I woke up this morning expecting to leave for Martigny but the weather forecast was at the very wet end of the spectrum but font was offering me blue skies and cool temps (and dry rock later in the day). I couldn’t possibly leave my love and risk missing that magical feeling of skin gripping on to nothing sandstone holds, only fused to the rock by magic and determination. With the plan changed I then started the complicated process of deciding where to go.

Why is it so complicated? Not because I simply want to try so many different things and have psyche for everything, but because I wanted a certain psychological result from my day out climbing. I wanted to leave the crag feeling good about my climbing. This might sound like a strange thing to want from a day out, but I believe that at the beginning of any rock climbing trip it’s important to get into the flow of things. A confidence, a self belief, needs to be built up and it’s the foundation of this building is success. Having victories, however minor, add to the foundations and set you up for great things. Anyone who spends the first two weeks failing will not only be sacked but their mental state will be setup for failure and not success. So I wasn’t being greedy with what I wanted to climb, but I had a specific intention for what I wanted to get out of my day climbing. I’d spent the previous 2 days on rock just enjoying myself, doing easy problems and putting no pressure on myself. Today I wanted to take advantage of the cool temps and try something a bit harder, but I didn’t want to go and fail on a single hard move. I was trying to balance this with the things on my mental tick list, and in the end all of the things I want to actually do possess the property that I may go there and simply fail. I created a short list of Hip Hop, 8A/+, Kheops, 8B, and Gecko, 8A+/B. I’d tried Kheops earlier in the year, Hip Hop I’m not sure I’ve tried but might have done years ago, and Gecko I’d tried about 18 months ago with Danny. The common theme was that I’d not had any success with any of them. I was somewhat apprehensive about going to any of them because I really didn’t want to get shut down and leave the crag feeling a bit crushed about my climbing. After Sara spent a while at Isatis refamiliarising herself with rock climbing after 3 months in India, I reached the decision I was dreading. I chose what I think is probably the hardest, Gecko.

I’d seen Dave Graham trying the sit start to this problem a number of years ago, and back then he was saying it would be forests first 8C if it got done, but unfortunately he didn’t succeed. When it did get climbed from the sit start it was ONLY given 8B+. Certainly it’s regarded as a hard boulder problem and because I’d seen Graham on it years ago I’d always fancied giving it a go. I tried it briefly when I was with Danny last year but in the 30 mins I spent on it I only managed one move, the first, and only managed it once. It certainly shut me down. I didn’t have any expectations as I walked in to the crag today, apart from the expectation of myself to try hard and to not get sacked. I warmed up, feeling alright but not amazing, and when we moved to the Gecko block there were a few locals trying les beaux quartiers, 8A, and le clown, 8A. I dumped my pads, set my stuff up, and had my first go. I nearly did the first move and it felt easy. Immediately I was shocked, intrigued, and the feeling was positive. A few goes later I’d done the second move and then the third move. Only one move to go and I was at the jug.

Gecko is, to me, a near perfect boulder problem. Certainly some of the moves are getting close to perfect as the holds are so bad and the only way you can do it is by, you guessed it, sticking to the rock like a Gecko. It’s a perfect name too as you really do climb the first moves like a gecko. For me, this problem has a certain allure to it, much like Partage did. I never really thought I could do it, but longed to be able to do it. I saw it as a benchmark, a standard that was very high and one I desperately wanted to reach but was a little scared to try. It’s special because it’s a hard problem that has no small holds, which is always special, but also because each hold is wonderful in that it fits your hand with a separate space for your thumb to act. It’s hard to explain but I love that style of hold. If you are in font, you should witness this boulder, and look at the first few holds on Gecko. They are wonderful. It’s also a perfect combination of power and subtlety. You really do need good technique to climb this boulder but you also need a very strong grip and a strong body. More perfection.

I was ready to have another go and set off feeling good. The holds felt somewhat grippy, my heels worked well, I did the 3rd move into the undercut, managed the hard foot move, and slapped to the jug. YES! I was on it! A quick message to myself of “don’t fluff up now” and I did the next couple of moves. I had been somewhat foolish by not cleaning the very top as I wasn’t all that worried about either getting there or falling there. But now I was there. Shit. The moves were easy, on their own warranting something like 5+, but the holds were dirty. I put my heel on, starting reaching up to another jug, and then WOOSH! My heel came skidding off the green, my lone arm wasn’t strong enough to grip on, and I helicoptered groundwards fast, missing both my nonplussed spotters and my pads. I’d really jarred myself but was more disappointed that I’d managed to just climb an 8A+/B and then fall off because I hadn’t cleaned the top out thoroughly. Super amateur tactics. Once I’d brushed my shoulders off I was able to stand up and look at what just happened. I was so happy because I knew I’d done this problem even though I couldn’t even remotely consider claiming it. But that doesn’t really matter to me. I’d gone to the crag asking the question of myself “Can I really do Gecko” and I’d answered that with a resounding yes. I was really made up actually, but the fact I was on the ground and not stood on top had left a bitter taste in my mouth. I was both overjoyed and annoyed at the same time, which is a funny combination. I wanted to wash out that bitter taste and so had several more goes but I think my skin was getting thin and with the disappearing of the sun the holds suddenly because a little humid. In the end I had to give up, but I’d managed to get EXACTLY what I wanted from my day at the rocks.

I’d answered my question about Gecko, but also answered a more broad question about what kind of shape I’m in at the moment. I’m not in bad shape and this is good to know. I was worried that I am kind of heavy at the moment and I wasn’t feeling lithe on the rock, but when push came to shove I can do hard moves. I left feeling really good and one of the French dudes even mentioned that in reality I’d done Gecko but summed up the situation by asking if I was coming back tomorrow. The answer is a most definitely. Well, perhaps not tomorrow because my skin is now rather thin, but for sure I’ll be going back on Thursday. What I might do is try the sit start and see what those moves are like, as the sit start would be something I’d love to do at some point in the future. In my opinion it’s one of the best hard problems I’ve ever tried and I’m now sure that I’m climbing well. My fears have been put to rest and I can now concentrate on crushing instead of wondering if I can really crush. Great Days. It feels so good to be back in Font again and in some ways I don’t want to leave but I know that the things awaiting me in Switzerland are equally as good. A rolling stone…