Writing a blog entry when failure seems to be the all pervading force isn’t a fun thing to do, and I can’t imagine it’s much fun to read, but I think it’s a necessary part of the overall process.

I’ve been nursing my skin back to full health after my ridiculous session on Surplomb. I went way too far and I’ve paid the price, with tips that both sweat profusely whilst also having small hard calluses under the tips. It’s like the ultimate non climbing skin. Nige gave me some advice about making sure I had fingertips because those are the things that actually give you the grip to purchase on to the rock. I’m not sure as to the empirical evidence for this, but in my experience a soft tip that doesn’t sweat is the perfect choice for the rock in Font. Difference places require different types of skin, which is why I’ve avoided going to the places that require super hard skin, because I simply won’t ever have it. Enough skin talk!

2 days ago I woke up and I could feel a small breeze on my face. Without even opening my eyes I knew what lay before me… a perfect blue sky and conditions that were perfect for crushing. With my eyes still closed I said to myself “today is the day”. I opened my eyes to gaze upon the exterior world and it was just as I’d imagined. Perfect. Then I felt my tips. Oh. No. The masterpiece I’d painted in my mind of the perfect day had just been assaulted by spilt bucket of paint. I wasn’t completely defeated, as I figured I could wait until late afternoon and then head out if my skin had finished flooding the house. Late afternoon rolled by and I was desperate to jump in my car and go to Gecko. Today was the day, afterall. I tried to warm up on the fingerboard but it took less than 2 minutes to know I wouldn’t be climbing today. I made my peace with it and ended the perfect day without having been able to make use of it.

Yesterday I woke up and went through the same thing. Unfortunately when I opened my eyes all I saw were grey clouds. Great. Still, I could transform this mundane day into the perfect day if I was able to push on through. My skin had some more time to recover and even though it was far from being in good shape I knew it would be good enough. After lunch we headed to Satan I Helvete, where Tyler pulled off his usual magic trick. It’s really amazing to see actually, and it doesn’t get old either. Each time he seems kind of close to a boulder problem, he digs deep and POP! He’s at the top. It really is like magic, only real, and down to hard work rather than smoke and mirrors. So it’s nothing like magic now that I think about it. On the way back to car we were nearly trampled by a few out of control horses, which sent us retreating backwards in a real rush from the path, tripping over trees and very nearly landing on our pads, helpless like beached whales.

We drove on to Gecko and at first sight the boulder looked good. I brushed it down, hoping to make it feel more like 7C, then warmed up. I didn’t feel amazing, but I certainly felt good enough. My skin wasn’t amazing, but it was good enough. After a couple of goes from the sit start I was back up into the stand, and as I tried to put my right heel by my right hand, my left hand greased off. This was about to become the precedent. I tried again, reached the same place, and then my hand would simply disengage from the hold. I’d never felt that hold in such bad condition. The whole thing didn’t feel in good nick, but I’m at the stage whereby one good go will see this siege ended. I tried again and this time the end of my nail was the victim as I greased off. Next go it was the turn of another nail to be broken. I was hungry to seal the deal and I was trying to dig deep and find some magic but it seems like my magic tanks are empty. I had another go and split my first finger joint on my right hand. A tiny droplet of blood came out and I knew it was time to stop. I may be psyched to do this boulder problem, but I’m not stupid.

If I take a step backwards to look at what’s happened with Gecko Assis, the pattern is all too familiar to me. I came VERY close to doing it after only 2 sessions and I think it really could have gone down on one of those very cold and perfect days. Since then I’ve only gotten stronger on the problem. Some days the conditions have been bad, some days I’ve simply climbed terribly. The one thing that worries me is that it’s practically March and the seasons are changing. Average day time temperatures are now above 10C and this is going to make it very hard to get Gecko done. Why didn’t I just get it done 6 weeks ago? I think the simple answer is that I’m not a good enough rock climber. I can’t overpower something that is so close to my limit. It’s easy to overpower a 7C or even an 8A, and so it becomes easy to get away with not being an excellent rock climber. When you near your limit you realise what it is so climb excellently. This is what separates the naturally gifted rock climbers (whatever the hell that means) from those who try to be talented rock climbers. I just try very hard and that’s how I get things done. That’s what I’m going to continue to do too.

As I walked away from Gecko yesterday I felt pretty dejected. The overwhelming feeling I had was that I’d let the opportunity to climb it slip away from me and it all came down to not being a good enough rock climber. I was a little frustrated because I was thinking that the dream might be over, that I’d have to wait until autumn to try this boulder problem again. I’d made so much progress on it, I’d come so close, but it may well end up remaining a few mm out of reach. That wasn’t a fun thought if I’m perfectly honest.

Then I watched the footage of me trying it and I realised all of this was completely premature. The dream isn’t dead, la reve est vie! I wasn’t that far away from doing it at all! I only have to add in a couple of moves and it’s done. I just need to find it with good conditions on a day with a small breeze and I really think that I can avoid greasing off. If I can avoid that then I can do it, of that I’m almost certain. I have a few more weeks here and it would be a tragedy of roman proportions if there wasn’t at least 1 good day in that time. I just need to seize the day when it arrives, and hope that my skin happens to be prime too! After realising all this I certainly feel a little better about it all. Whilst there is a glimmer of hope twinkling in the distance then I’ll keep smiling and keep trying.

In light of what I’ve just written, about hoping for a perfect day to arrive in the next 3 weeks, I hope today wasn’t the one I wasted! Blue skies, a cool breeze, chilly in the shade, warm in the sun… and the rock felt so grippy. We went to try La Pierre Philosophale, which is something I’ve avoided for a couple of reasons. 1. It looks both hard and slightly painful. 2. It’s often wet during this season. Today it was dry but still hard and potentially painful. Ty and I worked down the moves from the top, which was good because the end is a red problem with a majestic pinch hold so it was a good warm up. Then we did the final move of the hard climbing, which felt ok. One move down and we were faced with the big move from the undercuts. A few fumbled attempts later I stuck the move. My hand wasn’t in the hold perfectly, but I’d done the move so I knew that a good attempt would mean my hand hit it perfectly. This wasn’t going too badly at all… another move downwards… things got spicy. At this point we really became disillusioned as we couldn’t figure out what to do, and the one thing that was obvious we didn’t want to do! A painful finger lock was asking to be utilised for an exceptionally hard pull. No thanks. I did find another sequence, involving absolute pure burl which meant we could do nearly all the moves, but each move was so ridiculously powerful that linking the problem would have been impossible (or simply much, much harder than anything I’ve ever tried). The start from the undercuts would be a halfway solution to doing Pierre (something like Gourmandise Raccourci) but it would be a real cop out option, so we moved on. Apparement was next and my flash go was nearly my best go. I went with a rather random sequence, that deposited me very close to the top, but then left me with one more hard move that I couldn’t fathom. The OG sequence of toe hooks just didn’t work for me, or rather, I couldn’t make it work for me. My toes just didn’t stick… what’s the point of being able to do front levers if you can’t make your toes stick!?! I felt like my sequence would work and put in a bit of effort, but soon my skin was screaming (with pain rather than joy – does skin scream with joy?) and I turned my attention to filming and spotting duties. Tyler went through his process, and I was a little surprised when he fell off 1 move from the end of the new low start, Apparement Bas, 8B. As his strength began to wane he found his magic and cruised to the top. It’s very true that on the go whereby he does something it always looks very smooth. On Apparement he changed from having to slap for holds to doing the moves static on the attempt which saw him on top. An interesting thing to note…

So now another rest day is in store to try and get the skin back to full force. My tick list hasn’t changed, nor has it diminished. The days are passing and I can see the next few weeks being very interesting in 1 of 2 ways. Either interesting from the perspective that I find my chi and begin crushing all the things which I’m 1 move away from doing (Gecko, Surplomb, Atresie, Karma, etc) or from the point of view of a man who’s spent nearly 3 months in font and done absolutely nothing. Both will be interesting!

This blog was brought to you with the sounds of Laurent Garnier’s wonderful RA podcast – check it out.