Tuesday, 29 June 2010


I spent the last weekend at Amiata, in a super posh B&B that my girlfriend chose. The plan was to bake in the sun and chill in the swimming pool, for her; to destroy hard boulders, for me.
Predictably, she had more success, but despite a months long layoff due to the elbow, the lack of specific training, baby skin and hot, aggressive rock, I definitely pulled.
At first, I was feeling very nervous; it was as if everything was new. I felt unsure about doing moves that didn't seem that hard; I felt unsure to be able to actually complete a problem without screwing something; I felt unsure if it was a good idea to really give it a serious try, or if it could have been better for me to hide in the shadow of my elbow injury and step back from stage.
Predictably again, I decided to give it a go. On the first problem, I was very tense. The move off the pinch seemed hard and as I tried the topout I immediately started to have problems, until I found a sequence to the right side of the boulder. So I took my chances, stepped under the small overhang and concentrated. Then I pulled on, and I felt everything easy as it once was. Despite this, I did manage to screw it on the topout, due to not being used anymore to climbing. I was tempted to take the tick nonetheless, the move that I fumbled is easy and I was scared to try again the bottom move, the slap to the sloper. Then I thought that I had to get used again to the pressure, that I had to get confident again, to see myself doing every move and to believe. So I did it again and crushed it.
This brought great joy and satisfaction. I had previously cleaned another line to the right, dynamic slaps and compressions between the arete and some pinches, but the rock had already taken its toll from my fingertips and my body was tired, I didn't have much core tension and could barely figure out the bottom moves. The top ones will be hard, but I will do them and it will be a great problem.
I walked back down to another small overhang.
Months ago I had been there, and I had done the problem, but I couldn't complete the sitter I wanted to add. So I set to work, but every hold was too painful, and despite getting the last crimp twice, I had to admit defeat.
It was time to get back to the pool.
Sunday, with my already acheing tips, I found myself again there. I warmed up, and felt comfortable under the pressure of wanting to do the sitter first go. It wasn't a flash, in my mind it was even harder than a flash attempt. On a flash, you can blame everything for blowing it: a wrong sequence, a suddenly greasy hold, or whatever. I couldn't. I knew exactly what I had to do, how every move and every hold would feel, how hard. So it was with great joy that I did it first go, cutting loose even if I didn't want to, but climbing it well.
I went back to the problem of the saturday, and added a sitter to that also.
Finally, I went back to another sector to give a try to another project of mine, a traverse on slopey holds. I made progress and I felt happy and grateful. I felt grateful to myself, because I never let go and kept my faith in a better future, even when I was feeling sad and I found everything unfair.
So I came home with new problems done, and, which is even better, new projects to bash my head against.
My elbow was tired but fine, so maybe that better future has finally arrived and I am ready to welcome it.

Monday, 21 June 2010


Two months ago I did my first serious Beastmaker session. Then I decided to call it quits for a while, to recover my elbow, and dedicated myself to moving weights around in a dusty, dark and stinky gym. I have been doing this for the last month, three or four times a week, and I think I got some result. I immediately noticed that somehow, during the winter, I had retained the power I had put up in past summer's cycle. So I started again from there.
I have trimmed the session in this month, cutting off useless exercises (useless in terms of climbing training) and adding some others. In particular, I started training my back, and recently my triceps, with super sets.
So I first do parallel dips and then cable extensions for the triceps, and I do bicep curls with a dumbbell followed by one armed pulley machine or one armed lat machine. It's strenuous but effective. I hadn't felt my biceps and back this worked in a lot of time. I still am very very cautious with my right arm, I try to pull down but avoid the fully locked position due to my elbow, which, despite the repeated beatings I give it, is getting slowly better. The combined one armed sessions at the fingerboard I did all April, also gave some results. My left arm is definitely overally stronger and more stable, and my bicep has changed its shape, which is a clearly good sign.
Yesterday I did my second Beastmaker session of the past week. Progress. I am currently training with 6 sets of 10" hangs for each chosen hold and grip. Still refining the session to obtain the most from power and skin, yesterday was a good one. I did:
warm up; big rungs; 20°; 30°; middle two; slopey monos; front two on small ones; back two; back two on small ones; small rungs; back three small rungs; small rungs again. Felt good and satisfied at the end, with a decent volume of 11 clean minutes of deadhangs, and also a quite high intensity, working two fingers at a time is hard for me, almost never done it before. It's good to train this way because you can go at the limit without having to add weight or go one armed, two things that I don't want to do anymore (the frist one), and for the moment (the latter).
One other good (or bad, depending on your opinion) thing about the Beastmaker, is that it's widely popular among strong climbers, this allowing everyone to share data. Speaking with Tom the other day I realized (once more), how weak my fingers are. Seeing footage of Ned campusing between the 30° and the small monos in the Climbing Works video tour, made me realize how weak I am. Reading the Beasts' feats, made me realize how weak I am. The road is so long, steep and difficult, and it's so easy to get overwhelmed by other people's power. But, despite being so depressing, playing with the big boys is the only way to grow up stronger. I don't want to be the king of the gym, I want to go around and touch many different kinds of rock and climb many different, hard problems. I go to the gym to fail, to be shit and to feel shit. Not to succeed. Or not mainly.
Sometimes I am a bit sad because I feel the need to put more effor into my climbing: recently I feel like I've been a bit slack, not traininfgproperly or seriously, even though I know that this wouldn't be fair to say. I have trained as hard as I could with my injury, but this thought lets me not satisfied. I would like to dedicate my entire day to climbing and training, doing more and more, but sadly it's not possible.
Even having the time needed, I don't know if my body would allow me, but for sure I would try.

Friday, 18 June 2010


Images courtesy of Filippo Galluzzi.

Tuesday, 15 June 2010


Today I finally made it back under the Beastmaker. I think the video says it all.

... and a rather happy Totolore after a particularly satisfying set.

Monday, 7 June 2010


The heavy approach.
The imposing Catinaccio.
Andrea leading the third pitch.
Yours truly at the top.
I spent the weekend in the Dolomites, and as usual it's been gorgeous. With a nice group of friends, also. With my friend Andrea I climbed the "Spigolo Maestro" VI, at the Catinaccio group, a nice short multipitch (six pitches), very exposed (it's a ridge) and both physical on the overhanging bits and technical, on grey wonderful slabs, where you always find the hold you need to progress right when you need it. Well protected on pitons, I only put one friend, before realizing I hadn't noticed a nearby piton. I am very proud of having led the crux pitch. I had a moment of tension when a fast party, led by an alpine guide, as we found out later, joined us at the third pitch belay: I was leading the delicate slab above, and I started hearing some muttering from below, clearly the fast party was complaining about us being slow. In fact, Andrea later told me, the guy got to the belay where he was, and quickly said "Oh, shit we have to wait now!"; Andrea, my very best friend, quickly answered: "Exactly, you should have gotten up earlier, as we did." End of story. Silence again, and I completed the pitch in glory.
I spent the following day all alone at Città dei Sassi, getting back in touch with bouldering. I tried "Dolomitenmann" 8a+, a left to right traverse out from "Mecca" 7c. I had pictures of James trying it last november, almost doing it in a few tries: well, came out that his sequence skipped at least three good holds and was plain brutal. I spent a long time finding my own sequence and managed to do all the moves quickly, but I hadn't enough in my tank to complete the whole long problem (20ish moves). I did it in two halves and in the doing also repeated "Mecca"; sadly, baby soft skin, temps in the high 20° and general lack of climbing fitness all together were too powerful enemies for me to defeat.
I had moments of rage and disappointment, but then realized I was in an amazing place, doing what I love, and my elbow was also feeling quite good. I kept on climbing on the problem until I couldn't do more than one move in a row, then with a monster grin of satisfaction, packed and left.
As the last mountains disappeared in the rearviewmirror, and I had only flatlands in front of me, I started reliving all the moments of these two days, and suddenly I found myself there in the mountains again, with the rough grey and orange rock under my fingers. And this is just magic.