37 degrees and 53 problems

By Beth Monks>

“53 problems?! You have got to be kidding me! I don’t usually move at 37 degrees let alone climb!”

So, there we were in sunny Ailfroide for Tout a Blocs and contemplating how we were going to complete 53 gnarly boulder problems in a total of 6 hours! To contemplate to the best of our ability, we took to the pool for the day. But, despite our best efforts to slow time to a standstill- the day sped by rather fast and we soon found ourselves queuing for the super thick competition tops.

The first boulder we completed was pretty straightforward but perhaps put us in a false sense of security. By the end of the first hour we had completed three of the 53 problems. Blood, sweat and tears were shed to complete the following five boulders that we managed to crank ourselves through in the successive two hours. We returned to the campsite in order to recuperate for the next half of difficult competition boulders. The next morning, god forbid, we had to be up in the.. MORNING. How awful.

TAB bouldering competition in the Ecrins

We got to the event and it was even hotter than the previous day. Nevertheless, we completed a grand total of 6 more boulder problems that day. So, we completed about 15 problems of the 53 in 6 hours. We came 28th (Beth) and 29th (Ashleigh) out of 40 competitors- which we were not disappointed with considering that it was our first international bouldering competition.

Individually, the problems had a tendency to be strenuous and often contained many dynamic movements. Although challenging, we both enjoyed the process of working through the problems and they were good fun to attempt and hopefully complete! One of the most exciting aspects of the competition was the final- it had a totally different approach to British competitions: firstly, it had the atmosphere of a rock concert- drawing in many locals and non-climbers. Commencing at ten o’clock that night, the tension built as we watched the route-setters putting the finishing touches to their problems. The finalists were greeted as champions by the crowd. And there were rappers who (we presume seeing as it was all in French) commentated on the progress of the finalists. Also, to our surprise, to introduce each climb, there was a cheerleader who flipped, somersaulted and gained a considerable amount of support from the crowd and rappers alike.

Each finalist was as impressive as the next; they were all amazing to watch and inspired both of us. By 1a.m. we were starting to get quite tired. The next day, we couldn’t move. So we resorted to lazing around boulders reading.

Liv Sansoz
Another early morning.. we met Liv for coffee and discuss the day ahead at around ten o’clock. She explained the structure of the French team, described her future climbing ambitions and told us about this quiet, shaded crag that she planned to take us to that day. We had decided that we wanted to work on sport climbing rather than bouldering.

Throughout the day Liv was extremely helpful and gave us useful advice on how we could improve our sport climbing. The most helpful, but taxing, piece of advice she gave us was that we had to purposefully fall off climbs in order to build our confidence. Liv also gave us top tips on how to red-point to the best of our ability and the easiest ways to do so.

The crag we were climbing at was relatively newly bolted; if we could just have half of it in Britain we would be more than content! The climbing there was pleasant and our day there was very enjoyable and we got a lot out of it! Thanks Liv!

Moving from the mountainous landscapes of Ailefroid to Ceuse took less than two hours and we arrived the day Dave Graham completed Realisation (9a+), We intended to stay there for 9 days. Although it was slightly cooler in Ceuse, looking up at the 25 mile uphill walk in we broke down in tears. We decided to leave. Maybe next year. We went to the beach and got a great tan. Ate ice cream.. mmm.. We wish.

25 miles of sweat and tears later we arrived at the end of the walk-in. The climbing was excellent and sense of achievement on the walk back down made it all worthwhile. All in all, we survived our cooking, met lots of nice people, sang many beautiful songs and played some “good” ping-pong. We climbed countless brilliant routes and perhaps gained some fitness from the hill. We also took Liv’s advice and did some falling! We had a memorable week in Ceuse and intent to return next year!

More images of the trip can be found in the scrapbook.

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