A lot has happened since my last post, but the main thing I’m interested in is progress. As I mentioned in my previous post this trip is a bit different from other trips I’ve been on, not just because of its length, because this one has involved training at the crag. In the past, I’ve had a trip planned for a while, and had goals for that trip, so I’d have trained accordingly, or at least have been fit at the outset from a subsequent trip. On this trip though, I’d had a couple months of just bouldering and strength training before heading out, this was followed by three more weeks bouldering in Fontainebleau, which you can read about here: http://wp.me/p2MxDj-3i This all meant that by the time we got around to sport climbing I had lost all my fitness from before Christmas. It was a pretty humbling experience; to know I am capable of climbing much harder than what I was on at the time, yet being unable to. I was reduced to lapping 6c+’s and 7a’s, getting ridiculously pumped on ground which used to feel pretty easy, just to try and build back up some resemblance of endurance.
My fitness started coming back faster than I could have hoped. After the first week I was back to being able to redpoint 8a and flash 7c, but was more consistent in the mid 7’s, which is probably a better indication of my fitness at the time. A week or so later I was able to lap some 7c’s but my aerobic endurance was still way down on what it was, I was getting equally pumped on all grades after a certain amount of time. It was like once I started climbing the timer started, and if it wasn’t a jug path by the time that timer ran out, then I’d be screaming like who-knows-what and desperately slapping even as my fingers were uncurling despite my best efforts to keep them closed. It gave me some of the best fights I’d ever had on a route, but I knew it would have to change if I was to have any chance of climbing the things I wanted to climb on this trip.
Almost a month into the sport climbing portion of the trip things were starting to look up. We were in Gorges du Tarn, which I visited previously a couple years ago with Martin Daley and Carl Kelsall. Tarn is a place of exceptional natural beauty, it also has more rock than you can shake a stick at, most of it undeveloped and world class. It was here that I began to feel like I could get on routes with some confidence, some vague sense that if I decided I wanted to do something, then I’d stand a pretty good chance of doing it, and knew that even if I got pumped then I’d be able to recover at least a little bit if I got to a rest. So fortunately I was able to climb quite a few of the routes up to 8b which I had been looking forward to trying. Plaisir qui Demonte, 8b, was at the top of the list of routes I wanted to do whilst in Tarn. It’s a big one. 55m on some of the most immaculate rock I’ve ever climbed on, with some of the nicest, skin friendly holds I’ve ever used off the board. Its one of those routes which, if you can keep the pump at bay, and get it back at the rests, then it feels easy, but if you can’t recover at those rests, then you won’t stand a chance. So not only was it a great route, but it was also an obvious indication to myself that I’d been able to get some kind of route fitness back over the last month.
We’re now in Rodellar, the ‘land of lactic’, and have been here a couple weeks. In many ways it is even more impressive than Gorges du Tarn; the rock is ridiculously steep, there are huge caves, roofs, and arches everywhere. I thought that there was a lot to do in Gorges du Tarn, but it doesn’t even come close to the amount here in Rodellar, after just a couple weeks in Tarn we had by no means ran out of routes to do, but we felt like we were running out of the best ones, the ones which you really have to do. After two weeks in Rodellar, and having climbed more than I did in the two weeks in Tarn, I’m getting the the feeling that I’m going to be coming back here for many years to come. We have another five weeks here, and it’s not nearly enough to do everything I want to do.
I feel like I’ve progressed even further since climbing in Gorges du Tarn. I don’t know if that’s just because the style might suit me more here, I suspect that has something to do with it, but so far I feel like I’m climbing well here. I haven’t done anything hugely significant, a handful of 8a-b, with a couple on the go, but I feel like I’m climbing better than ever. Climbing only on rock for four months can work wonders; I’ve never felt so comfortable or confident on rock, which means I can climb faster and more decisively, more efficiently. That could explain some of the perceived fitness gains over the last couple weeks.
So we have another 5 weeks or so here in Rodellar before heading back to blighty. Hopefully the progress will continue so that I stand a chance of climbing just half of what I’d like to. I’ll update this blog with pictures when I get some so that you can see just how impressive Rodellar and Tarn really are.