Switzerland. The land of soft grades and the easy 8a? I don't think so. Things get done in switzerland not because they're soft, but because they're basic, and because basic climbing you can replicate indoors. And the weather is better. It doesn't mean the grades are soft, just that you're successfully able to precondition yourself to be able to do the climbs there. Of course, as with any area there are sandbags, and there are soft touches. Could this be the set up for me justifying a big holiday trophy I've bought back? I wish! more like it's I want to feel better about not doing anything!
You watch the videos on the internet of people doing hard things, and they make them look so easy. You forget that the people in these videos are the international wads, they are eight stone, 6ft4 and have practically unlimited time reserves. Expecting yourself to pull out similar performances on a week long trip is expecting a lot. I was laboring under the pressure of matching the last trip. Two 8a's, each in a session - surely 8a+ would be possible with a bit of grit (and cherry picking) and determination?
Me, Ben Pritchard, James Foley. Switzerland. One week, a whole host of hard things to do. I'd been dedicated, made sacrifices and felt strong on the board. My pre trip board project had gone down, the signs were good. We get up ludicrously early to catch a plane. Spend that afternoon having a potter around to get moving and shake off the fog of travel.
Next day we go up to Cresciano again to meet the other team (Sam, Lu, Rubber Chicken and the illegal immigrant). The first sign of a problem is that my wood soft skin feels sore on the warm ups. Bendy gets on La Pelle and does a couple of really good links. It looks like he could do this classic problem. We have a go on Franks, and I quickly realise its not something I could easily do ever. James looks really good on it, getting his heel in and coming off matching. Then we go up to Stinky Pete, which is one of the lines of Cresciano. Its high and with a bad landing, so you need a team to do it, and finally I'm in one. Three of us keep getting up there, but bailing out before the top. It takes a 14 yr old tree frog to show us the way, but noone else summits. An italian midget in a muscle vest turns up and I get told off for grooming him. We go to la proue and I make a try. These holds are jugs. Honestly - they are. But that foothold is shit. Its like a quarter of a marble. I manage to take my weight for a millisecond but cannot move. We go to La Boule and those two do la boulette, Foley with an alarming flourish on the rounded top out, uttering the immortal words 'I'm sketching' as he scrabbles for purchase.
The top thing on my list was the Freak Brothers. And on paper this one should have suited. I reached into the crimp and it felt good, I was suprised. The problems I had been setting on the boards had smaller holds than this, but it wasnt linear, it wasnt a simple function of finger strength, it was a wierd body position thing. I experimented about with it for a bit but my skin hurt and I didn't really get very far. Shit. I really wanted to do this one. I think its a great looking problem and it should have been up my street. Hmm. Talking of good looking problems - boogalagga! wow.
Next day we go to Brione. James is to get on Fake Pamplemousse, I want to try ganymede takeover, and then we plan to explore some of the bits we havent been to before. I feel whalloped. Ganymede feels more basic than Freak Brothers but everything hurts and I dont get too far. James makes progress on the pamplemousse. Bendy and I rest. We go to Molunk, past the cellar door. Molunk looks brilliant. I'd deliberately left my boots in the car, but it looks so good I run down to get them. Leaving James to work out the sequence. I end up doing it in the dark illuminated by my friends headtorches, and with a madmans 8b sequence.
Bendy had rested completely at Brione. And I needed to rest today (wednesday). He had looked so good on La Pelle, that was what he wanted to do. A lazy start to let it get out of the sun, then we started him off at Hannibal Lecter. Very quickly he was getting to the lip, but didnt feel it was coming quick enough but that he was warm, so we went over to the main event. He seemed to struggle to get going, but eventually put in some really good links - I know he still felt there was quite a lot to do. We head over to la nave va to finish.
Somewhat rejuvenated, i return to Freak brothers on Thursday. I feel good and immeadiately the difference is obvious. I get closer, but am some way off the pace still, and eventually realise am going backwards and stop. Dammit! We go to find Dr Crimps and Bendy and I manage to scratch our way up razor blades. Hideous. Now we drive back to Cresc, and this time me and James go to Hannibal Lecter. I manage to session flash it, and James gets really close. Bendy makes another try on La Pelle, but is more tired than he realised, and despite eventually battling through to put in some good links, it doesnt come together. I had a half baked idea about trying the direct, but its fully 8a+ in a move, so I stop.
We spend the final day up at Brione again. I get closer to Ganymede, but skin is really hurty, and despite doing some more moves, I cant bear the pain and give up. Bendy suddenly has a Pamplemousse epiphany and works out how to do the first move. He's getting up there on every go, and even gets his left over the top at one point. Sadly he doesnt finish it and comes away empty handed. James makes good progress, has more goes than jim, but misses out as well. We go to find General Disarray and marilyn Monroe. That hold on Disarray is brilliant. What a nice piece of rock. The spoog is out in full force and we cant remember what Sam said to do. Make progress, but a confusing sequence and bad conditions stop play. Finish the day, and the trip up at Molunk where I realise my sequence from the other day is a very hard way of doing it, and manage to find an easier method. James and Bendy get close but dont do. We walk out broken and ready to be going home the next day.
So, lessons learnt : Its good to be feeling strong on the board, but you also need to be outdoors rock climbing to toughen your skin and deaden your finger nerves. Pick your battles - get on them early in a trip. If you can't at first then either use will power and don't do anything, or pick something else you can get on. Know when to stop and when not to try.
Be realistic about what you can honestly expect to achieve in a weeks holiday. Remember you're not an 8st professional climber and set your goals appropriately. Or, set stretching ones, but dont get down about it when you dont achieve them. Most of all, remember that its just climbing and that you are on holiday. Have fun with your mates. Take the piss, get drunk, eat party food - life's too short!