Saturday, 28 March 2009

"A L'ITALIENNE"

Yesterday, following as usual The Guru's command, I went to a comp. Well, it's been horrible. The gym was long and narrow, with overhanging walls on either side and climbers falling on climbers and on the crowd all the time. It was also badly organized: just 1hour and half for the qualifiers (not even enough for a decent warmup), the first round with 50 climbers (chaos!), the second round with 15...
Anyway, the holds were ALL BRAND NEW, so, to me, impossible to hold. I think a hold must be used and chalked a bit to be at its best. Finally, the problems: on every terrain, every problem was the same, easy (compared to the class) moves up to a semi-impossible last move (a dyno). Hmmm...
It's been good because I managed to see old friends though, and because, being unable to climb, always scared by the fall of humans from above, I took my time to watch and learn a whole new bag of tricks to get to a comp final (when there are no problem judges).
There's the good old jump start, you skip the hard task of setting feet on poor smears and do a hard lockoff.
There's the "maybe they don't notice it" stepping start, in which you casually use two holds, one foot hold and the mat to do the first move.
There's the clever "they won't notice it" stepping start, that is like the above but the foot is placed, when possible, on the ground, in the gap between the wall and the mat: pure class.
Another good one is "The ball is mine": users of the gym have tried or set the problems, but then they compete. You are thrown in disbelief as they move effortlessly around holds, reading every move perfectly, and later you hear them talking about "trying that hard 6b route on sunday".
The list is endless, and goes from using other lines' footholds, to the edge of the walls, to bridging in corners and so on, but my favourite is "The Ghost".
"The Ghost" is an art in its own. No one can see him or her top out on a hard line, yet you will find them lines on his scorecard all the time. He (she) is a more than average climber so when confronted he can picture sequences or recall other climbers' ones. Sometimes he steps to the problem to casually do just one demonstrative bit. Being not a crappy climber, when he (she) gets to the finals, a good overall performance can come out, especially when he is 180+ cm tall and the final is a dyno.

Anyway, this is some Guru's footage from "March Madness", stuff that made me schtrongu.
Peace and destruction for you all.

video

Wednesday, 25 March 2009

THIRD TIME LUCKY

I went back to Varazze the Sunday past, and for the first time, I managed to climb well there, not to get an injury, not to make an idiot of myself (hard task...), and to be happy. The day was gorgeous, sunny, windy and cold: after the warmup we moved to a very nice, small, rounded boulder where we spent some time crushing all the lines, up to around 7a+ or the likes.
Unluckily at that time I was striken by a heavy lethargy attack: clearly just one coffee isn't enough for me in the morning. I started feeling very very tired, so I took my time and lots of food to try and do something on "Alfa Centauri", the main course for the day, where I wisely arrived at the end of said day. Despite having seen the video hundreds of times I couldn't figure out the feet placements, so I basically spent a few minutes dangling from poor holds feetless, a thing that marked the end of my day.
Somehow later I found some energy, and with some fresh blood my brain managed to create new possibilities, enabling me to perform all the moves. I can do the problem with some dedication now.

Then, about the roof.
Stepping into the gym and being faced by friends who say "Congratulations" and shake your hand is very pleasing: thank you all for that kindness.
I was thinking: how much did it take to do it?
I am training with The Guru from january 2006, but I sent the roof on my third session. Did it take me three years or three sessions? Obviously three sessions. Why? Because until a few months ago the roof was still in the "Unridden Realm". Impossible. Only when you have a certain level you can try something with some real chance of success. How do you get the level? By training three years. So it took me three years.
Well, it took me three years AND three sessions. Looking back I think the years have been easier than the sessions, because you can be prepared at your best, but you still have to climb the problem.
I hope to post some video soon.
One last note: while putting order in my training logbook, I realized I haven't rested for more than three days in a row from early june 2008 when I snapped my wrist.

Thursday, 19 March 2009

SOMETHING VERY NEW!!!

Here I am at school on a thursday afternoon, waiting for the students to finish their final tests. The sun is out, the wind is blowing and I am happy. The weekend is approaching, and I feel light: I don't have to go to Sasso to finish OOS Assis, nor do I have to go to Amiata to do the roof direct (that in my mind will be forever called "Silent Strike" in Tom's honour, until I find a FA to be named that way). Both problems have been crushed to tiny bits.
This is probably the biggest change in my climbing career, because, I can say, I have done everything I wanted to climb close to here.
Reading what I wrote some time ago about "The foolish bet", everything now takes a new path and a new meaning. I can re-address my priorities now, according also to the desire of the moment. There are no problems to tie me to close shores, I am free to sail wherever I want. Ticino, The Peak, Font. Everything now steps into the light with full brightness, because the two problems I sent lately do not project any longer their dark, heavy shadows on everything else. I can no longer hear their call: "You shouldn't be there, you should be here, with us". Like Ulysses I know that call, but unlike him, I followed that call, fell in love with the call, gave everything I had to the call, but managed to sail my ship clear of the rocks, to avoid the wrecking.
I am different, as I've said. Everything is different. I am free.
Until the next problem, that is.
Last, but not least, a less serious note, just to let you all know who I chose to share my life with.
When we got to the Amiata roof, my girlfriend hadn't been there in a long time, two years probably. While I was warming up, under some heavy pressure, she looked at the line, and without even touching the holds said "Lore, if you can't climb this kind of problems what the hell can you climb?!". I wanted to cry.
Then, to make things even, after my send she said "I thought you skipped a hold, you treated it like a 7a!". I again wanted to cry. Of joy.

Monday, 16 March 2009

FIRE AND FORGET

The sense of impossibility that was vaguely surrounding the Amiata roof finally lifted and disappeared as a summer morning mist, when I completed the problem twice, yesterday morning.
I woke up early, managed to put my girlfriend in the van and proceeded at full speed to Amiata, with the pressure of the entire Earth on myself. While I knew that the presence of my beloved would have only done good to me, I also knew that an eventual failure would have meant not a failure burden shared between the two of us, but to the contrary a double heavy weight upon my own self.
My first two goes were poor, I missed the first dyno on my first go, and cut loose on the following move (a thing that had never happened in ages) on my second go. The pressure was on.
Then I starded sticking the dyno, doing some mess afterwards and blaming my thin skin and the +15° temps.
As a true professional I had taken my precious mini fan with me, so I pulled this rabbit out of the hat, and started cooling my hands before very try. At first I felt them too cool, but lately it just made the magic. One very good try saw me exploding from the slippery crimp down to the mats while I was charging the last dyno. One other go saw me stick the crimp with just the tip of three fingers, far too little a grip.
Then, in a magic moment when every atom of energy present on this galaxy concentrated in me, I switched the fan off, I blew on my fingers and left ground. I grabbed the poor pinch and felt every grain of the rock, I tought that I wanted to squeeze it and I did. I landed on the good hold as an F-14 Tomcat airplane on a carrier ship: heavily and precisely. The hold felt enormous, and I paused to tap my left hand on my trousers to dry it. I got the undercling crimp, felt it, put my feet exactly where I wanted (unlike previous attempts), then I found myself on the crimp, four fucking strong fingers folding on to it, then I dangled a couple of times and was on the final jug.
I got back on the planet and my legs were trembling, then I spent some time hugging my girlfriend on the mats.
I don't know how, but then I felt the strong desire of doing it again, so I tried. Everything, to the contrary of what I expected, seemed even easier. The holds bigger again, the moves shorter. I destroyed the problem for the second time.
I climbed in an amazing way, yesterday: powerful, relaxed, precise. Never did I cut loose, not even on the last move. Never a groan of fatigue came out of my mouth. I kept breathing and pulling holds down: Tom, you would have been proud of me.
So now it's over again. Years and years of dreaming, of touching the holds, of imagining the feeling of impossible moves.
As my only, single, fast yell was echoing down the valley, away from us humans, I felt different and we walked away, at an uncommon early time.
Thanks for sharing.

Friday, 13 March 2009

BUT FIRST I PASS

I wanted to go to Ticino this weekend, to take some of the pressure of the roof off, to chill out and to try and test my condition on virgin ground.
I had to change my mind, due to my girlfriend having her ID expired.
Immediately I put my eyes on my nemesis Varazze, home of my epic ego bashing weekend of last december and of my shoulder injury.
I really want to look in the opposite direction of the roof. I feel it as a Sword of Damocles upon my head, something that throw my fragile mind in doubts.
Still, I think that at last I will go to the roof. I hate it, but I have to. Conditions are poorer than last weekend, and I feel weaker, in my mind if not in my body. Herman Melville says that only in failures humans reveal their truest nature. That's why I'll go back to the roof.

Monday, 9 March 2009

ANOTHER LEVEL OF FAILURE

The weekend that just passed marked a milestone. There's no turning back from where I am now. Just three weeks after my epic send of OOS Assis, I found myself again trembling under the Amiata roof, with my aim on the direct line. Until now, I really haven't desired to climb this line completely, because of its distance from my ability: just like dreaming about sleeping with Monica Bellucci, something that everyone does, but that noone really embarks into, due to its very low percentage of success.
Well, I don't know if Monica will ever have the pleasure to sleep with me (a mutual pleasure, I'm sure), but as far as the roof goes, I can really take off my underwear now, and prepare to the love.
I didn't do it, but the way I didn't do it really takes me forward to new realms. As The Guru told me the other day at the gym "We have opened a new frontier". Yes, we did it.
As you know, I had done all the moves of the direct some time ago, but the link was something beyond: the crucial first dyno off the poor pinch put a serious chance for falling, every time I decided to have a go. Well, during the last weekend, not only I did the move, but fell twice at the very last move: briefly, with a little luck and more accuracy in chosing the footholds, I could already have sent.
Mindblowing.
Many of you dear riders may remember my infamous video of the other line under the roof, the easier one, with my 30 seconds worth of yelling after the success. That dyno was the trickiest move of the problem, the others being hard but steady; a very low percentage move, I did it 5 times ouf of 6 tries on saturday, and 6 times out of 8 tries on sunday, tired. This is not low percentage anymore. Translated into the past, related to the other problem, it would have been like doing it, let's say, 3 times on saturday and 4 times on sunday: lapping it, that is.
Mindblowing.
I am at a point where all I have to do is to go there and climb the direct. No more sussing the moves, no more trying. Just leaving the ground to complete it, and to put a full stop to a story almost ten years long.
I am sad and happy at the same time. Sad, because I didn't do it, and I wanted it. Happy, because I gave everything to do it, but finally had to give up. I also have to change tactique: the roof goes in the sun in the afternoon, so yesterday I got to try it in the shade only for a few tries, then I had to put rags on the holds to protect them from the sun, but a couple of times I slipped from the bad crimp and it hurt my fingers as hell. I really understood Keith, with hundreds of kilos of pressure on the very same point of your fingers, you really have to be both quick, smart, and lethal.
So now I'm terrified, because I fear to wake up from a dream, to realize that it's been just a lucky weekend that I let pass witout reaping the biggest prize. Am I really capable of climbing at this level? I feel so. Still, to step your game up, to raise the bet, to take bigger responsibilities is very scary, and something that exposes ourselves to frustration and tears. But we have to chase that small light that we saw just for a second. We have to be sure about our desire, about the glance of that girl far away from us. There's nothing else.