After my previous blog entry I was on a high of confidence. I felt like I would be returning to crush Gecko Assis and as I walked in to the boulder I was already thinking about how I would feel when I was stood on top. How would or should I react? What did it mean to me? Will reaching the top of this boulder problem change anything in my climbing? Will I be transformed? I had all these questions floating around in my head and perhaps that’s not the best mental state with which to approach any boulder. I was even thinking about how I would report my success on this very blog. Was this a case of sprinting before being able to crawl? Perhaps, but I’ve always been armed with a PMA (positive mental attitude), and all these thoughts were possibly just part of that. Having a PMA is all well and good but it must go hand in hand with a checked ego, otherwise things soon run wildly out of control and you find yourself bare chested running through the trees declaring yourself master of the forest. Was my ego beginning to be fed by the thought of success? It’s likely. I’m human, and thus I’m weak. I ditched my 8a account last year because I wanted to get rid of my ego. I wanted to say goodbye to a need for acceptance by other climbers, or a need for respect, or congratulations. I really don’t want any of that, I just want to go climbing. This is truly my personal battle. I came very close to ending this blog and I sought counsel from my close friends. I just felt like I needed to get away from everything that took climbing away from a personal activity. I have no intention to become secretive or to withhold details, but I wanted climbing to return to it’s core, it’s essence. Just something I do because it feels good to do it. Clearly I didn’t end the blog, for a number of reasons, but I always want to remain with my feet on the pad, and keep the ego well below ground. In all honesty, I think the thought of success on Gecko Assis was just too much, and it pulled my ego from the ground, revealing it’s ugly root system to my disappointed eyes.

My session on Gecko resulted in failure. I came fairly close, but it wasn’t close enough and the pressure on my shoulders kept me pinned to the ground. I gave in whilst I thought my skin was still good, with the intention of returning the next day to crush it. When the earth circumvented the sun and the next day was born I found myself at Gecko once again, but this time alone. My vision of doing it all alone was once again coming in to play. Within 5 minutes I realised just how foolish my efforts were. I’d tried Gecko on Wed/Thu, then rested Friday, tried again Sat and now I was sat here cursing my weak skin and foolish action plan. The result of trying it far too much was that I had very specific bruising in my right middle finger. Pulling on the same holds, in the exact same place, forcing the same small patch of skin to take a significant portion of my weight was too much to ask. I had to leave it. I had to walk away without even being able to try my hardest, thanks to a badly organised assault plan. I’m still learning when it comes to rock climbing. I’m a million miles away from having it all figured out and I’m still relatively new to the game, but luckily I’m still able to learn as much as I can from whatever situation I am faced with. My skin was very bruised and the only sane plan was to have a day or two off then climb on some other boulders for a while. I had to let my desire for Gecko Assis marinate, like a fine Bolognese. I had to retreat and regroup. Time away from Gecko would be good for me, physically and mentally.

The following three days saw nothing but grey skies and wet rock. I just wanted to go out climbing, as if I had a finite well of climbing memories, and I wanted to force in new ones to oust the old ones of Gecko failure. I wanted to overwrite thoughts of frustration with feelings of joy. I wanted to make my triceps do some work instead of being on holiday. I’m in font after all!

Today we went to try a long held goal of mine, Surplomb de la Mee. Over the past 3 years I must have been the boulder a handful of times, mainly to look but also to try and climb. Unfortunately it’s always been wet or I’ve only been there for a look, so to finally walk up to it today armed with pads and see it totally dry was a joy to behold. It’s an intimidating piece of rock in that the holds don’t look very good and at first glance it seems to ask a lot more of you that it really requires. After a fun but brief warmup we headed down to the main course. There is a pinch of unbelievable glorious proportions on the direct version of Surplomb, and because of that I decided I wanted to do the direct first (PMA!). Tyler did the deed and worked the moves out, sussing the foot sequence very quickly and firing off an ascent of the direct after a brief moment of confusion at the top. The move off the pinch is a wild yet controlled jump to the lip, at a perfect height so as to be a little spicy but completely safe. There was a random frenchie at the bloc who was also trying Surplomb and after he crushed the normal version he turned his attention to the direct. He got up, reached the pinch with his left hand, and instead of taking a flowing jump for the top he went again! NOOOOO!!!! The pinch move could be missed out and doing it not became an eliminate method. I really didn’t know what to do. I wanted to squeeze that pinch and jump, but I also wanted to get to the top. Luckily this didn’t matter too much as I was struggling with the first two moves. I’m sure most people know the famous picture of Ben Moon on the first move, but if not;

This picture has been an inspiration to me. Unfortunately most people no longer do the first couple of moves like this either. Why? Because it’s so ridiculously hard. Ben told me he didn’t think it was too bad, but after having tried it, I can say that it is a very hard method. The new school method misses out that mad looking backhand by using a crimpy sloper above it, which is reached via the aid of a heel hook. The magic of heel hooks… an aid to the weak. After a whole bunch of fumbled attempts and a moment when I thought my lower back was actually going to explode, I finally made it through the start moves. I reached the pinch of justice with my left hand and without even a second though I went again to the top with my left hand. I didn’t even consider pulling on it for the jump move. I’d shirked out of an amazing move but I was on my way to the top. Just a matter of doing a rockover on bad holds with cold fingers… needless to say it ended in me sliding off! Damn it – in the words of the man himself. I was happy to have gotten through the bottom section and I was having fun trying it, which came as a nice revelation when I realised it. My skin was pouring with water by this point, with the chalk refusing to adhere for much longer than 10 seconds. Not wanting to give up I pressed on and another good go saw me back up to the lip. This time my tips weren’t cold, but they were putting out enough water to re-film waterworld. I had no grip and as I desperately tried to get my heel on I realised it was futile as my hands could no longer grip on. It wasn’t such a bad day, as I got to try a problem that I’ve wanted to try for many years. I would have loved to do it, but I’m still not at the stage whereby I can do 8A’s easily. They are still hard for me, and probably always will be!

This is a great example of what seems to be summing up my trip. Nearly, but not quite. What I’m hoping is that in the next few weeks, all of my close ones will turn in to ascents and my ticklist will see a beating. This trip has seen me try problems mainly of 8A and above every time I’ve been climbing. This is good because they are all problems that I want to do, but it’s bad in that it’s hard to remember that getting close is still a good effort. Psychologically, it’s must nicer to do lots of 7C’s and 7C+’s, rather than failing on lots of 8A’s and up. The other interesting thing is that the problems I’ve been trying have not been beyond me, I simply haven’t managed to climb them. It’s as if I’m lacking something that once found will enable me to do one more and reach the top of my numerous projects. Unfortunately I don’t know that something is, which makes it hard to look for. I only have 1 month left to do everything I want to do this year. The list isn’t long, but it will be hard for me to get them all ticked. The lifelong list is still very long, but the “short term – concentrate on” list is;

Karma, Ubik Assis, Surplomb, Gecko Assis, Atresie, plus some other 7C’s and 7C+’s.

I’m so close on all of them, but I need to return to the grinding wheel and sharpen my sword. Hopefully that will do the trick and I’ll get that list ticked off with time to spare. Fingers crossed.