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Category Archives: Climbing News
Here’s a new shot of French climber Guillaume Lebret on the incredible Mind Control (8c+) at Oliana which, as I mentioned earlier, he sent on his third (consecutive) day on the route. It’s such an awesome looking 50-metre route and aptly named too — check out the run-out, Guillaume has skipped the last bolt…
Incidentally, Adam Ondra onsighted Mind Control last year and there is an awesome video floating around on YouTube of that here — check it out if you haven’t seen it and have 12 minutes to spare.
As I mentioned in my last post, we are now climbing at the Spanish super-crag Oliana. I call it a super-crag because a) it is so cool and b) because it has the second highest concentration of ultra-hard routes in the world (nearby Santa Linya holds the title). Not that I can do much here, getting spanked on everyone else’s warm-ups seems par for the course for me, but I’m having a good time, hanging with a good crew and that’s what counts as far as I care these days. Guillaume Lebret continues his sending spree (mentioned in the last post) and yesterday we watched him do T1 Total Equip (8c), which he seemed to work hard for but once again it was in the blazing sun and conditions were miserable (well, miserable for sending, I thought conditions were quite nice for belaying actually!). Later I took these shots of Guillaume attempting to flash (but no cigar) the 50-metre Humildes pa Casa (8b+), a stunning route following tufa line for much of its length. Check it out!
The same day that we were at Gorges du Loup catching up with Muriel Sarkany, I had the pleasure to meet the very talented French climber Guillaume Lebret. He was trying to do Trip Tik Tonic without the two sika (glue) holds — and I snapped this shot of him on it. I didn’t even know what route he was on, just though that it looked really hard; only later did I discover it was the famous TTT. There was no joy for Guillaume that day but he sent it a few weeks later. Damn good job! Without the sika holds the route is French grade 9a which would be Australian grade 35 (except that we don’t have any routes that hard, apparently). If you can read French then you can get the full story on his website here.
I think Guillaume might be following us around Europe… We are now in Spain climbing mostly at the super-crag Oliana and Guillaume turned up a few days ago. We quickly went to work on the ultra-classic Mind Control (8c+) which he smoothly send on his third day on. We were then back at the crag yesterday (after a rest day) and watched him do another test-piece: Fisheye (8c) in the blazing sun — obviously not being the least bit precious about conditions. I think he might have got the send out-of-the-way so that his mates could enjoy the shady conditions later in the day. I’ve climbed for 26 odd years now and it was only when watching Guillaume climb that the penny dropped and I finally learnt the solution to climbing in crap conditions. Yep, darn it, the answer is: “get better”!
We took a rest day from Verdon Gorge and headed over to Gorges du Loup to catch up with Muriel Sarkany and see how she was going on her latest project — Last Soul Sacrifice (8c, or Oz grade 33). I first met Muriel some years back at Siurana and have to say she must be one of the most modest and best sport climbers I’ve had the pleasure to meet. I heard she is the all-time second most successful competition climber in the world (the overall winner of the World Cup for five years) but talking with her you’d never know it. Now retired from the competition scene, she has done a great job translating her skills and fitness into results on the rock. On her trip to France Muriel had been tearing it up at Gorges du Loup, having sent two other 8c’s (Hot Chili-X and Qoussai les maux de la fin) already. Last Soul Sacrafice would make her third 8c in a month, but she only had a few days left. Could she do it? Turns out we had timed out visit well…
And of course I took some shots. For Murielâ€™s first shot of the day I just photographed from the ground. She fell on the crux, dogged the moves a bit and climbed to the top, then kindly hauled up and fixed my static rope so that I could get some shots from aboveâ€¦ And so then on her second shot for the day — she sent! And as she climbed higher had to quickly abseil back down to the ground to get out of her way. This time she ditched the â€œboys betaâ€ thatâ€™d thrown her off before, stuck to her sequence, powered through the crux and cruised to the top of her third 8c that month. It was an impressive send. Fantastic job Muriel! And suitably inspired, Monique sent her 8b+ project the next day. Good times!
Busy times for us in Europe… here at last is some news and photos from our time in France:
Monique Forestier (my wife, by the way, if you didn’t know it!) has climbed Tom et je Ris (8b+, or 32 in Oz grades) which is an incredible 60-metre route on the east side of Verdon Gorge. Approached by a one hour and twenty-minute hike and then by abseil, the route itself is super exposed, sustained and run-out. Quite the mind-trip! The steadily overhanging route follows an extraordinary tufa for nearly all of its 60 metres, although at times the route incorporates a couple of other tufa’s into the climbing.
A friend described Tom et je Ris as â€œone of the King linesâ€ and personally I think it is one of the most stunning lines that I’ve ever seen. Iâ€™ve known about the route for years and have long been keen to photograph it. Monique first tried the route, or some of it anyway, one day a few years back. Her quick taster that day was enough for her to get really inspired but we had to wait over two years until we could make it back to France with the stars aligned enough for her to try it in earnest.
At home before our trip Monique built up some fitness — including sending Microcosm (31) in seven days. We then started our trip here to France climbing at St Leger where Monique got used to the limestone and tufa climbing — doing several 7c+â€™s, 8aâ€™s and an 8a+ (Malaxe, in four shots). From St Leger we did several trips across to Verdon for Tom et je Ris and I started to rack up some belayerâ€™s brownie points.
Tom et je Ris has a lot of climbing that is surprisingly technical. After five days of trying, and leading it through with lots of rests, Monique felt sheâ€™d worked it out enough to try red-pointing in earnest. But then Monique nearly pulled the plug. She said to me that she was pretty sure that she could do it but was impossible to tell how long it would take: it could be two days, or two months. Well, we certainly didnâ€™t have the luxury, to hang about on the other side of the world, for her to siege it into submission. I felt it was a more interesting challenge, anyway, for her to try it in the time that we had left and so I encouraged her to give it another few days. On day seven she got through the lower cruxes and things were looking good, I was already starting to the thank the belay-slave god out there but then with a blood-curdling scream she can whipping-off from very high of the route. Lesson learnt: this is just not a route you can over-grip on and pacing is critical, youâ€™ve got to play the game for the long-haul.
On day eight it took a few shots. Pushed to the max, it was an incredible fight. This time I didnâ€™t count my chickens. From the screams coming from 50 metres above me I knew it wouldnâ€™t be long until she fellâ€¦ so I just paid out lots of slack and waited for the inevitable plummet. But amazingly (thankfully) it never came. She hung in there, gave it everything and fought it right to the end. The rope kept slowly inching out until I finally heard her victory â€œwhoopâ€ reverberating up and down the gorge. I think it was one of the best leads of her life. Such an incredibly cool route too. Incidentally, it is the first Australian grade 32 route that Monique has climbed overseas and her first since having a baby nearly three years ago. Awesome stuff!
After her send we had a little break from Verdon. Then a week later we returned for two days so that I could shoot some photos and video (stay tuned for that). The pics below are just a little taster, my best shots might end up in print so I canâ€™t put them on the internet just yet.