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'.

1 comment:

David said...

Think Colley, THINK!!!!!!!!!!!!