominence of the wall is also amplified by the empty and large landing and by the thin and raised hillside plateau on which it leans on.
By the way, from that spot, you have a wide view on the fjords bay and you can admire some of the best sunsets in Osen.
For some reasons, I didn’t manage to check King Size until the end of the trip. When I woke up one of the last mornings, the forecast changed dramatically and that was going to be my unique and last opportunity to do it.
The second thing I found out later was that my rope was too short to bind it around a solid tree. So I had to use two really tiny birches, planted into a thick, but not safe,  layer of moss.
The moment of doing the anchor is usually filled up with dark feelings and scary images. Few days before, some local climbers asked me if it was worthy to die for King Size. Obviously I said yes. Who is going to die falling from an highball??
But then, while I was making the anchor around those two skinny birches, some spooky thoughts began to plague my mind. How could the top rope checking be actually scarier than the climbing itself? It felt ridiculous, but warring at the same time.
So I quickly removed the harness and I took care about the situation: I put a little pad right at the bottom of the vertical line of the rope. Nothing really changed, but that was enough to make me do the blind faith step into the unaware.
Not only the top rope session went safely, but even the ground up ascent was a success!

King Size, Vingsand (NOR)

- The Globalist

What made The Globalist so special to me, was not only the boulder itself, but the time which passed by since the first time I realazied I wanted to do it.
Globalist was one of my teenager’s dreams and it took me a bit to make it real.
I have been often wondering how the rock would have been, how the textures would have felt and how beautiful the place around would have looked like.
The magical part came when I could finally check it out in reality.
I think that my solo approach towards Globalist was probably even more special and emotional than the climbing itself.

The Globalist, Sipoo (FIN)

- The Down

Seldom a long trip is only made by bright moments. It is highly guaranteed that few drops might happen at some point and you have to reckon them. I am not negative, but I think this just a balanced rule of life.
But be honest, I didn’t expected to get seriously injured once again after the troubles I had in the last year.
Trying one of the most legendary and hardest Scandinavia’s boulders, Circus Elephant Syndrome, I heard three noisy pops all the way from my back until the top of my elbow. This happened on the second move of the problem, where the body position is even too weird to be described with words.

To cut the story short, I couldn’t climb anymore after that.
After 5 weeks of rest, I started to hang a little bit and now it is slowly improving day by day with little steps. But it is still impossible to lock my arm.
These feedbacks make me feel it will take a while to be over, so I need to arm myself with patience and positive vibes to heal it up.
The RMI doesn’t show any big issue in my muscles, labrums, joints, tendons or ligaments, except for a little triceps tear which definitively doesn’t justify the pops I heard and the pain I had for weeks.
Doctors and physiotherapists say it could deal of a multiple nerve tear.
Does any of you have any similar problems while climbing?
If yes, some tips would be more than appreciated.

After the Pop

After the injury, all the climbing games were definitively close. I have been browsing around for one day until when the boredom started to kill me.
I was lucky to be Helsinki. Despite I had a short stay in the city, my time was enough to realize I was in a great place with awesome people.
So it was time to do different activities and fill up the rest of my weekly trip.
I have been out with Ville and Thomas, two good friends of mine who filmed my climbs in the first three days.
We decided to make a little clip about what happened, so we kept filming doing some interviews and making some visits: we checked out the classic sector of Myllis and we also went to see the myth of the Lappnor project.
One day, they carried me to the Bodom lake. This lake has a dark and grim story behind: In the summer of 1960, three teenagers had been killed by an unknown slayer while they were camping on the lake’ shores. Ville knew the exact and precise spot where the tragedy took place and I took a sit there for a while.
Trip ended on a sunny and warm Sunday among the best Helsinki’s tourist attractions.

SIlent night, Bodom Night. Photo Ville Kurru

Final chapter

Despite the pain was persisting like hell, I didn’t want to bail my brother at last for the Vastervik trip.
In Vastervik I had my first climbing trip after my high school time and it is where my traveling era has begun in 2013.
The memories were definitively bittersweet: sometimes they were painful like needles, other days they felt lighter and easier to face. While other times I enjoyed to think about those days.
We hooked up with Stefan Rasmussen who showed us all the new stuff.
Many boulders popped out of the moss since my last visit and it was hard to keep my hands into the pockets, but at least the tour gave me a high dose of motivation to come back soon.
Rudy was raging like a machine and he had a lot of time to dedicate at his climbing. I envied him a lot, but I was happy to see him serene on the rock after the troubles he faced in the last years.
Being injured, I had not many tasks to do and I tried to shoot him a bit. Here below you find a couple of our outcomes.

Trip ended at the beginning of October and Scandinavia became one of my top destinations ever.
The first goals are already set up for the next time: No injury first. Then, Circus Elephant Syndrome.

Rudy climbing in Fruberget (SWE)

Rudy climbing in Marstrand (SWE)

lunedì 10 aprile 2017

Wear and tear in the bouldering Mecca

Immaculate and untouched sandstone
The last three weeks here in Fontainebleau haven’t been only golden moments, good climbing and pain au chocolat. For the first time I really felt that some reflections about the future of bouldering and the current state of the holds should be needed. 

I have been in the climbing scene since 14 years now, and almost 10 in the rock climbing world. I also grew up in a gym like wide part of the new generation of kids does nowadays. I must admit I haven’t been always perfect, pure and 100 % ethically clean in what I have climbed so far. I made several mistakes during the past and, still now, I am often learning new shades about this topic, trying to go deeper and deeper into the knowledge of the good approach that a rock climber needs. Hard to admit, but learning the unwritten laws of bouldering might take a while. Ethics and respect are probably values you acquire during a relatively long path. The learning process happens if you are flexible to catch small details and if you are lucky enough to meet the few climbers who still put passion and respect into the outdoor bouldering.

All of this is hard to match by these days, especially considering that even the most media climbers aren’t often the most clean. In fact, most of the celebrities can’t be taken as examples under this side. 10 years ago we were definitively living in a different community, and I felt blessed to have know the last wave of this way of living bouldering. It was somehow harder and less comfortable, but definitively richer with dreams, magic and real values.

Rocks aren’t stationary as we imagine. They changed from the smallest details to the biggest chunk. Our short lives hide us the truth that the game we are playing is just a matter of time. Everything we climb was dust and it will return to dust in the future. This is the nature we belong to.

But, dramatically, even in a shorter period of time, boulders can be altered. And certainly not only for natural reasons.

Having put up a decent numbers of lines, I could note how the holds change during the flow of the seasons and how the holds can alter ascent after ascent. Even if it deals of micro details, it’s rare that we can repeat the problem in the exact and same state as the first ascentionist did. There are plenty of examples around, especially on soft kinds of rock like sandstone or limestone. Boulders change for natural reasons in long terms of time and for human being impact in a shorter period of time. We can definitively manage our use, limiting the ruin of the rock. So, we are somehow responsible of all of this deterioration process.

And seeing how bouldering is getting more and more popular by these days, the state of the rock will probably depend more and more on our behavior as the years roll on. We are responsible of the heritage we have and protecting all of this should be our first priority. It should, because apparently it is not what we are actually doing.

I walked through many areas this time here in Font and it was, in some sort of ways, sad and ridiculous to note how some holds currently are. If you would take few steps into the Forest, you can count endless doses of tickmarks left and, most impressive, touching some holds which are not the same anymore. Few times ago climbers who haven’t any ethic didn’t brush the boulders at the end before leaving. Now it seems that they don’t even use a brush for their whole session, complaining about the conditions when they should only need to clean and take care a bit more. Slopers, crimps and jugs are surrounded and covered by a chalky layer which is pretty heinous to remove and it’s getting more and more into a permanent state. And this is going to change completely the nature of the texture.

This is probably due to the quantity of people which is getting into the climbing world, and, more important, to the very low qualities values that these people are bringing into the outdoor world. Hard to say where the source of the issue is and even harder to imagine  a possible solution to stop the loop and restart from the beginning. It seems that the baton of the old Bleausards generations has been somehow lost for unknown reasons.

Bouldering is becoming like business. Business that deals with personal egos, glory and certainty not money for most cases.. I am pretty sure some climbers don’t even like climbing anymore.

Having patience, failing, falling, learning, improving, experiencing, respecting, being humble is all now replaced with illusionary good performances, quick sending time and loads of insta likes. It might be only an opinion of few, but we are getting into a valueless climbing world.

Almost nobody still cares about the only and simple rule we should follow which is the one to impact as less as possible while we do bouldering. We are lucky to practice an activity that only counts an handful of unwritten rules; we are free and nobody catches us with a red card if we get wrong. We just need to preserve our heritage in order to continue to enjoy our level of freedom and to respect  all the other climbers who want to enjoy rock with passion, sacrifices and efforts.

Every of us owns a brush. Use it. Carefully. For your performances, but even more to limited the ruin of the rock we all love.

Tickmark for a foothold on "Digitale" in Bas Cuvier

"Deforestation" in Rocher Du Cassepot

domenica 8 gennaio 2017

2016 - Top 10 Problems

- 10th. "Urban Cowboy", Southern Italy. FA Mauro Calibani

Video Still
-9th. "The X Pinch", Grampians (AUS). FA Jimmy Webb

Photo Giulia Paoletti
-8th. "Ghia", Aosta Valley (ITA). FA

Gabri on "Ghia". Video Still

-7th. "Biotronic", Quantum Field (NZ) FA

Photo Giulia Paoletti
-6th. "Passo Mambo", Southern Italy. FA Mauro Calibani

Photo from my archive
-5th. "Geometrie Non Euclidee", Southern Italy. FA

The day when Marco and I  discovered it!
- 3rd. "King Line", Flock Hill (NZ). FA

Photo Tom Hoyle
- 3rd. "Golden Rule", Grampians (AUS). 2nd asc. - FA Nalle Hukkataival

Photo Charlotte Garden 
- 2nd. "Survival of the Prettiest", Grampians (AUS). 2nd asc. - FA Nalle Hukkataival

Photo Simon Carter
- 1st. "The Big Show", Flock Hill (NZ). FA

Photo Giulia Paoletti

martedì 2 agosto 2016

Down Under - Grampians

Giada, Kindergarden (AUS). Photo Giulia Paoletti
The second half of the journey took part in the classic Grampians. After an unforgettable limestone experience in Castle Hill, I was excited to come back on sandstone. Since Australia was on the way back home, I took the opportunity to make another trip in this land.

This time I was together with Giulia and we rented a cozy cabin in Wartook, instead of staying in Stawell which is quite far away from most of the areas. Wartook is in fact an awesome place where to stay: located quite close from the North of the park, it is also reasonably handy for the Vic range in the South. Moreover, this little hamlet is placed in the middle of the wildness, with kangaroos that jump left and right in the backyard and the enjoyable sound of the birds which hosts you every day. It was gorgeous to feel this Australian atmosphere right next to the home door.
I chose to come back to Australia for several reasons, but the main ones were two: checking the Northern zones and climbing the new boulders in the South which have been established last August. I was very excited to check the new stuff in the Vic range.

As probably some of you know, most of the Northern areas had been closed during my first visit in 2015. This was due to a fire which hit the Grampians the summer before; then climbers, hikers and tourism needed to let the wild gain its balance again. I hence couldn’t see most of the classic sectors like Project wall, Hollow mountain and Kindergarten.
Kindergarten was actually the first I chose to check this year. It was ages that I wished to climb on this wall and I couldn’t resist despite the thick mist of the first morning. The rock is quite rough, but at the same time awesome: The texture feels nice and the shades on the wall are beautiful: the right side of the wall looks like a 3D painting drown ad sculpted by mother nature.
Sad but true, there aren’t any real boulders to climb: all the problems can’t top out and it is similar to other sectors where you can only make drop-off or forced connections.
Afterwards, we went to the famous Project wall, where I managed to sent the tall classic “Parallel lines” V11 and made a reasonably quick work on the powerful benchmark “Mana” V13. Both boulders have a gymnastic and funny style and, by the sunset, the Project wall shows its best bright and orange shades! That was brilliant!
Finally, we saw the Hollow mountain cave, first for a check then for a climbing day.
That area disappointed me a lot since there are tons of lines which aren’t very logic: connections left and right, climbing loops and problems which start somewhere and end in the middle of the roof. For this reason I chose to  grab only a flash ascent of “Dead can’t dance” V11, letting all the other lines aside.

What made me even more disappointed about The Northern Area was definitively the poor ethical side of the community, especially seeing how the rock is dirty and soiled. It wasn’t cool to see several climbers who often let the problems in the craziest and dirtiest ways I have probably ever seen.
Kindergarten and Hollow Mountain cave don’t get rain all year long and you could imagine how the rock and the holds could be. Despite the infinitive doses of tick marks, several holds have a super wide and permanent chalky halo around. This halo is often a white, thick and irremovable crust. Right above this, there is usually the fresh chalk left from the previous climber.
It wasn’t always like that and obviously not all the people behaves with the same approach, but that happened quite often. By the way, in these Northern sectors, the sandstone has some wonderful bright orange and beige shades with some nice grippy textures. It was a pity to see that most of the holds haven’t any of these features anymore and the good rock is just part the blank side of the boulders.
Coming up from Castle Hill, where everyone has an impressively sense of respect towards the rock, it wasn’t the most lovely thing to see.
But luckily, the wild and unknowing Victoria range in the South isn’t like that. Down there, all the hikes are harder and most of the climbers doesn’t spend a lot of time.

Mana, Project wall (AUS). Photo Giulia Paoletti
This side of the Grampians is basically unknown for the wide part of the community. The paths are wild and covered by thick bushes. Sometimes they are also steep and slippery and there isn’t any guidebook which can lead you into these areas. If you put all of these elements together, it is clear that many climbers stay away.
In the south, I could enjoy the real Australian bouldering and the previous trip in 2015 helped me to keep the expectations a bit lower.
It was crazy to note how the rock was different from the North; not only because of the natural rock conformation, but also because it hasn’t been ruined as much as it was in the North. In fact most of the rock is still at its natural statement.
One of the things I have learnt during these years is how much the climbers’ traffic depends on the fame of the areas. Once you need to get information, find the boulders into a wild zone or go for some unknown problems, a wide part of climbers usually lose the interest in it.
That’s sad and amazing at the same time; but it is honestly more amazing to me! This is why the Southern zone should stay protected a bit longer.

The Vic range was the place where I mostly wanted to go and where most of the inspiring problems are located. The first of the list were “Trillion Dollar Coin” and “Wave Swoop”, which have a totally different style from each other. For a reason or another, I only had one single session on both, where I wasn’t able to get the proper feeling. While you are on the trip you never really know how the plans could roll and how the agenda might change.  
“Wave Swoop” is very sharp, but definitively worthy. After a couple of goes I could link it from one move in, but obviously all the problem is pressed into the first action. A move which is quite far from my style and it involves a lot of things that I am not used to do like having tough skin or climbing with stiff shoes. It is also pretty hard and excited at the same time, but I somehow wasn’t ready to invest a high dose of time for that.
“Trillion dollars coin” is different and harder than the wave in Mt. Fox. It deals of another problem I removed, but also another problem I added for my next trip!
Beside these two lines, I really wished to see tons of other stuff but obviously I hadn’t enough energies and time to check all of them.
“Survival of the Prettiest” and “Golden Rule” have been definitively the best ones I have climbed. Not only from the trip, since they can probably be among the coolest ever.

The end came always quicker than what you usually want and I unfortunately had an annoying heel injury for the last part. I think it should have been bizarre seeing me limping with two pads, among the bush and damning every step I did. I could anyway stay positive, enjoying the rest of the days out (despite the hikes, obviously J ).
This last section have been spent upon a beautiful hill, trying a super hard and amazing piece of rock called “The stepping stone”. One of the hold on Stepping stone is in my opinion a contender for the best pinch in the Grampians and the rock quality stands out from all the rest: This made me falling in love very quickly. Beside the rock and the climbing which are awesome, It is also located in an amazing area. Well, you might probably don’t like the path to get there, but once you reach the edge of the hill, the location is stunning and it has been good to spend four days feeling out of the real world. The problem is hard, hard and hard, but definitively enjoyable! On the last day I also got some progresses, but one move was still missing.
There was nothing I desired more than grabbing that pinch, but at the end I couldn’t.

I Hope to come back stronger one day, both to try it again and to check all the other scattered gems of the South. See you next time OZ!

The Golden Rule, Australia.

Survival of the prettiest, Australia.

The X pinch, Australia. Photo Giulia Paoletti

giovedì 7 luglio 2016

Down Under - Castle Hill

Spittle Hill (NZ).
I still can’t believe I have been bouldering in New Zealand last May. Looking at the map, at the places where I have gone to, it feels awesome to have visited several areas which were only utopia in the past. I still remember myself being in front of the screen, watching climbing videos for hours at the age of 12. I wondered if some day I could have put my hands on Mandala, Shosholooza or many other lines that the Big Up Production could show.
Obviously I couldn’t miss the Big Game film, which made me dream about Castle Hill. Maybe one day, I said, with my dad laughing and kidding. We both knew it would have been a trip too ambitious to realize.  

Then, last May the 8th, I found myself in front of the gate, waiting for a flight to Christchurch. I couldn’t even remember how this experience  would have been imagined back in the years.  Since everything was happening  very quickly, it was hard to realize where I was truly going to. In fact, after three weeks of bouldering in Castle Hill, it was time to leave again. During the outbound flight I could watch the whole Castle Hill basin rolling away from above. There, more than every other time, I could finally realize how special it was being in New Zealand.  

I don’t want to tell or describe the areas too much in the details. I opted to chose four boulders which has been more special than the other ones during this trip. Every boulder matches with unique emotions/feelings and obviously every line has its own story. So these have been my four top moments on the island.

The Big Show (Flock Hill) - FA

Before going to NZ, I spent lots of hours cleaning new boulders, both in Basilicata and Aosta Valley. In some days I was lucky to find gold, other days I was even luckier to climb some of these gorgeous projects. But I must confess I wasn’t able to climb any super hard projects in the first months of 2016.
 I was honestly satisfied about the first half of the year, since I could establish a couple of stunners I was searching for a very long time. It was more like a gems haunt, than a bouldering  life strictly connected to the hard problems. I knew I was going great about the quality aspect, but for sure, I wasn’t doing the best performances ever. Comparing  2015 to 2016, it was actually a fail in terms of numbers. I first didn’t care too much about this, but in some days this aspect started to build in me some pressures.
I admit I felt ridiculous having these doubts. First of all I didn’t realize from where this little pressure could come from. I was totally okay and proud about what I was doing, but knowing that most of community is only fascinated by hard climbs, I somehow disagreed with my inner voice. I couldn’t catch if it was because I wasn’t climbing as hard as before, or simply because I felt I must do hard lines. In the second case, it would have been  more like a wraith pressure coming from external factors.

The big show definitively didn’t change my inner statement. Rather, it probably gave me more push to stay on my current side, to follow my continue energy, doing new lines and just thinking about the beauty of the rock. At least it gave me the feedback I was doing what was really nice to me.
Even this time, any hard ascent would have happened. But on the other hand, I fall in love with what I was doing: its beauty seduced me totally.

During that day in Flock Hill, I was somehow troubled and negative. After a long and easy warm up for my elbow injury, I moved to the boulder to find a proper place to bind the rope. This is usually a crucial and heinous point of the day, since I don’t like the gear and the anchor’s procedures. After spending the usual time being nervous for these, I found a stone where to tie the rope. I wasn’t totally safe, so I asked to Giulia to pull the other side of the rope and the stone didn’t move. So, it was okay after all. J

Once hanged on the rope, I could realize I would have never tried it within that day: I was scary even looking down. I was really insecure and I couldn’t visualize myself on the upper moves, 6 meters high off the ground, with 3 pads and a scary girl at the bottom.  But, almost unconsciously, I forced myself to put chalk on giving it a far touch of hope.  Before seeing the top section, I thought I could have sent this project pretty quickly; but at that point all my certainties were falling apart and I needed to get into reality soon. Anything wasn’t working well, everything felt harder than what I thought here in NZ: the top outs, the style, tie the ropes, the hikes.

 I went for a second top rope go and I begun to hang on the holds, although I kept to feel scary. Since the negative sense was eroding me, I realized I needed help, so I started a long chat with Giulia. She usually helps me a lot in these situations, where I can only see the black side of life. She could find a touch of positive and she shined me that the things weren’t rolling as bad as I thought. I needed patience, she supposed.
That chat gave me a huge help. In fact, the third top-rope session made me get clearer ideas and I was also able to link several moves together, being scary still. I had to face I had a relevant changing after talking with her. I took another break time, where I kept talking about the situation and the feelings which were getting better.

Despite none of us was telling, it almost seemed I was thinking about a go from the bottom soon. We looked at each other and we both knew it was too early for that. I still had a couple of doubts in the upper part, but I opted to skip a further attempt from above. We barely set our three crash pads. I was trusting in her spotting as I had never done before, I breath and I approached towards the starting holds. If I would have failed it would have been a big fall, for sure. But if not, it would have been probably one of the best climbing moment in my carrier. I took the risk and I turned my mind off. After few moves I could feel the right flow coming up. The climb is consistent all the way to the top, but the more I climbed the more I could trust me. I reached the no fall zone where a precarious smear got me scary. That foothold was very high, slippery and small. I pushed my speedster on to it, trusting as much as I could. I reached the mantle and I topped it out.

The Big Show was definitively one of my favorite climbing moment ever. I went down and I looked at both Giulia and the boulder. I couldn’t even image this happy ending few hours before.

The Big Show FA, Flock Hill (NZ).
Biotronic (Quantum field) - FA

An exception in the area. A contender for the steepest boulder of the basin and this could say a lot, considering that the other contenders might be a couple, no more. 

Biotronic has been very important for my trip, my season and probably for my climbing life in general. It is rare to find a hard project to work, with only the holds you need, with compact rock and, more important, something you can enjoy from the first go until the last one. If you also consider it might be one of the best line of the area, all the feelings were going to be positive this time.
Biotronic could summarize all the emotions of bouldering in a full and single and perfect package.  It is very hard to describe the tons of aspects and features I constantly look for in bouldering. Biotronic had, for most part of the features, very high values and it could keep me enjoy the process despite I couldn’t catch one of the move after three long sessions.  That move was hard, balancing and very tricky to me.

When the move finally happened, it felt easier than what I excepted. I can’t tell how happy I was to have figured out such a nice move where the success was made by micro details.
The day later I came back and I quickly repeated the move after few goes. There were very positive vibes that day in the air, but the high upper slab started to worry me more than in every other session. I knew I was close to link it all together, but I couldn’t check the top part with the rope. Knowing I was close, made me aware about the danger and the risk of the upper part. A risk I hadn’t looked after during the previous days.

Hard to hear, but I got to the point of a very radical and miserable decision: I wanted to make a drop off after reaching the grove where you can remove your hands. I know it was going to be a very shameful deal, but I wished to link those moves together. I would have done it drop off for myself, letting the boulder as a totally open project for the next braver climber.
I took this decision and then I rested to execute it in this way. My mind was very relaxed, knowing that I wasn’t going to risk a bad fall. I was climbing very well mentally, because I chose the shortest way of the miserable drop off. I could do the whole first part very well and I reached the groove where I thought to leave the problem.

Obviously, I changed quickly my idea. I couldn’t jump down. Few minutes later that horrible decision, I was only thinking about smearing and trying despite the risk I knew to take. I asked for chalk and Stuart smartly extended my bag with his stick. I chalked my hands, my shoes and a couple of smearing. It was time to do it and didn’t look back anymore. I breath and I could feel myself relaxed enough. I went up slowly, carefully, safely, feeling every smear, every poor texture, every vibes the shoes could gave me. I reached the top and I simply thought how stupid I was to only think about a possible drop off.

Biotronic FA, Quantum Field (NZ). Photo Giulia Paoletti

Kiss the sky low (Flock Hill)

Basically the only repeating performance of the trip and another boulder which gave me back a kind of confidence. It was months that I didn’t try something as hard as this one and that wouldn’t be a project or a boulder I cleaned by my own. A part of mine still needed to climb an hard boulder for the confused reasons I explained before and “Kiss the sky” helped somehow to shake off those negative and wraith pressures.
Right before Kiss the sky, I could grab the third ascent of a beautiful problem named “The little book of calm” and this also helped. 
I could learn that having lower expectations and giving less importance at the boulders could make me a better climber and this is definitively a way I want to take for my future. I did it few times in the past and it worked well, so I promised to myself to be colder and more relaxed in the next trips. 

That day in Flock Hill we experienced a very apocalyptic wind since the sun arose. The pads couldn’t stay. It was cold, annoying and damn hard to climb. Me, Giulia and Stuart needed to switch our turns as pad keepers, otherwise the pads would have flown away. I had never seen something similar. We thought to have seen the worst, but in the middle of the afternoon, when we got to Kiss the sky, a stronger wind came. We set the pads, but they weren’t able to stay on the ground despite our efforts. We could see the water flowing from the pounds about the next boulders. The scenario was unreal.
Then, we finally had few seconds of calm; I was with my shoes on ready for my flash go. I am not a super fan of the flash go, but sometimes I like to attempt some problems in this style. I was in a rush because of the wind; I knew it was going to blow again soon and I didn’t remove my hoodie. I climbed the boulder until the last hard move: a huge span to a decent and rounded sloper behind a blind corner. I missed it for a very little. Probably the rush wasn’t the best thing for the situation and I wasn’t focused as I wished. I fall down and I immediately jumped again on the boulders doing the big moves easily. While I was still checking the exit, Gulia lost a couple of pads. The last holds aren’t so bad, but it seemed to be a weird and balancing climbing. I kept going, while I looked down seeing no pads and starting to be really scary. I reached the slippery top and I needed to get down, but the wind was still making me losing the balance. I reached the bottom and I lied on the pads.

I waited several minutes and then the wind turned into a chill breeze for a while. I started my second go and this time I removed my hoodie. It was probably the key. J Everything was okay: my climbing, the big move, the wind and the pads.

Checking holds on "Kiss the Sky" in Flock Hill (NZ). Photo Bevan Triebels

Cold Fusion (Quantum Field)

Obviously it is not the best boulder on earth, that’s clear. One of those sample of mediocre boulder, but with brilliant moves which simply make you enjoy the entire learning process. 

Cold Fusion may represents Castle Hill in a nutshell: 3 meters of rock with a slightly overhang angle, stand start from a slippery pocket and a nasty edge which is basically one of the few holds that the entire wall has to offer. Bad feet, one of those it is also insanely sharp for your right shoe. Actually they are not bad smears, but every footholds point in the wrong direction. Nearly at the top, there are two opposite slopy features into a deep hole, and then a final illusionary jug before the rounded lip. To cut it short, one of those boulder with all the holds you need: one more would be too much, one less and it would be impossible. Again, another typical boulder that the number lovers are going to hate probably, since it’s only rated as V11.
While you climb it, every mistake can lead to further and bigger mistakes the higher you go, until the point where your position is simply too wrong to keep going and you are off the wall. To reach the beta, the learning process required me a lot of goes, energy and skin. Some mistakes started to be clear after a while, making some small and tiny adjustments for the later attempts.

 After a bit, I could get how similar this boulder is to “La Prou” in Cresciano. Probably harder, since you haven’t anything to pull on. I realized how much important was to put the first high foot to start in the precise spot. This could allow me to adjust the first hold well, so getting higher with my body, finding  the right position and trying the first move in a proper balance. If that foot wasn’t perfectly located, there weren’t any chances to grab the first sloper correctly and I was off. Since the first foot  was hard to place, it quickly became clear how important was the zone where I step on the pad before pulling. If I step good, I could put the foot as I wanted, hence having chances; if the foot wasn’t good, all the other pieces of the puzzle couldn’t match.

I am obviously a fan of these lines, but I need to admit it may get you frustrated. Talking with Stuart between the breaks, we analyzed the body positions, the moves and we also talked about the NZ style in general. We wondered why people don’t go to Castle Hill very often. Cold Fusion was actually a perfect sample to talk about the poor traffic of climbers. I think the area could be hard for someone who takes care about numbers, fashion or quick ticks.

More tries, more rest and more studying from the bottom. Other sessions and other improvements, but still the moves couldn’t come easy. I knew that to climb it, I needed to climb it well without doing any efforts. Other break, other studying.

Then I stepped perfectly on the pad and I pushed on the right foot. It was good, I already knew it was going to happen even if I was only at the beginning. This time no mistakes, every details could just build better adjustments for the next moves and while I was climbing I could think I was going to do it. The problem was somehow solved and I hit the jug.

Just to be sure than anything can’t come easier here, I still had troubles on the mantle, but after a couple of minutes, I could stand at the top of one of the freakiest problem I have ever completed! 

Cold Fusion in Quantum Field (NZ). Photo Giulia Paoletti

domenica 8 maggio 2016

Springtime - Home projects

"Fake class" V12, Valle d'Aosta. Photo Andrea Zanone

It’s sometime good to stop for a while, reflecting and realizing how lucky my hometown position is for bouldering. It's something that I usually underestimate, but in some moments I have the brilliant feeling to note how many good things I can do in a couple of hours driving. Beyond the ultra classic and nowadays very well known areas of Ticino, Valais and Varazze, there are also other little sectors where to go: Isolated locations, where the crowds fortunately don’t like to go and where a climbing day can often turns into a very pleasant day with only  the wild around you. Last year I spent a full and very busy period in April in Aosta  valley, on the back side of my home town, where these little sectors showed me hidden gems, scattered zones, good rock and possibilities to clean new good lines.

During the past year I only had 3 weeks to enjoy these beautiful balance, in addition of  a couple of  cold and good weeks in December. Last April, I was coming from 2 Months in Font and I was heading to the Grampians in May, right 20 days after the trip in the Forest. I had short time, my shape and motivations was extremely high, so I didn’t think about training or other stuff and I spent loads of time in climbing and exploring almost every day. 
This season things rolled differently; I had two months between my usual winter trip and the chasing winter of our summer, my shape wasn’t as good as 12 months ago and I hence needed to balance a bit of training with cleaning first and climbing then. That has been for sure a good time, even if sometimes was hard to manage both things giving 100% on both parts. Besides, I have been also focused on other aspects like a partnership with a new sponsor, editing new clips at home, shaping some climbing holds and make a plan for the upcoming trip to New Zealand and Australia.

Today is the last day at home and I obviously think about the experiences I had on these new boulders. I don’t want to dwell too much with words, since I have uploaded several photos on my Instagram page when something emotional came out.  I wanted to share a little gallery here below, especially for what concerns a very funny, and muddy, cave I have been cleaning in the last couple of weeks. 
It is now time to think about the next trip to Castle Hill and say hello to these places until the next fall.

The new ones from this springtime:
Doppia Fama V12 FA  **
Boiler Arete V10 FA ****
78 % V11 FA ***
Ghia V12 FA *****
Riot in Hell V10 FA (Tinello) ****
Acqua di Gio V9 FA **
Fake Class V12 FA ****
Kinshasa V13 FA ***
Undercut V13 FA ***

Cave project, Valle d'Aosta
Andrea Zanone trying "Raton Matado", Valle d'Aosta
"Kinshasa" V13, Valle d'Aosta