Saturday, 22 September 2012

My climbing summer

Last fall, when I did the Swiss/Italian route on Cima Ovest leading every pitch ground up onsight, I knew it was only the beginning of something bigger. I knew I had to keep exploring the routes in Tre Cime. The idea of trying to do three big routes in the Dolomites started to form in my head. What was growing on me was a sense that I really wanted to try and push myself on the walls of Tre Cime and in the Dolomites. 

An evolving process

I knew that the routes I wanted to do in Tre Cime were much more demanding both mentally and physically compared to the Swiss route. In order to pull them off I would need to devote much more time to training than I usually do to get stronger. Normally I spend all winter and spring ice climbing and alpine climbing but this winter and spring of 2012 I devoted to staying in shape on rock, doing some indoor climbing as well as benefitting from excellent conditions in St Leger in February and March. 

The goal to do the trilogy project in the Dolomites was also a good motivator to try and finish another climbing goal I had set up for myself last year. I wanted to progress beyond 8a and do an 8a+. 

Given that I normally do next to no indoor climbing I knew it would be hard to achieve a grade push. My lack of power is the most significant factor stopping me on harder routes. As long as its endurance or technical climbing I'm fine, but usually 8a and above requires more power and finger strength. 

So I knew I had to work on that during the winter of 2011 and spring of 2012. The MOON Fingerboard training has done wonders for me. Combining low intensity climbing days with 45 minutes of fingerboard training after an outdoor session is a killer concept I really recommend. I also lost some weight focusing on what I eat and I gave up cookies...

The end of an era?

The other day I finally broke into the 8a+ grade by sending "Petite Danseuse" in La Saume. For me this was the perfect route given it’s a sustained climb with only (for me) one very hard move. I had the route dialled after 4 days of trying it and knew if I just could stick that reachy move to THE crimp, the rest would go. Its a 36 meter route with one no hand rests. It’s a complicated route and you can fall off anywhere, as it’s a technical rather than powerful route.

For me I think, this achievement marks the end of spending time on working routes this much. Climbing to me is about going ground up and to climb as well as possible. Onsight climbing defines me as a climber and this summer I did my first 7c onsights. Climbing 7c onsight has been a long time goal for me, and a crucial key to unlocking some of the dreams I have in the Dolomites. I like onsight climbing more than the pulling hard part.

Defeated yet I experienced some thing I never dreamed of

Tre Cime is lose, overhanging and intimidating yet the climbing is of excellent quality. The Hainz-Astner routes are the real deal. Alpenliebe must be one of the best routes I have ever climbed. The Hainz -Astner routes offer sustained climbing on some of the best lines up the north faces of Cima Grande and Cima Ovest. I'm so happy there are still a huge number of routes left for me to try. 

From the look of things its not that likely I will do one more trip to Tre Cime this year. So with regard to climbing my three projects, I failed. However this past summer in the Dolomites has made me understand that Tre Cime is where I belong and I have a profound love for the climbing there. And in a way failing to finish the tribology project saved me from thinking I was done with Tre Cime. I can't wait to go back next summer and try Das Phantom and a number other routes on the North Faces of Cima Grande and Cima Ovest. I love the towers, the climbing, the rock, the style, and the light. It’s all magic to me. My focus will be on the love for the lines I crave to explore. Not a project or defined undertaking.

It can't get better but it can get as good

I think that the trip up Torre Trieste with Mayan was one of the best climbing experiences I have ever had since I started climbing 1986. It was the "perfect storm" kind of moment. Afterwards, I was left empty inside and since then all climbing has been kind of dull. Its rare to team up with someone and find the perfect flow. Donnafugata is a milestone in my climbing life and something I will treasure more than most other things I have experienced in life. I got to taste pure and unconditional happiness. I find it interesting that such a fulfilling feeling came to me by doing something so simple as going climbing. 

In today’s media, sponsor, grade and goal oriented world we tend to set ourselves up for tasks and goals we can measure or quantify. I think to some extent this is unintentional. But climbing is not what it used to be. It uses to be about the mountain, the partnership and the desire to venture in to the unknown. Climbing has fundamentally changed. I think our desire to share what we do in the mountains is the reason some of us tend to set up goals we can measure. By putting numbers on climbing we think it’s easier to communicate what we do. 

Part of the explanation to why Donnafugata was such a extraordinary climbing experience for me I think was down to the fact that we had virtually no information other than the grades of the individual pitches scribbled down on a piece of paper and a vague idea of the general line. It was kind of an old school pure adventure outing. 

Tre Cime and the Dolomites are special in that sense, there is not too much information out there, you need to go and find out what its like to know. I hope it stays that way. 

In terms of numbers… This is what I managed to do in the summer of 2012 in the Dolomites. I had perfect conditions on the routes with great partners, what more can I ask for? 

A special thanks to Metolius for taking me on the Metolius Climbing Team! 

 - Cima Piccolissima: Da Corte Vecchino Aldo - (8 pitches) Nobile 7c+.
(Individual pitches: 6c, 6a, 7c+, 6c, 6c, 6c, 6a)

Cima Grande Nort Face: Le Voci del Coro 7c (415 meters). 
(Individual pitches: 7a, 7a+, 6c, 7c, 6c, 6b+, 6c, 5a, 6a, 6a)

- Cima Piccola: Gelbe Mauer 7a+
(Individual pitches: 7a, 7a+, 6c, 7a+, 7a, 7a+, 6c, 6c, 6b+, 6a+)

Torre Trieste: Donnafugata 8a (750 meters or 24 pitches)
4a, 5a, 5a, 5a, 6b, 6c, 6b+, 7b+, 6b, 7a, 6a, 6b, 7b, 6b+, 8a, 6c, 7a, 7b/7c+, 6a, 6b, 6b, 6b, 6a,, 6a+
(Individual pitches: 7a+/7b RP, 6c+ OS, 7a FL, 6a+ OS, 7a OS, 7b OS, 7a OS, 7b+ OS, 7c FL, 6c, 6c+, 6b, 6b+, 6b, 6b+, 6c+ )

Cima Grande and Cima Ovest in evening sun. Photo David Falt

Fingerboard training

My beta map for Petite Danseuse 8a+ 

Mayan belaying on Alpenliebe, Cima Ovest

Me following nn Alpenliebe, Cima Ovest

Enjoying the quality climbing high on Alpenliebe Cima Ovest

The crux pitch on Alpenliebe, Cima Ovest

Mayan and me after climbing Donnafugata ground up in a 32 hour push

The View from the CAI Auronzo Hut

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