Wednesday, 24 June 2015

EVEN MORE DAYS?



                                                    Photo courtesy of Pietro Mittica

To say I'm pleasantly perplexed is an understatement. And this blog entry could stop here. But it would be very unfair. After my brilliant weekend bouldering in the Dolomites, glowing in the golden light of my successes, I took the courage to do a few things that I hadn't done in a while. The first one, that took a lot of courage, was taking a week off. I mean, really off. Like, no board climbing, no fingerboarding, no sprints, no weights, no nothing. Not really, but I managed to do only one session, a weights and bodyweight excercises complex that left me in agony for a good couple of days. Hitting the same muscle groups with two bodyweight routines, namely front levers and paused reps ab rolls, isn't exactly a smart idea, but it was worth the risk. I felt like a Hulk. Anyway, this week off also coincided with ten days in which I never had dinner at home, resulting in lots of tasty food and wine gulped down... So, when finally Monday came, it was with terror that I slipped what I thought was my overweight frame into my training pants and top. I was training with my good friend Pietro, and fuelled by the usual dose of caffeine and protein shakes, it turned out that I wasn't exactly out of shape, at least in climbing terms. I obviously climbed a project that I'd been trying for a while, linking single moves and short bits but never coming close to success. Lesson to be learnt: train like a headless chicken for a good twenty years, then take a week off to eat and drink, then climb your latest board project. Given that I wanted to go back to the Dolomites that coming weekend, I made a good plan to be sure that I was going to get there properly overtrained and undercompensated. 


This time I was going to be going with my girlfriend, so the weather was going to play a big role in making everything perfect: sunny days and glowing sunsets in the mountains are a good thing for a couple. 
Saturday morning dawned a bit cloudy, but it was promising. 
It was promising rain. 
It turned out that the promise was wrong: it was going to be snow. 
3 degrees, sleet and snow, what more could you ask for? 
But I'm not the one who's easily deceived, and I knew that in a couple of hours it was going to stop. After a good dose of kaiserschmarren and coffee, it was time to get our feet soaked to get some bouldering. 
There is this roof up there, that keeps attracting me and keeps giving problems (you see what I did there?). 
I had little info, in German, and I only knew that there was a big cross through move. Everything was wet, but with the precious experience gained during my visits at Parisella's Cave, I started to dry out bits here and there, fill the seams that were pouring, and assuring some chance for success. 
Then I started to figure out the moves, and everything started to crumble. The starting holds seemed to open up only to mysterious levitations to far away holds, and nothing seemed possible. The sequence that I was sure was going to earn me my first 8a flash proved to be 8c and I didn't flash it. 
Then the miracle. 
I kept my cool, stayed there, dried more footholds, kept trying and refining, and after a while, make it two hours - make it three - I had a sequence. 
I also had a soaking, trembling girlfriend. 
Being the old romantic that I am, I knew that it was time to leave, but I didn't leave. Instead, I took off my fleece, my t-shirt and my thermal and proceeded to reward my girlfriend with my bulging muscles beating down the problem into submission. I am the greatest. No, really. You can't imagine it. 
Half an hour later we were drinking spritz and eating mortadella and cheese in Campitello as if there were no tomorrow. 
While I was walking in Canazei, that was full of people fully clad in Montura, Mammut, The North Face apparel, I thought about Jerry, and started moaning to myself: "Wherever I watch, there's noone stronger than me. I am the strongest one." 
After this glorious day, I decided to take my girlfriend to get some more cold at Falzarego, where the meadow was lashed by a freezing wind that made everything a bit tricky and made me search for shelted in a nearby shithole that hosts two 8a's and an 8b+ in three meters of stone. Unfortunately being less than 45° overhanging, I didn't even manage to pull on. 
More spritz and mortadella. 
I had taken Monday off, so I was ready for the final sunny day. That never came. Clouds and wind, but a generous temp of 7°. Happiness all around. My girlfriend climbed a bit and got her battle scars, and I tried another problem in the same roof, getting as close as possible to doing it without actually doing it. 
A gigantic portion of potatoes, eggs and speck marked the end of the climbing trip and left room only for a brief stop at LaSportiva factory. I bought a pair of undersized Cobra for 59 Euros and everything was over. 
But I am still the greatest. I am still the strongest, and you all know it. 

Tuesday, 9 June 2015

MORE DAYS

I had thought that my moment of top form was going to vanish, and I had thought that I was going to run out of projects. I was wrong on both.
The two days of the last post became more days, in which I found myself miraculously glued to ze rock, sticking move after move.
I found myself stronger, also, adding kilos to all my previous personal bests and that's the only thing that counts, to be honest.
I ask myself why now and not before.
The answer is that it's happening now because now I am an overally better person than before. And I am a better person because I am a more complete person: my mind is as fast as a speeding bullet and as sharp as a laser beam. It's not hazy and lazy, incapable of thinking to anything that's not grades and moves. OK, it's never really been that lazy, but you get what I mean.
Better mind, better body. I'm free. Free from others, but mostly free from myself and from my demons and ego.
I know what I am and I know what I can do.
The thing that strikes me most, to be honest, is that I became less shit at flashing problems. It all started in December 2014, and I suspended my judgement waiting for some more info. Then it happened again, but on first ascents, so again I suspended my judgement. But it happened again and again. So, finally, I must think that somehow I became better at flashing problems.
I spent this last weekend in one of the places that I love the most, and in which I feel more at home: the Dolomites.
Steep boulders on pockets and edges made for testosterone bouldering with bulging muscles and veins, fuelled by all sorts of natural and artificial food, from buckets of hyperproteic yogurt with honey and hazelnuts, to protein shakes, to honey and peanut butter sandwiches, to hamburgers and pasta.
I flashed basically everything, including two 7c's (one was a retroflash of a problem I climbed ages ago). I was also very close to doing an 8a that I smartly tried at the end of the second day. Punter. 
OK, OK, I know what you purists are going to say about bouldering on dolomia: it's choss, they're eliminates, it's nasty, etc. I could finely discuss our diverging opinions about this subject, using my rhetoric to convince you about the quality of the bouldering there, but I won't do it. If you don't like it, you don't deserve it. Which is better for me also, because I like my boulders quite and private. 

Unfortunately, this moment of splendid form coincided with a certain Chzech climber flashing 8b and 8b+ and climbing 8c in a day, so I am not surprised that neither LaSportiva nor Black Diamond called me to ask me if I'd like to be paid by them to just keep climbing and being so awesome.  

Friday, 22 May 2015

TWO DAYS

It's raining and I don't care. It will rain for a good ten days, and I don't care. I'm at work, and I don't care. I've just had two fastastic afternoons climbin on rock, and I am happy. I am ready to lock myself in my cellar, trying my impossible projects; I am ready to swear and do yet another fingerboarding session; I am ready to do my weights finishers and my uphill sprints. I am ready to do it all again. I've hit an unexpected peak of form and, equally unexpectedly, I took advantage of it on the real thing. A friend of mine had reclimbed an old problem of mine, giving it a new, harder finish, and this motivated me to go and try it again. Fact is, when I did the old version, I also tried to give it a new, harder start... but never completed it. So, after almost ten years, I found myself with my old project and a harder finish! Oh yes! When my girlfriend asked me if I wanted to take an afternoon off from work and go climbing, I couldn't resist. With days of rain ahead, I wanted to climb! So we went, we were all alone in a fantastic setting, it was sunny and windy and I was happy. I tried to remember the sequence of my old project and it was easy, given that there are only those holds. Linking them was another thing. I had gone there to climb my friend's problem, but instead I tried the longer start and after some playing around I gave it a go. And I crushed it. I found myself on top with bulging forearms and I was happy and sad at the same time. Happy, because it had gone down; sad, because it was all over so fast. I always joke saying "The less I climb, the better!" this meaning that the perfect session is the one in which I get there, I warm up, I climb my project and I am free to annoy all the other climbers for the rest of the day, or be back home super early ready for some Gin and Tonic. But then, I really like to climb! And it was over already! After some hugs and kisses and coffee I did it again in bits to film it, and then I decided to take the monster 8 minutes walk to another sector to try another line I'd spotted years ago. It's the usual link of two existing problems, and I got there telling my girlfriend "Nevermind, I'll do it first go and then it's pizza time!" Ahahahahahah! Rude awakening motherfucker. I couldn't do any of the new moves. It took me a good hour and half only to manage three moves, and all of a sudden I found myself with a new project!!! Great, great day out! What my girlfriend didn't know, when she asked me to go climbing, was that I had already taken the following day off to go climbing with a friend! Oh yes. So, after my brilliant previous day, I found myseld in another sector, in which I had a project. The day didn't start very well, and it reminded me that I live in a place with little rock. Before heading to my project, we wanted to try two lines on a boulder I'd never seen before. What a piece of shit. It's in a steep part of the wood, so whenever you sit or step on the mat, you start sliding down surfing the wood; the rock is super aggressive and crumbly and I ripped off two big chunks. The problems seemed impossible despite their accessible grade. "Goddamn I should have stayed at home!" Then, we went to the project. Before hauling the pads, I checked if, for once, it was dry. Fuck, it was. And so I found myself there again, with my super sequence and all my fears. Obviously, this project is a harder start of an existing problem that I did three years ago. I had tried it on and off along the years, and often came back really not satisfied about the sequence: basically, to make the new start you could simply add one single move. I didn't like this, I wanted a line that was as independent as possible, but struggled to find a sequence. When I found it, the results were these: It was nasty and hard. Really hard. Like, barely doing single moves in isolation. Plus, I had basically already done it a couple of months ago, only with a very ugly pad dab (the start is very low), so I found myself there asking myself what was I doing there. The answer was that I was there to properly crush that shit. Dry holds make a big difference, blimey. I started, and everything felt easy. Well, not easy, it felt hard, but in control. The sequence is very simple, you either hang the holds, and if so it's ok, or you don't, and if so there are no tricks. After a false start, on my second go I found myself going through the moves steadily, and getting to the crux. I switched my right hand from a bad two fingers lock to the undercling, got it but not perfectly, kept going and missed the high pinch. Dammit. It was nearly over. I had crushed all the new start, that used to give me hell, and I'd fallen on the crux of the original 8a problem that I've done numerous times. Shit. I was under pressure. I rested, drank more coffee, and really, everything was perfect. It was sunny, windy and cool. I was having fun and I was full of joy. Only one question mark was left. The foot swap. The original problem, for me, is a bit morpho. You have to reach very high to this pinch, and I am fully extended on my left foot. Then you have to match feet, swap right for left, and move on. Well, on the reach I am so stretched that I can't match the right foot, because with the hips rotation I can't reach the foothold. It's the crux for me, and I can really barely do it. In fact, I've done many times, but one thing is coming from two easy moves, another thing is coming from five hard ones. While trying this feet swap in isolation, suddenly I felt particularly strong on the holds, and instead of the usual sequence, I just squeezed hard, high stepped with my right foot just under my right hand, pulled really hard on the pinch and I had bypassed the morpho bit and was eyeing the top. It was a brutal sequence, but at least it was only a matter of power! And power, is not a problem. I sat down, I went through the routine that makes me climb perfectly, and then I just performed. I motored through the lower moves and got to the undercling. I didn't get it right, and there I made the difference. I paused, locked myself in position like a steel beam and adjusted the right hand hold. When I got it right, fuck me it felt like a path. The high pinch move was just a gentle, slow reach, and then I was there, at the feet swap. I knew I could bypass it with the new sequence, but I also knew that it was hard. My friend yelled "Vai! Vai!" and I went. I high stepped, right foot under right hand, I pushed myself away from the pinch and it became good, put the left foot on the small edge, moved my right foot again and I was at the right hand gaston and the top. I came down and I was out of myself. In a few tries I had climbed my three years long project. I was happy, surprised and exhausted. In my memory it was easy, but in my emotions I know it was not. I climbed perfectly, physically and mentally, and performed almost at my limit. I did it again in bits to film it, and then all I had to do was spot my friend on the original 8a. He did good links and he will do it in the future. And my two afternoons of newly found climbing youth were over. I couldn't stop talking about how I'd adjusted the undercling, how I had high stepped, this and that. It was pure pure joy. So, in a moment in which I find myself disgusted by what happens around here in the climbing community; in a moment in which I feel completely out of it, and proudly so; in a moment in which all I read on climbing websites and magazines are bullshit and lies; in a moment in which I ask myself why I don't speak out the truth and put them to shame; in a moment in which I hate what they're doing to our beautiful discipline; in this moment I realized that for me nothing has changed. I can work and still train. I can love and still train. I can ride my motorcycles and still train. There's a life beyond climbing, and this makes climbing even better. Thanks for your time. And now some video stills.