Saturday, 17 September 2011

An explanation of the life trauma up to this date...

Soooo where to start hey!?

The last month for me has been one of big decisions, or more specifically one Big Decision.
In complete defiance of whatever was expected of me academically five years ago, I've still not made it to University, and I have to say that I am unlikely to do so in the near future. Instead I'm off to live in a van in Chamonix for a bit and then sport climbing in Spain if all goes to plan!

I believe at this point a short summary is appropriate:

I have had a pretty awesome summer, I felt a bit like I deserved it after working pretty long shifts all winter and being thwarted by bad weather at every attempt to climb!

The first big trip of the summer was to Squamish, BC in Canada. Me and my good mate Spunky concocted this trip after Bubbles bailed on a trip to Yosemite at the end of the summer. Despite the pretty wet weather, I can safetly say my first dirtbagging experience was rather a good one. 
Duncan soaking up the ambiance
We based ourselves in the Stwamus Cheif campsite, blagging one person in the tent nicknamed "The Palace" due to being so big. Just staying at the campground was an experience and meeting awesome people there such as Liam & Doug, Barry the Pirate and swedish Tim would have made the trip on its own, without all the awesome climbing we did. 
Me and Spunky representing midgets united ontop of the Cheif
Route highlights included Squamish Buttress, Exasperator, Birds of Prey and St Vitus Dance. My favourite route that we did was a 12 pitch mega route called Angels Crest. It was an awesome, sustained route, each pitch being fantastic in its own right and all together just an awesome climb! The Angels Crack pitch and the final 10a face were probably my favourite pitches, exciting but not too challenging, while the traverse over the Acrophobes was awesomely exposed. Unfortunately The Grand Wall remains on the tick list, but luckily that just gives me reason to return!

After a whistle stop trip back home, which in 7 days included a 3 day trip to Cornwall, 2 days in North Wales and approximately minus 4 days of sorting my life out I was off again, this time to Switzerland. 

The team on top of the Allalinhorn
After some hectic train journeys and almost missing a bus, I made it to a very wet Arolla where I met up with Katy and Josh. I'm starting to believe that the rain follows me everywhere, it's a bit of a curse. Anyways, whilst in Arolla we did a cool scramble that isn't named, and also ventured out to climb La Pigne de Le which was practically in Scottish Winter conditions! To escape the unforgiving weather we ran away to Saas Grund. From here we did a nice scrambly ridge up the Weissmeiss, topping out on our first 4000m peak in a horrible wind, meaning that we quickly ran back down again! After a few days chilling and a spot of valley cragging we set off again with the Allalinhorn set in our sights via the Hohlanubgrat route. We walked up to the hut in bad visibility, that didnt get any better as the evening went on. When we went out to scout out the approach across the glacier it was full on snowing and we were pretty dubious as the snow continued on into the night. Waking up in the morning, we set out across the glacier, but it soon became clear that in the zero vis and thick snow we didn't have enough experience to cross the glacier, epecially when the guided party ahead of us turned back. We ended up still doing the Allalinhorn but went up an easier route, in what turned out to be a very nice sunny day in the end. The next day we caught a ride over to Chamonix, where I had a late night out, then a very hungover jaunt up Lawrences arete, followed by Cosmiques arete-possible contender for worst hangover ever? 

Ceuse at sunset
After that, Katy and Josh went home so I was on my own a bit until Jonny rescued me. We did some really cool climbing over two weeks including Indiana Juane, a really nice 10 pitch 6b at Mavaldiere in the Vallee d'Arvee when i realised my shoes were far too tight after the second pitch! We also climbed up high at Envers on two occasions and did Guy-Anne and La Piege, as well as getting snowed off of 'Le mariage de la terre et du vent' a route at the Belvedere. At the end of the trip we took a short trip down to Ceuse to appreciate the epic walk in, but I puntered about and didn't get to the top of alot of things. I did  start learning how to fall off though which was pretty scary on the renowned Ceuse runouts!!

As soon as I got home, I realised that I kinda wanted to be out in France again, so I worked my ass off for a week to afford flights back out again, Jonny picked me up at the airport and we headed south. Or rather, failed to drive out of Geneva, got lost and eventually gave up and just slept in a random car park somewhere in France! Anyway, the next day was my 20th birthday (now offically old) and we eventually made it down to Orpierre. Orpierre is a really nice crag, alot friendlier than Ceuse, but still with lots to go at, and a much shorter walk in! Over the next few days Jonny ticked loads of 7bs and onsighted a 7c, I onsighted lots of 6s, fannyed around a bit and got scared, but eventually got the redpoint on a 7a (Je t'aime moi non plus) which I was pretty chuffed with. First proper 7a tick, may many more come my way please!

Orpierre panorama of the crag

Jonny on one of the chimney
pitches on Le Demande 
The next day we headed even further south, stopping at Voulx for a day and night (pretty cool routes, but also FAR too hot!).
We arrived at the majestic Verdon Gorge in a rainstorm, and spent the evening in the bar making plan for the next day. The first route we did was a 6c multipitch in the Dalles Grises area called 'Dingomaniaque'. We originally started up on the wrong route, so ended up having to ab down and start again! Eventually we started up the correct route and realised just how hot it was, we eventually reached the top dehydrated and absolutely knakered but still decided for another big day tomorrow. 
The next day we decided to do the classic La Demande. The walkway into the bottom was officially closed but we sneaked past and walked through some very long dark tunnels to reach the bottom of the route. The hardest pitch on the route is only 6a, but indirect sunlight all day, with large runouts and a heavy bag this was a hard day (for me anyway!). We got to the top completely  exhausted again and managed to hitch a ride back down to the van again with a very nice french couple. 
Me puntering on the 6c+
The next day, we decided to do a bit of a shorter route so set up Pichenibule, a 6c+. The first few pitches were lovely, not too polished, exposed traverses covering some awesome ground. Eventually we got to the 6c+ pitch, which was absolutely desperate. I ended up hanging in space and pulling on the rope, draws and generally just cheating my way up the pitch, absolutely desperate! We eventually topped out a few pitched later and rewarded ourselves with some awesome pizzas, ready to drive through the night back in a Geneva direction for my flight home again.

Basically what this whole post has been working upto, is the fact that I had an amazing summer and I don't want it to end. Therefore I'm not going to let it. On Sunday I'm moving out to Chamonix to try and get a job and climb loads! The plan is to work until December, and then go sport climb in Spain until we run out of money.

I've had a stressful and emotional week sorting out things like dropping out of University, finding someone to fill my place in the house, and squeezing in the odd climb here and there as well with Duncan and Jess. I'm really going to miss all of the Liverpool and North Wales crew, but am expecting lots of visitors in France and I know I'll be back at some point!

Duncan on the traverse pitch over the Zawn on Dream of White Horses
So, thanks to everyone who's helped me make decisions and I hope it all turns out okay in the end! Fingers crossed!