Céüse Trip Report

Céüse was beautiful! It was demanding, many falls were fallen, many beers were emptied and many routes were send (and even more remained unfinished). I am back from my 16-day trip to Céüse and here I am sitting in the university library, finally having to work on my thesis but still too far out there to actually concentrate on what I should be doing.

We left as a group of seven eager climbers on the 14th of July and came back late last Saturday with many new ticks on our lists.

I am not going to give you the whole day-by-day or route-for-route shebang as this would be too boring for me to write or for you to read.

 

We arrived late into the night and went up to the huge massif de Céüse early afternoon after we had slept for a few hours but not nearly enough. Our first day was spent in the impressive sector that is the Grand Face. The approach was still gruelsome and the climbing was surprisingly hard. Nothing can really prepare you for that specific Céüse fitness or the heady run-outs that you will inevitably have to face. I was happy to put down two old projects right on my first day. While Tabernacle delivered a fair fight, Trous line went down on the first go of the day.

The plan was to climb some easier routes during the first few days and then turn to the harder objectives. More or less, it worked out that way. I climbed some easier stuff on our second day and then send my first 6c of the trip during our third day on. Les sales blagues à Nanard, a nice piece of rock in the Cascade sector with a tricky slab part just before the top. I put it down on my second go and was ready for a well deserved restday.

3 days on is just too much when you are in Céüse and we switched to the common 2 on / 1 off schedule when we had rediscovered that for ourselves.

I have to say that the grading was much stiffer than I remembered and routes didn’t go down as I hoped they would. Nevertheless, on our fifth climbing day, I was able to redpoint Gelati Dolomiti, a beautiful 7a that has almost every type of climbing you could imagine. It starts with an overhanging section, then you have to do a tricky move to get onto the slab, you traverse a little, face a hard slab move and then finish with a very dropable slopy layback edge that leads you right to the tricky clip of the anchors. This one was definitely on my list and I was very happy to do it after about 6 goes of struggle.

On climbing days 6 and 7, I laid eyes on a nice 7a+ far to the right of the massif de Céüse in the esoteric Nitshapa sector. I fought hard to get it but I just wasn’t able to link all the moves, so this one needs to wait until next time.

Four of us were pretty beat up after 7 days of hiking and climbing and we used our restday in the city of Gap to spend some time in the local climbing shop browsing through guidebooks of other crags in the area. We found the really nice Briancon climbs guide and decided to try out some of the areas described in that book.

Our last 4 climbing days were spent on 3 different types of rock. We visited two limestone, a granite and a conglomerate crag. I was able to do a 7a second go when we climbed in an amazing limestone canyon that had some of the most interesting wall structures I have ever seen. We all agreed that this one was pretty soft at 7a but hey, just take what’s in the guidebook right 😉

Other than that, I was able to onsight a really nice 6c when we ventured on granite and on top of that I had a lot – really a lot – of fun that day.

On our last evening before we left, we got to see the IFSC lead worldcup semi-finals in Briancon. This was the first time that I got to watch a climbing competition in real life. I usually watch the worldcups in bouldering on youtube but never cared for lead very much. In Briancon, however, the crowd was really great and it was awesome to see all those pro-climbers compete. We had a great evening and I would really recommend to go see a climbing worldcup in person if you never have.

All in all, it was a great trip with nice people and I enjoyed myself very much. The climbing was amazing and I got to see some new areas (I will definitely return). Of course, it would have been nice to get one or two more 7a’s or to bag a 7a+ but overall I am very happy with my climbing achievements and everything else!

Now it’s back to real life…

 

Cheers and have a fun summer!

 

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My first 5.12

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!

Cheers.

Last adjustments

I am exactly 13 days out from my first day of climbing in Céüse. During the last 4 to 6 weeks, I tried to get as fit as I could with my finger injury still healing. You already know that I did a lot of power endurance training and I had 2 posts just about this.

Here are some of the other things that I did and that I’ll do until we finally go away and climb for 2 weeks.

My first concern was power. I actually had a power phase planned but my finger made all plans obsolete and I had to do something else. In order to still gain some power, I had to get creative and work around the injury. For the first two or three weeks, dynamic loading of the finger was out of the question. This meant that I could neither do limit boulder problems nor campus boarding. Thus, I decided to train my big pull muscles with explosive pull-ups and explosive straight-arm lat pull-downs. I also figured that training minimum edge hangs might be a good substitute for bouldering on small holds because they are generally pretty specific to outdoor climbing. I performed 1-2 sessions of the pull exercises and minimum edge hangs per week.

Another thing I wanted to address was the fact that I probably wouldn’t be able to use middle/ring-pockets or index/middle/ring-pockets because my finger was just hurting too much. Therefore, every time I climbed at the climbing wall, I would perform a few index/middle-pocket hangs after a warm-up and before doing more climbing. I figured that pulling with this finger combination was just a case of something that I had to get used to. I think this is more a neurological adaptation than really gaining strength here. It worked out quite well and I am now using this combination instead of using middle/ring, which I’d normally do.

A third factor that I started to work on right after the injury is the mental side of climbing. Pro-climbers often talk about route visualization and how important it is to prepare mentally. In fact, you don’t even have to visualize a specific route. You can also recreate certain situtations in your mind (being pumped, being afraid, falling, clipping, sending) and you will become more comfortable when you are actually climbing. These techniques get better and better the more you practice. Here are some resources where people talk about practicing visualization and training your mind:

  1. Podcast with  Jerry Moffat about his upcoming book on sports psychology
  2. Hazel Findlay on preparing your mind and finding success
  3. Adam Ondra on preparing for competitions
  4. Pro tips and motivation from Jerry Moffat

Alright, that’s it for this week.

See you next Tuesday!

Power endurance progress

It is incredibly hot in Vienna. Incredibly hot! The season of sweat has arrived and the temperatures rarely drop below 30 °C anymore. I’m sitting hunched over below the 45, day in day out, sweat dropping from my eyebrows, shirt soaked and I am wondering if this is worth it.

What I’m talking about?

Power endurance training!

It’s been two weeks since I started some serious PE training and I thought this would be a good time to recapitulate how all this is going.

As I outlined before, I started with a 20-move circuit on the steep board which I could barely redpoint. I have now gotten to the point that I can redpoint it relatively comfortably on my first go of the day but performance rapidly drops on subsequent reps.

A problem that I have run into is that it is now way too hot and my hands are just too sweaty for the circuit. I have reverted to using all foot-holds instead of using small jibs only. I am also trying to extend moves rather than diminishing rest periods as this seems more productive right now. I can now do 32 moves on the steep board. When I first tried as many moves as possible about a week ago, I only managed about 25 moves. That’s an improvement!

Another thing that I realized was that my skin just can’t take 2 – 3 sessions a week on the steep board. Thus, I have integrated an alternative power endurance exercise which I do about once a week: Foot-on campusing.

For those not familiar with this exercise for PE training, Steve McClure explains it in this article.

I started out doing 1:30 minutes on / 5 minutes off and can now do 2 minutes on / 5 minutes off. Going ok, I guess.

However, I find training power endurance to be very draining, especially in the heat, and I hope that I can get out more during the next two weeks to do my PE training on real rock.

Otherwise everything is going roughly as planned.

Have a nice Tuesday everybody!
Cheers.

Rain, climbing and taking it slow

What’s up everybody?

It’s just going to be a short post this week because I don’t have much time and last week was pretty uneventful.

An old friend visited and we planned to go climbing in Maltatal but the weather forecast pretty much destroyed our plans. It was supposed to rain four days straight. We looked for other climbing destinations all across Austria but there was no way to escape the rain.

It seemed like the only dry bits of rock were in the Vienna area, so we finally decided to stay and climb locally instead.

We got 3 days of climbing in and we only got rained on once. When I was cleaning a route, heavy rain and a small thunderstorm set in and I was able to retrieve the quickdraws just before the route would have become an unclimbable mess.

My finger kept up pretty well, although it still hurts on very small holds and (expectedly) two finger pockets. I’ll keep taking it slow but overall I’m definitely on my way restoring full strength in that finger.

Ok, I promise a longer post next week and hope y’all have fun and climb some stuff!

 

 

Cheers!

Beastmaker Micro Crimps

Beastmaker micro crimps, finger injury and blog update

Update: If you are looking for a full review of the Beastmaker Micros (and campus rungs) then click the link!

Look what the mailman brought last Friday:

Beastmaker Micro Crimps and Campus Rungs

Those are some nasty small crimps from the guys over at beastmaker. It’s a new product of theirs addressing the fact that there is no really small crimps Continue reading “Beastmaker micro crimps, finger injury and blog update”

March so-so

Alright folks, March is over and it’s time for another blog post. The past month was both kinda good and kinda bad for my climbing. The positive side is that I climbed outside every week and that I came very close on some 6c’s and 7a’s. My rock skills have improved and my headgame is better than it was in February. Fear of falling is still an issue but it’s gotten better and I’ll continue to work on that. The bad news is that I had a mild finger injury and that I was kinda sick for about 2 weeks. This made it hard to keep a regular schedule and interfered with my training quite a bit. Some sort of inflammation in my right index finger prevented me from crimping for about two weeks which also meant that I had to take it easy on the fingerboard. Moreover, a period of recurring sickness cut me short of 4 climbing and 3 strength training sessions that I had originally planned.

March was envisioned as a foundation for all future training to come. My climbing and bouldering sessions were focused on volume and quick sends in order to hone my technique and to build an aerobic base. Strength training was targeted to achieve some hypertrophy in relevant muscle groups and to increase my work capacity. I went for higher volume and a large selection of exercises. This was very different from what I usually do and the 2 hour strength sessions were pretty tiring and mentally tough. Still, I feel like it’s good for me to do that kind of training once in a while. Progress was there but it was hampered by illness and injury. Overall, I tried to get as much stimulus in as I could without worsening the injury or impeding my health.

I’ll now go on a vacation for about a week and I’ll return to climbing afterwards. During the next phase I’ll aim to increase my maximum strength and recruitment. I have a plan laid out and I hope that I’ll be able to follow it without any interruptions. I still have the goal to complete 60 new boulders 6A+ and harder that I set for myself in my last post.