Thursday, July 29, 2010

Just Beat it

It has been raining like crazy here in Switzerland. Voralpsee has a reputation for being the driest crag in the country and it has huge waterstreaks coming down it as of this morning. Bummer.
But yesterday we got to spend the day at the crag with one of the worlds all-time greatest climbers. Beat Kammerlander. Beat is to face climbing what Gullich is to mono pulling. Getting to talk to him and watching him climb was a real treat. We got to watch him climb on a route he established quite a few years ago: Speed 5.14c. He was climbing with Ivo Ninov who we had run into in Briancon a couple of weeks ago. Ivo told me that about 15 years ago Beat had free soloed Mordillo 5.13c at Voralpsee. At the time it was the hardest free solo in the world and for the style of climbing it still may be. I tried this route and I can assure you....I would much rather solo something with holds. It is completely insecure, powerful, and without a moment to gather your wits. What an awesome opportunity to be able to hang out with one of my heroes, the face climbing guru, at one of the best face climbing arenas in the world.
Check out this video. This guy is the real deal. I especially like the intro. He may actually be a Jedi knight....I'm not sure.
So we're not really sure what to do now. We're holed up in a coffee shop watching it rain with our rope stashed at the cliff. Elissa has a few draws up in the waterstreak. We may have to get a room and just wait. Elissa is still working on Paradigma but has two split tips and they are deep. Beat showed her how to tape them in a really secure way so the tape won't slide. Tomorrow? We'll see what the weather does.

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

I got a pocket full of Euros and my homeboys do too

We got mad monopoly money up in this piece.

So I finally, by the skin of my teeth, sent Loups Hurlants. I let out a 'Wolf Howl' at the top just to let the Frenchies know I could understand a bit of their garbled nonsense. It was a classic redpoint epic story. I fell 4 times from the final 5.8 move. The pressure was on and my last try of the day I pulled it together and sent. We pulled the rope, hiked out, and drove for Switzerland. We spent the night in Italy and the better part of the next day as well.

This is my queen in her castle.

Culture shock happens fast around here. As soon as you cross the border into Italy the people get different. Very different. It's kind of like living in a TV commercial for Pasta Sauce. We stopped at this pizza place and it was nuts in there. No more snobby and reserved French. These people are LOUD! Man, they bring the whole family. Tables of 10 were common. Kids, parents, granparents....And they are all talking at once. Hey Italy, Howa boutya trya to enda worda withouta vowela? You can't do it can you? And a further challenge...try to do it without moving your arms. Now you're really struggling. The Italians are boisterous and super friendly. The campground we stayed in was just as crazy. The whole country feels like a big family. Lots of talking, all at once. And very fashionable.

Then the next day we crossed into Switzerland. Instant change of pace. Switzerland is beautiful. So very green. It's kind of like Oregon or Maine but with huge mountains, tons of moss, big waterfalls, castles. We are staying at this campground in Werdenburg. "The smallest city in Switzerland" is their claim to fame. This is Werdenburg. We are actually across the lake in Grabs. So the people here are totally different. We pull into the campground and it's silent. Husbands and wives are eating their meals in silence. They sit across from each other and everything is perfect and clean and organized. Like OCD organized. We saw a couple make the bed in their camper van and they were turning down the corners perfectly and eliminating any creases. It's militaristic cleanliness. Very strange. But the people are very friendly. I asked a guy where I could find wireless internet and he just gave me the password for the hotel for free. Just before that I went to buy some earplugs.....OK, here's why. They love clocks apparently. They have this bell tower that chimes loudly every 15 minutes. And on the hour it chimes the number of the hour. Not too bad right? OK, at 9:00 pm it chimes for 5 minutes straight. We timed it. 5 minutes is a long time. Still quite charming right? Well it does it again at 6:00 am. Not very charming. We think this is their way of marking the beginning and end of the day for the farmers in the hills that may not operate on real time. Maybe. Point of the story is, the guy gave me the earplugs for free and said with a smile "welcome to Switzerland."
The reason we came here is to climb at a crag called Voralpsee. I think this picture of Elissa pointing at the crag is funny. We travel half way around the world, then we drive for hours through the mountains passing miles of cliffline. Cliffs are everywhere. Then we hike in to this tiny chunk of rock that is unlike anything else in the known universe. It is a truly unique little rock with amazing routes. about 15 amazing routes. The cows on the hike in are cool. The big ones have cow bells that ring all day. You can hear them from the crag just ringing around eating grass. Happy as a swiss cow. I think chocolate milk actually flows freely from their teets.

Here's two views of the crag. The cliff is 30 meters tall and overhangs about 15 degrees. Very pumpy and very technical. Check out this hold. Does it get more perfect than that? I was able to onsight the classic 7c Paradigma and it really was one of the coolest climbing experiences of my life. I don't want to sound like some hippy stoner freak but it was pretty trancelike. Just floating up this face on tiny edges with no contact with the earth other than the tips of your toes and fingers. And no one else is around, with this crazy green forest and lake behind you. And in the background you can hear the cow bells creating this hypnotic, offbeat techno music. Totally trippy bro. After that I sampled Euphorie 14a and got spooked. It's super runout at the crux and working it made me a headcase. You take repeated 20 footers working the crux if you're brave. I took one and hauled up a log and log-clipped through. It wrecked my head though and so I tried an 8a, then a 8b, and then I had no skin left and could barely move my fingers and now we had to take a rest day instead of climbing two days in a row.

Elissa is faring much better than me. She is working Pardigma and has a 13a on deck as well called Lucy. I don't know what my tactics should be at this point. I could go all in and work the 14a and maybe come up empty or I could be conservative and do a couple 13a's and b's? Climbing.....what a mind meld.

Friday, July 23, 2010


Steep Limestone, Big Air, it's what we live for....

Recently, Elissa and I were fortunate enough to experience the ancient European tradition of Via Ferrata. For those of you that may not know, Via Ferrata directly translates to "Way of the Warrior" or alternately "Path of the Elders" or "Path of Enlightenment". In the middle ages Viking style Euros wold use these series of ladders and cables to climb to the summit of rocky precipices. It was believed that, as Indiana Jones says in part 3, "only the penitent will pass". This is why the Via Ferrata is so extreme. If the Euro gods do let you pass the 'summit' is attained and true spiritual enlightenment is awarded.

We set out to climb this 500 foot big wall around 6:00 pm in the hopes that we could be back before Euro dinner time around 10:00 pm. The path was arduous and the obstacles were many. Note in the first picture that Elissa's carabiner is left open to add to the Extremeness of the situation. Once established on the rock face we climbed without hesitation. Elissa was forced to use a desperate leg maneuver to reach the next handlebar. We hung from the cliff by nothing but steel cables and ladder rungs drilled into the sheer wall.

About 2/3rds of the way up the wall we crossed the trail that we use to get to the climbing cliff. I was tempted to abort our mission as I felt the conditions were a bit too Extreme. Elissa urged me forward and in the upper section I was faced with a horrifying moment where I had to do a one arm pull up on a rung in order to clip the next cable. A moment of electric terror flashed through my head as I realized that nothing was holding me to the cliff except a locking carabiner and a steel cable!

After overcoming the many difficulties and obstacles that the Via Ferrata dished out we were allowed passage and the summit was ours. The sense of accomplishment was poignant as was the feeling that we were now truly a part of this majestic mountain environment.

In climbing news: Elissa sent her rig. A really nice 13a called Directe du Couer. I must say though that if the means is more important than the end....well she failed. Firstly, after a mere 5 tries she fell at the crux and threw the second largest wobbler I have ever seen in my life. The first being her failed onsight attempt of Cool Cat at Indian Creek. This wobbler was completely unneccesary. As we all know 13a is hard and it should be expected that you will fall at least 5 times. But the true failure lurked just ahead.

The route climbs through a difficult 13a section for about 60 feet to a ledge. A ledge where you can just stand there. A no hands rest. Then you finish up a 2 bolt section that is maybe 5.11d to the anchor. Elissa sent the route to the ledge rested for a shockingly short amount of time and then blew it going for the anchor. This is by far the greatest redpoint blunder I have ever seen in my life. The second greatest redpoint blunder I have seen was Elissa's attempt at sending Espresso at Rifle last year. She had been skipping a clip on every attempt to save energy but on redpoint she 'felt so good' that she stopped to clip and then fell. This blunder far exceeded that one and will go down in history as possibly the greatest brain fart that has ever occurred in recorded mountaineering history. I have submitted my report to the American Alpine Journal and they are reviewing the material to see if this is actually the greatest blunder of all time. Elissa did manage to polish off the rig the next day though. Nice job Colley.

I was able to accomplish very little. I did flash Elissa's project which was satisfying and a suitable consequence for her blunder. I've been working on an 8a+ which is mad difficult. My hope was that I would send yesterday and we could move on but it was a toss up who would send first and Elissa beat me to it. So now I'm the anchor keeping us from moving on. My last effort was valiant though. Last go of the day yesterday I jumped on a little prematurely due to an impending rainstorm. I wasn't as well rested as I should have been but I had little hope of sending and the thunder was picking up so I went for it. I climbed quickly to the first shake and stopped but with little hope of sending I left the rest earlier than usual and sprinted to the next one. I was shocked to be less pumped when I entered the final shake than usual. I shook out a bit but a final clap from Thor's hammer urged me into the crux sequence. I dodged a lightning bolt and lunged for a 1/4 pad edge. My body sagged away from the rock but a huge gust of wind blew me back against the rock face for one more move. I pasted a high right foot and dynoed for a small finger bucket that marks the end of the crux section. I grabbed it but fatigue was setting in and, tragically, the next clip was a right hand clip. I was totally in the zone but Candace (my left arm, and the weaker of the two) refused to pull her own weight as Giuseppe (my right arm) clipped the second to last bolt. My hand slowly opened and I was off. I hit the end of the rope and realized that in a split second my hopes of dispatching Loups Hurlants would have to wait for another two days. Climbing is often heartbreaking.

What I did realize is that Loups Hurlants is better climbed as a sprint rather than a slow pump management route. It's interesting how much pacing affects performance on a route. I think really accomplished climbers have a good handle on this aspect.

I think we'll be leaving tomorrow for Switzerland. We're getting psyched to got this crag called Voralpsee. It's a gently overhanging wall of scrimps. The one seen in the movie Autoroute where Dave Graham crushes some 14c called Speed. Always wanted to climb on that wall and Elissa is salivating for some scrimpin'.

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Still at Tournoux

Our last rest day we walked around Briancon some then went to Italy for dinner. The first town we came to was called Oulx but it sounded too French so we kept driving. We got to Barronechia and that sounded Italian enough so we stopped for dinner. We walked around looking for a place to eat. No one would serve food until 7:00. No one. We checked many places and all would not serve food. You could get a drink but no food. Hmmm. I find this very interesting. We were not the only people looking to eat at 6:00. We saw quite a few folks searching around for some food yet unable to attain any. What are we Mogwai's? Do you think something terrible will happen if we eat before 7:00? So I had this brilliant idea to make millions of dollars. Move to Italy and open a restaurant that serves food all day. Right around 5:00 you'd be making bank. Entrepreneur....that sounds French. Maybe you guys should hop the border and open a restaurant.

The pizza was pretty good but it is finally confirmed. The best pizza in the world is in Fayetteville WV. They didn't even have Pork and Pepper on the menu!

We've kind of settled in at Tournoux. We made a camp just across from the cliff. It's about a ten minute hike in so we leave our tent there and our climbing gear up at the cliff. We came into town today to get groceries and then we'll haul in some more food. There is a fountain to get water just a short hike away.

Elissa sent her 7c project the other day and is now working on a sweet 13a. I sent a nice 8a and was able to pose down for this sweet picture. I was feeling pretty good so I hung my draws on an 8b+ and spent a good bit of time working it. I lost a lot of skin and a lot of power. I did all the moves and knew it would go down eventually but I'm just not strong enough to do it quickly on a short trip. I stripped my draws and hung em on another 8a+ called Loups Hurlant that is a bit harder than the other 8a+ I did. I'm worked though from all the dogging and am afraid that I may have dug myself into a hole in terms of being tired. We'll see tomorrow.
Colley will fire her project for sure.
She remarked that it is a bit manufactured. "This place is like Area 51" she said. We looked in the book to find that it in fact had been equipped by one Jean-Marc Stefenson.

We spent the morning trying to pay a parking ticket. We don't speak French so how were we supposed to know what 'payant' meant? We speak English. Totally unfair.

Ok so Wag of the Finger is gonna be pretty harsh today: FRENCH PEOPLE

You guys suck. There I said it. There is no sense in sugar-coating it anymore. I had heard the stereotypes of the French. Arrogant, ego-centric, rude, etc. My experience is that no matter where you go in the world people are friendly and kind regardless of the reputation. And further more especially climbers. No matter where climbers are from they are friendly and welcoming. Not the French. Let me try to explain with a few examples:

The car rental: This was our first experience. The French guy tried to rip us off, the Swiss girl was sweet and helpful.

The Swindler: This French guy swindled Elissa for 10 euros. He asked her for 11 euro, she gave him a 20 then was fishing around for a one and he distracted her then said don't worry about it and bam....swindled. I can overlook this, swindlers are everywhere. But he did tell us about this climbing area called Cassis. I asked "Is it good?" He responded, "Huff, (2 second pause), Huff, (2 second pause), Huff....Is it good? He was kind of joking but kind of not.

The aloof and egocentric:

This happens ALL the time. Imagine you are in the grocery store and walk up toward someone that is blocking the aisle while they look at food. In most places that person would politely step forward and let you pass. Not a chance. They stand there. And you stand there waiting, trying to get by. They completely ignore you. Completely. You feel invisible. It is so weird. Elissa one time tried to reach in front of someone to grab a bottle of wine off the shelf. The man put his arm out toward the shelf, blocked her, and kept his arm there until he had made his selection. All this without saying a word or making eye contact.

The French will walk down the middle of the street and not step to the side when you approach in a car. Seriously, it is crazy.

The crag couple:

We hiked up to the crag the other day and there was a couple there. Small crag, just them and us. We must have looked very stupid hiking up to the crag with big friendly smiles and saying "Bonjour!" "Hello!" We received blank stares. Face to face. Just standing there not looking at us but kind of through us. Completely ignoring our presence. So we spend all day with these people. Toward the end of the day I send a rig that we were all working on and strip my draws. I get to the ground and try to explain that "I'm sorry I took the draws down but I need them for something else....etc..." I'm using sign language and looking like a fool and this guy starts busting out perfect english! All day he knows how to speak english and just ignored us.

I could go on and on with examples like this. On and on. Nearly every experience has been like this. We wave at folks as we pass by and get the blank stare. Elissa noticed that the babies here will snub you. They won't smile at strangers. Neither will French dogs. In America dogs will walk up to you and greet you with a wag of the tail. French dogs ignore you. They sniff the ground and move on. It is weird. We went to Italy and the babies smiled at us and the dogs were friendly.

So I know what you are thinking: Their CULTURE is just different than ours. Well that is true. I can tolerate cultural difference. But there are certain things that transcend culture. The smile is universally accepted as a gesture of kindness throughout all cultures. And kindness has nothing to do with culture. We talked to some folks from Dublin the other day and the contrast was remarkable. They were smiley and happy and said "have a good day" when we parted. It made us feel good. The French woman the other day that finally decided to speak english was asking for beta on Elissa's project....Elissa gave it to her than I added "Oh, and you need a full 70 meter rope to lower." She just gave me a blank stare, turned, and walked away. What does that mean? I was just trying to make sure she didn't die. Oh well....

Tip of the Hat! Dogs

Although the dogs may be a bit snobby, they are allowed everywhere. We see dogs in restaurants, dogs in the city, dogs on and off leashes. We do not see dogs tied up in someones yard and left to die like we do in WV. Love the dogs.

Didn't we have a civil war over this?

Saturday, July 17, 2010

Tournoux rules

We went to the tour de france and it was cool. Gap got all fired up and threw a huge party. The actual race was a bit anticlimactic. We waited by the fence for a few hours and then two guys on bikes went zipping past. They won. Then a few minutes later, one guy went zipping past. Then a few minutes after that the whole pack came through. There was no way to tell who was who so we just kept wondering, "Is that Lance?". The camera broke literally moments before the racers came through so we have no still shots of the race but I got some video. We got the camera working again now but only on manual so I think many of our future shots will be blurry. Here is a shot of Elissa keeping it real at the Tour de France. Livestrong and prosper Colinator.

This kid dropped his umbrella hat onto the road just before the support vehicles came through. He was super gripped and his dad was telling him he was going to throw him over to get it. The kid kept shaking his head 'no' and his dad just scooped him up and threw him in the street. You should have seen his face. I snapped the picture just a moment too late. Hilarious.

July 15th was cleanup day. I had left draws on a rig at Rue de Masque and Elissa left draws on something up at Pelvoux. We went to Rue in the morning and I sent second try. Hardest 13a ever, called Le Legende Directe. I can only assume this route was named after me. then we headed back into the mountains to Pelvoux and Elissa fired her project. Nice job Colley.

Up until this point in the trip we've been traveling a lot. We'll hit a crag and do a few routes then move on. Although a lot of the climbing has been great there is always a catch. Good rock but too hot. Cool but chossy. One hour hike, blasted by sun, too crowded, etc. Well we finally stumbled upon the perfect crag....Tournoux.

This place is small but unbelievable. Really unbelievable. It sits just above the col de la Pousterle in the Ecrin mountain range. These mountains are huge. You can see down to the valley where the town of Vallouise is nestled between these huge peaks. Just off to the west you can see the Glacier Blanc. Between these giant peaks are little rivers that all flow down and form the Durrance river which is this fast flowing whitewater river of green glacial melt water. It's pretty amazing. We camped up at the col in the most spectacular campsite I've ever stayed at.

Above the col is the crag. It's relatively small but the limestone is perfect, no polish, no people. The view is unreal. We both loved this crag enough to take on projects. Colley picked a 12d and hung draws. I picked this amazing 13c that is pure power endurance. Perfect climbing. I surprised myself by sending fourth try at the end of the day. My first 13c in a day! The wall is perfect though and there is a killer 8a, 2 13c's, 2 8b's, 2 8b+'s, and an 8c. So I'll have plenty others to try. We are psyched on this cliff and i'm really excited to have found such a perfect spot to settle in and focus on climbing for a bit.

Tip of the Hat: Mcdonalds

Ah, Micky D's. How I love thy golden arches. You have been at the cutting edge of customer satisfaction for over half a century and so I tip my hat to you. In France all Mcdonalds are Wifi hot spots. So when you spy those sweet arches you know that the sweet world of Facebook is only a click away. Even here in France. We parked underneath the Mcdonalds in their parking garage that keeps our car, and groceries, nice and cool. I just fired back a Royal with Cheese and it was delicious. The line was a bit long but as I waited an employee approached me with a touch screen device. I ordered and when I got to the counter my food had already been prepared and was waiting for me. And to drink? You can order a beer if you wish...The only thing you can't get is baguettes. Perfect. And the final deal sealer in favor of Mack Donalds? Soap in the bathroom. You can actually wash your hands with soap unlike any other bathroom in France. So Frenchies, you can scoff at us Americans for not speaking your language. You can feel superior to us Americans and have as much national pride as you like but when it really comes down to brass tacks. Here you all are, lined up at the busiest restaurant in Briancon, just to experience a little taste of Americana.

Wag of the finger: the Toilette

In France this is what they call the 'Toilette'. In my world I call this 'pooping where you please'. They leave beautiful pink streamers of scented toilet paper that billow out from under every rock. It's stunning. The reason for this is that it is nearly impossible to find a bathroom around here. There are no bathrooms at gas stations and usually no attendents. Just pumps in a parking lot. So we find ourselves driving around with our legs crossed praying for a patch of woods or a supermarket to pee at. Just one hour ago we saw a mother holding her young pantsless daughter in the cannonball position while pee fell out of her bottom onto the street below. And when you do find a toilette it's usually a 'squatter' and don't expect any complimentary toilet paper. This is a BYOTP kind of country. Get it together France. Put in some toilets because, just like the book says: "Everybody Poops".

Just a reminder to those that aren't too internet savvy. You can click on any pictures in the blog to get a larger image. I know some are hard to see because they are small. And sorry for being so out of touch. I find it more time efficient to just update this blog rather than respond to my 1000's of fan's emails and Facebook messages. And just so folks know where we are at...We're camping 2 nights a week in Vallouise just outside of Briancon and one night a week up at the col de le Pousterle. And now that we're just 20 miles from Italy, we're finally going to go get that pizza tonight.

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

random photos and tidbits

This is how the Roman Empire fell. That's right.

I am an art lover and this is one of my favorite pieces. It was taken from the Roman Theatre at Orange. The put it back in the theatre for Ozzy concerts.

This is not nearly the worst we've seen here in France, just an opportunity for a photo. This one guy at the crag was wearing nothing but tight black underwear. At the crag! Just standing there in all his hairy-legged glory. No big deal.

Dungeons and Dragons rules. These guys get to dress up and play in real castles. They were practicing their spear throwing.

Straight out of Indiana Jones.

This is Elissa firing back a crepe. I had a hamburger which oddly comes without a bun. Which is strange considering how much the French love bread. Which brings me to my Stephen Colbert inspired Tip of the hat/wag of the finger.

Wag of the Finger: To Dr. Robert Atkins

The French are proof that your diet is a sham. These people operate on a baguette based economy. The entire world here revolves around carbohydrates and yet there are no obese people. None, that I've seen. Everyone is thin and I watch them carrying baguettes at all times of day. Baguettes for breakfast, lunch, dinner. Baguettes with jam, with cheese, free range baguettes with nothing, all kinds and varieties of baguettes. My best estimate is that each skinny frenchman eats somewhere in the vicinity of 5 loaves of bread per day. And I'm sorry to hear Dr. Atkins that you are in fact dead and at the time of your death you were: CLINICALLY OBESE! That's right. Dr. Atkins you should have eaten more baguettes.

Tip of the Hat: smoking

The French still smoke cigarettes. They smoke in restaurants. They flick their butts out car windows. The young kids smoke and it looks cool. I find this very refreshing. About 10 years ago i was shamed and ostracized into quitting smoking much like the rest of America. So I tip my hat to you France for continuing to smoke in one last great expression of personal freedom. And don't sweat the lung cancer. You're public health care will take care of you.

Just a few things I forgot to mention:

We got to watch this little kid named Enzo Oddo one-hang Realization. He hiked up the Biographie bit, fell at the crux, which is interesting to watch because somehow I know every move of that route. I don't know maybe I've watched Dosage vol. 1 a few times or maybe a few thousand. Not much difference. Sometimes a wake up at night and realize I just had a dream of lunging for the finishing jug out left and screaming just like Sharma as I stick it. Whatever. It's who I am. I'm not ashamed. So anyway, this kid Enzo gets back on and hikes to the top. Looked like 5.12. and he's cutting feet through the crux because he's so short. Then he gets to the anchor and says "take" in a high voice! Seriously, this kid's voice hasn't even changed! He's 14. If it wasn't 1000 degrees he'd have sent for sure. If you haven't heard of Enzo will.

There are these cool birds that live in the pockets at the Cascade sector at Ceuse. This wildlife biologist guy was taking pictures of them. They are called "Royal Creeper". Google search it if you're into cool wildlife. Really pretty and they seem to hover like humming birds.

I got on Carte Blanche, some famous 8a at Ceuse. I was trying to work out the crux and some woman gave me beta. Then she put down her baby after breastfeeding and fired the rig. Come on, I train like mad, do nothing but climb and think about climbing, then I come to France and some 95 pound Frenchwoman spits one out, carries it an hour up hill, feeds it with her obviously heavy breasts, then fires my project in my face. Seriously, that is just hurtful.

Today is Tour du France day. Very exciting. Next time I get some internet access I'll throw up some pictures of me crossing the finish line in a yellow jersey. So psyched!


Last we left off we were sitting here in Gap having a nice quiet dinner and some guy jumped off the clock tower and killed himself. Crazy. After that we headed back up to Ceuse and climbed two more days. After two more days we were feeling really worn down. After the hour hike in the 90 degree heat we barely felt like climbing. Ceuse is amazing but the hike coupled with the heat plus waiting until 3:30 to start climbing then climbing till 9:00 before heading back down for dinner.....wore us out. So we split and headed for cooler climates.

We drove back north to Briancon and got a guidebook. Unbelievable how much climbing is around here. The photo above is the view from an area called Rue de Masque. Conglomerate climbing like maple canyon. Quite chossy but fun. The one to the left is the second area we visited called Pelvoux. Looks like Rumney right? Very similar. Granite climbing, bouldery.

After we climbed here we headed up this other valley to check out another crag called Entrayques. High altitude gneiss with a bunch of hard routes. The valley was incredible but this raging river kept us from getting to the crag. The bridge was washed out so no climbing for us there. This is a picture of the valley.

We've been having trouble getting any climbing pictures. Since it's just the two of us we can't climb and photograph or video. I tried my patented hands-free head cam and got some great footage of Elissa's feet crushing a 7b+. The key to good footage with the head cam is to hold your jaw open to keep the camera steady. Patent number 09578-347. don't try to steal this idea.

Thursday, July 8, 2010

le beaver

So we got to St. Leger. We hiked up to the crag to check it out and it was amazing but we were taking a rest day. So we went swimming in the river then drove upstream and found a sweet free campsite by the river. we were setting up camp and this SUPER sketchy dude comes out of the woods and stumbles by looking in our car and stuff. He kind of freaked us out. just as it was getting dark we hear him coming back. At least that's what we thought. So we started getting tweaked thinking about how no one knows where in France we are and this guy was a definite creeper. We decide it's worth the piece of mind to leave. So we're breaking down the tent and hear something coming down the mountain....closer, and closer. And just as I'm trying to slam the trunk down this 'guy' is getting really close and the trunk won't shut and we freak out and jump in the Twingo and peel tire out of there. Elissa is holding a tent stake in her hand: "I was ready with this tent stake" she says.

So we go to a proper campsite called 'le beaver'. On the shower door is this picture. We don't speak french so we had to try to decipher the meaning.

St. Leger was amazing but smoking hot. Kind of like the New in the summer. we climbed in the shade but it didn't matter. It took me 3 tries to put down a nice 7c. Back to Le beaver for the evening. The next day we packed up and took off again. Today was the day of the mono. Malaucene is a beautiful little crag that gets morning shade. We climbed an amazing 7b+ that was littered with monos. Elissa says: "Junk in the trunk does not help when you're hanging off one finger."

Here she is blowing the excess chalk off her hand.

This was one of the nicest climbs I've been on. Probably the best limestone I've climbed on including Ceuse.

The sun came around and we drove on to Venasque. Wow. This is my all time favorite cliff. Very similar to the Red's table of colors wall but smoother. Less harsh on the skin. I climbed an amazing 7c+ with monos, pockets, crimps. Once you left the ground you never matched or stopped to shake. Really perfect movement. I could spend my whole trip there if it weren't for the HEAT. It felt just like climbing at the Red in July. Heinous. I was so upset I wanted to cry a few times. It is very frustrating to be a few miles from Buoux. Just a few miles from the 3 routes on my life list. Reve 8a, Chouca 8a+, and Le Rose 8b, and having no chance of climbing them. So sad about this. It is just too hot. So we split and drove back to Ceuse. In Gap now and looking forward to Ceuse tomorrow.

And I forgot to mention. today was our rest day so we checked out a town with historic significance called Orange. In France that is pronounced Aarrangsh. Sounds like they're talking with marbles in their mouth. Kind of like trying to figure out Kurt Cobain lyrics. We went to the most well preserved Roman Theatre in Europe. Apparently the Romans used to 'own' France and much of Europe. I guess that's why they call it an 'empire'. I am brushing up on my history. This place was really cool. And very old.

So last we left off we were heading to Italy to get a pizza. We got stuck in traffic so we never made it. But we ended up in Briancon at this castle and some medieval festival. We got a pizza. We also ran into Ivo Ninov in the restaurant. I thought he looked familiar and when I asked him if we'd ever met he answered in that unmistakable accent "I've been living in the valley for 10 years." Small world.
It didn't surprise me at all. The next day we went back to Ceuse and I ran into my friend Zach that I haven't seen in years. Had a crappy day climbing though cause some Italians kept us up all night. They were drinking wine all night.
Elissa claims " they can't help it, it's in their culture." Well, their culture sucks in my opinion. I climbed one obscure route called Super Mikey. nice.

We felt really worn down and so decided to leave Ceuse and drive south to Orpierre. It was sun baked so we kept going to St. Leger. It's amazing to drive around here weaving through the hills and seeing castles up on top and little villages.
Check out this picture. The cliffs in France are chipped all to pieces. I know it's the birthplace of sport climbing but come on...that is serious chipping.
Gorges du something. man this internet is so slow this has taken hours and dinner just arrived. Lots more

Saturday, July 3, 2010

Le France

Le France. That means 'the France' for you ignorant Americans that may be reading this. Our travel was pretty easy overall.

Our flights were on time. The meal on the plane was delicious. We complimented the stewardess and she was taken aback. "That's the first time I've heard that" she said. We can hardly wait for the delicous meal on the way home. The rental car was a giant headache. We got to the car guy and he told us that it would be 600 dollars more than what we reserved it for. Then I told him we'd like to add the insurance which the internet reservation said would be an additional 400 dollars. He politely explained to us that the insurance cost had gone up and would now be 1500 USD! I told him that was ridiculous. He told me, "Yes, it's more expensive now isn't it." I said, "dude, we can't pay you 1500 dollars for car insurance." He said "well then you should have reserved it online."

Having not slept for over 30 hours we were not able to make good decisions and this guy knew that he could rip us off. We deliberated some more then went to the next desk over and asked how much we could get a car for. We got a car for half of what he wanted to charge us. Right in his smug face. So we ended up with the Renault Twingo. It is awesome and we love it. We drove around the city of Geneva and found a pizza place. Of course, we don't know a lick of French so we had trouble ordering and ended up with 2 pizzas and 2 Carlsberg beers. We didn't know how to ask for a box so we just ate em down. This is Elissa standing outside the restaurant. We didn't have a road map but we were fortunate enough to park under a road sign that said "France". We followed the sign and ended up in France.

Then we drove an hour to Annecy and camped by a lake. The next day we drove 5 hours to Gap and got all the supplies we needed at the "L". The "L" is basically Wal-mart without the Wa Mart. Nice place.

THE CLIMBING: OK, let me put it to you like this....The climbing here is DOPE! It's better than you could ever imagine. Fatty blue and white striped limestone and pockets. SICK pockets. So our first day out I got used to the stone by onsighting a few 7c and 7c+ routes. Then I put down an 8b wit da quickness! Bawse! And yo, my Queen Collete was able to hook up a 7c route second try. WERD Coltrane!

Oh sorry, that didn't happen. I was just living my fantasy again. The reality is that climbing here is amazing but hard for sure. Very pumpy. Kind of like the Red but actually difficult. You know, like hard moves and less rests. But we are loving it. The first day I warmed up then tried a 7c onsight. the bolts here are really far apart. Kind of like the run out to the anchor on Tuna Town but every section is like that and you're actually pumped and doing hard moves. So one move from the onsight and I grabbed a draw. I know, I suck. I was scared. Whatever. But in our first two days I was able to climb some amazing routes.

Blocage Violente: one of the very best 7b+++ routes in the world. Perfect angle and holds the whole way up and relentless. I got Colinator to hang the draws for me then I flashed it. Scary! It's hard to stay calm and relaxed on these runouts that we're not used to. I also got a 7c onsight at Berlin and a 2:go on le Privelige du Serpent. I've heard about this route my whole life and it did not let me down. Again, one of the best 7c+ routes in the world. I sampled 2 8b's but I really don't think I'm going to project anything. There are just too many good routes here to spend time on just one. It's going to be an onsight/2:go trip I think.

The Colley Lama has been getting pumped! She keeps getting on hard 12c's that are bloc and relentless. She got a little frustrated and at the end of the day we were walking past some enormous pristine anti-slantys. She fired a 7a onsight and got a little confidence boost. Every route is so good. That 7a she did was like Realization tilted back the other way.

On top of all the good climbing....we're in France. This place is so cool and so different. The town of Gap is really chill. Right now we're in the town square sipping espresso under an umbrella. The double picture above is in case you're really drunk reading this. Everything else will be blurry but this picture will be crystal.

Wow, check out that cliff. The cow says "le moo". She is quite impressed with her homeland. I too am quite impressed with France. There are certain things that are better and certain things that are worse compared to 'le states.' For example: We can't watch Comedy Central and without the Colbert Report I have no idea what is happening in the world. So in honor of Stephen I'd like to give my own 'tip of the hat/wag of the finger' to France.

Tip of the Hat: Coed Bathrooms.

Nice job France for thoroughly kicking sexism to the curb. Listening to the woman in the stall next to you plop a deuce really seems to even the playing field. And by the sound of it....there's no reason women shouldn't be able to command a battleship.

Wag of the Finger: No fixed draws

Come on Ceuse, maybe you haven't heard but you're the best sport climbing in the world. I just flew half way around the world, drove 6 hours, hiked and hour up hill and now you want me to hang my own draws? Seriously, how bout we get a couple of these skinny little Frenchmen to carry a boat load of steel bent gates up here and properly equip this place.

OK, it's getting late. We're hungry for some pizza and Peroni's so we're going to drive to Italy to get one. We hear it's good over there.