We are back home now from Spain. I’ll miss the climbing there but being home is not at all bad with the wealth of things to do around here — in Australia. In fact, I’m psyched to do a lot more local climbing and shooting and have several projects I’m excited to be getting stuck into soon. With one of those projects in mind I got out this morning and found it was a beautiful dawn over the Jamison Valley (near Katoomba in the Blue Mountains), with Mount Solitary in the background. You gotta be psyched when a new day — or a new chapter in life — begins like that. Have a great day everyone!
I’ve scored some covers recently. Firstly, here is the 2012 issue of Ascent. Very stoked about this one!
Ascent is Rock and Ice magazine’s mega annual. It is the original literary journal of climbing, conceived of and edited for many years by Steck and Roper. Rock and Ice rejuvenated the journal last year — and I scored the cover then as well. I’m reposting that again here because I don’t know if we’ll ever get my old blog database up and running again… Anyway, I’m really honoured to have my work appear here. Thanks Rock and Ice!
Australia has a new online climbing zine, Vertical Life! You can see it all here.
I really like the work that Simon Madden and Ross Taylor have put into this so far – looks great guys. They say they plan to put out a printed annual, looking forward to seeing that too. I reckon it’s a bold move by anyone trying to put out professional quality climbing media in Australia (or anywhere for that matter – but Australia has a particularly small market). Having being involved with Crux Magazine for a while I’ve got an idea of the challenges they’ll face. These guys look well positioned to make a go of it if anyone can. Good luck with it guys! I hope the market is big enough for this to exist along-side the existing print magazine – Rock.
And in the first issue of Vertical Life there is a video interview that they did with me about my work and new book, Rock Odyssey. Also in this video I’ve given away a lot of the detail behind my new photo pole apparatus that I use to get some of my shots. When I blogged about this “revolutionary” new approach to climbing photography a while back I had no less than three different patent attorneys contact with some very generous offers to help out, should I somehow want to produce and market it. Instead of going down that road I decided to share this system with the climbing community. I’ll be happy to see other photographers out there using this system — and their variants of it. I’m working on some ways to improve the system. If you’re a photographer out there playing with this stuff I’d be grateful if you share some of the things that you might learn back with me; maybe together we figure out some of the details to devise a really efficient system for capturing mind-blowing climbing shots. That would be cool, eh?
Here’s that video below. Also on the Vertical Life web site there’s an article, Words about Pictures, where I give the background to some of my shots. Enjoy!
At last I’m really stoked to announce some good news of our own from Oliana, Spain. On Monday Monique sent Chris Sharma’s uber-classic Fish Eye. It’s her first 8c, or Australian 33, graded route. It proved to be a hard and frustrating process, but I think that just has made it all the more satisfying in the end. Yep – we’re celebrating!
Fish Eye is a very cool looking route blasting straight up the guts of Oliana. It has hard resistance climbing between crux’s and a red-point crux 45-metre’s up the 50-metre route. Monique first tried it on our trip out here last year. She spent enough time on it then to work out the moves start linking long sections. On the second last day of that trip she got really high on the route (on redpoint); it was enough for her to get super-psyched and confident that she could do it.
When we returned this year Monique was fitter than ever but the route did not submit as easily as we had both expected. After two weeks she was getting good linkage. Monique started getting through the main crux about, 28-metres up, and a tricky section above that, more often, and started making it through to the top redpoint crux. It was looking good. I bought some champagne and it waited, chilled, in the fridge. The first few times she fell from the top crux we thought, fine, maybe she doesn’t have the route fitness yet, or maybe she needs to refine the moves there a bit more, but after she came screaming off from there a few more times we really started to wonder “would she ever do it”? Oh no. It was frustrating. Maybe I jinxed it – buying the champas too soon? Getting that high on the route would mean she’d be too gassed for a second shot the same day.
Then the weather intervened, it rained, well flooded, and she had three days enforced rest. It was probably what was needed though — at least for the splits in her fingers to heal. So this time, eh? Errr, no, not to be again. So she took a break for a day and tried Mon Dieu (8a+), which she’d dogged earlier, and ended up sending that. So this time she came back to Fish Eye refreshed. She was looking stronger than ever and made it up to the final rest – below the top crux – again. It was her eighth time up there… but this time she darn well nailed it to perfection. Such a sweet send!
Monique has written about it all too, on her blog here — check it out!
So I lowered Monique off the climb, she got down to the ground and after a few minutes celebrating says “right, what next?”. She was chomping to get on some of the other routes she’d been putting off. “Um, not so fast babe” I say, and sent her back up there for some photos… here’s a few of those – taken right after the send!
It’s awesome watching — and being able to help — someone’s dreams come true. I know that beyond anything else, Monique was really inspired by this route and she wanted to push her climbing to a new level. Personally, I think it’s also great to see the standards of Australian climbing being raised too. I don’t doubt that Monique has the potential to climb harder too. Will she? Who knows. She’s 39, a mother, does not have any financial sponsors. We are both really grateful that she has at least had this opportunity. Many thanks indeed to everyone who has supported Monique and her climbing! The support she’s received from family, friends, and some gear companies, has really made a huge difference.
So yes, we are back in Catalunya, Spain, for a bit. We had such a good time here last year, we thought, well, why not? And wow, what an amazing time it is to be here. The climbing is great and there has been so much going on, itâ€™s a really fun place to be. The weather has been superb, primo, but last night a storm brought the first rain in weeks and so â€“ thankfully — at last we are having a much-needed rest. Itâ€™s a chance for Monique to grow some skin back, and for me to finally write about some of the things that have been going onâ€¦
This area is surely the worldâ€™s epicentre of hard sport climbing. More than a few of the worldâ€™s best sport climbers have been here recently, escaping the colder parts of Europe and North America to enjoy the early spring time conditions at awesome crags â€“ such as Santa Linya, Siurana, Margalef and Oliana. Lots of ultra-hard sends by men and women at these crags have constantly been making the climbing news of late.
In fact, if you look at the news coming out of these parts, itâ€™s the women who have dominated it. And rightly so. There is undoubtedly something going on here. Maybe itâ€™s because â€œresistanceâ€ and â€œenduranceâ€ count for so much here. Or because there are some routes which donâ€™t have stopper height-dependant cruxes. Or maybe itâ€™s because the routes are so damn good, long, and inspiring. But whatever it is, the women have stepped it up.
Weâ€™ve mostly been climbing at Oliana where, before we arrived, Daila Ojeda succeeded on Mind Control, her first 8c+ (Aus grade 34). This route is the awesome 50-metre resistance crag classic, which I first mentioned here. Soon after I arrived here I did a photo shoot on this route with Daila; here is just one photo from that –Â some are going to appear in print soon so Iâ€™ll hold off from putting them all on the internet, for now.
Daila has a really smooth climbing style, it was great to see. Brett and Josh Lovell from Big Up Productions are here and have captured some fantastic footage of Daila using an elaborate camera trolley system courtesy of Matt Madaloni and his Sea to Sky Cable Cam, definitely look out for that footage (probably at the Reel Rock Tour).
Dalia achievements have undoubtedly been inspiring to other women. The video of her on Fish Eye drew Moniqueâ€™s attention to that route, and sheâ€™s not the only one. Itâ€™s no surprise to me that once one of these classic hard routes receives a female ascent, other women are more likely to have a crack at it. And thatâ€™s what has happened on Mind Control. Nina Caprez also climbed Mind Control a few days after Daila and now the floodgates have indeed opened. Since Iâ€™ve been here Iâ€™ve seen Caroline Ciavaldini and, more recently, Sascha Digiulian also send it — with Sascha smashing it in just two days! Far out brussel sprout! (Has Sascha got a nick-name yet? What about Sascha the Dispatcher?). Eva Lopez was also trying it and will be returning soon. And the uber-strong Russian woman Evgeniya Malamid was making good progress on it before her time here ran out. Iâ€™ve seen a few men send it in the meantime too.
So we have one of the worldâ€™s premier crags for ultra-hard sport climbing, in peak season, with some of the best sport climbers in the world coming here — in peak form. The sending spree might surprise some armchair critics, but considering those factors the spree certainly doesnâ€™t surprise me — and it sure has been great to see!
On another note though, I have also noticed something a bit odd here, which could easily give the impression that some of these routes are easier than they are. And that is the way some of these ascents have ended up reported in the climbing media. I first noticed something strange when a climber sent a route second time that they were on the route that day, and their ascent was reported in the media as â€œsecond goâ€, yet the detail about them having been on the route the previous year didnâ€™t make it through to the news report. Another time, a send was reported as â€œ3rd repoint attemptâ€ with no mention of the days spent working the route â€“ of which Iâ€™d seen several. Now, I donâ€™t think there is anything deliberately dodgy going on. I asked around and it seems that itâ€™s just a way of reporting accents used by some climbers (probably very much a minority) from some European countries. Fair enough, people will report things in the way they are familiar with, and perhaps some of the detail hasnâ€™t been picked up by the media.
There are a few problems with this though. Firstly, no matter how well intended, if climbers are just highlighting the â€œshotsâ€, â€œgoâ€™sâ€ or â€œredpoint attemptsâ€, without the time also spent working the route, and thatâ€™s all that gets picked up by the media, then it hardly gives a complete picture. Secondly, itâ€™s not consistent with the way many climbers do report their ascents. And thirdly, and perhaps this one is just me, you know — an old fart, grasping to keep up with the latest lingo jingo, but the different terminology is a little confusing at times. Like, just when is a â€œtryâ€ or a â€œgoâ€ a â€œshotâ€ â€“ or not? I think Iâ€™ve got that a â€œdogâ€ is a â€œtryâ€ and not a â€œshotâ€ nor a â€œgoâ€, let alone an â€œattemptâ€. Er what!? Yeah, um maybe Iâ€™m a bit confused. Where did I put the Panadol? Anyway, if climbers want to report this stuff then whatever happened to good old-fashioned reporting of â€œdaysâ€, i.e., any day you got on the route â€“ no matter how long or for whatever reason â€“ got counted as a day? Itâ€™s not a big problem, and should be easy for the climbing media to get on top of â€“ if they just start querying these sorts of reports.
But I digress. I know the real reason you are reading this blog is to find out how Iâ€™ve been going on my latest project, and on that front I am stoked to report that after three weeks of top-roping I managed to send my 7b+ proj on my very first shot! It actually felt easy. Yeah, 7b+, and definitely soft…
Thanks for reading my blog. More soon!
Hola! We are back in Catalunya, Spain, for a bit, and absolutely loving it! Some news coming soon…
Matt â€œNoryâ€ Norgrove has been making his mark in the Blue Mountains of late. On the rock he has been ripping it up and has steadily accumulated an exceptional tick list of ultra-hard routes: lots of 31â€™s and 32â€™s, some rarely repeated, many in fast time — the list is too long to get into here. His enthusiasm, positive attitude, and encouragement of others, is appreciated.
Recently Matt crankedÂ Moonshadow, his first 33 — an awesome achievement! So I coaxed him out for photo shoot on that gnarly rock and worked him till his fingers were raw…
Also, below is an older shot that I took of Matt on Mr Line (32). Check out his blog, itâ€™s a good read.
Great job Matt. And thanks for the help with the shots. Keep cranking!