Tuesday, 2 June 2015

Back on the rock (and the one that got away)

By Wednesday I'd convinced myself to head up to Chamonix the next morning, when Gerd messaged me to say he was keen on coming to St Leger. I told him I wasn't fit, but it started me thinking again.

That evening, I grabbed my climbing shoes and chalk bag and wandered down to hang off some holds. It was still painful but not as bad, and the discomfort was dependent on the wrist angle - if I stayed below the holds it was fine.

I started soloing up and down the bottom of a 6b+, and the longer I went the less pain I felt... maybe I could climb through it by warming up properly?

This was probably wishful thinking, but decided to give it a go; I arranged to pick Gerd up at Sahune on Friday morning.

Fancying a change of scenery, I went for a drive on Thursday - stopping in pretty little French villages and generally being a tourist for the day. Suddenly it felt like summer had arrived, which made for a lovely day out, but I began to wonder if climbing in St Leger would still be feasible.

I stopped for the night in an aire about 5km short of Sahune, and woke up in the morning to find a beautiful little tufa crag right above the car park. This part of France is just amazing, there's quality rock everywhere you look.

Despite the heat, I found a super-psyched Gert sitting by the bins in the centre of town so we turned and made a bee-line for La Baleine.

Warming up on Du Rire de Baleine aux l'Armes de Crocodile (6c) things felt OKish - more discomfort than pain, but when I got on Commando Fada (7b), I came to a move that sent a familiar tearing sensation through my right arm. I grabbed a tree with my left and shook it out. Fuck it, in for a penny, in for a pound. I managed to dog to the chains, and by the top I found I wasn't having as many problems.

There were two open projects I could have a go at - Pirequetoutopoulos (7b+) or La Chant Des Baleines (7c/+). They are both cracking lines, and there doesn't actually feel like much difference in difficulty between the two, but I decided to err on the side of caution and go at Pirequetoutopoulos. I surprised myself by almost linking to the rest below the top crux whilst putting up the draws, dogged the rest, and then called it a day; I'd pushed pretty hard so time to see how the arm felt in the morning.

The answer was pretty good - no bruising or swelling, and a similar pain warming up as the day before. However, the heat was becoming a real issue, too much sweat meaning low friction and fast wearing skin. The original plan was for Gerd to be there for five days (four days climbing with a rest day in the middle), then he was going back to his Miriam's parents farm and I was planning Céüse. We came to the conclusion that it would make more sense to pop up to the farm for our rest day, then Gert would come up to Céüse.

That gave me an afternoon to send Pirequetoutopoulos. I had two cracks at it - the first, I climbed well and made it into the crux sequence, but an error cost me. The second I was a bit more ragged; with energy reserves low I was fighting the whole way. I got the sequence right, and got to the final hard move, but couldn't hold the tension to reach for the jug. I knew I didn't have enough in the tank for another go, but it didn't really matter. I was grinning from ear to ear as I knew I had given it my all in the quest... I was back!

Miriam's family run an off-grid organic farm and guest house nestled amongst the trees an hour south of Gap. We arrived on Saturday night to a warm welcome and a hearty dinner, and spent Sunday sitting by the pool listening to the cuckoos and larks, watching the bees and butterflies going about their business. Total relaxation in a stunning location - I'd highly recommend it to anyone looking for an alpine getaway; fantastic hosts and the sort of place where time just stops.

It's been a brilliant few days, and to cap it off yesterday we made it to Céüse... if the first day's climbing is anything to go by the next few weeks are going to be a bit special.

Park your van randomly in the dark, and wake up to find tufas above your head.
It looked really good, and had about half a dozen bolted lines.
Every French village has a beautiful church.
War memorial at Buis Les Baronnies.
Gert getting ready to do battle with the tufas
It's a magnificent cave at La Baliene
The heat didn't seem to be slowing down this young french lad, working Un Monde Sans Gauche Est Sans Issue (8a)
Goodbye to Saint Leger... it had a really nice bathroom.
Chilling by the pool.

No comments:

Post a Comment