November Tripping

On December 14, 2012

The adventures began on a small French farm. I enjoyed 2 days of rest and traditional French life (Muscles and white wine for lunch!) as I waited for the rest of the GB team to cruise in.

Learning about organic food growing the french way

Learning about organic food growing the french way

The first weekend of competing got off to a great start, I battled up the extremely sustained barely steep first qualifier till I found myself resting before the top sequence of holds. Being unaware of the fast disappearing time I pressed out of the rest fighting for 2 more moves. A stopwatch would have been of use! I placed 8th in the rankings and was right on the moves with the top guys.

The comp fell apart on the next route, another line suited to me, sustained technical climbing. Possibly it was my awareness of the finals within grasp that triggered the over awareness of each move. I blew the technical crux barely a quarter of the way up.  The biggest challenge of competition climbing is to control your mind, to bring it into a state of refined perception so that the only thing that matters is the next move. But this has to be coupled with a subconscious and dynamic perception of the whole route. You have to be aware of the pre worked out sequence and of the tactics required to succeed like taking rest and climbing quick or pulling really hard. The most powerful but volatile component of onsight climbing is the desire to do your best. On route 2 I needed to take a step back and asses the move I was about to make. Consider  other options. With onsighting routes you have to be in an open flexible state of mind. When all these things are in balance, you climb as well as is possible for you.

Climbing to 13th place in the European Championships. Photo Phil Waterhouse

Struggling with severe technicalities on the second qualifier moments before coming off. Photo Phil Waterhouse

From France I journeyed on to my good friends apartments in the Ariege, a quite climbing area with a fantastic variety of climbing styles within a tiny radius. Anne and John Arran have converted a beautiful farmhouse in the centre of this climbing area a perfect place to immerse your self in the climbing. In return for some help on their further renovations I stayed out there for free and was taken under the wing of the resident international climbing adventurers Tony and Sarah Whitehouse

I found sunshine in the Ariege as usual Photo. Tony Whitehouse

I found sunshine in the Ariege as usual Photo. Tony Whitehouse

If you are thirsty for more consuming climbing related creative writing you can read more about the first part of my adventure in the Ariege including my first 8a onsight in my halfway blog “off the rails” –

Venice really was beautiful! An enchanted city like no others I have been to

Venice really was beautiful! An enchanted city like no others I have been to

I had a brief stay in Italy to eat some pasta and get lost in Venice, cooking and sleeping in the maze of streets and canals. I finally hitched from the Italian, Slovenian boarder to the small town of Kranj. This was not without its own adventures I ended up cooking a meal for my lift and her friend in a wood cabin somewhere out in the Slovenian mountains.


Breakfast in Venetian square, I will write about wild camping in cities in a future post.

The next day was the final round of the Senior World Cup Series. This is the second senior competition that I have tried having done the same one last year. I put a real fight into both routes and was pleased with the height I gained. Looking over the live stream that was recorded and I actually fell making quite large errors. I think I had a few more moves in me physiologically.  It was great to climb alongside Ed again and many of my other friends, the Swiss, Franz and Amanda and the crazy Germans. All of us are competing just out of the junior category.

Every move on a senior qualifier is nails. Putting in a good fight on route 1. Photo.  Rebekah Drummond

Every move on a senior qualifier is nails. Putting in a good fight on route 1. Photo. Rebekah Drummond

It is amazing to climb with so many of the best in the world and to bare witness to the potential ease with which these routes can be climbed. It is cool to see many people turning up to compete on their own or with a friend but no coach, obviously just working it out by themselves and coming along for the experience. Most of all it was fantastic to party the night away with these human hero’s letting go after a long season of competing, this really was a special experience. It has inspired Ed and myself to do more of a series over the next couple of years. We hope to travel between some of the European competitions training on the walls after the comp and climbing in the climbing areas that invariably surround the venues. These are exciting plans!

Larking around can cause weeks of pain, be warned! Photo. Ed Hamer

In the week that followed I was hampered by a bad back, this was following a bout of teenage competitiveness, not something that I slip into very often. Sometimes  the testosterone that fuels these almost senior males hotel rooms reaches a boiling point. Hundreds of pull-ups can be nocked out in under 10 minuets. My party trick is front leavers but a 20 odd second hang after the qualifying day did some deep stress to the stabilizing muscles of my lower back. Not something I will be rushing to show off again!

The Slovenian people I have had the chance to get to know have been the most accommodating friendly and full of energy people I have ever met. 5 of use stayed in Izzidors sisters uni flat in the center of Ljubljana. From there we explored undeveloped bouldering areas in the Slovenian mountains and left the country for the Austrian Granit, Maltatal. It took all of an hours drive to get to these amazing places in Izzidors mums car. It was great to watch Ed crush Petting with an alligator 8a+/8b on his 3rd go from the ground! Despite not being able to engage my core due to my back I did some fantastic lines font 6c and bellow. It was amazing to go out exploring and uncover unclimbed boulers picking out the lines that might go, it would be awesome to spend more time out there.

The final competition was another close affair frustratingly held back by my bad back. The first route had steep, bouldery moves at half height that I simply couldn’t do. All of my weight was coming through my ineffective core and onto my arms. The second route however was more sustained and I battled onto the headwall just a few moves from the top position 10th. I really felt the joy of moving between holds on this route and it reminded me that this is what climbing is all about and that this realization might be a key to unlocking the state of mind required to push yourself on the onsight while climbing perfectly. This will need some work, but looking forwards to trying.

High on my second qualifier, Photo.  Rebekah Drummond

High on my second qualifier, Photo. Rebekah Drummond

I had a final night in Ljubljana and a farewell bottle of  red with my slovenian friend Gasper. On the relaxed train journey home I started to construct a plan for my future direction. I found out the Depot has no hours for me to return to so I needed to decide on a new approach. I started to understand the things that matter most to me and possibilities I have to live. This will all be explained in future writings. What I didn’t realise was that the most crucial thing to deal with was my sore back. 2 weeks later I started to take direct action to sort it out. I am going through so many steep learning curves at the moment. I am certainly forming the person I will turn out as.

Striving to be outside of the box. Photo. Ed Hamer

Striving to be outside of the box. Photo. Ed Hamer


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