Three weeks at Ceuse and my time here draws to a close, what a trip it has been so far!
The end of last week saw a quick dispatch of Radote Joli Pepere a stunning line starting up a classic 6a slab taking you 20m to the start of a sustained roof pitch with a 5 move boulder crux. It took 4 attempts to stick the slap to the lip from a sharp one finger crimp that took Robbies finger tip victim a week before. I pulled round on the still small pockets barely pushing through the pump and noticed the full moon standing proud behind me. I had to remain focussed! I delicately progressed up the flutings that crown the wall, flying in a foreign sky with playful swallows a grin growing as I clipped the chain, lowering to the song of foreign voices and a darkening sky splashed with pink. Walking down in the dark chatting away to Ed who also ticked the route that day we marveled at how lucky we are to be here.
Three days of bad weather followed in the next week and psyche ran out. The rock and the walk in started to beat me down, 7Bs started to feel desperate, and then it rained.
As I sat under the calm tranquil sky of tarpaulin the heavens lashed down all around. I read, drank wine and made fresh coffee at regular intervals, hope kindled slowly, more than a single rest day was just what I needed and rain was the perfect chance to rest and rehabilitate my aching limbs.
The last 3 days returned to crisp conditions, sunshine and fresh motivation. Gasper and I projected a classic route rarely climbed due to its vertical, sustained technical nature and rumored to be 8b+, the line inspired us having both sent the classic lines of Les Femme Blanche/Noire (8a+/7c) also slicing the bowling ball rock face. The rock on this line is an appealing warm orange cutting the gray walls ether side and obviously inspiring the name Le chirurgien du crepuscule meaning sergon of dusk, it disguises the disgustingly thin crimps and mono pockets. The crux sequences involves a Rose of the Vampire twist after clipping the bolt bellow your ankle and then almost as tough climbing to the top finishing up a precarious slab that had no chalk leading the way, courtesy of the weeks rain. We felt we had risen to the challenge rarely embarked upon and mastered the sequence that put fear in the majority. I feel with my 3rd 8b bagged I am at the level. I finished the day with my 3rd 8a+ flash, another classic line just to the right. I am super psyched to have ticked this section of wall!
For me 2011 was about passing my exams and getting on the road to future life. I have yet to find out if I have been succesfull but hope to study graphic communication at Leeds University. Of course climbing barely took a back seat and it is debatable if it ever actualy left the controls. From the beginning I was training for this trip (thus putting less pressure on myself, required for being fully commited to the competitions that unfortunately coincided with final exams) and I am so pleased to have brought everything together into a peak form that once again lived up to the hopes that kept me motivated through the many hours of training. I am in debt to my coach Tom Randall for the continually updated training plans and forever being there for encouragement and advice.
This trip has been much more than just climbing, that may be hard to believe I know! I have met many new friends and have been shown new skills, picked up useful advice and observed cultural differences broadening my view on the world. I cooked for Gunnar and Inge my new American friends on what turned out to be Independance Day. Then was followed with a gourmet meal the next night by Gunnar who turns out to be a proffesional chef! I was taught the art of wilderness pancakes, the best camping breakfast by the french Canadians Julien and Yannick and absorbed their attitudes towards climbing and experiences of pursuing your passion. I thoroughly enjoyed spending my last week climbing with my friend and competitior Gašper Pintar who although a year younger has climbed 8c and has consistently beaten me in competition. It was great to meet outside of competition and to keep up with him on the rock. It meant a lot when Gašper said I looked like I climb effortlessly. I made friends with some super keen climbers and interesting characters studying in Leeds next year Jacob and Ben doing a Masters and a PHD. Staying with the Hammer lads was super fun and I am so grateful of their hospitality, letting me stay in their van. I met fellow Alpkiter Ramon Marin taking a warm break from the freeze of winter climbing. It’s a small world! A big thanks to the Alpkit guys for their support of the trip.
Note: You can read more about Lukes trip in this UKC article.