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

2 commenti:

  1. I read your blog on daily basis. This is really great and informative post. Thanks for sharing.
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