Thursday, 15 September 2011

The spirit of purity and exposure

Photo: Looking focused

Since I first climbed in the Dolomite's during the early 90s I have always had a special relation to the grey and yellow towers and the imposing walls. Driving through the lush valleys in the South Tirol, passing the beautifully flower decorated chalets fills me with joy and happiness. The Dolomite's is a place where I enjoy true happiness no matter whether I'm climbing or not.
The panorama captures the spirit of why we climb. Its simply irresistible not wanting to go climbing the spires and walls.

The Dolomite's is an easy access mountain range not totally lost to commercialism and over exploitation. Climbing in the Dolomite's can still be an affair between the climber and its abilities. Its not just about physical challenges, it's as much about the psychological challenge and the ability of the climber to protect the climb.

The ethics and standards set by the early pioneers have been kept by modern hardcore alpinists setting new standards and constantly raising the bars for what is possible to climb. There is no grade inflation and the topos are not always too detailed. Any climber on any level can find pure adventures far from the beaten track. As we all know love is hard to define but when its there you will know it's there and coming back to Tre Cime gives me that feeling of calm and belonging. The towers are huge and imposing but if you eat a bit of humble pie before you set off there is no limit to the amount of fun and scare you can have on the Tre Cime.

Earlier this summer when I was climbing in Tre Cime on the West Face of Cima Grande we enjoyed epic weather conditions, but still had a blast doing a fairly easy but steep route with little real exposure. I think one reason I love the climbing in the Dolomites is the sense of exposure and commitment, so this time I wanted the real deal. I have had my eyes on a few different routes on the Tre Cime but the huge roof of Cima Ovest is impossible not wanting to climb. There are three routes up the massive roof with the Swiss route being the only one within range of what I can do graded 7B+ in most topos. I'd say a better grading would be E7 6b. The other two routes, signed Alexander Huber is Belavista and Pan Aroma both graded 8C.

I had monitored the weather for quite some time as I was trying to get as fit as possible and now the window was there but not my partner from the last trip. So I asked Helen, a super talented young climber, if she would be up for venturing into the unknown of the North Face of Cima Ovest and its Swiss/Italian route. Helen was a bit of a gamble and wild card in terms of doing exposed big walls as she has not done much of that in the past, but something told me that Helen not only had talent but also drive and the right spirit to be able to pull off some thing like Cima Ovest North Face.

Having climbed with all sorts of people ranging from happy amateurs to some of the best alpinists in the world, I kind of knew Helen would not let me down but I had no idea how surprised I would be with her strength, talent, stamina and ability to suffer through an unplanned bivy at altitude with zero water, one Patagonia Nano Puff hoody and a bunch of Clif Shot BLOKS.

In a way it was "love" at the first bivy... "Love" in the sense that we where a perfect match. We both had our duties during the day and even if the deal was that I would lead all pitches there were plenty of pressure and exposure weighing on Helen. I had brought Helen to Cima Ovest and I knew I had to climb as fast and safe as possible close to the limit of what I can do on my own gear in alpine terrain and still be kind of comfortable so I also had my fair share of pressure. Any pitch in the Tre Cime is hard to lead but don't underestimate the hard work that comes with following on a traversing overhanging route for 10 pitches. Ohhhh MAN... was a frequent scream I would hear when I was hanging in the belay resting and preparing for the next pitch, but asap Helen showed up it was with a smile. As I sorted the gear Helen worked on route finding. MAN she was good at that!

Photo comment: A team is two and the partner is all you got on the wall. Helen was such a champion!

We set off from the parking at 05.10 am and started climbing around 07.00.... Not too sure as we had no working time piece... The climbing is really sustained and I had told Helen not to underestimate the "easy" pitches being graded under 7a.... I was more than right and the hardest pitch for me was as I had predicted the 6c+ pitch after the 7b+ "crux" pitch. In my opinion there is no 6b climbing on the route and the 7a+ in the roof was not too bad, neither was the crux pitch. The exposure and runouts are badass on the "easy" pitches. My personal grade for the route is E7/6B (5.12c R/X) or break down in French sport grading: L1 6Bish, L2 7A+, L3 6C, L4 6C+, L5 6C+, L6 7A+, L7 6B+, L8 7B+, L9 7A+ or 6C/A0, L10 6C.

We ended up at the top of the difficulties at around 5.30 pm (camera time) and decided it was enough for that day; Out of water and not that keen to pass the waterfall on Cassin and end up wet we decided to stay put on the bivy ledge. Alpine climbing is unpredictable and so is unplanned bivys... Helen was so pure and innocent before this trip started and being the old guy I felt quite bad having to break her virginity in terms of enduring an open bivy in "light duty David" style. In the morning as we got to the wall I convinced Helen we would be fine with only one belay jacket; two would have made it so much better!

Photo: At the belay where Belavista 8c meet our route I was greeted by the smiley guy and Three real bolts!

Now we where stuck and Helen was a true champion. I was waisted after a long day and she kindly let me warm up and get back to life in our communal Nano Puff the first few hours. I was starting to regret I had so little to drink during the day and as the night progressed and my SPRAY fiesta slowly died, I dozed off, while Helen was getting comfortable with here feats in the empty back pack.

Thanks Helen for a great first round. Let's get back out there and see what's around the next corner.... And newt time let's go all the way to the summit!


© Copyright 2011 - All Rights Reserved David Falt

Tuesday, 6 September 2011

I'm strong and I send!

Summer sending in Gorge du Tarn!

August, September and October are usually my best climbing moths as I have had time to get in shape after the alpine season and lots of great climbing spots have there prime time and I'm not just thinking of Ceuse... I have really been struggling to send my long time project Le poinconneur des lilas so I decided to go to Gorge du Tarn and enjoy some of the really really really long sport routes they have but more importantly go onsight climbing.

Gorge du Tarn is mythic and for me it always seams to live up to my expectations, having been there a few times and watching the locals do the monster 80/90 meter routes in one single pitch, I decided it was time to pick up there game and try it out. Its wicked! You tie in with two 80 meter ropes like you where going to climb with a double rope. Off you go and climb the first 40 meters on one of the two ropes. When you reach the belay you clip the second rope in to a draw at the belay and pass it and clip the next two bolts, then when you have 3 point on your second rope you untie/drop the first rope. And voila you are free from lots of nasty rope drag and just press on to the next belay at 80 meters or higher... If higher the person belaying needs to tie the dropped rope in to the one currently used for climbing up there... Then when at the belay its like normal you re-thread and lower off to the first belay at 40 meter and re-thread. Having dropped the first rope above the 40 meter belay gives you enough free way to be lowered down. You obviously need two belay devices such as Gri-Gris or eddys. The simple solution is to just let the Gri-Gri stay on the rope going up when you lower off. DISCLAIMER: DO NOT TRY THIS BASED ON THIS CONFUSED DESCRIPTION.

Any way the style of climbing in Tarn is really cool and relaxed. The routes second pitch are almost always of way better quality than the first more accessible pitch. What I also like is that the second pitch almost always is clean from chalk and tick marks so its a much more pure onsight feeling. As I'm quite week and lack power but climb lots the long endurance routes suit me perfect and I really like the rock and style in Tarn, its like it was made for me. I think that if I'm to break the 8a+ wall its going to happen in Tarn on a 70 meter monster. I tried a few but decided not to get in to the redpoint coma and instead focused on climbing lots on slightly easier routes. That strategy really paid off big time and I think I did some of the best sport climbing efforts I have ever performed not only due to the fact that the style in Tarn suits me but also due to the fact that I have lost a few kilograms and started with some finger training. I'm now really psyched to see if I can manage to pull of a hard onsight on a big alpine wall... Time will tell... Until then get out and crush!

During August and the first days of September I climbed about 60 routes. In Gorge du Tarn I averaged about 240 meters of climbing a day above 7a for 8 days.

Working on/ Tried:

8A+ Philosophe, Gorges Du Tarn
8A+ Self control, 70 meters, Gorges Du Tarn
8A+ Le poinconneur des lilas, Ceuse
8A+ Premiers choux fleurs, 70 meters, Gorges Du Tarn
8A No Name in Tournoux, 50 meters

Some of the stuff I sent in August

7C+ Orange Sanguine, second go, 55 meters, Gorges Du Tarn
7C+ Le String a fredo, second go, 40 meters, Gorges Du Tarn
7C+ Vous Etes trop glo dites, 5th, Grand Bois
7C+ La grande arch, 7th... 40 meters, Hard for the grade, Fessourier

7C Archinide, second go, 35 meters, Gorges Du Tarn
7C Ecaille volante non identifiée (7c+ in topo but I'd say 7C). 55 meters, First try, Gorges Du Tarn. I should have tried to onsight it....

7B+ PP2, 90 meters in one pitch, onsight, Gorges Du Tarn
7B+ Stihliscime, 60 meters, onsight, Gorges Du Tarn
7B+ Hip Hop, onsight, Fessourier
7B+(7C in topo) Punishman Park, 30 meters 45° crack... second go, Ailefroide
7B+ Flash New sector, Ailefroide

7B La grand aventure, 80 meters in one pitch, onsight, Gorges Du Tarn
7B 200000 dans ta gueule, 80 meters in one pitch, onsight, Gorges Du Tarn
7B ??, 55 meters, onsight, Gorges Du Tarn
7B Rase ta pea Paulo, second go, Tournoux
7B Aller en chine, onsight, Ceuse
7B New sector, onsight, Ailefroide

7A+ Maxus Terrus, 60m, onsight, Gorges Du Tarn
7A+ Tarnosaurus, 80 meters in one pitch, onsight, Epic last 40 meters on only 5 draws... Run it out!! Gorges Du Tarn