Wednesday, 25 August 2010

SILENT STRIKE, LOUD THOUGHTS

When one is not able to understand, I think the best solution is to pause, and to let things settle, before getting to wrong assumptions. I don't try to force myself into finding an answer, I don't push myself into a deep self-analysis: I let my feelings, rather than my brain, guide me.
As you know, I came back from the Dolomites with a mixture of satisfaction, surprise and emptyness. In my mind, I have a whole lot of quite obsessive thoughts, the main one being that the problem I have climbed cannot be 8a+. I don't know why I bother, but I simply think that I can't climb that grade that way, because it's bloody hard, and on that problem I didn't have such a hard time. I was alone, also, as I am when I train. I don't know anyone who's climbed the problem and the only other reference that I have is that James didn't flash it. This being alone, leaves a lot of room, in my mind, the mind of a man who's never sure about himself, for many doubts. Sometimes these doubts must leave room to facts: for instance, when I can hang a hold that a friend can't. I know I am not weak, but one thing is to hang a hold and a completely different thing is getting a problem done.
I say it again, I don't even understand why I bother. I think it could be that I don't want to be too happy for something that could be not worth it. Again, happiness is happiness and it's always worth it. I found the answer, this time, in thinking that that problem was something I liked, something I wanted to climb, and that I did it, while previously I couldn't. The grade should lose importance, under this perspective; sadly it does not. Grades are important for me because they are a measure of improvement: I am happy to add a rung to my campusing; I am happy to add 5 seconds to a deadhang; but I am far happier to climb a problem that everyone else find hard, or to jump up a grade in the Font scale.
In all this process of self questioning, suddenly something put me on the right path to make some progress into this labyrinth of my mind: in the last few days, I've been feeling completely spent, empty. The sense of satisfaction is still there, but emptyness is much more.
I must have done something really important and big for myself, if now I feel so empty, I could almost say depressed.
Again, this is a very incomplete answer. I think the only useful answer is to move on to the next goal. This time, maybe, it coud be smart to be ready to accept success. Because success is what I'll have.
video

Monday, 23 August 2010

THE DOLOMITES MAN


The air was fresh and the sun was rising from behind the Piz Ciavazes mountain. The first rays of light cut the valley in slices, through the mist of the early morning. It was 7 am, we were already at the base of the route and my head was exploding. I could barely concentrate on putting one foot in front of the other, my brain was a cloud of obsessive thoughts, and I was in real pain.
When the alarm went off at 5 am, I felt sure I was going to make it, and I got up ready for the task. How far from reality I was. The offer of the day was the "Dimai Route" on the Punta Grohman, 3156 meters. Two hours approach on a 45° slope and ridge; then a 150 easy terrain to be climbed unroped (a climber died here in July); then 13 pitches; then 7 abseils, with downclimbing up to III; then another hour down the talus.
My mind was producing images of the long horrible way down, and they were terrifying images. I knew I wasn't going to make it, and I told my friends. They looked at me and understood. No one complained, although they could have, because now they were a party of three, so slower and less enjoyable. But my friends are real friends, and the first thing they asked me was: "can you make it to the car on your own?". I said yes, and sat down. I cheered them as they disappeared on the exposed ridge and, taking all the concentration I was capable of, I started the way down. On the grassy slope, after the ridge, I lay down, and with the sun now fully out of the mountain, I fell asleep. There wasn't a single sound in the whole valley, and I started to compose myself.
I knew the epic was nearly over, but I also knew that another epic was just about to start: I wanted to go bouldering now, but the few hours of sleep, and the effort of the walk in had left me knackered. I knew that despite it being only 8.30 am, my day was already over.
I got to the car park and tried to sleep in the car. It was too hot already and too noisy, the first trekkers arriving. So I pulled my finger out and went to the hut. I ordered a double, long coffee in a big cup and a slice of Strudel. I gulped everything down then had another long coffee. I packed my shit and went to the boulders, prepared to have a nap on the crashpads and then play my cards on my project, the famous traverse that I have been wanting to do since last year, when I also watched James try it.
I had tried it in early June, but was unable to put together its 18 moves. You first have to do "Mecca" a hard 7c, then keep going right on far apart edges. Brilliant climbing.
I got there and my first thought wasn't about sleeping, but about cleaning the holds and drying out the many wet ones. My head still a bit of a haze, I touched the rock and felt a strange, pleasant sensation. I found a better sequence on two movements and soon after all I could think about was giving it a go. I tried to sleep a bit, but I felt a urge to climb it. I just couldn't rest, and it wasnt' because of the coffee, because my heart was slow and I was relaxed. I was feeling something. Minutes later, after a couple of fumbled attempts and finally finding the right footholds for the lower part, I had crushed it. Easily. Well not easily, but I had climbed very well, aggressively and precisely. It was over. Another one.
Now I have climbed all the problems I wanted to do there, and this incredible feeling has been with me for the whole Sunday, the day originally planned for the assault. A mixture of satisfaction, joy and emptyness.
Despite feeling very bad in the morning, I went there, I kept the fucking faith and I got it. Needless to say, I couldn't sleep for the rest of the day, and my head really started to hurt, I think the pressure released and my body finally allowed itself to be sick.
My friends had an 11 hours marathon on the route, with a 5 hours long descent. The route was dangerous with rockfall, and Andrea had a close one exploding right to his side.
Just as I was starting to worry, I saw them sliding down the talus. Minutes later we were at the hut, gulping down beers and Radler. Miraculously, the alcohol released my excruciating headhache, and I finally felt good.
At night I slept like a baby.
I have so many thoughts in my mind right now. I wanted to do the problem, but maybe I wasn't ready to do it so quickly. I wasn't prepared. Now I think about what I've done, and cannot fit in the bigger picture, unless I think back to all the time I've dedicated to it in one way or another. I have done hundreds of pullups, hours of deadhangs, and even the odd route. I haven't stopped thinking about the goal for a second. Progressing, progressing, progressing.
My progression had crossed again the path of my projects and I have ticked. Now it's time to move on, even though I have to say that I feel very very empty now.
The problem is given 8a+. Is it? Before doing it, it was. Now, I dont' know. Did it seem easy? I don't know. I just did it: it's transformed now, it became just a thing that I wanted to do and I have done.
So in my personal grading scale, it gets the "F" grade: "fatto" - "done". Again, I want to think in terms of progression instead of in terms of reaching a specific goal: I was impressed, a few weeks back, when I found myself reading these same words on Dave MacLeod's book (page 119, just in case you want to check).
Fuck me, I really really don't understand this all: it's got no sense at all. I shouldn't have done it this way. It's a nonsense.

Saturday, 14 August 2010

TO MALC, OR NOT TO MALC, THAT IS THE QUESTION

As you may or may not know, I have recently ticked a couple of lines; one was a repeat, but with a broken foothold and a different exit, and one was "I Mulini", Tom's project for me from last year.
These two problems, that together pack in the mindblowing amount of nine moves, are snatchy and painful, and overall hard. I have some grades in my mind, but due to the particular nature of the problems, I will keep them in my mind for a while.
They don't count anyway: they could also be Font 6a, the fact is that I found them hard, I tried them without doing them for a while, and then I did them. That's a personal progress with no doubt.
So, what's the point?
As you do know, I am a bit obsessed by the power aspect of climbing. I know I'm not exactly weak, but for sure I don't feel strong, when I compare myself to the true strong ones.
So, right now, I am in a precarious situation: I feel weak but I know I have ticked. Hmm... should I resist the call of the sirens flattering my ego, chanting that I am a strong one, and inducing me to go straight to my projects; or shouldn't I?
You already know. I will resist.
Between "to Malc" or "not to Malc" I will always choose "to Malc". Because Malc not only is a beast and a lifetime hero of mine, but because he is always ticking, also.
So, he embodies the two aspects. Not only he's the creator of "Malc's One Armer", a footless one armer on a non existant hold - a feat that some may dismiss as trivial - but he's also the one that tore Cresciano apart. He's the one who chalked up mid-crux on "Hubble". He's the one. Full stop.

As for the one armer, it's a matter of potential: being able to perform one single move at Font 8a, opens up a new world of opportunities, and if you don't understand this, close this blog and don't come back, because you won't find anything for you here.
The world has a limited number of problems. The current grading scale stops at around Font 8c. But our own possibilities, in our minds, are endless. So, I don't want to simply climb the hardest boulder on Earth (Keith, you bastard made me change my mind, do you still remember our conversation in Font?), I want to endlessly progress. And progress can be infinite if we understand it as a goal in itself, rather than a mean to reach a certain grade. That’s why, despite being happy, very happy for the last lines I climbed, I want to concentrate on how weak I feel, on how bad I climb, and on how far away from my goals I am. Because my goals are very hard. But my goals push me forward, bring me under the fingerboard, or in the gym, or doing laps on a toprope. My goals drive me to progress, and my progresses, physical or even just mental ones, take me closer and closer to my goals: so close that at a given point my progresses will cross their path with the path of my goals and I will reach those goals. Luckily, at that moment, my breathing will slow down again, my yells will disappear, and I will picture in my mind a new target, a new goal. This new goal will be the same as ever, the only true goal that I have: progressing.

Saturday, 7 August 2010

STAY SANE INSIDE INSANITY

Lines from songs I love keep resounding in my ears, recently. This time it's not punk or hardcore or metal, it's the lines from "Eddie's Teddy" and "Don't Dream It, Be It", both from "The Rocky Horror Picture Show".
I am so deeply tied to this movie and its soundtrack: two years ago, when I made the move of moving to the sea to keep my Public Notary career, a move that later proved itself to be a humoungus error, that move meant also saying goodbye to the wall, the campusboard and all the gym's crew, to start training again all alone on a small fingerboard. At the time, I still hadn't seen the light under the form of a Beastmaker, so everything was even more difficult, but that fingerboard helped me to stay sane inside insanity. In the rainiest spring of the century, as both Tom and Rich, who later came to visit me, can testify, every night I would come home at 8.30 pm after 11 hours working, I would change into shorts and tanktop, would put on that soundtrack and would pull wooden edges or plastic slopers until failure, something that would happen sooner in my fingers and muscles than in my mind.
Now I have a Beastmaker, and again I often find myself breathing under it, eyes glued on the stopwatch, curious to see if I'll manage to see another set of hangs or pulls. I try to stay sane inside insanity again, but now I want to do more.
I want to stop dreaming it, I want to be it.
If I want to climb my projects, and I want to, I think I have to put in more effort. That's what makes me going now. The more I struggle, the happier I am.
I was reading Dave MacLeod's book the other day, and I stumbled on these lines "The best athletes often have something that 99% of everyone else doesn't. They love the 'grind'. They love the long, repetitive, drawn out and seemingly unrewarding years between the excitement of the novice and the success of being at the pinnacle of performance".
That's true, at least for me. Of course I am not a top athlete as far as objective performances go, but I feel I am a true athlete in my mind. I love to train. I love to fail and to feel weak because it pushes me on. I love being challenged and feeling everyone is against me (bear in mind, it's not true at all, I have many people around who love me), I love feeling alone (which sometimes is all true).
So at the venerable age of 38 and half, I am certain that I am still far from reaching my true potential, and I am certain that sooner or later I will clip that chain and I will top out on that boulder.
So my friends, dont' dream it, be it. I wish you to succeed easily on your projects. I wish you to find yourselves on top of that boulder, or clipping that chain, as if you'd done nothing, easily, with no training or suffering.
But I still wish myself to succeed after a long and hard fight, because I know that if I do so, I'll never stop.

Sunday, 1 August 2010

A SMILE, FINALLY!

I had a good day yesterday on rock at Amiata top with my good friend Fabio. I did the usual problems, put up the 13th eliminate on "Il Motorino di Mario" (it's worth mentioning that there are four holds in total on the block), then proceeded to repeat "Il Manfano", a problem that I had done last summer, but that I also wanted to repeat, probably because a foothold crumbled and made the move a bit more exigent in precision, if not power. Anyway I did it third go, and three goes were enough to shred my skin, but the problem is so good. I felt solid, chose a higher foothold that made the first move a bit harder but saved a foot movement, and that made all the difference. I stuck the pocket, adjusted, and went on to the top. I let go a yell that bounced down the valley for hours and for a moment I felt satisfied again.
As soon as I sat down again and took off my shoes, I thought about how much I was missing my girlfriend in that moment.
Then it was time to climb more, but my skin was hurting, so I decided to skip the volume and just try the eliminate that Tom had created and left for me to try, last september when he came here. I had given it a few tried without sticking the third move, to a bad crimp, so when I didn't even stick the first move I was a bit shocked. Instead of crying, I took my time to analyze the hold carefully to understand the perfect finger placement: it's an index finger mono with a little bit for middle and ring finger on some kind of slopey dish. Nasty.
The study worked and I did the move next try, going on to the crimp and almost latching the final move to the jug. I fell on the last move another two or three times, but at that point my skin was too poor and I was very tired. The problem, despite being very short, squeezes quite a lot of core tension from your body and I was done.
So, finally a good day out and some smiles on my face and on Fabio's face, who ticked his first 6c+/7a.
Tom, you'll never have your pants back, they're cool, they're comfy and they're stylish, so now they're also mine.
Here's a small video, sadly from phone camera. Keep the faith.


video