giovedì 3 dicembre 2015

The South-Est. My second US trip.

Photo Paul Robinson

Another trip has gone by and another climbing area praises a tick on the list. The South-East of the United States was one of the few outstanding classic zone where I still desired to go. I have been waiting a lot for a good occasion to go to Tennesee, but the chance took a while to come. 

Last October, Paul told me he was going there for the full month of November; The spread out area seemed to be amazing for shooting a section of the new film that Alex and him are producing, “Uncharted Lines”.  I knew It would have been one of those rare occasion to go, because,  for a reason or another, this place seems to be out of the radar for most of the European climbers. Moreover, I would have spent a trip with Paul and Jimmy discovering new lines, developing, cleaning and establishing. I was sure we were going to have a great time. The idea excited me and I got the first cheap flight to head to Chattanooga right after my weekly trip to Sheffield.

The trip basically ran over three different weeks.

Our first week was terrible. Delta Airlines lost my baggage and I hadn’t my goods for some days. The Temperatures were insanely warm, the humidity  was high most of the time and the woods were still thick and green. The summer was giving its last signs.  Climbing was almost impossible, excepted for a couple of days where we attempted to go out, but the rocks were very wet because of the condensation and the high moisture.  The positive side of the deal was that I had time to recover my jet-leg  and to go shopping to get what Delta didn’t give me back. I got some amazing underwear, socks, pants and all the basic stuff I needed.  We also checked a couple of wet rocks in Cumberland area, Little Rock City, Rocktown and some other hidden gems in Chattanooga. The rock seemed amazing  even when it was wet and I couldn’t image how good it would have been once the sky would have cleared up. I was anyway excited.

The second week the weather improved a lot. Sky started to clear up, some decent days came and we saw the first dry rock. Unfortunately to me, skin and shape didn’t seem positive as I wanted. The first never stopped sweating, while my body felt somehow faint.

Before the third week started, I took a couple of days off. The rest worked well and I got some good skin while the first touch of winter was coming.  Perfect timing. The last seven days have been amazing: a lot of climbing, first ascents, cleaning, but also classics, moderates and really amazing sandstone climbing. I have been checking many areas from the southern to the northern Tennessee, with the addition of the classic zone of Rocktown, in Georgia. The South-East  can be considered like “the Font of America”, like some climbers like to name it. The definition is generally appropriated, but I feel  to note some other good points.

What has been special to me is obviously the rock quality and, way more, some of the hold shapes. Most of the times the climbing depends on the quality of these two features. So, if they are cool, the climbing is probably  gorgeous too. It is incredible how the climbing and the sandstone change from sector to sector and how many nice styles of bouldering is possible to have. The texture many times is similar to Font, while in other parts is more comparable to Albarracin, or to Peak District or to Ticino’s granite. Secondly, according to the rock, even the holds package is really various. The boulders are hence really different, but the variety keeps most of the times an awesome quality. And, last thing, the potential is big too.

During the trip I stood several times in front of new blocs; some of them  were still to clean, waiting for some chalk; While other ones were ready to set a first ascent. I obviously love the process of the developing,  since it is probably one of the activities that makes me more excited about climbing. It is something more special and different than the simple execution of a boulder; It is creative, it includes art, vision, inspiration, doubts, vain attempts, efforts, work and so on. It is something that when you complete it, lets an indelible sign inside. I hardly forget good FA experiences. I anyway dislike to go out and climb something just to claim the first ascent or to add a new one randomly. When I look for a new line to clean, it has to stimulate my senses and to be like a white sheet where I can draw my vision, following the “rules” of the rock. It has to be a special bloc to me, otherwise I let it there. Once I see something I know is going to be magical, everything turns on and I usually don’t care about  how many hours of effort I should invest in “work”. Everything is just exciting and motivating. Once the fresh chalk shines for the first time, I just feel alive and satisfied. That’s maybe one of my favorite feeling in bouldering and reaching this emotions in the South East has been sweet.

In two boulders I had been able to transfer my vision and my abstract imagination on the real rock. It first happened for “Ebano” and then, right after, for “Hell was made in Heaven”. By the way, the second one is just next to other two amazing lines freed by Paul and Jimmy.

Beside the first ascents I have made, I tried also some classics. I especially climbed on some good old problems of Jimmy Webb, which were still unrepeated at the date. Before showing some shots of the trip, I would like to put clear that many blocs are in secret areas or on private lands and I take occasion to remind to everyone to put at first the respect of the environment and of the rock, everywhere we go. Enjoy.

Jimmy Webb on "Point of View" V11 (FA). Photo Paul Robinson

Jimmy Webb on "Southern Drawl" V14 (FA). Photo Paul Robinson
"Ebano" V11 (FA). Photo Beau Kahler
"Hell was made in heaven" V10 (FA). Photo Beau Kahler
"Little Foot" V13 (SA). Photo Alex Kahn
Paul Robinson on "King of contortion" V14 (SA). Photo Beau Kahler
Paul Robinson on "Knocking on Heavens door" V8 (FA). Photo Uncharted Lines
Photo Paul Robinson
Photo Paul Robinson

sabato 7 novembre 2015

Voyager, Peak District (UK)

More than 5 years have passed since my first visit to UK. That time, together with Marco, Gabri and Miki we had the pleasure to take part at the CWIF, one of the biggest and best organized competition ever. We were nothing else but a bunch of students, like a drunk of a typical pub had enjoyed to name us. After that good competition at the works, the major climbing center of Sheffield, we spent  a lovely week  on the Peak District’s hills, bouldering on the Gritstone. That was amazing; I will never forget that nice vacation which was actually my longest trip to the date.

Bouldering in the Peak was awesome for my tastes and I wished to come back as soon as possible. What I really enjoyed was  the Gritstone itself, which makes unique shapes and offers a special climbing like the one I usually look for. The gesture is in fact really balanced, you have to dose enough strength and use a good technical approach. I immediately got the deal that you cannot climb so much without using both of these skills. Slopy arêtes, slopy crimps, vertical climbing, pebbles, smears are the major things which features the movements.  These blocs are located in a stunning scenario too; Grey rocks, green meadows, scattered woodlands and beautiful hills. You might wonder if there are any other better place than this; Unfortunately the dark side of the area is the bizarre weather, which is really unpredictable and it changes in a blink of an eye. So you could have a decent week or  remain stuck in the gyms for many days in a row.

Time passed by since that great holiday and I tried every season to plan a weekly trip, but nothing happened. In 2010 and 2011 I got back for a couple of summer days, both occasions were due to a world cup competition.  Actually I didn't look forward  to move to the rocks so much, but however I couldn’t for the terrible heat. England seemed to be set aside of the list, until the last summer when, discussing with Giulia, we were both keen to spend a good time there. For her it would have been the first time, for me the glory moment  to attempt Voyager again.  

Voyager is one of the best problem in all the UK, established by the English legend Ben Moon in 2005. One year later his achievement, he also established the sit, which is currently the hardest thing in the Peak. At least this is what I have heard. The intensive and lasting desire to come back to Voyager was due to a specific reason. In 2010 I missed this problem at the very top, and I had to leave it without the closing send. Back in the days, it would have been a great triumph for my climbing, but not always you managed to roll the things as you would like to. Obviously, Voyager was at the top of my list this time and after a full month of training we only had to fly and keep our finger crossed for the uncertain weather. I have always thought that if you feel good, ready and in a good shape before a performance, you have already made half way to reach your goal. Before sitting in front of the problem, I knew that a lot of work had been done the month before and the hardest part was to execute the problem. It hence was much more a mental effort  than a physical one.

The first day of the trip was damp, wet and foggy, so we waited for one more day. I felt impatient, but on the other side the Sheffield’s atmosphere was really pleasant. The day came, it was cold dry and perfect. I saw Voyager again after many long days of waiting and my eyes started to brighten. I tried to keep my enthusiasm really low. I need to be focused, I felt I didn’t have many good shots to use my good shape. On the first go I fall very high, like in the past. Few minutes later I stood at the top. Obviously, I wanted to try the sit too. I felt happy half and half. Voyager sit, rated fb 8B+, was still waiting for its first repetitions after almost  9 years. This was obviously my goal which I have always kept a bit hidden until the ascent of the stand. I rested and I took a while to realize how many days I waited for. After a bit of relax, I began to work the first part, that counts 5 moves more using the beta I figured out. Beta was clear, so I opted to rest for a second time, trying to make a first go from the bottom. The sun came out, it was warmer but still nice  to attempt. I sat on the pads and I started to climb searching for the flow. I moved to the stand part really well, then I lost a bit this flow in the central section. I reached the crux, where my mind ordered to come back into the good focus. I did it and I kept my body on. I knew only three moves were missing, two of them pretty okay. I fast got to the last, where I missed the stand version in 2010. In less than a second I managed to realize I was on the last move, on my first and probably last go (since it is really sharp) and I was in the same situation of 5 years ago. I was tired and just my mind could have made a difference. It luckily drove my hand to the last decent hold, I brought my feet back on the wall and I only had to move to the jugs. I reached the top, I felt amazing. I looked at my tips, one of them was bleeding. It was really the first and the only possible shot. The loop came to an end and my story with Voyager too.

The day later the temperatures increased a little bit and it was actually the last sunny day of the trip. It rained until the last morning, when  it dried up and I could sent “The Storm” 7B+, one of the best essential problem ever. Another piece of the bouldering history. Time flew like usual and it was time to leave.  I really  want to say a big thanks to Giulia; without her this trip and,  voyager in particular,  would have not been possible on  my own. Hope to come back soon in this country and enjoy the many things we couldn’t visit because of the weather.

Here you can find some pictures of me and Giulia climbing on the Gritstone and at the legendary School Room. 

Voyager sit, Paek District (UK). Photo Giulia Paoletti
Giuly on Cloe's arete, Peak District (UK).

Giuly on Slopy Pokey, Pick District (UK).

The Storm, Peak District (UK). Photo Giulia Paoletti

Feel the Pinch, School Room (Sheffiled). Photo Giulia Paoletti

Feel The Pinch, School Room (Sheffiled). Photo Giulia Paoletti

giovedì 3 settembre 2015

Rocklands 2015

Riverside, Rocklands (SA).

Two  seasons have elapsed since the last time I was in Rocklands, the renowned area in the Western Cape region of South Africa. That trip was actually my first time out of Europe and was also a good reaching  point  for my first year as a full-time climber. I was excited the day I left and the trip was brilliant for different aspects. Despite I didn’t like some sides of the area, like the low quality below the V9 frontier, I remember a lot of positive things: some good boulders in the highest difficulty range, the climate which was often perfect, the breathtaking landscapes and the cost of life which was cheap for us. These things made me keen to come back as soon as possible, even because the potential for new stuff is probably bigger than anywhere else.

The climbing style in Rocklands is anyway really simple. It is way simpler than in every other place I have ever climbed. Nothing is difficult. The only thing you do is to grab a hold, which most of the time is a good crimp, and pull it as strong as you can. Rarely you have to figure out something technical or the climbing seldom offers brilliant moves like spicy arêtes or sequences where minimal details are the key. Everything is basic and repeated over and over. This is something I like and I don’t at the sometime. I guess in some cases is really fun and nice. Even the hardest problems are of course difficult for the strength, but super simple for the reading and for their interpretation. After a while, I miss the true bouldering and the gym style of the area start to get me bored; this is the negative side.

Campground, Rocklands (SA).

Max trying "Pinotage", Rocklands (SA).

"Purple Nipple Clan" 8A, Rocklands (SA). Photo Max Buvoli

This year I booked my flight really late, like one month before or maybe even less. Me and Max, a friend of mine, opted to come down in July and just after booking I immediately planned a program which worked well. I went to Silvretta for a bunch of days before my trip and I could text myself after those 2 weeks training. I felt positive, light and in a good shape. Skin was perfect and this meant a lot to me. I just had troubles on the endurance and some specific moves made my shoulders feel weak; The time between Silvretta and Rocklands was anyway enough to recover this lack.  We landed on the 11st of August and we only have 20 days of climbing ahead. It was short, but it was definitely better than spend another full month in the terrible Italian summer. 

Everything started well  like I desired: I felt light, I got tough skin and I kept going into a positive flow. The first 4 days were brilliant. We first went to 8 days rain sector where I finished the classic “Golden Virginia” 8A and flashed “Monkey Buisiness” 8A+/B.  Everything seemed to promise for a joyful trip. The days after I jumped on some classics I left in 2013 and I briefly tried one of my favorite problem ever i.e. “Black Eagle”. I wanted to check it out to see if coming back later or not. Unfortunately this never happened. After the first 4 days on, I took a day off; I wanted to start working on something harder and to look for some new projects. I had many things I wanted to do and I knew the time was pretty short.

Since the first day of rest, everything started to go wrong; or better I couldn’t fix my problems properly. I started to be sick for five days and  I felt weak in some moments; In the same period I seriously split my medium tip, for an Anthyidral bad use. I started to be stressed at that stage, probably because I knew I was wasting some of the few days I had. I should have simply looked after myself in the coldest nights and use the Antihydral better. Good things for the future!

 I anyway started working on “Speed of Sound”, a problem rated 8B+ and freed by Jimmy Webb. This problem sadly took me all the trip long.

At the first session I still had two weeks ahead; all of them have been spent working on “Speed of sound”.  It took me 4 full days of effort in which I exclusively  tried that line for 6 or 7 hours per day. The first session I had tape on, while during the second day I also split my index. I kept working with double tape, but I knew I had to stop and recover my fingers properly if I wanted to climb it. I had already spent two precious days, so I wanted to finish it before the end of the trip. The routine was like: intensive session on “Speed of Sound”, climbing on easier lines with tape the day after, resting 3 days and then repeat this loop again. Everything was mentally frustrating for me. I knew that after the resting time I could have 5 or 6 goes on the boulder, and then I had to work the sequences with tape on. The third session went good, falling at the very end before starting bleeding. I put tape on my tips again and I could try the end for a while. I figured out a smarter way to climb the upper moves and I knew that if I could have reached that point again, I wouldn’t have fallen anymore. I removed the tape off, I looked at my fingers, I looked at the boulder and I set my mind off until the next session, trying to keep the positivity. I started another resting loop; it was really long to sit on the pads all day, waiting for a bit of skin. The game started to stress my mind more than what I expected: I was in Rocklands and I had spent lot of time on a single problem. I still had time ahead to  check some other stuff; but at the same time I would have not recovered enough to work properly “Speed of Sound”, so I would have thrown away one week of hard effort. I opted to choose the hardest way for myself: keeping on resting and keeping on believing in that ascent. I had no chance: I would have climbed it or I would have basically wasted the whole trip. I got a risk put 1700 €, three weeks trip, 20.000 km on a single boulder problem. A boulder problem that at the end I didn’t like so much, but at the point it was more like a personal game between me and my mind.
"Speed of Sound" 8B+, Rocklands (SA). Photo Giulia Agatea
The third session was on Monday the 24th. Then the day after we went to Campground where I climbed on easier stuff before another resting period. The plan was simple: resting Wednesday and Thursday, try hard on Friday, then resting on Saturday to have the last possible chance on Sunday, before leaving. Doing this I would have had 5 total sessions for Speed of sound, 2 of them still ahead. I honestly thought that one would have been enough, but knowing about another possibility made me more relaxed and positive. Unfortunately the forecast damaged my plans. On Thursday the weather forecasted rain for Friday and Sunday, while Saturday was supposed to be a sunny day with temps between 14 and 24. I knew I only had a couple of shots before starting bleeding and then with tape the sending would have been much harder for me. I hence rested on Friday as well and the pressure started to make me bad. Saturday was the day. I woke up and I immediately went at the window to see if the rain of the previous night passed by. I wasn’t worried, I trusted in the forecast. I wouldn’t have . It was desperately foggy and quite wet outside. I felt nervous.

We had our usual breakfast and we drove to the pass. Going to the Saddle, the sector where speed of sound is, the path takes like an hour. The fog was thick. The rhino was visible at 5 meters only. I have never seen Rocklands in that scenario. I opted to postpone my warm up, praying to see blue sky soon. After a couple of hours I was warming and the fog started to fade off. We went to Roadside to finish my warm up on “Sunset Arete”. Max climbed “Pinch of herb” 7C+, while the sky was fully azure; his send and the clear air made me much more positive than the early morning. We hiked to the saddle in our silence. Beyond how the result would have been, that was my last time on the way. I got under the boulder and I cooled down my temperatures; I sheltered in the shade of the overhang and my skin started to be colder. I made a quick warm up for the exit, re-climbing the new way I checked the session before. I didn’t want to check the other moves to save skin; but I would have liked. Everything seemed anyway good, just the skin was more moist than the last time. I wondered why, but an answer would have not made any difference. Pressure was high and I decided to break it with the first go. I climbed so bad and roughly, missing the middle crux. I rested and I started again. I felt too nervous and my feet slightly shake in the sequence. I grabbed the heinous crack and I got into the hardest move but I quickly hit the pad. My mind was not following my body. I had to stop and set it off. After 45 minutes I sat again under the boulder and the anxiety passed by. I felt my mind was searching for the positive stream and it miraculously found it. I was on, I felt a turning point and I began once more. I had a really bad go, with a quick finger snap in the easy section. I fall down, but I was much happier than ever, because I reached a good flow with my head. I rested few minutes and I started with a even better focus. I reached the crux, I went over and I got in the changing feet. I felt stronger; I was climbing into the flow and the flow lead me to the lip. I did the mantle at half past 4 PM, with only a bunch of hours before leaving. I was happy about all the process. All the resting days have been paid off with a single shot and an intense moment.  At the beginning of the trip I had totally other expectations, definitively much more positive. But the things roll differently many times and I had to change my plans. This experience will make me stronger on the red point mode; and since it is one of my weakest point, it is what I actually needed.

Trip is over now and it has been good to live this “bad” events and to overcome some mental problems. It has been curios to me to see how some aspects has changed between 2013 until and now. I would have never been able to work so intensively on a single problem in the previous seasons and this is definitively a good point. I am pretty excited for the fall in Europe now. I have many projects to do, things to develop and testpieces to repeat. Hopefully the temperatures will drop in the next weeks!

Max trying "Cedar Spine", Rocklands (SA)

Leopard prints in Kleinfontein, Rocklands(SA).

Roadside, Rocklands (SA).

"Time Out" 8A+, Rocklands (SA). Photo Giulia Agatea

"Ulan Bator" 7B, Rocklands (SA). Photo Giulia Agatea

Giulia trying "Demi Lune", Rocklands (SA). Photo Max Buvoli

mercoledì 17 giugno 2015

Grampians. Second part.

Buandik, Southern Grampians (AUS).

I am introducing what it is the second update about my  visit at the Grampians National Park, VIC, Australia. Another trip is gone by and it is time to reflect about the last period and the first part of the year, in meanwhile I am  getting use to the middle summer temperatures; Something that I really don’t like to do after a cool autumn.

Six weeks in a place are quite a lot; you should have time to visit most of the areas, make an idea about the potential to discover, enjoy the climb, get stressed by hard ascents and get bored by the rain; at least this was in the Grampians, since the rain was absolutely a constant in many days.

This trip has been basically focused on repeating boulders for me, I hence looked at  the classics and climbed them by knowing the ways used by  the previous climbers. Having the web handy, you can easily get all the information about how to reach the area, how the possible betas might be and there is nothing really interesting or exciting to tell. I have to admit that this way is getting me bored and bored after a while and I feel better going out and think more about projects to figure out or catching for a new king 5 star line. This is why in the future I would like to make more trips to unknown areas, to climb on problems with few ascents or to discover new hidden lines.  The reasons which lead me to Grampians to repeat only  where basically two. On one side I wanted to go there with the idea to make a first check at the place. I would have like to see what has been developed so far, to repeat the classics and to check the new age lines of Nalle and Dave. Secondly, since it was my first time, I hadn’t no idea about how the sectors would have been, where the boulders where located, the approaching ways , the locations, the distances and so on. I knew how it was on the paper, but not in the reality.  Moreover, staying in Stawell, It took 1 hour driving to get to the best areas and these facts pushed me to chose the comfortable way to go out and repeating only, more than prepare some new pieces of rock which require more time and energies.  Analyzing what has been done and having now a better localization about the rocks, I have a good reason to come back and getting into the discovering mode. At least this is my goal for the next time.

During  the second part of the trip I had a better view about all these established problems. I wrote down a little list to organize what I wanted to work and to check, letting aside the crap lines and the things that weren’t worth. Obviously.

The Northern areas are sadly reduced in two little sectors, since a fire made the climb forbidden in many off-limits zones. I think I had noted this in the previous blog-spot. So, in the North there is Campground boulders, a pretty bad place where to go bouldering and the area of Trackside-Citadel-Upper caves. The first has been removed at once,  the boulders are definitively not inviting. The second counts many mediocre boulders and few good stuff where to climb. Unfortunately, it is not so wide and the fire presented  the Northern part much smaller than what truly would be. Despite this, even in the second period, we passed some days in these locations,  finishing the few good problems able to tickle my curiosity. I had one single day ascent for “Pigeon Superstition” V13 and subsequently for Alex Megos’ “Sultan of Swing” V13, located in a wonderful scenario at the top of the Taipan wall. Up there, you can have an amazing view and a good taste of Australia. The “Wave rock” V12, the best looking problems of Trackside, still eluded me hardly and I could not make it. Its sequence seemed to be too weird for my wrist, since the crux evolves into a super contorted two-fingers undercling which was impossible to feel.

On the other side of the Park, the Southern region  offered us something more than the Northern. Although the quality is good down here, it is nothing very special and out of the lines. I found it quite overrated honestly; I mean, it is definitively  out of the world best for my personal opinion. Unfortunately, our stay was 115 km from Mt. Fox and Buandik as I told and we usually got there for more days in a row. This obviously depended a lot on the weather: good for more days meant South; uncertain meant single days at the North and bad forecast meant more resting days at Stawell. This was how the weekly routine worked. 

The days in the South were always very pleasant though. They were always characterized by hikes, engulfed  spots into the wild, sunsets up on breathtaking sceneries, camping life, nights around the fire and shining stars during the nights. These were definitively the moments which made the proper Australian atmosphere and which really made me feel alive in this country. The boulders in this area are better than in the North in my opinion and some lines had been set under the “to-do” voice of my list. First of all, “Owning the weather” in Mt Fox, the line I put more energies and passion into. The battle to send it consisted in a hard understanding of my skin statements, in choosing the right part of the day when to work it and having a lot of patience between an attempt and the other. For three sessions I missed these elements and the ascent was hard to execute. Finally on the 4th session I put the single aspects together, making a good weapon to win it: good skin, cold temperature, right moments, physical progresses and relaxed mind. The ascent  almost came spontaneously, with a surprise taste at the top. What I am asking is:  is the surprise more linked to the ascent itself or maybe more to the fact I was able to collect all these little things together? I still don’t know, but the victory on this line made me light and happy at the same time.

In Buandik, after making some good classics like “Simplicity” V11 and “Rootarted” V12, I got interested in a piece of white/grey/pink immaculate sandstone, which had been attempted by Ian Dory, Dave Graham and Nalle Hukkataival few seasons ago. Ricky gave me a huge help to clean the upper part from the moss, and he gave me lot of push-ups to identify the proper way. After the first day, the resume was anyway deluding: 2h hours of working. 8 moves done ( 6 of them really easy). 2 moves with no idea about the solution. On the second day, I somehow had clearer ideas and I quickly got my beta for the top part, exactly where the difficulty is concentrated. Those slopy features  require good skin, good temps and no sun. I had to stay quiet and to relax my mind as much as I could; I knew it was possible within the day, but I had to manage the energies and the skin like a super precision chemist manage the right doses. The long rest was preparing the atmosphere for a powerful go; Ricky and I both knew about the high possibilities. I turned my mind off and I climbed into the flow. I reached the slopers perfectly, I stuck the crimp and I felt I was really solid, both physically and mentally. I set my body for the last move which consist in grabbing the last elusive jug and my heel popped out. I felt smashed on the mats with nothing in my hands. From that stage, I dropped into a no-success mental zone, where I couldn’t feel the slopers anymore. Two hours later, the dark came and an inner voice said it was time to postpone.

Third session on. It was time to send and the fact made me a bit stressful. Temperatures were perfect, my skin not fantastic but even not bad.  The first go was a bummer and I felt out of the proper focus again. I felt really worse than the previous session. After a while, I started feel my muscles lighter and relaxed; I probably got aware about the difficult that the boulder was requiring me. This fact made me more quiet. I started the easy climbing with another mood and I got into the section again. I stuck the crimp, a thing I didn’t think I could on that go; I barely did, but I grabbed. The last move is still heinous, but I found myself with the good hold and I quickly went into the upper easy slab, which leads  to the summit. I had climbed a new one and I could decide for a new name! I couldn’t wait. I called it “Il Mancino di Bristol”.

Between an ascent and another the time ran quickly to the end of the trip. In a blink of an eye, I found myself sitting on a chair again, waiting for a flight, writing some words about the time in the Down under. I flew back home and I posted what I wrote in the journey. Despite Grampians deluded my expectation (maybe too high expectations), I felt happy about how this first part of the year has gone. I see many reasons for which I should come back here. The first one is definitively because I would like to open my vision more, searching for what there is beyond the already climbed lines, going beyond the known and the simple, into the new and the exciting. And, I am pretty sure, Australia may be a good place to do this.

Here the ascents’ list of the second part and a bunch of pictures

Il Mancino di Bristol V14 (FA) **
Owning the Weather V14 2nd asc. ****
Pigeon Superstition V13 **
Sultan of Swing V13 2nd asc. ***
Rule Number 1 V13 ***
Rootarted V12/13 3rd asc. ****
Point break V12 3rd asc. **
Diagonal Highway V11/12 ***
The Roobiks’ Cube V11 *
Simplicity V11 ***
Dead Heat V11 (flash) ****

Ricky on "Great Expectation" V9, Grampians (AUS).

Ricky on "The Outsider" V11, Grampians (AUS).

"Diagonal Highway" V11/12, Grampians (AUS). Photo Ross Taylor (Vertical Life Mag)

"Diagonal Highway" V11/12, Grampians (AUS). Photo Ross Taylor (Vertical Life Mag)

"Il Mancino di Bristol" FA, Grampians (AUS). Photo Ross Taylor (Vertical Life Mag)

"Il Mancino di Bristol" FA, Grampians (AUS). Photo Ross Taylor (Vertical Life Mag)

"Rootarted" V12, Grampians (AUS). Photo Ross Taylor (Vertical Life Mag)

"Rule Number 1" V13, Grampians (AUS). Photo Ross Taylor (Vertical Life Mag)

lunedì 25 maggio 2015

Grampians. First part.

Many thoughts spontaneously appear in mind when you hear rumors about Australia. For European people it is certainly one of the further destination where to go and one of the most iconic country we usually desire to put foot on. Kangaroos, Outback, deserts, coast life, Ayers Rock, koalas are just few of the images which spring in our  mind once you think about this land. The charm of the coast is also great to think; Life and green nature on the border, wilderness and desert inside the huge continent.  For a totally focused boulder person like me, Australia also means Grampians, which has been one of the longer “must” places at the top of my list.  I have been waiting many seasons to see this well-known type of rock and after few years of postponements, 2015 seemed to be a proper year to make my first check.  

After a quite long but comfortable flight, I reached Melbourne last 4th May in the evening, where Ricky, a friend of mine who is staying here since October 2014, picked me up and lead me to Stawell.  This little village, located East just outside the Grampians National Park, has been our home since 3 weeks and  it will lodge us for the rest of our trip.

Since I planned this travel in March, I immediately promise that this trip would have been just a first check down here; I wanted to give a first look at this early world class spot, in order to get another trip in the future, knowing a bit better the logistic. I knew many good sectors would have been close after the fires and I knew that I could not visit more than a half of the Northern “old” area. It is definitively a bummer to be here and know that it is not possible to check some locations like Hollow Mountain Cave, Project Wall, kindergarten or Andersen. But nature has to make its own loop to recreate what has been lost and this priority is actually much more important than seeing some stones. Besides this little negative fact, even the weather has been pretty ugly during the first weeks: many rainy days or days where we saw all the 4 seasons in 12 hours. The weather is of course bizarre; the sun shines and you go out, you place the pads, you put some chalk on your hands and then the rain usually comes. After 5 minutes the wind blows, the rock dries up quickly, you put the pad, you start climbing and a new shower comes again. We saw these routines many times in a row in many day; but as we all know, there is nothing to do to remedy  the bummer of the rain; just a good dose of patience and hope can calm the disappointment. Some days the wind anyway let us some windows of opportunities where we managed to climb some problems.

Trackside, the biggest northern area where the climbing is allowed, is the place where we mostly have been to. The rock is nothing special, just normal quality sandstone. Some boulders stand out from the mediocrity, but sure there is only a little range of nice things among the drop-offs or the many gym-lines under the roofs.  One really good problem that surprised my senses is “On the beach” V13. It reminded my thoughts to a well known problems of Font, “Noir Desire”. Looking at it, it seems that someone has shot against the wall some cannonballs, making some perfect holes which contain perfect sculpted edges, pinches and slopers. This brilliant problem starts with a tricky toe hooks section which leads into the crux part with an intensive lock off to the last positive hold. After that, you only have to climb safely into the no-fall terrain. It sits on a ledge, and it is basically forbidden any mistakes once the hardest is done. Another really good problem in the North is Killian Fishubber’s  “Wave Rock” V12; A super pure line with only the necessary  poor holds located in the middle of the shaped wave. Unfortunately, I am still fighting to catch the proper beta and some moves are still missing. “Ammagamma” V12, the super world class famous problem, aka the icon of Grampians bouldering, is quite good although the first part is pathetic and heinous for the tall climbers, since your ass is really close to the ground. This is pretty bad. My expectations for this problems weren’t so high, but at least the rock and the holds are pretty nice to climb.

We also spent some days in the Southern part, during the only periods of good weather. This part of the Grampians is basically split into two big sectors, Mont Fox and Buandik.
Mount Fox is the place where everyone would probably like to go. There, you can find the famous cobwebs sandstones, which at first look are pretty amazing. The boulders are impressive to watch cause all of these features and textures. Unfortunately, most of them don’t climb as good as they look in my opinion. The features are everywhere, especially in relief, and this fact makes a lot of holds and structures which make the lines less pure. Despite this, some problems are anyway worthy. I have spent two sessions  trying “Owning the weather”, which might be my favorite one in the area. For its beauty, I am locating it at the top of my goal projects, even if it seems to be too tough for my skin. The first day on it, I was able to do all the single moves, while during the second session my soft skin split on the medium finger tip and the game quickly came to end.  I would definitively like to work a bit more on this one. The right side of this prow is simply incredible and it would be the best thing to bring at home once the travel will be over. I hope to recover my split and grow up a tougher skin for this one.

During the last weekend we spent 2 days in Buandik as well.  The hiking is pretty long but definitely worthy once you reach the top of the hill: great orange/grey sandstone balls and breathtaking landscapes behind your back. It might be my favorite area here in the Park; The rock has not  a great look as in Mont Fox, but it climbs better and I appreciate more the holds it makes and the grain it has. “Cherry picking” is one of the world’s best for sure and only this problem would be enough to make the hiking worth. If you reckon that beyond this, there are other good hard lines to attempt, the things become even more exciting to go up. We only checked half of the area and during the next days in the south, we might go to check the other problems that have been put up.

Beside climbing, the life we are making here is nothing too exciting. We bought low-cost food, we eat it, we saw amazing sunsets and we always try to avoid kangaroos which cut off our way. They are as cute as crazy.

Here the list of the lines I climbed in the first part of the trip

Occam’s Razors V13/14 ***
Cherry picking V13 *****
On the Beach V13 ****
Ammagamma V12/13 ***
Last resort V12/13 ***
Zeus V12/13
Kate Upton V12 (flash) ***
Red Mist V12 **
Lost for life V11/12 *
The Outsider V11 ****
A puzzle about belief V11 ****
Love boulder V11 ****
Butcher Choice V10 (flash) *
Mad Max V10 (flash) 

A puzzle about belief V11, Grampians (AUS). Screenshot from the video

Ammagamma V12/13, Grampians (AUS).  Screenshot from the video

Cherry Picking V13, Grampians (AUS).  Screenshot from the video

The Outsider V11, Grampians (AUS).  Screenshot from the video

On the Beach V13, Grampians (AUS).  Screenshot from the video

Occam's razor V13/14, Grampians (AUS).  Screenshot from the video

venerdì 1 maggio 2015

Home Projects - April

The month of April has run away in a blink of an eye. There have been three weeks when I only wished to "produce" new stuff, cleaning, completing old projects and searching for virgin pieces of rock.

During the last weeks in the Forest, I was starting to be weary to hang out only repeating problems that everyone can try or climb and I was losing the principal meaning of the inspiration. I wanted to do something original, something that could have born from my vision. I started to think about home; there were many stuff which I cared and which I desired to climb, much more than going out and trying something in the wood of Font. This is why the last part of the trip have been pretty boring in some aspects. The last days I was quite worn, both physically and mentally, and it was definitely time to rest and to recover the skin for my home's projects. Motivation was extremely high. After few days on easy stuff I left Font and immediately the day after the journey I stood under my main goal of the spring, i.e. the often wet line in Valle Cervo ( a valley upon to the village where I live). This giant bloc has always been seen with timorous eyes until the last April when I cleaned it seriously and I saw it was doable. In autumn, after few sessions to figure out the beta, I missed the easy upper part dropping out of the pads and I injured the heel. Winter passed by and the psychological trauma started to fade. The first day this year I was really focus and regenerated from the little "accident". An eventual ascent would have meant oodles of positive feelings. First of all, it would have been one of my best FA so far. Secondly I would have won the trauma completely and, third point, I would have done the main project in the first day. Excitation was really high; too much high. I had to calm down the enthusiasm to avoid another bad fall. Rush always ruins things. The slightly rain which came in the noon got me edgy, but at least the excessive enthusiasm was appeased. The sun appeared again while a dry and cool wind started to blow. The rain gave me the good mood; at 5PM everything was ready; dry holds, fresh air, 7 pads and one spotter. My mind felt free and light. After few attempts in search of the right body positions, I got the proper way again. I rested for a while, trying to increase the good sensations further; I felt it possible and I was feeling great. I started climbing the first section and for the first time in that day I got into the middle sequence. I was breathing as much as I could, letting the positive flow come inside me, replacing the negative memories of the past autumn. I got the slab with the chalk bag this time and I was more prepared for doing it. I pushed my soft shoes upon every crystal of the smears, I tried to climb into the flow and I reached the sum. I linked the reckless project of home. I felt alive.

Nichilismo, FA. Valle Cervo
First project ticked. Many other ones were waiting. The best lines I wanted to do were situated in Bavona and Donnas (Valle d'Aosta), but both areas were too warm for an eventual climbing day. I bitterly had to abandon and erase them from the plan. I anyway had other nice problems to clean and try. I hence had two days of cleaning, brushing a true king line on a orange diamond and another cool cave of pinches and flat holds. I unfortunately hadn't the time and the occasion to attempt them; there is still a bit of work to prepare them and their sizes require tons of pads and few spotters. They will be postponed. Beyond this, I also climbed on some lines I found during the past seasons, getting some progresses on the hardest lines of the valley.

After putting up a new line called "Little (s)wing" in honor of Hendrix's classic, located in Champorcher, I had a short and intensive peak in my shape. Skin was getting good, probably thanks to an antihydral use; my body conditions were perfect and the motivation got the highest point since I have been climbing. I was surprised. I climbed on the hardest projects of the zone. Both of them are hard for my sizes and skills, and, before 10 days ago, I couldn't do all the moves on both. Their styles are quite dissimilar. The first one is an overhang with slopy crimps, insane gaston actions and though footworks. It is relatively short; it counts 8/9 moves for the hands, while other 10 for the feet. It is steep and every single move is really challenging. The second one is up in the village of Gaby and at the first look it is quite impressive. It is a perfect 90 degrees cut roof, 6 meters long with an additional exit on a cool granite prow called "no way punk" for a total of 22 moves.

Until last week I missed one specific move on both as I said but after four days of work I completed all the single actions and I started to get some link. The wall in Champorcher still remains a long project; I felt I need a further step in my shape to complete it; While the big roof is definitively possible within the year. Last day I missed the ascent after the crux, where it is still hard but it is just a question of endurance. Working a little bit more can be a really nice new one and it is getting really high in the autumn list, when the temperature will be good again for that sector.

Now it is time to leave the home's project aside for a while. It is time for some Grampians actions down under the world; but only 5 months are missing to the beginning of the autumn and I can't wait to try these problems again.

Here some photos of the projects

Working the crux of Champorcher project. Video still.

Working on Champorcher project. Video still.

Working on the big roof, Gaby. Video still.

Working on the big roof, Gaby. Video still.

giovedì 16 aprile 2015

The Forest. Third part.

The Forest at Elephant, Fontainebleau. Photo Giulia Paoletti
After 40 days, the last part of my stay has been characterized by twisted emotions and contradictory feelings. On one hand, I reckoned how many days I had left, thinking about home, projects, resting and resetting my mind from the hard stuff. On the other side, the climate of the environment was continuing to make me feel good and I didn't want to leave the paradisiacal setting which surrounded me. I felt melancholic and bored at the same time.

I anyway had some goals I wanted to reach during the last period, despite my two main "projects" (The Realist and Illusion du Choix) were accomplished. Max came up for one-week visit in the forest and I was really glad to share some moments with him, climbing in some of the hidden areas. I climbed few days with Neil Hart as well. He filmed me in one of the best example of "Font in a nutshell" boulder, "Paddy" 7C+ and also in  "Magic circus" 8A, a double jump in the southern part of Bleau. Both these problems present a really heinous mantle, where you have to smear your body and try to rock over without thinking about the consequences of the fall. A true crap. On Magic circus, after the first fall on the mantle, I got the upper part with a positive feeling I found myself almost over the lip. I unfortunately got into the shocking situation where you are too high to come down, but also too low to be save. I was locked. My hands started to touch rock in every angles, with the results to get mossy and find no useful slopers. I couldn't jump down and I couldn't go up. I prayed Neil to give me a help with the hands, he was stood at the top while filming. He didn't understand at first; he went on filming. On the second call he gave me the saving hand and he pulled me out of the terrible situation. The little fear vanished into copious laughs from every of us. A bit smarter I brushed the rock around that zone and I found some slopers where I put some chalk on. The third go I said to Max to be focused on the spotting. I trusted him a lot. Neil stayed upon the stone, to film what we hoped to be the good go. I stuck the dyno for the third time and I fortunately rock over without Neil's hand. Great.

When Max Left I went for the first time to Opium boulders, where in two different days I was able to climb "Narcotic Direct" 8A+/B and "Jour de chasse" 8B/+. After this, only 5 days were left. I opted to leave all the projects away. It didn't matter to climb them at this point. I just wanted to climb as much as I could, go out and climb with relaxed mind in some areas where I had never been to. I climbed easy stuff from 5+ till 8A, and they were probably some of the best days of my trip. I was enjoying a lot. I also asked to myself why I would have not done more days like these and I took note for the next trip. The last day was also ending. At half past six I drove to Boissy Aux Calais ( I am a fun of this area) and I went alone to climb "Les Nobrilistes" 7A+, one of the most aesthetic Font's slab. It required me some goes until the sunset, when I reached the edge and I said goodbye to Font.

Here is the list of the line I climbed in the last part (beauty order)

Hotline 7C
Le chainon manquant 7C
Magic circus 8A
L'aplat du Gain 8A
Paddy 7C+
Rencontre du troisieme type assis 7C+
La theorie du chaos assis 7B+
Le Tailleur de Mansonges 7C/+
Chasseru de prises assisi 7C
Return d'Ariane 7C
L'art de la Fugue 8A
La Baleine 7C+
La Chose 7C+
Rencard 7C
Full Metal Jacket assis 7C
Jour de Chasse 8B+
Prise d'Otage 7C+
Narcotic Direct 8B
Millenium 7C+
Apotheose assis 8A
Infidele assis 7C+
Opium 8A

Paddy 7C+, Fontainebleau. Video still by Neil Hart

Narcotic Direct 8B, Fontainebleau. Photo Neil Hart

Appartenance 7C, Fontainebleau. Photo Stefan Kuerzi

Elephunk 8B, Fontainebleau. Photo Stefan Kuerzi
Illusion du Choix 8B, Fontainebleau. Photo Stefan Kuerzi
Living in Font for 2 months has been  an excellent deal; I probably wrote and said these words countless times, but the area is actually one of the best ring where the bouldering should take place. It is flat, it counts tons of hidden rocks, the holds are awesome and, moreover, it is one of the scarce place where you actually learn to climb and not only pull damn like a rude. In Font, you can see how the climbing should be understood and enjoyed beyond the simple action to grab holds and pull them. This is why my trip had to be special and, in the end, these are the main reasons for which I got a lovely stay. It has been a simply wonderful school of climbing in a kind of paradise forest. I hope to have make the idea clear enough. 

Some people also said that my trip has been gorgeous for the problems I climbed and the bunch of “hard” stuff I sent. Basically I am pretty disappointed on this side and what I managed to do; the bummer is not actually related to the fact that I wanted to climb more, but in a deeper analysis, to the reasons that gave me troubles in trying hard and doing what I desired more.

At the base of everything I have my skin statement which is giving me serious problems because they are excessively sweating. The story is pretty long, but I try to make a summery. Since before 2014 I have always had an ideal and fitting skin for bouldering. I went to the gym, to granite, to sandstone, to woody fingerboards and it was always hard, solid, compact and suitable with what I was going to grab. I could crush the pen’s tip into my upper fingers and they kept its mold for quite a bit; that was what happened during winter days at school. I knew I could have no issues from this part, and the fact let me serene.

Since I came back from US (March 2014), I started to sweat more and more and the good feelings began to change into a kind of obsession. In June I had to stop for injury, I came back climbing last September. The first days were pathetic and annoying. My tips pulled out water from every part, after a couple of moves they were literally wet. I tried to understand the issue; I mean, it was warm and it was months that I didn’t climb, so the problem was understandable. My shapes was going higher again, but the problems persisted. I started to use a mix of Alcohol and pine resin, before the good goes on my projects. It helped me a little bit for 3 attempts or so, since the sweat didn't come out for a while; without it, everything would have been thousand  times harder. I tried to accept the situation and not complaining too much. Then I got into the training mode from December until mid Feb. I knew the alcohol wasn’t the best solution; I knew that an abuse or an excessive using wouldn’t have been so good; I hence opted to stop for a period since I wanted to train only. During Christmas Holiday I went out climbing in Ticino; It was the same story once again: with alcohol it wasn’t good but even not  terrible; without the lotion it was almost impossible to attempt something hard. The stiff skin tissue of years ago was only a memory  and this made me disappointed. The issues didn’t get better.

I went to Font, being quite relieved because sandstone requires usually soft tissue. I probably got into a good shape and the physical benefits could compensate the bad skin. In fact, this was what happened. The temperatures after Feb started to increase a little bit (they were always good but my conditions perceived this changing a lot). Now, analyzing the whole trip, I could honestly say that most part of the ascents I did and all the failures I got, were only accorded to my skin statements. My physical shape was good, my mental approach got a little step ahead, the friction was most of the times perfect, the mood was positive and many things seemed to roll in the best ways like rarely happens. This is sad and frustrating, since almost everything was depending on the skin and this made me sliding many times.

At some point, the issue also started to attach my mental approach and my motivation as well. I started to be more nervous under the boulders and the patience was always less and less. The motivation and the desire are starting to turn off, especially in the last part of my stay. Now that I came back home, I need time to rest and to recover them in order to try some products which can dry it a little bit. This can help the issue, but on the other side I would not understand the drastic change and the true causes. I think I will also make analysis and see if it can be linked to metabolism or alimentation. Meanwhile, if someone has some advice I would be glad to hear.

Since I was telling about the dark side of my Font’s trip, I also reckoned the boulders I tried which have eluded me. This is not too bad since it can be source of motivation to come back in the Forest more prepared and with a good skin that I hope to get soon. Below it, some pictures I made.

Surplomb de la mee direct
Toute peines confondues
Delire Onirique
La toupie carnivore assis

Giuly on "Le voie michaud" 6C, Fontainebleau.
Max trying "Pancras", Fontainebleau.
Mont Pivot, Fontainebleau
Giuly on "Heir Hencore" 6B/+, Fontainebleau.
Trying la Baleine, Fontainebleau.