Thursday, 24 March 2011

ONE OF MANY FIGHTS

In the pic, warming up during a previous visit years ago.

I am on the train. Phone calls have been made, text messages have been exchanged, and the plan is unfolding nicely.
I can't cancel the smile from my face.
My pad is wet, it's raining, and from the window I see nothing but wet lands.
And I still can't cancel the smile from my face.
All of a sudden, I feel the pressure of what I am going to do, and gone is the smile. My mind is strong, I have climbed this problem so many times, in bed, at school while waiting for the students to finish their tests, at the gym while resting between attempts, in the shower. Now I am going there do climb it only one more time, but the only time that matters, the one that's for real.
I get down at the station, I feel good and happy, I am home again, despite having moved again: home is where friends are?
I see Tom as I go down the stairs. Long time no see my friend.
In the car there is Tom's friend, a true beast, and again through rain, mist and some more kilometers, I finally see the see, the Pier and The Orme.
It seems doable, then it seems not. How low will those clouds be? How wet will the holds be? How small will they feel?
As it happened many times in the past, when I lay in the tent in the grass surrounded by the Dolomites, mixed feelings fill my thoughts: I want to get it done, but would pay so much to have a simple, valid, small excuse to call me out of the fight. "I hope it rains outside". How many times I recited this mantra to avoid another 15 pitches on 50 years old rotting pitons. Some of these times, my prayer became reality, and with all the pressure disappearing in a split second, we raced down into town to dive ourselves into coffee, strudel and krapfens. Some other times, the sun reminded us that we were there to do some business, and our will made the rest. Make coffee, eat some cookies, dress up, gear up and do the job. Despite all the toil and torture, I do not wonder why I remember all the times that we climbed and not the times that we could rest and go to the bar...
"I hope The Cave is dripping" I find myself muttering. This thought lasts no time. I don't hope it's dripping, I feel it will be ok, and I don't care how it is in fact, because I am going there and climbing the problem.
"It's not looking good".
"It's dripping".
"It's wet".
IT'S A FUCKING STICKY DAMP.
The guys take everything out of the car and I understand that we are truly here for business. No exitation, it's time and when I hear Tom asking me to do the "Acid Test" for conditions, I am already one arming the pocket, with even my down jacket on. Tom is happy.
With a giant packet of tissues we all dry the holds, and it's really time.
Pressure kicks in. I am not afraid, because I know that I perform at my best under pressure. The first move is fine, and the second one feels good despite feeling a little longer than I expected. I know where to place my feet and I get the flake good and I am solid. I flag my right leg behind and I match, then I throw out right and I miss the hold. I am back on Earth.
It's been a good go, given the conditions (I wonder if it really was a sticky damp or if it simply was a total, complete and utter swimming pool...) and given the fact that I smartly chose to came here on my 8th consecutive day of climbing or training. I am knackered but confident. Maybe just too confident, almost naive.
I rehearse the move, and now I know where to take it and how to take it. It's time again and this time I don't miss it, but I miss the heel hook because I haven't checked where it is, and I fall going again to the good drilled pocket. Now I really am under pressure, this move feels very precarious, you can't see the hold, and I am perplexed.
Adam pops up to say hello, and I am happy to meet him. I am even happier when he points out that I am heelhooking the wrong bit. He shows me where to do it, and on the previously precarious move now I can shake out for how long I want. Thank you.
Releif, I rest and go again. I am confident.
I push with my left foot and I hear Tom saying "Nice and smooth Lore, nice and smooth": he's so close yet I feel the words so distant and I think if it could really be, that I am nice and smooth in my climbing. All of a sudden I am at the flake, I match, and while kicking with my right foot I cut loose and swing out, it should not happen, I think, but I am still there, on. I kick in, and go on. I get the hold out right, I heel hook prefectly and I get the pocket. I am there, so close. And so fucked up. I struggle and I fall on the last move. No. The nightmare. Falling on the last move. And feeling completely thrashed. Pressure pressure pressure. I perform at my best under pressure.
After what I judge a good rest, which it's not, because in these conditions a good rest for me should be a three days rest, I gulp down some supplements: aminoacids and glutamine, and I hope they do something good.
Will they? I'd better do my part.
This is the go. At the flake again, I almost forget to match, and that's not a good sign, because my mind is not focused, and so my body cannot be either. I kick, I cut loose and I don't hold the swing. It's over. It's fucking over. I am fucking done.
Tom's friend brings the pads under his project, and I start packing my stuff. Tomorrow it will be soaked by humidity, and the tissues won't do. It's over. I could have done it, but it didn't happen. I gave my whole self and it wasn't enough.
No.
I am packing my stuff only because I know that I will remain here until I have climbed the problem, and I don't want to lose my stuff in the dark. I have all the time in the world.
I am there again, at the starting hold. Nice and smooth. I do the first move and I feel a particular pressure on my right foot, unlike previous tries. I think "This will make all the difference". I get the right hand pocket and its lip feels grainy and sticky, and this makes me strong. I get the flake, I flag, I match and I kick. I cut loose. It shouldn't happen. It shouldn't have happened. While I swing out, not arguing with gravity, much more exchanging fists with her, I feel the indecision, the uncertainity of the future in my whole body: when this chaos will be over, will I still be on here, or on the ground?
Here.
Left foot in the pocket, right foot in the smear, dyno out right. There. Thumb on. Heel hook and shake out, because I am so strong. I get the good hold, "remember all the one armers you've done" and I let go of the flake with the left hand. I stop the swing on the rail and I reach out and high, then I engage auto pilot and pull through and I am on the finishing hold. I only have to tap the back of my hand to complete the problem.
And I can't. And I FUCKING CAN'T. The rail was dripping and my left hand got soaked. I am sliding off the hold, I cannot match and I cannot finish the problem. What should I do? Jump down and take the tick? Try to adjust my right toe? Get a heel in? I don't know and anyway I can't do it. I just do not let go. Everyone is screaming at me, I say "Spot me well" to I don't know who, I just hear shouts from all around, I try to raise my body, I push with my right foot and squeeze something with my left, finding some sort of friction in a toe hook. Chaos. Shouts. Grease. Fatigue. Pride. Honour. Will. Delusion. Frustration. Sweat. Everything condensates here and now, in this fractions of a second during which I somehow tap the back of my left hand with my right and come down.
I scream, everyone screams, and the echoes get lost in the sea.
I hug my friends, I yell and the world is a perfect place. I take out the flask and down goes my 15 years old Laphroaig.
I have done "Rock Atrocity" and I am God.

Tuesday, 22 March 2011

YOU GOTTA FIGHT FOR YOUR RIGHT TO PARTY

In the pics here, a few moves from the extension. I think they show how physical it gets: long moves, body tension, perfect problem.



On another note, you gotta fight for your right to climb.
I know people who can dedicate all the time they want to climbing. Sincerely, I don't envy them. I've never been able to do so, I have always had to struggle to fit my climbing into my life: it could be university (not that much but still...), it could be partying (a fucking lot of it...), it could be girls (never enough of that...), the fact is that I have always fought for my climbing.
This is very good, and I'll tell you why: because it strengthens your will, not only your muscles, and with a stronger will you also climb harder problems, because the struggle is just the same. The other day, speaking with a good friend, he said he wouldn't drive 4 hours to go to Ticino for the weekend, it's too long a drive for just two climbing days. Result: missed opportunities to climb. You don't move unless you have longer vacations, and that happens more seldom than every weekend.
Some people I know would not even drive one hour on their own to go to the crag. That's unreal for me. I don't care, I just want to do the business.
Moreover, struggling to get some climbing, prepares you to... struggle to get some climbing. If you can't dedicate anymore all your time to climbing, as soon as the first difficulties will appear, you won't be prepared. I've seen this happen so many times: you are unable to fit small bits of climbing into your schedule, you are unable to train while short on time, or tired, you get basically lazy, because everything gets... harder.
Well, I like when things get harder. Harder, mind, not impossible. Hard is good. When I do a problem, if it's not a project, I want to do it as hard as I can: if I use it for training, I want the hardest beta I can manage. But back on topic.
It's all to easy to get to the crag when you've trained for 4 months without a single other concern in your life, when you have eaten well, slept a lot, and you don't have issues moving around and making noise in your head, like the rent, the bills, the girl, the stuff that makes our lives what they are.
The trick is learning to do the deed when poorly rested because of work, or after an argument or a bad day. Why is this so important? Because it broadens the chances to get some climbing, obviously.
This doesn't mean that I couldn't do with a full time climbing life: of fucking yes I could. Simply, I don't want to get soft. I want to get old and still be cranking. I don't want to stop climbing at the first difficulties, I don't want to become another Stuart Cameron. I don't blame him and I don't judge him, nor all the others that simply decide to quit, to "knock it on the head" as he puts in an old interview. Simply, I don't want to do it.
Why? Because I love climbing.
Because after a climbing day in which I have given my best, regardless of success or failure, I feel complete and fullfilled for at least a minute, before diving into the struggle again.
But that minute is worth a thousand years.


Tuesday, 15 March 2011

YOU REAP WHAT YOU SOW

In the pic, my forearms crying for help and oxygen. I don't look happy, do I?

This project is going to drive me mad, and to make me sweat blood.

I don't know why, but it seems like I'm unable to avoid getting into troubles. Years ago, after doing the deed with "Out of Service", with the effort it required, I had nothing better to do than adding a sit start to it. Weeks and weeks of toil, tears and frustration, with the final happy ending at last.
On established problems, I always want to add more moves or climb harder variations: it's happened many times, and it keeps happening. Not every time it's as smooth and straightforward as when I did the "Roof Direct" with the original lower start.
That very same day, january the 3rd, I conceived my actual nightmare.
It's been a strange session, my last one, on that thing. 5th session, and I finally climbed the extension start in one bit. In the morning, despite not feeling very sparky, I thought that now it's time to pull the finger out, and to seriously embark in trying to climb it, rather than trying to try it. So from now on, every go will be a redpoint go. I have to suss out a few question marks, that may sound trivial, but to me they are not: first one, given the current state of my climbing shoes, I have to figure out which model will do the job best. Solutions have a better heel, but they are less sensitive and precise on the toes than Jet7's, whose toes, now, are pretty worn out and a bit rounded out. The Wild Climb have taken me on top of the "old" problem already, so maybe it's another option. Then, on the micro-beta subject, I still have to decide one last crucial foot placement for the final, precarious and tricky move, the dyno to the jug. Before doing this, I want to try another different sequence, going to the jug left hand, not right hand, and see what it feels like. I don't know which one will feel harder, after 15 moves in a roof: a low percentage dyno or a powerful lock off?
And so here we are to the main issue: am I crazy to get me into a 15+ moves marathon? I've been there before, with "OOS Sit Start", but the hardest move of that problem is the average move on this one...
To solve this problem, I have gotten into some PE training, going to the gym and alternating power sessions and PE sessions. In these ones, I do laps on problems, climbing down to the starting holds and then starting again; or trying to repeat harder problems at the end of the session. It's horrible and it makes me want to puke. On power sessions, I redpoint the hardest problems, or I repeat others with my weightvest on, with 4 kilos.
Yesterday I did something new on the Beast: instead of the usual deadhanging session, I did 1 minute hangs on the 20° and on the big rungs, like this: 20 seconds hang, 5 pull ups, 20 seconds hang, 5 pull ups, for a total of 60 seconds. 4 sets on the 20°, 2 on the rungs, I nearly puked.
So, here I am.
Last saturday I climbed the easy part of the project, only to find myself at the start of the real difficulties with numb fingers, unable to keep going. It's been frustrating. I was going to go for it but simply couldn't, and it hurt me. It took forever to warm my fingers up again, and afterwards they were in pain for an hour. Another go saw me again getting the "starting" jug, but I came off the left toe hook and it was over.
I think higher temps could do the job here, as Martin says about his project.
I don't know why I couldn't feel really and deeply happy about this progress: from not doing the section to doing it twice in a session; something in my mind was not in the right mindset. Maybe wrong expectations or simply being not 100% in it, or maybe simply being disappointed for not playing the day professionally enough: I climbed too much before going to the roof, but I was with friends and that's what I felt I wanted to do, so I did it.
I ended the day repeating a few 7b's, so after all another "big volume" day for my standards.
It's on, it's really on.
It's time and I am a fool.


Monday, 7 March 2011

PICCOLO FOTTUTO BASTARDO

In this small video, the problem I did last week. I think it's very cool.
On a side note, another trip under the roof saw me unable to link the extension bit in a oner, I keep falling on the move to join the start of the "normal" line of the roof direct.
Numbers keep spinning in my mind.

video

Tuesday, 1 March 2011

BACK TO REALITY

More than a week has passed since my return. Luckily, or unluckily depending on your point of view, I didn't manage to get the week of complete rest that I had planned: after a long but interesting journey back (bus from Sheffield to London, chill out a few hours, overnight bus from London to Paris, spend the day in Paris, overnight train from Paris to Florence), I found blue skies and cool winds. After all, I had rested in the buses and train!
So, a quick trip to Amiata was the perfect wake up call, to remind me that I was back to my reality of familiar places and usual projects.
Recently I have been blessed by the unexpected: climbing very old projects or even adding the odd move to established problems; a few weeks before leaving for UK, I had tried to add a longer start to a problem I climbed a couple of years ago, that I called "Happy Days". These few moves (a match on a crimp and a lock off to the left) proved to be too hard for me at the moment, or the hold too painful for my skin, or the conditions too hot for both. I don't know why, but Thursday, when I gave it a go as the end of my warm up, I did the new moves three times over three tries, only to fall on easy ground at the end of the traverse before the arete, due to slipping off a flat foothold. On my third try, though, I found myself on top, having destroyed the moves and climbed what became "Piccolo Fottuto Bastardo". I'd be interested in some opinions about the grade. I think 7b+ could be it.
Obviously, after cheering my friends Filo, Mark and Giulio who had come there to meet me during their rest day, I went to the roof. Or under the roof, as I should say.
This was my project for this time of the season, and still is: despite my efforts, and clearly being in good climbing - if not physical - form, I still could not complete the new start. It's like that. I still haven't linked the full first part. Then I will have to do the Font 8a/+. Ah ah, that's brilliant innit? What a great project: 15 moves. Ten moves to get to the jug, then a five moves powerfest. Fantastic.
I am trying to picture in my mind the difficulty of the first part, and what could be the overall grade of the link. Could it reach the number of numbers, the number of greatness? We will see.
Then, the weekend: it was baltic. Maybe too cold to even get good friction. Anyway I went to Sasso with a nice bunch of sport climbers on a bouldering trip, and had a great day, despite being unable to properly try my other project. A couple of nasty falls (I even managed to fall down a rock pulling one spotter down with me) meant that I wasn't confident enough to try the final dynamic moves to the lip; add to this that one of the top jugs literally fell apart while I was brushing it, it's easy to understant that this project will remain such for a while. The day was a good one though, I did a bit of volume on problems around the 7a/+ mark. I learnt that it's always good to wear top and bottom thermals, and that I didn't eat enough in the morning to ensure good power during the whole day despite some cookies and tea. Schoolboy error.
So after this long, excellent rock oriented period of the last few weeks, it's back to training for me. I wanted to take the pressure off somehow, but I discovered that I can't: I need to train and I want to train. So I will train.
I still have to develop a right plan to climb the project, in terms of specific training: I still don't know whether it will be best to focus on Power Endurance or, as usual, on pure power. I will need both for sure. A meeting with The Guru should solve my doubts.
Finally, I started training in the morning, on the busy days, before going to work. I am alone at home in Florence, so I can do whatever I want whenever I want, and that's brilliant. I'm not a morning guy, at least not always. Sometimes, in the weekends, when I could have a lie in, I find myself fully loaded at 7,30 am, ready to pull on some grippy rocks; needless to say, when the alarm goes off at 8 am during work days, I can't find the energy to get out of bed, if not in my coffee bucket.
Anyway, this morning, not without difficulty, I managed to fit a Beastmaker session before work. It's great. Despite being a harsh way to wake up your mind and body, it puts you in the correct mood for the rest of the day: the motherfucker's mood.
After almost a month off the magic board, I haven't lost much. Climbing is a great training for fingerboarding after all. The biggest issue was skin: my skin now is perfect for climbing on rock, tough and dry. I dryfired off the slopey pockets twice today, landing perfectly on my knees. Ouch.
Another thing that I learned, is that I have been sandbagged big way by the Beastmaker guys. I think my board is the toughest I have ever tried: every other one I have used felt soft in comparison, and I have tested a few now. It's a well known phenomenon, soft and hard fingerboards of the same type: it's in the website as well. Anyway today I didn't feel bad at all: some kinds of grips felt strangely solid, like the front3 full crimp, and even the slopey pockets full crimp. The 45° are still desperate. I managed over 30 seconds on the 45° at the Depot Gym in Liverpool... maybe they need a new laser level?
But at night, when I am in bed, I don't think to those seconds during which gravity seemed suspended; I still dream about the rocks I touch and climb.
Those >30 seconds felt pretty damn good though!