Thursday, April 23, 2015

The Pros and Cons of a short trip

The meaning of a 'short trip' is obviously all relative. For some people it can be a weekend, a couple of weeks, or even a couple of months, but regardless of the length we as climbers have all felt that pressure of 'time' to achieve our goals for the trip. Whether it's to send our projects or just to see new crags. A feeling of panic, self doubt and question marks appear around whether the 'goal' will be possible or not and it's all about how you deal with it. Do you give in to the time pressure and forget about the end result or do you fight it and stay optimistic until the last possible chance?

Recently I had this experience during my two week trip to Oliana, Spain in late February. Again, two weeks may seem like a long time but for me, having spent the last year and a half with the freedom of going anywhere at anytime, two weeks felt like nothing.

Oliana, Spain. Photo: Wiz Fineron
Oliana, a completely new crag to me full of 50 meter pumpy classics such as Mind Control and home to the worlds hardest route La Dura Dura. I had so much to go at and immediately I wanted more time. From experience it normally takes me about a week to get used to new areas but with only two weeks in total this was not an option. Do I spend my time climbing all the easier classics or do I hone in on a project with the chance of leaving with nothing? I pondered these questions for the first couple of days as I got stuck in to some of the 'warm ups' of the crag. But it didnt take long for the pure beauty of one line in particular to suck me in and I couldn't resist.

This line was Mind Control and after waiting in line I finally had my chance to check it out and see what it was all about. I thought I should at least try the moves before making any kind of decision. It took some time to check it all out but come on, its 50 of the metres! That's a lot. After my first go on it, I thought it was going to be easy. There's no hard moves and a few good rest jugs between sections so what can possibly make it hard right?... The worry of whether I was going to get it done or not in time wasnt there as I was certain that it would only take a matter of tries. Its just jug hauling.... How hard can it be? :P This optimistic thinking soon wore off as I discovered the true meaning of pump. After about 40 metres of pure resistance climbing I quickly lost control of my elbows and the term 'chicken winging' was strongly in practice.

Wiz Fineron falling from 49.5 of 50m on Mind Control. Photo: Rob Greenwood
This resulted in multiple falls from high up on the route until I really couldnt get much closer. I mean falling at 49.5 of 50 metres with only one move left really sucks knowing that I have to climb all that way again if I wanted to get this thing done. I managed to sum up enough energy and psyche to have one more go that day and somehow raced the rising elbows to the top sticking that last move and clipping the chains of the mega classic Mind Control. Nice one Neil Mawson for the good send the day before, just the motivation I needed.

Not a bad line!!! Wiz Fineron staring down the top section of Mind Control. Photo: Rob Greenwood
 After a well needed rest day it was time to get back to the crag. Do I try something hard again or do I spend the last few days stress free and do more easy climbing? For me its the physical and mental battle of hard climbing that I enjoy the most. Although the easy days out are great fun, I dont think I would have felt like I would have made the most of my trip this way. I had to try something hard again so next up was Fish Eye, another Oliana classic.

I had only two days left and with my first three attempts on Fish Eye the previous days not going so well I was struggling with psyche. The route itself didnt feel so bad (definitely easier than Mind Control) but the past few days had just been extremely still and warm and I was finding it really hard to relax on the rest jugs. When the skin is so soft and sweaty you have to hold on so much tighter which on short routes sometimes you can get away with, but on these pure endurance routes being able to rest and relax on holds is very important. On my second to last day the conditions weren't any better so I decided not to get on it at all and instead just have fun and climb some of the slightly easier routes.
Wiz Fineron high up on Fish Eye. Photo: Alex Haslehurst
Although it was great spending my second to last day with no pressure and just having fun, a large part of me still wanted to finish off what I had started with Fish Eye. Knowing that I only had one day left and having only been on the route a few times by this stage, I had already excepted the fact that I may not do it and having done more than expected on this trip already I really didn't mind weather I did it or not.
The last day was great, we rocked up at the crag with cooler temperatures and a strong breeze. The psyche came rushing back and I just couldn't resist one last go. I knew exactly what to do, I just had to put it all together. With no expectations I went for one last try. I felt great the entire way up, resting was easy and what I thought was going to be really hard at the top felt so good I even forgot to clip the last couple of draws. I clipped the chains and that was it, a great end to a great trip!

Last day send!!! Well psyched! Photo: Alex Haslehurst
For me, this trip was about spending time with some great people, having a good time and learning to not let pressure and self doubt get into my head. With only two weeks, it was a new experience for me and I wasnt sure what was going to happen. I came away from this trip having sent two significant climbs (for me), experienced a new area, with amazing people, and had a lot of fun and laughs. So whether its two days, two weeks or even two months, its all in the head and anything is possible. You just have to approach it in the right way and that always includes a big smile. Why do it if your not having fun right...?

Get out there and have fun!

Another great whipper shot! Photo: Ally Smith

The team... well most of it!!
A huge shout out to my main man Alex Hasleherst as well as 'Team Sheffield' for making it such a great holiday and we should definitely do it again!! You all know who you are so thank you very much.

Monday, November 24, 2014

More pictures!!! Part two.

Moving on from the big stuff, my next stop was South Africa. Six weeks of hardcore bouldering at the world famous destination known as Rocklands. Psyched!!!!

.... South Africa baby!!! Photo: Wiz Fineron
So much rock! So much climbing! Can you spot the famous boulder? Photo: Wiz Fineron
Campusing around at night on what was meant to be a rest day. Rest days are so hard to have when amongst so much quality rock. Photo: Bjørn Helge Rønning
One of my favorite problems of all time. Shosholoza 8a/+ (ish) When I managed to climb this bloc I was so psyched, so I re-climbed it about five minutes later for the camera! Two perfect moves. Photo: Caroline Wagner
And the next move. Perfect. Another great photo by Caroline Wagner
Steve Bradshaw attempting the 18m long highline above the camping. Photo: Wiz Fineron
Wiz sending the highline. Managed to walk back and forth on this rig 3 times. I first tried a highline back in 2012 at Mt Arapiles, Australia and have wanted to try again ever since. Psyched to have sent it! Photo: Steve Bradshaw

Working on the project of the trip. The Vice (8b) proved to be right at my limit for the trip spitting me off the last move to the jug too many times to count. Photo: Caroline Wagner
Sneaky... Photo: Wiz Fineron
Hold on Simon!!! Oh wait, too late.... Photo: Wiz Fineron
Eat your greens! Power food. Photo: Wiz Fineron
Another big move to a small crimp. Catching the crux move on Green Mamba 8a+ Photo: Caroline Wagner
Some very impressive rock art. Photo: Wiz Fineron

After six weeks of thrashing our selves on one amazing problem after the next the power had gone and so had the skin.  Having managed to climb more than twenty 8a or harder problems I was happy with how the trip went and with my body feeling completely beaten, when the time came to leave I felt satisfied and ready to move on.

Lesson learnt... Dynos are not good for the skin! This happened on the second to last day luckily. Only one solution really... Tape up and keep climbing. Photo: Wiz Fineron
Check out the video I made with some of the problems I caught on film:

From South Africa, I continued my travels returning to North Wales for about a week of organizing (mostly climbing) and also had the chance to compete in the Deep Water Solo comp held in Exeter.

Photo: Wiz Fineron
Deep water soloing in Exeter... Who would have thought. Photo: Wiz Fineron
I never seem to hang around in the UK for too long, so by this time it was time to get moving again. I heard the weather was pretty good in Ceuse so the tickets were booked and off I went!
Hard life really...

The perfect place. This was my second time in Ceuse and it has become one of (if not) my favorite places in the world to climb. Photo: Wiz Fineron
First day back in Ceuse on Dolce Vita 8a+. Photo: Melanie Jackson
Living like kings this year in Ceuse! Oh yes. Photo: Melanie Jackson
The main project of the trip. Mr Hyde 8c+ on the Biography wall. Photo: Alice Thompson
In the past I havnt been very good at projecting, especially in areas where there is so much climbing to be done, so that was the plan for this trip. Having already climbed a lot of the classics up to about 8b last year I told my self that this time I was going to try something hard. No excuses.
Being there in September and October was perfect as the season was coming to an end and the school holidays had finished. This meant for majority of the time we had the luxury of having the whole of Ceuse shared between about ten of us. Amazing.

Amazing climbing and amazing skies. Perfect. Photo: Wiz Fineron
Another classic shot from Ceuse! Photo: Melanie Jackson
The project state of mind was going well so after sending Mr Hyde, the psyche was high and I moved on to the next one. Next up was La Part Du Diable 8c. Another great line on the Biography wall.
Psyched to have climbed another great line on the Biography wall after a few days of work! Photo: Melanie Jackson
Too much fun! Photo: Angus Kille
The crew. Good scenes in Ceuse!
My favorite wall!! So many great climbs. Photo: Luke Clarke
On top of Ceuse! Beautiful. Photo: Melanie Jackson
The last project of the trip Chronique De La Haine Ordinaire 8c. The days were getting pretty short by this time resulting in the odd try at night. Hard bouldery sequences can be pretty tricky in the dark...

 After finally getting through the bouldery sequence at the start I held it together and climbed to the top. Clipping the chains I felt exhausted both physically and mentally. Its amazing how much mental strength it takes to project a climb over and over so with this one out of the way I was finished. My time in Ceuse this year had come to an end and it was time to move on again.

:P .... Photo: Melanie Jackson
 Now for round two in Spain!!! So psyched.

Saturday, October 25, 2014

Big, bigger, and biggest!

The last few months have been pretty full on, bouncing from one continent to the next. Since my last blog post in May it's been a non-stop climbing schedule for me starting off with multi-pitch/alpine climbing in France and Switzerland to hardcore bouldering in South Africa, Deep Water Soloing in Exeter and finally Sport climbing in France.

Its been one amazing adventure to the next so instead of me writing about it all, here are a bunch of pictures that will hopefully tell the story much better than I will. Enjoy!

First stop, Samoens, France. (Multi-pitching)

The plan was to try a route called Bin Fizz as a warm up route to the main objective of the trip. Unfortunately we only managed to get up the first three pitches of this route before having to bail off and run back down to the car before the storm hit. Not a short approach!
South Face of the Fizz. Photo Calum Muskett.

Not a bad view. Photo Wiz Fineron
The death gully as I called it. This is where Calum came in to his element. Choss. I was sh##ing myself, and we hadn't even started climbing yet. Photo: Wiz Fineron
3rd pitch of the route. Amazing water warn slab. Photo Calum Muskett
Smearing to the max! Photo: Calum Muskett

Next up, Ratikon, Switzerland.

This was the main event of the trip, to climb the famous Multi-pitch, Silbergier. An impressive looking route with it all. Hard climbing, big run-outs and amazing views.

Good old 'Monique'. Citroen C1 doing us proud on the crazy drive up to the Ratikon. Nobody told us about this? Photo: Wiz Fineron
Not a bad place to go rock climbing at all. Photo: Calum Muskett
Psyched!!! Ready to give the Crux (8b/+) pitch a good go. Managed to send this thing on my second attempt. It doesnt count until I climb from the ground though... :P Photo: Calum Muskett.
Oh yes..... The weather. Not the best that's for sure. Photo: Wiz Fineron
Getting caught in a storm at the top of Pitch 4 again. Yes... that is hail. Photo: Calum Muskett
Looking up at the terrifying second pitch. A very thin and run out 7c+ traverse. Photo: Calum Muskett
Checking out the second pitch. Definitely more scary on second. Photo: Calum Muskett
Calum in training. Cake, cake then more cake!!! Photo: Wiz Fineron

Calum trying to stay warm at the top of the third pitch. Amazing water warn rock and a good view of the approach in the background. Photo: Wiz Fineron

The clouds are coming in again. Photo: Wiz Fineron

What a view. Switzerland on one side and Austria on the other. It didn't quite look like this on the day of the send :P Photo: Calum Muskett
The clouds have arrived. This is our view from the ledge at the top of pitch 4. Still two more to go! Photo: Wiz Fineron

The day of the send. Back on the rock after a forced one and a half hour break due to rain. Thank god for the sheltered ledge. Scary and cold climbing in a white out with some decent size run outs. Photo: Calum Muskett

Trying to stay warm for the upcoming crux pitch!! Legs in the haul bag is the trick. Photo: Calum Muskett
Just keep on climbing. Believe that its dry and it will be... (I think) That's what I told myself anyway. Here I am on the 4th pitch looking up at the crux pitches to come in the fog. Uh Oh! Photo: Calum Muskett

Back on the ground. So psyched to have achieved the goal of the trip. Silbergier (8b,7c+,8a+,7a+,8b/+,8a) done and dusted! Thanks so much to my partner of the trip Calum Muskett for keeping me alive on these big walls the past few weeks.
Pitch three 8a+. Photo: Calum Muskett
Next up some proper alpine climbing in Chamonix. I had to use those axe things and even those spiky things that go on ya feet. Team extreme that's for sure. No better place for it but on the peak of Aguille Du Midi.

Thats right... I'm alpine climbing. Atop of Aguille Du Midi about to take my first steps in Crampons. Psyched. Ok fine, I did fall over once but that's it. What a beautiful place. Photo: Calum Muskett

Stunning. Photo: Calum Muskett
Up high on Ma Doltan of the South Face. Granite crack climbing...  Uh Oh. Great fun. Photo: Calum Muskett

Calum in the awkward transition between crampons and climbing boots. About 8 or 9 pitches later we should be at the top. Photo:Wiz Fineron
Oh no, what you doing Calum? Taped hands mean...... Photo:Wiz Fineron
Yes, crack climbing. Horizontal roof crack climbing as well. So hard! Good effort Calum. Photo:Wiz Fineron
Climbing with Mont Blanc in the background. Nice! Photo: Calum Muskett
A lot of rock fall going on nearby.  A little too close for my liking. Photo: Calum Muskett
The view from our hut for the night. Cold but beautiful! Photo:Wiz Fineron

The next morning it was time to get back on the ice and snow. The usual route was busy so this was Calums idea of a short cut. Pretty dam fun.
Psyched to have successfully squeezed my way up that chimney. Not long to go now. Photo: Calum Muskett
What a poser. The summit is in site! What a great adventure. Photo: Calum Muskett
Well that's the end of the big stuff for this year anyway. Just want to say a huge thanks to Calum Muskett for giving me this opportunity and for keeping me safe when I had absolutely no clue what I was doing (which was most of the time). Lets do it again!!

Stay tuned for part two including Rocklands, UK, and Ceuse!