The last few days have been frantic with Ty and I coming up with ideas and then rushing around trying our best to film them. Some worked and some didn’t, but I hope that when you end up seeing them you’ll either laugh or be impressed. Our days have been spent rushing around many crags and my final day was no different.

I’d been saving it all up for one final push at the Gecko. A cold spell was due to arrive on Friday but my last day was Thursday so I had no choice but to try and make the most of it. In order to do that I decided I must wake up when it’s coldest, ie. just before the sun rises. Our normal time of rising is somewhere between 9:30 and 11am so asking my body to wake up at 6:30am then go into crush mode wasn’t going to be a walk in the park. Perhaps by body was ready however as I woke up 1 minute before my alarm was going set to go off. A sign? Was my body really ready for this morning assault? I wasn’t going to take any chances and decided to turn to the dark side… a nice cup of strong coffee. I gave up caffeine a few weeks ago as I decided I was probably addicted so I went cold turkey. It wasn’t very fun and I did have nearly a week of constant headaches, but it just goes to show how we can build up dependencies on certain things without even realising it. I didn’t even drink coffee regularly, but I did drink a fair number of cups of tea per day. I think any sort of reliance of anything physical, emotional, or spiritual is probably a bad thing. Being able to subsist without any particular item should be easy and if it’s not then you are addicted (in my opinion). It was with that that I ended my tea drinking.

This morning however, I rejuvenated my body with coffee and I felt on it! I drove to the crag feeling so super psyched and I think it may have even rubbed off on Tyler as he even managed a conversation, which is quite a feat for him at such a ridiculous hour. The Passat was reporting what seemed implausible temperatures, but when I stepped out of the car at Gecko it suddenly felt all of -3 degrees. Woah. I hadn’t been expecting that and I hadn’t even brought a jacket. No worries, as a brisk walk to the boulder would get me going. We arrived, it all looked dry, I brushed it down, then began to warm up. My skin felt sore, far too sore, but this was my last day. I’d come here with my war face on and I wasn’t going to retreat until I was either dead or close to it (perhaps a slight exaggeration…). Then I set about Gecko. My split along my first joint was immediately painful. I’d rested it as long as I could as I knew this was the problem on which it would suddenly flare up. The hand positions are so particular for me that I can’t avoid the pain by moving it up or down 5mm. It really does have to be millimetre perfect for me to flow through the moves. I decided to try and do the stand up start as a further warm up but it really didn’t feel good. My psych wasn’t dropping though, it was powering me forward. I tried again and as I was reaching up into the undercut my right hand dryfired off and blood started seeping out the back of my knuckles. I’ve come to accept this. If my skin isn’t in a super state then gripping on becomes very difficult and this has resulted in me and Mr. Dryfire becoming the best of friends.

The sun was rising and the forest looked beautiful. Tyler was curled up of the floor basking in the sunshine and I was in the shade trying to find the grip and D.E. It didn’t take too long before I realised this quest was fruitless and I had to throw in the towel. My skin was too painful, conditions weren’t amazing, and I was tired. I’d pumped myself up for this and now I was coming back down to earth. The reality of the situation was setting in. I’d prepared myself for success, for an amazing tale of last day triumph, just like it seems to happen in the films. Perhaps that’s why I’m trying to make a film, so I can achieve the impossible too. It didn’t work though. This really was the end. I was leaving and my final go on Gecko Assis was done. What now? Well, October is only 6 months away. My confidence isn’t diminished as I know without doubt that I will ascend this boulder problem and it will feel amazing when I do. It’s simply challenging me, perhaps in ways I didn’t expect. The physical challenge was quickly surmounted and I think it’s fair to say I am easily strong enough. I can climb it in 2 very overlapping sections on command, but I didn’t have enough juice to link it. The mental challenge is something else, another part of the game that I’ve not experienced before. I’ve never put so much energy into something and had to leave without doing it. It nearly happened in Switzerland with Amber but my single mindedness and perhaps complete madness culminated in a last day send. That was another problem that I was over strong for but struggled to get done. So now I have to let my mind rest, knowing that Gecko is still there, waiting for my return. It would have been really nice to get it done and have it in the film but something real life is just too damn ordinary. People fail.

In the 6 months between now and October I have other challenges remaining. There are a couple of things I want to do in England and one two major things abroad. I have a film to put together and edit. I have family to catch up with. I certainly won’t be tapping my fingers waiting for the days to elapse!

However, the day was not done yet. In fact, the day hadn’t even started as I was finished with Gecko before 9am! We had more than a whole day of climbing ahead of us. There were a number of amazing problems that I’d done in previous years that I’d not filmed, so we set about repeating them for the lens. The first was Amok, an incredible float move from a perfect pinch to a perfect sloper. It’s hard to explain just how amazing these problems are because my words will always lack the feeling of the movement. If you’re climbing at around the 8A level then you should make it your purpose to check out this problem. We walked out both overwhelmed by the beauty of the forest in the gorgeous morning light. The joy didn’t stop there though as we zoom zoomed down to Ubik. We set the camera up and Tyler asked me if I was going to do it. Of course I replied yes. Confidence before rationality (I joke). I pulled on and floated to the top. As I topped out I remembered that absolutely amazing feeling of joy. When something is so good, as Ubik is, you just want to revel in it’s glory. Amok has a wonderful right hand pinch and Ubik has an even more wonderful left hand pinch. Tyler didn’t want to miss out on the joy and he promptly pulled on and joined me on top. He then boldy declared it the best problem in the whole world… not a minor claim when you know just how many areas he’s visited. The stand start felt so easy that I figured I should do the sit start. One of the undercuts was unfortunately the perfect size to rip into my split and as strong as my body felt, I couldn’t let go of my lower hand to do the move. Somewhat of a shame, but I was high on the feeling of how good Ubik was. In fact, I did it again. Yes, it’s that good. Once again, if you are operating at around 8A then get yourself to this bloc.

By this point it was barely lunchtime. Incredible how much time there is in a day when you wake up at 6am. Next stop Rocher Greau for Tyler to keep on with his quest of making the unreal real. Another impressive ascent (details on his blog I assume) and we jet leponged for the next crag. It was at this point we realised just how hot the day had become. From being so cold at Gecko we were now cruising tops off with the car reporting temps of 18C. WOOOOO WEEEEEE!

Upon arrival at Cuvier we were both feeling somewhat lethargic but there was one more thing to film. After achieving some personal bests in one legged hoping we headed up to the Rempart. My skin was destroyed, I felt tired, but I really wanted to film T-Rex. I had to dig really deep and it was probably only the shouts of encouragement from Tyler that got me up it. When I’d done it earlier in the trip it had taken me a bunch of goes and I’d fallen so many times at the ninja foot jump move. Today, in awful conditions, where I genuinely felt like I was about to grease off every hold I managed to stick the move first go. Amazing what determination can do. My skin was truly finished now. Water was pouring out and the bruises were very visible.

My last day in font was complete. I’d hoped to make it an amazing day with an ascent of Gecko Assis. Even though I’d not managed it I’d had a truly amazing day. I’d remembered why climbing in font is so amazing, why I love it more than anywhere else in the world, and felt motivated to come back. This trip has been a strange one for me, but I know that I’m not climbing badly. Getting to the last move of many problems is frustrating, but I’ve chosen to look at it another way. When I return I will be fitter, stronger, and fresher. The many problems which I’ve nearly climbed will all get climbed and all of a sudden my life long ticklist will get a lot shorter.

Climbing with Tyler is something that I want to write a little bit about. You can skip this bit if you’re reading Tyler. I’ve witnessed some quite incredible things during this trip. Seeing the unreal becoming real every day can affect your judgement on the whole world. Going out with Tyler makes me question what is possible and where climbing really is at the moment. Seeing boulder after boulder crushed into oblivion can have a very strange affect. I’m lucky though, because I was witnessing this dismay but my feet were firmly footed to the ground. I did try nearly everything that Tyler has done and so when I saw him do it I wasn’t out of touch with the ascent. I knew that the moves he was flowing along were actually very hard. I’m not a world class climber, far from it. There are thousands of climbers better than me in this world, and I’m sure there are some who stand shoulder to shoulder with Tyler. When you read about someone doing one hard problem after another it’s worth taking a moment to stop and think about what you’re reading. These problems aren’t easy. Just because someone is making them seem easy does not make them easy in any way. It’s like watching the Russian ballet, or watching Schumacher win the F1 world title 5 years in a row. These things which your eyes are witnessing are incredible. You’re lucky enough to be witnessing the incredible. Don’t let this become ordinary. Don’t forget just what level of performance you are seeing. Don’t forget how many years of dedication and hard work it took to get there. The moment when everything flows and everything is in a state of DE is a crescendo of everything that came before it. I’ve been very lucky in that I’ve climbed with what I consider to be some of the best and strongest climbers in the world. The unreal was completely debased by Rich Simpson who had a way of making absolutely everything look easy. I simply started believing he could do anything in his path (and he did) after climbing with him for a couple of months in the Frankenjura. Seeing him do 1-5-9 so easily probably affected me and gave me the hope that I could do it too. If it looked so easy then how hard could it be? Well, the answer is very hard. This is what I think people should remember when they see any of the world’s top climbers doing their thing. You really are witnessing the incredible. If you let yourself become desensitized to it then you’re missing out on a wonderful joy.

I’ve got an overwhelming feeling right now that I’m the luckiest person in the world. I spend my days doing exactly what I want to do and I don’t think anyone could ask for anything more. I climb in amazing places, hang out with great people, and have very little to worry about. I’m not immune to the base things like needing money to survive, but I’ve been a little lucky and a little skilled so I’ve made bits and bobs along the way that have enabled me to keep doing what I love. I’m able to follow my aspirations and live my dreams. I know that I’m a very lucky middle class white kid from Manchester and I’m pretty mindful to make sure that I never forget this. I wouldn’t change my life for any other and this is surely a very good measure of true happiness.

In closing, I have footage of Tyler’s impressive rampage through the forest and I hope to put something together in the next couple of months. I hope I can do it justice and that the incredibleness isn’t lost. In fact, I’m a little nervous about putting it all together. Basically I’m just a punt with a video camera but hopefully with enough time/perseverance/luck I can make something better than the sum of its parts. I think I can say with confidence that there won’t be a bad problem in the whole film. Perhaps I can offer some sort of guarantee that you won’t be disappointed if you go to try any problem featured in the film. I don’t know what I’m guaranteeing it for, but I just wanted to share that titbit of information.