It has happened! Out of the blue … exactly 501 days after I send my first 7a (5.11d), I was able to climb my first 5.12a (7a+) just last week.
The funny thing is, I have yet to climb a second 7a (although I have a feeling that a few of these will go in Céüse).
Last Wednesday, I went up to a local crag with my climbing partner. We’ve been there once before and I already had two goes on the route the last time we were there.
This is a limestone crag with good but not perfect rock. It is a bit crumbly in some places. There is everything from severely overhanging routes to heinous slabs. Some of the faces are really impressive and there is even a 9a which has seen an ascent by Adam Ondra. All in all a very good summer crag!
The route that I climbed has the crux low down. You take a slippery right sidepull and a shitty left sidepull/crimp and do an uncomfortable leap to a big jug with your left. I had done the move before but still needed five or six tries on my first go that day.
I didn’t expect anything and just continued to put the draws in. The route felt harder than last time.
After the big throw, you get to some easier jug hauling and then you can find a few no-hands rest on the upper part, just before the second crux.
Last time I was on the route, I couldn’t find any beta for the balancy clip of the last draw. You traverse left on top of a small bulge and are constantly at risk of just barn-dooring off the holds. Clipping is quite the challenge.
On that day, however, I found a nice and stable position, which allowed me to clip the draw and do the following moves.
Now that I had all the moves figured out and put in the draws, I was anxious for that second go, as this certainly seemed to be possible.
I took a long rest and belayed my friend who worked a hard 7b which had an impossible looking crux section. He figured it out on his second go and was banking on the third to get the route done.
My second go went pretty well, I got through the lower crux and managed the off-balance clip. Now, it was just a few moves to the chains. I took a small right hand crimp, smeared my left foot onto the wall and grabbed a half-decent pinch with my left. Then it was another throw to the finishing jug and the route would be put to bed.
I set up for the big move, threw my left to the jug, stuck it, … and barn-doored off of it after a split-second as I couldn’t find a good position for my right foot. I took a big whipper and screamed in anger for letting go on the final move.
Next time, I thought, and watched my friend cruise the crux of the 7b. He came to an easier section but he hadn’t looked at it enough and fell off because he was just too pumped.
It was my time again. I executed every move almost perfectly and felt a lot fresher when I came to the final moves. I was in the same position as last go, just with a lot more juice in my forearms. I misgrabbed that left hand pinch but was able to readjust and set up for the final throw. This time I will not let go, I thought to myself. I grabbed the finishing jug and held it for a short time but my body was not in balance and no matter how much I wanted to stay on that hold, I just had to let go and ended up hanging in the rope a few metres below. Fuck! I wasn’t sure if I had enough energy for a fourth go…
After a long break, my friend tied in for his final go of the day. He climbed up to the crux but nothing worked anymore. He was just too exhausted and struggled even to get the draws out. I knew that the time of truth had come.
I felt low on energy, although I had just rested for more than an hour. I never get 4 good goes in a day. Never. Still, I was so close! Twice! I just had to fight through it.
This time, I didn’t climb perfectly. I made lots of tiny mistakes and struggled on moves that felt easy before. Somehow, I ended up just below the top, managed to clip the last draw and was 6 moves away from glory.
I grabbed the right crimp, pinched with my left and threw everything I had into that final leap. Seconds later, I had clipped the chains. Victory! My first 5.12a! I was trembling with joy as my friend lowered me.
This is a great confidence boost just before the trip starts. I’ll be already in Céüse this time next week but I have two posts scheduled which will come out while I’m away in climbing wonderland.
See you soon!