Sunday, 28 June 2009

THE RIGHT KIND OF WETNESS


The plan for the weekend was to climb at Amiata top, to stay in Siena in preparation for the Palio (this is another way to mean: get pissed and look at the girls), but the weather forecast was for rainstorms, and a mountain top close to the sea is not the place to avoid rainstorms in summer.
So I answered the call of the sirens, and went to the sea with my buddy surfer Jacopo, fresh from a California trip.
After one year off I had made this promise: if it's big I don't paddle out. We arrived at the beach and we saw the usual whitewash, forming in the middle of the small bay and proceeding towards the beach. Many years ago, we wouldn't have gone in the water, judging the surf too small. Now we know that perspective plays tricks to surfers, and that those small waves between sets mean very very good surf.
We took our boards, we put our summer tops on, I kneeled down to tie the leash and to pronounce my usual prayer to the sea: "Sea, let's have fun together" and out we paddled.
I took my time, wisely, predicting a very short session otherwise, and I let the first two sets pass. Then I saw my line, I turned my red love and I paddled trying my best. I felt the surge of the wave under the board, then I was speed, a speed that wasn't mine any more, it was the wave's speed, and I was standing, bottomturning and burying my left rail in the small face of the wave, a couple of perfect feet. I gently did some ups and downs, and rode my first wave until the end, with only one thing in mind: being elegant and stylish and smooth. Then I let myself relax and fall in the water, and I was smiling and happy. I jumped back onto my long and I saw my friend on the peak, waving his arms. After a long paddle I was back on the peak and repeated the operation several times, adding some smooth cutbacks to the right to regain the right spot of the wave and the again surfing the whole left.
I stopped only after three and half hours, with my neck and shoulders and arms and legs completely empty and sore. My friend told me "I didn't expect you like this, I'm proud of you."
While I was driving home I was blessed with one glorious, gigantic, technicolor like sunset on the sea.
Tomorrow it's back to work, and I don't mean only at the school. The gym awaits, and there I won't have any smile, any style, any sunset. Only work.

Thursday, 25 June 2009

ONE GOOD DAY OUT

Yesterday after a long long drive I found myself at the Amiata top. The van full of bits and bobs from the house at the sea, including the Mother of All Fingerboards and my long.
At first I wasn't feeling very sparky, and the humidity didn't help the psyche much, but it was cool, both in terms of the temp and of the climbing. Rapidly we moved to another area 5 mins from the first sector, and there it was much better, with more air circulating and better conditions. At the end of the day I had done a couple of problems at around 7a and four at around 7b, including two new ones.

While at the house at the sea, dismounting the fingerboard, I had the chance to notice, once again, how well designed it was. It's been so helpful for me in those dark months, to try and mantain that 1% of mental sanity that I have.
While I was down there, and training on the board, I had named the hardest holds accordingly to the real problen they reminded me about. Under one of the crimps I had written "The Roof Direct". Before putting the board on the van, yesterday, I grabbed a pen and added "Done".

Tuesday, 23 June 2009

WAITING FOR GODOT

I am definitely waiting for something, in terms of climbing, and it never happens, beecause it's not meant to. I try to explain.
I started another cycle of training two weeks ago, that will end in two weeks, then I will start doing weights and fingerboarding. These two cycles should deliver me at top form for early autumn, when...
When what?
What I seem not to have understood, is that I have loads of work during the summer, than I can't take more than one day off (a thing that I still haven't done from January) and that opportunities to go out and climb for a longer period, and most of all somewhere else than Amiata or Sasso are very scarce.
So I keep waiting and training, training and waiting, with this feeling that is a mixture of anxiety, disappointment, excitement and depression, but looking forward and keeping my head down working seriously at the same time, both at school and in the gym is the only way I belive I have to follow, now. I hope that it will approach a moment when I will desert the gym to go out and just climb, like many of my friends do. On the matter, big big congrats to my friend Filo, which is currently living the dream and tearing the surrounding crags apart. Effort!!!
Tomorrow, anyway, the school is closed because it's a Florence holiday, so the plan is for a stealth mission at Amiata top. I am eager obviously, but I already know how much it will cost me at the end in terms of fatigue, petrol and time (158 kms to get there). Anyway, I really want to try the project that my friends are trying (it was my project after all), so it would probably be very cool to head there together, also because it's not possible to try it on one's own, due to a bad landing; sharing the drive would also be a bonus. I still have my other project, that I haven't spoken about to anyone this time, and maybe it could go, we will see.
In all this planning (now I know that the word "planification" does not exist in english...), I still have to decide when to go to the sea to take my longboard, to dismount the Mother of All Fingerboards that's still there after last summer when I was working there, and to take it to Siena, then to take my other longboard and to bring the two boards to Florence to a friend's place, where I will keep them during my stay here, to have them handy when I finally will start surfing again (one year off now...).
It's really a pain in the ass having to do these boring things, but, again, I am waiting for everything to fit into place sooner or later.

Saturday, 20 June 2009

THAT THING WITH THE ROPE

"Forgive me father, for I have sinned."
"How many times son?"
"Twice recently."
"Did you enjoy it?"
"Yes, father."
Thursday I did that thing with the rope again. With the top rope, in my case. I went with excellent friends Cristiano and Niccolò to a close crag, a slightly overhanging wall with sharp hol
ds. I have to say that Niccolò turned into a monster: he was literally waltzing up a 30 meter long 8a where I was struggling on every move. I managed to flash a 30... moves 7b, and that made me happy. After an initial section of 6c, you get to a decent rest on a flat edge, then you cruise up the final 4 meters wall on drilled pockets via long locks. It felt absolutely piss, on every pocket I could feel my power getting back. Later I checked a shorter, more powerful 7c+ (hard for me), getting all the moves done, and tried an absolutely hopeless second go redpoint attempt with nothing left in my fingertips.
I have understood some things: I can do averagely well on a top rope, also on routes that are not my style. I have big weaknesses on monos (too many injuries in the past make it impossible for me to train monos, unless I manage to get myself a Beastmaker, one thing that I really want to do soon even if I don't know where to put it), and on sharp crimps (why did I go to a crag that only features monos and sharp crimps is a mistery to many), while I am ok on technique and other stu
ff.
I have absolutely no idea of leading a route.
Well, finally temps hit the mighty 40° mark the other day. It's generally 30° in the gym, and today I will have to face another system boarding session on pinches. I wonder how will a dry, fresh, granite pinch feel under my fingertips after these sessions. Quite good I bet...
This next week I will train again, then I'll have one week off, then I'll start the weights program.

On the summer agenda: Dolomites, to do that fucking "Redline" and hopefully "Dolomitenmann" along with some multipitch routes; one weekend in Innsbruck. Not much I know for an entire summer of blood, toil and tears in the gym, but that's what you get when you find a job that you like.
On the matter, tonight I have a dinner w
ith my conversation students, a couple from Slovackia, a Colombian girl, a Turkish girl and two Japanese girls that make for a bunch that's fun as fuck. They are a blessing.
On another matter, the totty is absolutely out in full fucking force. I am glad I don't have to teach anymore to that German girl because sometimes it was just too... haem...hard.
Sharp crimps and monos tomorrow again, forgive me father.

Thursday, 18 June 2009

MY NEW FRIEND

I made a new friend recently. I don't know him, I have never met him, but I feel very very close to him. His name is Unai and he's from Spain. He has a cool blog that you can read by checking the comments on the previous entry and clicking on Unai's profile.
Why I feel such an empathy with him I don't really know, but I'm sure that it has loads to do with the fact that he did what I've always wanted to do: burn some bridges down behind myself and go to Sheffield, my home away from home. To know to be sharing such a love for such a place with another mainland European climber is a great feeling, I feel less lonely. I only have a little envy.
The other reason for this new friendship is that the man comes from Spain. Well, I think from the Basque region, judging by his second name, but Spain nonetheless. And I happen to love Spain, even if I am a bloody Andaluz. I spent one university year in Granada back in 1995, and I love every memory I have of that stay.
I can still remember the first time I managed to get to Los Cahorros crag, a place where the grading is a bit... stiff, to say the least. Let's say french 7b for 8a's. I can remember the first hours in Granada feeling lost, and the first time I got drunk (more or less 20 hours after my arrival). I still have the bandana that that girl gave me that night. I still have the keys of my house. I can still feel as proud as when a guy at a party asked me "Estàs en un gimnasio?" and when I answered "Si" he said "Se ve!".
I can still picture the roads moving around me while I was getting back home at 10 30 in the morning full of alcohol, hashish and kebab. I will forver keep with me the feeling I experienced when that french girl suddenly took my hand in the club one night: it's something like being immortal.
Well, this is Spain for me, Unai, a country full of contradictions, in which I experienced alot of highs and alot of lows, but that forced me to grow stronger, to look inside me, to understand myself and others deeper.
The most important thing I learnt from my Spanish stay is still true now: I want to climb.
So this last red wine is for you, Unai, and for Spain.
Vamonos de marcha.

Sunday, 14 June 2009

NO NEWS IS GOOD NEWS?

I haven't trained, I haven't climbed, I haven't gone to the sea to bring my beloved 9'2'' single fin back to Florence, in order to try and get wet again.
I haven't done anything fun apart from a very good aperitivo at Trombicche's in Siena, where a simple five minutes visit to say ciao turned into a hour and half long chat with many friends and many glasses of red wine.
The plan is to keep my focus, train hard in the hot temps, and become a raging beast in order to
destroy UK in autumn, when I hope to score a longer stay than the last one (a shorter one would be very difficult...). In the meanwhile I'll try to reap some mid term goal, as Keith told me.
One small story about the man himself:
when he came here
in June 2007, Keith on his last day here tried "Caminati's problem" a supposed 7c that Michele opened many years ago during a Sasso Boulder Party. The problem is hard, still has to see a repeat with Michele's beta, and with the usual push of Keith's psyche, that day we both put ourselves at work, using a powerful, dynamic, precarious campus move. It was baptized "Caminati's problem, the English way", and judged 8a by the man himself. I didn't do it, and that wasn't strange; what was strange was that Keith didn't either. Later that year, I managed to find myself on top of said problem, with my legs trembling from the emotion so much that I had to sit down for a while before getting down. Full of love and joy I ran home and told my girlfriend the big news, and then started asking myself and herself if I could really have climbed another 8a. She said:"If Keith told it's 8a, it's 8a. Keith knows it. He only climbs 8a's".
It's a nice story, isn't it?

Thursday, 11 June 2009

LOST

I am currently lost. I don't have good sensations neither at training nor at climbing. I know that my last session on rock has been quite good, and I feel that I'm at an average good level at it, but as far as all the other vibes, they are generally bad.
So I put myself at work again, with the usual patience.
I know that I am not unfit or really weak, that's why I say I'm lost. I know that these bad sensations are due to many many factors, the most influential being my injured left ring finger. I can clearly feel how my body refuses to really pull on it, and this plays a big part in training and in climbing. Why everything feels different on rock is still a mistery to me, but it's because of the rocks' magic. It's like getting home late and very tired from a hard day at work, but if you get that magic phone call, you sprint again full of energy towards your love.
And finally a small vid of the man himself, two years ago, establishing "The red fox" 7b+ at Sasso.


video

Wednesday, 10 June 2009

NOMEN OMEN

Why, God, why did you make me so bad at climbing and so weak, compared to the efforts I put into it?
Yesterday night I went home absolutely shocked by how easily people seem to hike my problems, and problems that I struggle with.
How this is possible is still a mistery to me, it must be something in mothers' milk I think. Despite being stronger than many on the fingerboard and at campusing (but still, am I really stronger than many, I ask myself...), I seem unable to climb. I really hope this frustration (oh, wait a minute, probably it must be the similarity between my second name and the word "frustration", yes, I'm sure it's that) will lead to a productive period of serious training and total destruction on ze rock.
On a side note, a project of mine at Amiata top, that I spoke to a friend about is now receiving alot of attention from said and other friends with lots of spare time. Sometimes I'd like a little bit more of fair play or simply more spare time. The line is absolutely majeur and it deserves that attention. I really hope to climb it before my friends, that's clear.
Then, I read on Dobbin's blog that Keith is probably driving through Europe right now. Innsbruck is only a few hours of train away from here, so it's really cool to have him closer, and I'm sure I share this thought with his girlfriend.
Finally, one small note about my job. One year ago I was deep buried into the notary firm in Grosseto, Tom and Rich were here and their company was one of the few joys I was having in life. Today, after my grammar and conversation teaching, I spent some half an hour singing for some students while Simone, the School's director, was playing guitar. Then we all went for a tripe sandwich.
'nuff said.
And finally again I would like to remind you all that I climbed an 8a route with just one rest. Just one.
Ciao ciao ciao.

Sunday, 7 June 2009

GO WITH THE FLOW

Since my comeback from Elba, I've been feeling, climbing wise, like a bag of shit. Two weeks at the sea and my skin turned so soft that I can barely touch a hold just after one hour. Then, my left ring finger started hurting alot, I was very confident while in Elba but just after a couple of soft sessions here it started all over again, and this really pissed me off. Then, I have gained two kilos, somewhere in the last two or three months (I don't check my weight so often, but the mirror never lies), and despite being sure that it's not all fat, I'm sure it's mostly fat.
So it's been a bit hard lately, due to all these factors.
Then, yesterday I went bouldering. Surprise, I can still climb something. All alone in my small crag at Amiata, I did my usual circuit, then wanted to try a traverse that I had freed last year, that has now lost a hold (Filo, you damn fatso). Well it's bloody hard, and I'm happy I've done it after sussing out the new feet sequence (grab the crimps and pull harder, that is). Filo reckons 7c, I don't know but it would be good if it were.
Finally, the greatest surprise of the day, and a great great gift from my friends that were sport climbing there: at the end of the day I they were trying a route I freed in 2003, that now is done with a different sequence from mine, a beautiful sequence nonetheless. One guy had already stopped climbing, and the other one was unable to get the 'draws because the route overhangs and it's hard at french 8a. I offered to tie in and get the 'draws, and while I was preparing I started doubting my choice. I have sport climbed once in the last six years, february 2008 with The Guru and I got home shocked and scared. But the place was friendly to me, my friends were nice and smiling, so I set off with joy and confidence. Despite the unbearable pain in my fingertips, I climbed well and nearly retro-flashed the route, doing it with just one rest on the rope. Dammit it would have been incredible to do it clean, but the joy that this little bet gave to me has been so much that I don't care. I'm very happy also because this broadens my boundaries, and I am ready to join my friends for more (top) rope action.
Relax and go with the flow.


Wednesday, 3 June 2009

A NEW ERA

Today the girlfriend finished her university exams. A last mark of 30/30 is a well deserved result.
Only the final thesis for her now.
It's the beginning of a new era, for both. I feel so relieved, for her but also directly for myself. We have just embarked onto the path that will lead us to great things. She will become a doctor, I will destroy 8b's.

Tuesday, 2 June 2009

ARMAGEDDON

Two days ago I was about to post a new entry, whose title was going to be "SNAFU". Far from being that, today I can again see the light.
My Elba comeback has been followed by a two day long argument with my girlfriend, during which, at moments, I nearly lost the hope to keep on being happy together. Everything seemed impossible. Two years worth of tension, frustration and anger condensated in two afternoons: that's what you get if you don't speak about your problems immediately, that's what you get if you keep them inside, if you let them grow bigger in you.
Until each one of us didn't step out of his own comfort zone, until we didn't strip the things down to the naked bones of the problems, it seemed impossible to understand.
It's been one of the most difficult periods in our lives, mostly due to external factors that perhaps one day will be revealed to some of you, while waiting to have another go on our project.
Really we put everything on the table without even looking at our cards. What came out is that we had complete trust in our relationship, complete trust that these things were going to be blown away if only we could understand them.
This moment of clarity and love was sealed, also, by ordering two UKB hoodies.

Then, after two weeks I managed to climb again. It's the longest I've been without climbing in years and years. I've had mixed feelings in the gym yesterday: like when you completely lose any parameter and don't know where you are anymore.
I completely skipped my usual power recruitment warmup, so I started climbing while absolutely stiff. I did the problems recently set for a national under 14 bouldering comp (the boys can pull...) and then did something more but always feeling a bit puzzled. My skin started to burn like hell after one hour, so very rapidly it was almost game over, and during the whole session I kept asking myself if I have gained 23 kilos recently or if I just lost feeling and motion on the rock/walls. I can still pull, but really I have to get me some time to understand properly. My left ring finger is still a bit achey, especially with no warmup, but only when seriously crimping. Nothing left after.
Today it's National holiday so everything's closed, it's been raining for four days in a row so everything's wet and tomorrow the girlfriend has her last exam. The last exam.
Last thing, it's just great to be back at the school in Florence.