It’s official. I really do love route climbing. Or so I think…

listen to this as you read, for no other reason than I just wanted to try out this mp3 player plugin and this track was the last one I listened to!

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All relationships go through the same 5 stages. The first is infatuation, or the phantasy stage, and it’s the one I am most certainly in. I’m climbing with a smile on my face, lowering down with a huge grin, and not really caring too much if I fall off because I’m having such a good time. Every route I climb seems wonderful and each successive route only gets better. Yesterday as I rested halfway up a route I looked out behind me to see a verdant pasture rolling away to the river whilst the forested mountains filled in the middle third and the top third was filled with a perfect blue sky containing a beautiful looking moon. Everything seems so rosy at the moment and it’s great, but I know it’s not forever. This is stage 1 though and in many ways I’m happy to stay in it for a while. In fact, I’ve made a concerted effort to stay in, by not getting on any hard routes even though I’m secretly harbouring very strong desires to do so.

I know that if I get on an 8c I will likely be able to do the moves and even do it in a few sections, but I likely won’t be able to redpoint it for a number of reasons. I’m hoping that by sticking to doing lots of 7c’s, 7c+’s, and 8a’s that those reasons will slowly begin to diminish and when I do get on some harder routes I’ll be able to do them quickly. In fact, the hardest routes I’ve been on is 8a+/b and I probably should have done it and perhaps could have if it hadn’t gone dark. I see this time as an investment in the art of sport climbing and so far I think it’s working. I seem to be climbing much better, although perhaps that wasn’t difficult if you’ve ever witnessed me sport climbing. I know that I have the strength, so I’m in search of the efficiency, as the combination will hopefully open my eyes to new possibilities. In fact, I’m already beginning to see it.

Yesterday I climbed, once again, at Ewige Jagdgrunde. I’d wanted to do a meaty looking 7c called Dolphins Cry the last time I was there but some punts had a top rope on an adjacent line which shared the first few clips so I was forced to leave it for another day. That day was yesterday and I set off up it, falling after my foot popped mid crux. I felt good up to the crux and after I did the move I carried on to the top without too much fuss, just a stop to double check I was using a good sequence. I came down, rested for 5 minutes, then set off up it again. This time it all went fairly smoothly and I crimped over hard at the crux to make sure nothing went wrong, then relaxed and climbed to the top. I’m becoming very aware of where to rest, where to shake, and where to skip bolts. It makes a big difference sometimes and I’m finding that I’d much rather miss a bolt to reach a jug then to stop and try to clip when a ground fall isn’t anywhere near realistic. I’m happy about that fact too as I’m clearly not climbing scared or nervously.

Before doing that route I’d warmed up on a terrible warm up called Muttertag, 7b+. It was terrible because it was actually a boulder problem, featuring only 3 bolts, and simply gave me a flash pump. Compounding the badness was the fact that my heelhook popped off whilst I took a hand off to chalk and I had to do it 1st redpoint.  I need to iron out these errors from my game, and that is why I’m spending some time in Stage 1.

After this we crossed the river to check out some blocs on the other side. I’d been recommended a route called Sagaro, 8a+/b, and it did look very good, but there was another route that looked even better. Manitou, 7c, climbed a corner before tackling a series of sidepulls and then turned the lip onto a slab for a couple of metres. I reached the half height rest and felt great. I really felt like I was climbing efficiently, smoothly, and in the zone. I looked out at the scenery, smiled, and set off again. I reached what was the crux, and still felt ok, but then I looked up to see the final jug. From there there were jugs leading over the lip and onto the slab. Suddenly it all started going wrong. A voice came through saying “Good job Keith, you onsighted this route ever so well. You climbed wonderfully”, and as this happened I began to crumble. I suddenly began to leave “the zone”. I reached up to a good crimp, foregoing the bolt that was by my waist, and was starting at the jug. It looked big, but I couldn’t quite see over the top of it. I decided that even an out of control move to it would be fine, so I pasted on my feet and deadpointed to it. At that exact moment I saw the top of the jug and it wasn’t as it first appeared. My hand had landed on the slopey part of it, whereas 2 inches further left was the gigantic sidepull jug I’d envisaged landing on. I wasn’t able to resurrect the move and started plummeting downwards, DAMN IT!

I climbed back up, reached up to the sidepull jug which I’d missed, and continued to the chains. That was close, very close. That’s what I’m learning though and this was just another lesson in my first chapter of sport climbing. I came down and after another 5 minute rest I was back on the sharp end. This time I climbed rather badly, but made it up to the half height rest. From there I found a bit of form and pushed onwards, cruising through the moves now that I knew where the jug was. It’s a shame but not a disaster that I missed the holds on my onsight attempt. There are plenty more routes I can cut my teeth on in the next couple of weeks.

Manitou is one of the best things I’ve ever climbed though. It really is magnificent in terms of the rock quality. I’ve never seen granite formed into the shapes that are contained on this route, including some granite tufa’s. Totally incredible. The rock on this boulder is some of the best I’ve ever come across, and there are some fallen blocs at the bottom which have granite as good as the best stuff in Brione. I wasn’t sure what I’d think of sport climbing on Granite, but it’s safe to say that I am totally in love with it. Not all of it though as the rock quality does vary in the Zillertal, from rather large crystals and sharp, to super fine and absolutely amazing. I’ve still got so much to see so I can’t wait for the next climbing day!

Don’t worry bouldering, you haven’t been forgotten. You have my heart, but i’m just having so much fun flirting with this new model… I’ll come back to you, stronger, fitter, and more psyched than ever.