Monday, 27 July 2009

THE OTHER IRON ROAD

Goddammit I felt strong in the gym today!!! I'm psyched. Last week I felt good, but today I just kicked the shit out of those weights. Power power power is the way forward, the only way. It's also more fun to train.
Then, "Fame di stelle" was born last saturday at Amiata top. It kicked my ass. I got there thinking "Ok, I send it first try and then I'll dedicate myself to harder stuff". Well, I didn't do it on my first try, nor on my second, or third, or fourth. The crux move proved to be the long reach to the starting hold of "Mai dire male" which is a nasty two finger pocket (the name of the problem could be translated into "Never say it hurts") that you can't dyno into, you have to catch it just as precisely as it gets. Anyway, the problem is great in my opinion, requiring lots of feet movements, with the added spice that you climb 20 cm off the ground, so if you cut loose you hit the gound and you have to start it all over. It also has a very tight heel hook that could require some more stretching from Keith!!! Sadly it's not 8b+ like "Geko assis" but I wish it were.
I highly recommend you to read the novel wich I got the problem's name from, "Vol de nuit" by Saint-Exupery. It's beautiful, romantic and tragic.
I have to say that I've been quite lucky to do it after a while, just after finding a harder but more steady beta for the pocket move, beacause once again I had been very very amateurish, not in my climbing (I'm used to that...) but in my nourishment, and that's the second time in the last two weeks. I hadn't eaten enough, and when I got there to do the problem I was trembling, starving, I was feeling dizzy and I had already eaten all my food for the day. I found some cookies in my climbing bag, and despite the fact that I couldn't remember when I'd put them there, I devoured them and managed to stay alive. Stupidly enough, while on a sugar induced high, I decided I could level out the landing of another dangerous problem, so having watched the Netherlands leg of the European Strongman Championship the night before, I started moving big long fallen trees around to put them across the nasty gully that is under the overhang. Naturally, as I dropped the last piece of wood, I found myself trembling again, cold sweating, so I rushed down to the car and drove one km lower to the hut, to eat some cereal bars. When I got back to the boulders I was completely spent and had to left my project without a try. It will be hard, adding a proper sitter to another existing problem which is already hard.
I have to remember this very well, it could have spoiled my only weekly climbing day. It nearly did.
I found out that the amount of time spent training is inversely proportional to the time actually spent on ze rock.

Thursday, 23 July 2009

REVELATIONS

I'm reading Jerry's book, and it's being a true revelation. I've always been a true fan of Ben Moon, maybe because he sported the dreadlocks, or maybe I just don't know why. I knew Jerry was just as good, but somehow I've always overlooked his figure.
What I've learnt from the book is very very simple: Jerry has been there and done that.
We all have desires, or maybe even dreams. Well, our desires, our dreams, are Jerry's life.
We can only try and follow his example.
Jerry on "Psycho".
Jerry wins Leeds '89.

Sunday, 19 July 2009

S'IO FOSSI FOCO...

A few days ago I had the chance to talk about Cecco Angiolieri to my grammar class. As you may know, one of the most important currents of Italian classical literature during the early middle age, has been the "Dolce stilnovo". These poets were pursuing the greek ideal of being "kalòs kai agathòs", founding the soon to come Rinascimento in an era still deep into war, violence and ignorance. One of the most characteristic traits of this current was the idealization of the female figure. If you read Dante's "La vita nova" or Petrarca's poems, you will read some of the most touching love lines, culminating in a true adoration of the chosen woman, which becomes a real gift from God, came on Earth "a miracol mostrare".
The center of this new literary era was naturally Florence. Few kilometers south of this paradise on Earth, in Siena, probably just a couple of days on a horse's back away (if you didn't want to travel by night...) a quite unique poet was writing some very different lines.
Cecco Angiolieri was a young poet from Siena, which represent the dark side of the Stilnovo. His destructive charge comes out every rhyme, and his poems talks about gambles, wine and women. There is no room for romanticism here. One of his most famous poems is the one that gives the title to this entry, and that I highly recommend that you read in Italian.

Its rough translation says:
"If I were fire, I'd burn the world.
If I were wind, I'd storm over it.
If I were water, I'd drawn it.
If I were God, I'd throw it in depths.
If I were Pope, I'd be rather happy,
because I'd cause trouble to every Christian.
If I were Emperor, you know what I'd do?
I'd chop everyone's head off.
If I were Death, I'd go to my father,
if I were life, I'd go away from him.
The same I'd do with my mother.
If I were Cecco, as I am and was,
I'd take the young and pretty women,
and leave the old and ugly to others."


Saturday, 18 July 2009

CHANGES

This climbing day at Amiata top has been under the sing of changement. First of all, all of a sudden during the night the weather turned baltic. Today it was around 14°, friday it was 39° in the fucking shade. Modern thermometers aren't powerful enough to measure Florence temps in the sun, that's why they always put them in the shade. It's been so good to boulder with a nice fresh breeze, I had taken my UKB hoodie out for the first time, and even if I took my girlfriend's one instead of mine, it's been excellent to climb in it. I hope that the psyche I transmitted to the hoodie will push my girl back into some bouldering.
Before going to the top, I wanted to do one problem that I had seen a few weeks ago in another area in the valley. It's a small face, with a good arete and a crimp and nothing more. It's very small, but the last time I tried in vain to do the sitter as I wanted, having to be content with the stand up start, from the crimp and the arete, a heelhook, a slap and a rockover. I judged it 7a. The sitter looked impossible. Then today I got there, I cleaned the leaves a bit better and hey! a new excellent foothold materialized from nowhere. This made the sitter super doable, and in fact I did it second go, judging it... 6c. I named it "Mutation", because either the rock created a new foothold in the last month, or I turned into a strong mofo. I think the first option is correct.
The topout isn't difficult, but it's a bit scrambly, it's dirty with moss and leaves and for a second I thought I was in a dangerous situation, also because the landing, although very close, hosts some rocks and pieces of fallen trees. In that moment, the image of Jerry soloing in Wales the day after completing Master's Wall, came to mind, just as I watched left, I chose a spot for my left foot and securely topped out. I may say I've bouldered with Jerry today, so much I've thought about him. Legend.
So with this quick success under my belt I proceeded towards Amiata top, where I immediately got to grips with my roof project. Blimey it's hard. I can do the first move, a long reach from a good undercling to a small crimp with bad feet. Then I can do the third move, a dyno from a bulge for the right hand to a good hold and the top. But the second move, to bring the right hand from the undercling to the bulge on the lip of the roof is absolutely nails. There could be another sequence, using the undercling left hand and dynoing right hand directly to the bulge, it's at my physical limit in terms of reach, dammit, otherwise it would have been almost perfect. I spent alot of time under that small roof, trying hard, but to no avail. It's very very hard, I think it's hard even for a tall guy with the dyno sequence, feet are terrible. I'll go back, but I definitely improved. At some point I realized I might have eaten not enough, because I started feeling a bit dizzy. Once my body started eating itself to get some calories, everything got fine again.
On my infamous bad bad day, two or three weeks ago, I had tried to do a traverse that ends in another established problem, a nasty sitstart to an arete (again). I couldn't do it that day, and I couldn't do it today, but today I was damn close, but had absolutely nothing left after trying too many sequences to gain the crimpy three finger pocket with the left hand as it's necessary to do. Next time I'll do it and I will name it "Fame di stelle" (Hunger for stars), a quote from a novel by Antoine de Saint-Exupery.
So that's it, my weekly day out has gone, I am a bit sad because I wanted to stay but couldn't. Can't wait to be back out bouldering.
Here are two pics from past year, showing the higher moves of "Mai dire male" which is the arete joined by "Fame di stelle" traverse.


Friday, 17 July 2009

Sunday, 12 July 2009

'TIL YOU GO YOU NEVER KNOW

I went there and did it.
I did the sitstart that was supposed impossible. It seemed impossible because I hadn't understood the right sequence, despite Caminati's informations: when a local came along to say ciao and clearly explained where to put my feet (I had them switched in my sequence), I did the problem on my second go. Second fucking go. I have spent at least two good sessions trying to make my beta work.
Well, my name is now beside only three other names, as far as that problem goes. All the others are mega wads, so I'm pretty well chuffed. Noone thinks Caminati's grade is correct, and that made me a bit less paranoid. Anyway, the grade does not matter anymore, now it's just another red pen mark in my ticklist.
I went there all fucking alone, in my van, driving three hours just for that problem. It rained on the way, and for a few kilometers I thought about going back to the motorway and speed to the Dolomites for a foolish meeting with my friends, but then I kept going. I arrived only to find the forest soaked, but my problem was ust humid. I dried it with all the attention I could, the rock was fresh and I could feel all the small grains under my fingers. I had arrived there confident of the send, but then my beta was nearly impossible without good conditions, my right toe hook regularly slipping off. I was sad and disappointem but I kept thinking that I had another day, and that the forecast was good. So, when the two guys stopped by for a chat, I was shocked in discovering I had completely missed the sequence, making the proper sitter almost impossible. One of my friends told me that he had done the problem third try, and I thought "Yes, that's because you're fucking strong and tall you motherfucker!". Then you already know what happened. Sadly no camera was rolling, so you'll have to be happy with just today's footage put together (today it was boiling, btw). I can clearly recall the surprise of hitting perfectly the horrible undercling with the left hand; I can recall how hard it's been to cut loose and get my left foot far left on a very small spike. I can recall the sensation of still being there, and thinking "Ok let's try it" charging the dyno to the right. I got the arete and held it, and then I thought "Ok now it's time to see if you're a man or if you manage to screw this beautiful thing you've just done". I went for the lip with calm and power, and I knew I wasn't going to miss it. I screamed and screamed and swore from the top, and I heard, after a while, my voice echoing towards the lake. I was spent and happy. Thanks to Matteo an Alberto for the right sequence, but the rest goes to me, only to me, because I was there alone, because I train alone, because I am alone on this path.


video

Friday, 10 July 2009

WTF?

I had an excellent session at the gym today.
Why? I really don't know. There was nothing different from other sessions that went bad, I had worked today, my back was a bit achey, in the gym it was 29° and 60% humidity, but somehow I felt good.
I was scheduled to do the second fingerboard session of this new cycle, but it lasted short, because I felt the urge to climb. I just did some one arm deadhangs, and a couple of one armers, then I put my shoes on.
One problem with a nasty move that I had never
done saw me sticking the move three times in a row and proceeding at full speed ahead. One other under the 60° wall (my home away from home) gave me a great sensation of control of my body and that made me happy again, excellent body tension (well, excellent for me at least), precise movements.
So the first week is over, two weights sessions and two fingerboarding sessions. I'm tired, but less tired than at the beginning of the week: for the first session of weights I chose to play it safe, with good volume and many reps to have some muscle conditioning, but alot of excercises and 4 sets of 12 moves each rewarded me with a full 48
hours of DOMS. It felt much better yesterday, even if a bit tired at the lat machine, which I am using with one arm, with a handle.
Anyway, tomorrow it seems I'm going bouldering. My friends went to taste Dolomites for the first time in the summer (crazy fucking rainy summer so far up there), but I didn't feel like going 100%. Yesterday it had rained again, so the boulders are going to be wet, and I didn't want to just do long routes, plus the day my girlfriend will graduate is rapidly approaching and her final thesis is being finished, so I chose to go a little bit closer.
The goal of the weekend is to climb "Cogli l'attimo", a problem at Lagoni area, put up by power monster Caminati hims
elf and graded 7c. Ah ah, 7c my ass.
This problem is tricky. It's supposed to be a sitter, but if I sit start I can't reach any foothold (it's a roof), so last year I tried it and almost did it starting from the pads: Michele told me the sequence, so I know that it's definitely ok to start like that, a sort of crouching start, but I would like to do a proper sitter tomorrow, even if I know it will be excruciatingly, horribly, annoyingly hard. I will hate it.
You are under a roof, you have a one tip downfacing hold with a razor lip. If you crouch start, you throw your right foot far right, to toe hook the arete of the roof, and you paste your left fo
ot under the roof, on the softest footholds ever found. They break as you brush them (damn sanstone!). So, from this very uncomfy position, you have to pull really hard (but not so hard that you cut loose) to get a horrible undercling, then you keep yourself tight and go for the arete, which happens to be quite slopey, you switch toe for heel hook, you brace yourself and then you dyno with your right hand to the goodish bit, then to the jug. Four moves in total, really really brutal.
To explain how hard it felt to me last year, I can only tell you that I was worried for my right bicep to explode when holding the arete (touching wood) so strenuous a move it was.

So tomorrow I want to sit start this nightmare, and that means just pulling footless on the edge and try to grab the arete with your right foot, then do all the above.
Finally, my thoughts today went to the problem up at Città dei Sassi I wrote about past november (150 days until June), and to how much I want to do it.


Sunday, 5 July 2009

HISTORIA MAGISTRA VITAE

I've spent the last day thinking about why, one single bad day out threw me into such a bad, depressed, angry mood.
I think it's because it surprised me, and took me back to reality, and I don't like this reality. Which reality, you may ask. Well, a real reality, in which I'm not a bouldering monster, I'm not as strong as I'd like, I'm not as good as I whish, and I don't even crush hard problems the way true monsters do.
My big big mistake has been, thinking that I was the shit. Thinking that, because I sent a couple of project this past winter and I did a few other problems in familiar areas recently, I was at the top of the game, of my game.
Surprise surprise, I'm not the shit, I'm just shit.
I am absolutely average, and every time I step into the gym I'm reminded about this: I stand speechless as climbers that I judge not strong repeat my problems, sometimes very very easily. I know that I change alot when on rock, but I should stop thinking about myself as a strong mofo just because I can do a couple of one armers or deadhang an edge.
Reality is, that I am and feel weak. My fingers feel weak, my body feels weak, and if I keep setting my own problems at the gym, instead of trying to crush other people's ones, is that I can't do their problems.
In the lonesome comfort of the fingerboard, or alone under the 60° wall I feel less weak and closer to a wad, but only in confrontation one can find self confidence.
I went to Amiata secure of my success and came home shocked about how poorly I did. Where does the truth lie? I don't know, I think it lies between Font 6a and 8c. I am somewhere in there, hopefully closer to the bigger number (just in numerical terms, because in climbing terms I'm closer to 6a than to 8c), but what is really important is the direction of my movement. I feel that I'm not exactly moving backwards, but I'm not sure I'm moving forward and I don't like this feeling. I think I am a bit tired of training for so little climbing, then I tell myself that I'm working for my goals, for my two problems at the Dolomites of this (rainy) summer, then for my hopefully longer stay in UK. But it's very hard, because I know that I could reap some reward, even in my poor climbing state, and that could push my mood up.
Anyway, one thing came to my mind very clearly today: I have to embrace more deeply this discipline, I have to be more serious and even more dedicated, not in terms of time put into it, but in terms of faith and behaviour. Living the monk life comes to my mind, and I am pretty sure to understand Big Malc's thoughts of when he sent and named that problem.
When Keith came here, he sent one problem that he called "Giorni Scuri" (Dark Days), a very big gift for me, because it was dedicated to my, and to his, and to ours, dark days spent dangling from fingerboards in chalky bedrooms, or yelling in cold cellars. Those dark days made possible for me to find myself on top of that problem on my second go of the day, one thing once thought almost impossible.
Somewhere during my walk towards the 8c end of the scale, I lost my dark days, and start living the spotlight days, looking cool in the gym, looking cool at the boulders, writing cocky shit on this diary. The night before going to Amiata the other day, I ate poorly and drank one bottle of champagne, then went to bed almost at 3 am. No wonder I did so badly. It's cool to be a bit gangsta, but only after crushing. Crushing before, champagne later.
The enlightning is to embrace the dark days again, even deeper, and even darker days.
I want to feel the sensation of having power inside myself. I want to think about my fingers in terms of things that can hold onto any hold. I want to find every problem easy. I want to get bored of crushing 8a's and dedicate myself to the quest of power again. If could have a wish from a genius, I'd ask to be the strongest. Sadly, there is no genius, so the only thing that I can so is to try and become the strongest. It's obviously impossible, but I have to try and become stronger than anyone I know, and being it also impossible, I have to try and become stronger than myself.
I don't want to feel weak anymore. I know it will be very difficult, especially with still a bad finger, but the goal is there, and I want to move in that direction. I need to move in that direction because I hate every single second of my last climbing day. I hate the clouds, the soaking humidity, the pain of the pointy holds on my soft tips, the emptiness of my arms, the endless distances between my hands and the target holds, the thought "I can't hold this" that never left my mind. I hate these feelings, I hate those boulders. I also hate myself for losing sight of the real goal, that is just one: progressing. Progressing steadily and endlessly, with no goal line in sight. It's far too easy to sprint when the final line is there, in front of us. The real challenge is to sprint when you still can't see the end.
I want to sprint for a dream again. And I want to do it now. And I want to sleep well because I dedicated my entire self to this pursuit.
Bonne nuit.


Saturday, 4 July 2009

A NOT SO GOOD DAY OUT

Luckily bouldering is something I really love, otherwise today would have been a bad day: conditions at the Amiata top were very poor, hottish and humid. With one percent point more, it would have been unclimbable.
Anyway, I finally tried my infamous project, the one my friends have tried and almost done, and it felt absolutely impossible so I'm pretty sad and disappointed. I unlocked the first move, a long pull from a vertical hold with bad feet, and with one heel it became a steady move, so steady that now I can really chose how to take the second hold, but then there's darkness. I haven't understood how to take that second hold with my right hand, and then the cross move with the left hand is a cloud of doubt and weakness. I really wonder how my friends have done it, even if it's useless because we have completely different heights.
Then I moved two meters on the right to try another excellent problem, with exactly the same sequence, and that means that my right index finger has been bashed for three hours on the two problems.
Well despite my efforts I couldn't do the second one, that should be around 7b+ or 7c.
Anyway those two problems, despite being very beautiful, really pissed me off, and not because I couldn't do them, but because they really are a pain in the ass to try. They have small boulders all under them, so you need at least four pads and a spot, and for the second problem still it's not enough to make it safe. I got really nervous because every time you fall the pads slide on the boulders and you have to put them back in place, and that's very annoying also because they move and slide also when you step on them to try the higher moves.
Well, thinking back about it, it's been really a bad day out, my trousers got soaked by humidity while I was just climbing, crucial footholds crumbled and fingers got enormous flappers. One good thing is that I worked really hard one holds that I don't love nor practice: monos and two fingers pockets.
I still have my other project, that I can try on my own with just three pads, but that's a small consolation.
So, I'll try to keep my cool and don't get fooled by this bad day and fall into a spiral of depression and overtraining.
Monday I could start the weights phase or go toproping. We will see but sadly now nothing is appealing. I'm really sad, fuck everything.