A couple of days ago I returned to Gecko Assis. The story is the same. I rest a day to try and get my skin good, but then I go to Gecko and realise my skin is bad and conditions sometimes worse. However, things weren’t too bad on Monday and after a brief warm up I actually felt in with a chance. My very first go saw a chunk of skin removed from my left hand, on a hold that can only be described as smooth! If I had to plot skin conditions vs Gecko then it would be a downward trend. There is only one sharpish hold, and it’s only sharp on one specific place of your right index finger. However, that one spot in my finger has been constantly bruised, ripped, or bleeding since I first started trying the sit start. It’s never really recovered to be honest, and this has culminated in shorter and shorter sessions. Monday’s was probably the shortest ever, with me having to stop after about 6 goes from the start.

It’s amusing in some ways, because I’ve only got stronger on this problem and learned to climb it better and better. I know each hold, how to hold it, exactly where to put each tip, but as I’ve got better the conditions have got worse. I’m not whinging, I’m simply beginning to accept that it’s probably not going to happen before I leave. I am disappointed, and further to that I’m unsure how to deal with it. I’m at the stage whereby I can do the moves easily, I can do it in two overlapping halves very easily, but when it comes to linking it I simply run out of grip. I’m not saying it’s now impossible due to conditions, because someone with much drier skin and more strength could do it, I’m sure. I haven’t ordered a lamp for that last ditch night session, but I’m pretty close to pulling the trigger. If you really want something, then you’ve got to try every last thing you can to make it happen. I’ve got to put it all on the line and if I fail on my last night of the trip, at least I’ll have gone out trying. I can’t ask for anymore. I’m simply not a good enough rock climber. That’s what’s great about rock climbing, I can realise I’m not quite there but I can see a path marking the way forward and the only thing stopping me from taking it is myself. I think that’s why I like rock climbing so much because the only thing pushing (or stopping) you forward is your desire to be at that future point. That’s pretty much the same with everything in life, but rock climbing is special because you can train for it everywhere if you are keen enough. It’s just about having the motivation.

Moving on from Gecko I decided it’s time to start on with some of the other things I want to do. Years ago I looked at an impressive prow at Rocher du Cassepot called Synapses, 8A. I’d never seen it with chalk on, but it looked impressive and I’d earmarked it as something I’d like to do one day. For some reason or another I’d never actually been there to try it. It remained an idea, a far flung hope, but going there to try it finally materialised yesterday. We warmed up on the excellent double/triple axle and then I went over for a quick repeat of Cent Pofs sans Reproche. I was surprised that I managed to do it in just 2 goes but that’s the advantage of having done something before. Perhaps it’s both psychologically and physically easier. Then it was on to the main meat, Synapses.

I really wasn’t feeling too good and had a headache of epic proportions but I just tried to get on with the climbing. Chris had given me some beta but unfortunately the combination of his super detailed tirade and my lack of memory culminated in only one thing being retained; something about a super high foot. I saw a foothold that fit the bill, as it faced the right direction and it was super high, but then Tyler pointed out it was actually above my lower hand, so that whole train of thought was dismissed. I tried to pull on but couldn’t figure out if it was left foot or right foot right, or which hand should go where. I requited my turn and let Tyler have a bash. He quickly found a sequence, pulled on, and topped out in a flash. I’d half expected this, so was happy for me, but also half not expected it, which meant i hadn’t paid enough attention to exactly where he put his feet for each move. Time for me to step up. I fell off 2 moves in when I caught a jug sidepull with only 2 fingers. It was good enough to be able to hold on, but not good enough that I could pull my body upwards enough to place a foot. Back to the ground. Next go I fell after losing sight of one of my feet, which is a direct consequence of having your hands far apart and not being able to look down very much. The third go I hit the jug sidepull with my left and reached casually to the next hold. The crux was over, so just a couple more moves to a finishing jug and a dirty sideways topout. Tyler was taking photos so I was doing an Obi to make it look good for the camera, clearly counting my chickens before they’d hatched. I had a right heelhook in and used it to be able to reach up with my right hand to the next hold, a flat jug. It didn’t feel very good and I was preparing for how I would do the next move to a proper jug when I suddenly felt my heel coming off. I wailed “no no no no” as I began to swing off, desperately trying to hold on, but before I could lash out for the final jug I was on the ground, having missed the pads yet again. I couldn’t believe it. This was total punterdom and I was it’s king. Within 30 seconds some rain began to fall and I really thought my chance had been blown. I was still pumped from my previous go but with the prospect of rain about to drench all my hopes and dreams I chalked up and just went for it. I felt bad as soon as I pulled on, but somehow got up it into the same position from where I had just fallen. I decided I better do without the heelhook but then when I tried to smear my two feet beneath me I suddenly became off balance. Oh no. I put the heelhook in and reached up for the flat jug. I was sure I was about to fall off, but I could hear a chorus of shouts from Tyler and in a moment of panic/inspiration I released (well, it kind of fell) my heel hook and jumped for the incut jug at the end. It’s a slot jug, so you have to get straight into it, which I was lucky enough to do. I matched it up and snaked my way over as fast as I could. Relief and joy in equal parts. This is the first thing I’ve done in ages, and I’m hoping the drought has ended (metaphorically of course!).

I’m trying to banish thoughts of Gecko from my head and just get on with the other things, but each day I wake up I look at my skin and wonder if I could just give it another go. I don’t quit easily, but I’m also not a fool. I think I’ll try to tick off some other things first and then make my peace with Gecko. It seems like only yesterday when there was snow on the ground and I was at Gecko saying to myself “I will do this. I’m guaranteed to do this. If not today, then this season”. It was Chris who added the final part “if not this season, then one day”.

No climbing today as this is my view from the window;