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Category Archives: New photographs
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, it’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 – thankfully — at last we are having a much-needed rest. It’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 on…
This area is surely the world’s epicentre of hard sport climbing. More than a few of the world’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 – 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, it’s the women who have dominated it. And rightly so. There is undoubtedly something going on here. Maybe it’s because “resistance” and “endurance” count for so much here. Or because there are some routes which don’t have stopper height-dependant cruxes. Or maybe it’s because the routes are so damn good, long, and inspiring. But whatever it is, the women have stepped it up.
We’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 – some are going to appear in print soon so I’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 Monique’s attention to that route, and she’s not the only one. It’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 that’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 I’ve been here I’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. I’ve seen a few men send it in the meantime too.
So we have one of the world’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 doesn’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 “second go”, yet the detail about them having been on the route the previous year didn’t make it through to the news report. Another time, a send was reported as “3rd repoint attempt” with no mention of the days spent working the route – of which I’d seen several. Now, I don’t think there is anything deliberately dodgy going on. I asked around and it seems that it’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 hasn’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 “shots”, “go’s” or “redpoint attempts”, without the time also spent working the route, and that’s all that gets picked up by the media, then it hardly gives a complete picture. Secondly, it’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 “try” or a “go” a “shot” – or not? I think I’ve got that a “dog” is a “try” and not a “shot” nor a “go”, let alone an “attempt”. Er what!? Yeah, um maybe I’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 “days”, i.e., any day you got on the route – no matter how long or for whatever reason – got counted as a day? It’s not a big problem, and should be easy for the climbing media to get on top of – 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 I’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 “Nory” 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 31’s and 32’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 cranked 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, it’s a good read.
Great job Matt. And thanks for the help with the shots. Keep cranking!
I’ve added a gallery of some of my favourite images from over the years. Have a look at them here and hopefully enjoy!
If you have any feedback, I’d love to hear it here.
Oh oh Oliana!!! Good times! I’ve bumbled around a bit here but have most definitely been putting my expertise as a belayer (honed from 26 years of hard-won experience) to good use. Regardless of the outcome, I am proud to say that my lovely wife Monique Forestier has been climbing superbly here. She is doing what she loves the most, has set her own goals and has stepped it up — really stepped it up — a notch or two. She has found herself a really beautiful long sustained route to try, graded 8c (33), and after several days work on it, I think it is fair to say, that she is now bee’s dick away from sending it. Will she do it this trip? Probably not, we only have two climbing days left. But it has been good to watch her climbing progress and see it come together. No surprise, you’ll hear about it here first if she sends!
And here are some more pics from Oliana… This time it is French climber Etienne Seppechen (and it’s his blue t-shirt, Guillaume had just borrowed it for the Mind Control shoot!) having a good hard shot at the classic tufa Humildes pa Casa (8b+); unfortunately not quite managing to link it this time. Earlier I’d photographed Guillaume on this route in good light and had opted to shoot a wide scenic style shot to show the route and its setting (see those here). This time I wanted to do something different and needed to make the most of the light (which was flat as a tack), so I went to for the 70-200mm to get in on the action…
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!
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 “one of the King lines” and personally I think it is one of the most stunning lines that I’ve ever seen. I’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+’s, 8a’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 belayer’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 she’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 didn’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, you’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 didn’t count my chickens. From the screams coming from 50 metres above me I knew it wouldn’t be long until she fell… 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 “whoop” 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 can’t put them on the internet just yet.