Sunday, 5 July 2015

Mind Games

My logbook might say Super Cantina Marina (8a), but Makach Walou (7c+) has been physically and mentally the hardest project I've worked to date by far.

It started well - doing all the moves on my first attempt - but I knew it needed a level of power endurance I didn't have. It was my first day in Céüse though, and as I was planning to stay a while I figured working it would be a good way to get fit.

After two weeks of solid projecting I'd linked all the sections, and one-hung the route. A week later I made it through the top crux, twice. The first time my arms gave out; the second I fluffed my footwork for the very last hard move. Little did I know then, how that mistake would come to haunt me.

I took another couple of rest days and came back expecting to send, but pulling back on I felt sluggish and couldn't recover fully on the rests. A month of marching up from 1400m to 1800m and projecting hard was taking it's toll. I was back to falling at the crux again, but was it physical, or had it become a mental problem? There was clearly a bit of both, but it was hard to say which was the most significant.

This put me in a bit of a dilemma... the weather was getting hotter and I knew the crag would only get busier - I wanted to get the popular line done before it got too bad. I was stuck between the need to rest and the desire to send.

To complicate matters, I began to feel depressed again. It was nothing major, but then I went to a party in Sigoyer and had a few too many drinks, triggering several days of severe anxiety which messed with my guts - interfering with my ability to recover and re-fuel my body. I had been running up to the crag when I first arrived, now I was plodding and it didn't feel good.

I gave away the beer and wine I had in the van, and decided to get on some other walls for a change of scenery. I had a go at some steep, juggy routes - Bibendum (7b+) was a lot of fun but didn't quite go before another rest day, and then down at Cascade I got on Super Mickey (7b). Big lock offs, huge jugs, and an even bigger grin characterise the line. On the first redpoint attempt I linked all the way to the top crux, but fell off the dyno. I stuck it next go off the rope, but immediately felt a pain in my left forearm. Shit.

I could crimp on holds with my ring finger, but I couldn't hang them - pretty important on the pockets here. It also felt very similar to an injury I had before which turned chronic... should I even try to climb through? I'd had a good trip, maybe it was time to head back to the UK, look for work and rest my weary body?

I slept on it, but looking up at the rock over my morning coffee I knew I had to stay and take a chance.

The temperatures were climbing all over Europe, and Céüse was no exception. Resting up in the car park for a few days I was sweltering. Hiking back up for another go yesterday, I must have sweated out more water than I carried up. With a tape strap at either end my forearm actually felt OK, but the rock was so greasy I fell off before the third bolt. After a good brushing I had another go, making it to the crux, but I'd had to work so hard to stay on the lower section there was little in the tank to get through it. I ate dinner and took a long rest to go for an evening send, but by the time I got on the breeze had died away and conditions felt just as bad as before. I trudged down the hill feeling pretty dejected.

It felt like there are just too many stars that need to align before I can send this route. Physically and mentally I need to get it right, and the weather has to play it's part. The send is so much further away than it was a fortnight ago that my head says I should give it up, but my heart says I've put too much in to let it go.

I needed a sense of perspective - it's only a couple of weeks since I happily proclaimed (whilst staring at the stars after good food and good wine in good company), that if I won the lottery tomorrow I'd still want to be exactly where I was. So this afternoon I drove down to the Lac du Pelleautier, and after a bath and some sun lounging swam the length of it and back.

From google maps, it looks like I did about 1.5km, and although I wasn't breaking any speed records I surprised myself by finishing quite strongly. In the process I reminded myself that there are other sports out there, and that I'm pretty lucky to be in the position, for now, of being able to wake up every morning in the alps and decide which one to do.

I feel a lot happier tonight, and mentally more rested. I'm ready to enjoy what the area has to offer for a few days and wait for the weather to break. In the meantime, my body can rest a bit too... perhaps I can get those stars all aligned. :)

Update: you can read part 2 and watch the video here

Antoine sending Makach Walou.

Matt on the bouldery start of Bibendum, on his way to a quick send.

Kat lowering off Bibendum... it is quite steep!

Super Mickey is full of big lock offs...

... hanging out on jugs at the knee bar...

... more big lock-offs...

... sticking the dyno that could have ended my trip. I must go back and send this, once Makach Walou is safely in the bag! Photos by Jill Sompel.

Unknown climber on L'errance d'une passion (7c) at Berlin.

Evening sunshine at Lac du Pelleautier.

1 comment:

  1. I often find an open water swim in beautiful surroundings gives peace in my head, must get out soon for a swim (though could just swim in the street with the rain we're having). Will need a wetsuit here still though, unlike your Lac!