I was introduced to Gourdon the week before Easter, Kenny left him at the climbing centre for me and the staff looked after him in his plastic bag. I instantly knew we would get along, with his simple design and thirst for adventure combined with bold style, standing him out from all the other bags in the market.
To get to know him he accompanied me to school for the last week of term, although this may sound like a walk in the park for a hardy fellow, I can assure you I don’t do soft activities. On the bike we went with up to 4 hefty folders as well as textbooks, not to mention the flask of coffee, bottle of water and raincoat. He instantly made friends with my schoolmates who admittedly are used to my slightly eccentric choice of school equipment. By Thursday I was satisfied he was up to the job and was quickly converted into a day bag, we were off to Austria!
He joined the small team of dedicated athletes heading out for a pre-competition training weekend in Imst, Austria. This is where the 2011 Youth World Championships will be held and for specific training we had organised to demonstrate routes on the newly built competition wall for a regional youth competition. We had a fantastic 4 days of onsight practice and endurance training on one of the best climbing walls in the world with routes up to 8c, demonstration went to plan and we could not of asked for better preparation for the WYC. Gourdon was packed each morning with the day’s gear and apart from grumbling over the smelly boots he had to carry, was a perfect companion.
From the gorgeous weather and snow capped mountains of Austria Gourdon and I headed on to a family gathering in Wales. Gourdon Bennett the weather was even nicer than Imst! The next two days were spent lazing in the sun and hurtling down the Llandegla mountain bike tracks. My cousin who is very into this adrenaline-fuelled sport showed me the ropes and we ventured onto our first black run. Gourdon held his own and once again showed versatility as he proved to be a very useful lightweight day sack that rode the burms and flew over the tabletops beautifully. We finished these fantastic days off pumping round the pump track where on the last run of the trip I managed to clear the tabletop, I know what I will be doing when I retire from climbing!
Of course a trip to Wales would not be complete without a trip to Llandudno, the “Victorian and Edwardian elegance and splendour, alongside the modern attractions”, “sack that off and go climbing”, Gourdon 30 Alpkit classic. Unfortunately the Easter tides wrote off my beckoning project, Statement of Youth 8a which was frustrating but I still managed to get the classic ticks of Axel Attack 7a+ and Bloodsports 7b both onsight.
There is no rest for the wicked and from Wales Gourdy and I packed up the gear, picked up my sister Naomi and headed to our grandparents’ house in Yorkshire. Living under Kilnsey crag with my wonderful grandparents is a tough life, I combined working on my project, Ecstasy 8b and doing laps on routes between 7a and 7c having fallen behind in my training regime. On the final day we met up with a friend and headed for Gordale, a crag I have never visited before. We had a brilliant day ticking several classic routes including “Pierrepoint” to the first lower off 7b+, somewhat dusty as I think I was the first on it this year and “Defcon 3” 7c+, an old school Ron Fawcett route, both comfortably second go. This has been a fantastic trip for my first limestone session of the year, I am already feeling as strong or stronger than peak season last year so have good feelings about the rest of the year (If I ignore the rapidly approaching exams:/)!
Home for 2 days rest and rehabilitation as well as an endurance session at Nottingham wall, and Gourdon was packed up again as the family headed to Cardiff for the Leading Ladder Final 2011, I was feeling confident in my fitness and strength but slightly nervous about my strong competition, It was a hectic day as always and I made the tactical decision to get on the routes as quickly as possible meaning going for the onsight on all of the routes 7a – 7c, watching the demonstration by Steve McClure and Rob Napier and then being the first on the 8a and 8b. I was super close to climbing every route first go falling 2 holds from the top of the 8b! Even so it was close cut for first place and Gourdon was on the edge of the seat as Ashleigh Wolsey-Heard fell on the same move after looking very strong all the way up, however it took 2 goes for him to tick the 8a.
A top class Easter packed with excitement, challenge and good company. I learnt a lot from my experiences in Austria and feel well prepared for the upcoming World Championships, successfully completed a black mountain bike run and onsighted two classic Orme routes. I am very close to completing my first 8b and dabbled the surface of the awe-inspiring Gordale Cave Route Area, wetting my apatite for more! To top the 2 weeks off I won the Leading Ladder final!
What about Gourdon? I am very impressed; he has cut it as a day bag, climbing sack, bike pack and school bag. Simple suits me and 30L seemed to fit every occasion. With Sixth Form back on the agenda I now have to make the tricky decision as to what genre I will use him for. Maybe I need 2!