Saturday, 25 June 2011

Big, Scary, Monsters

The 4th pitch roof of La Cardaire

The next project is underway, and has already begun gathering speed. I have started to become more and more intrigued by the world of hard multi-pitch and big walls and over the last few months have started to make my first visits to this world.

The eventual idea is to create something very long, very hard, and very scary, but this final phase is still quite a long way off in the future. Now is the time to begin developing the necessary skills, by attempting and repeating certain existing routes, some classic, some obscure, in the style of the separate components of the master plan.

The first of the training routes fell a few months ago, in the form of La Cardaire, a semi-traditional, 4 pitch wall in St Guilhem. The 160m route is capped by a big roof at the very top, and was first climbed as an route at A2, 6b, using only pitons for protection. The route has aged a little, and in doing so the pitons are perhaps not as proud as they once were, but standards have also improved, and the route now goes free at 7a,7b,7c,8a.

The 3rd pitch and questionable 2nd belay!!!

I took a mini trad rack with me during my on-sight of the route with good friend Nico, but It was not really necessary. There is enough fixed gear in the wall to climb in relative comfort, granted some of it very old and far apart, but still enough. Take a few slings for belay on the trees, and get ready for some exposure through the final roof!!!

The next part of the project was something a little harder, a 3 pitch route in La Jonte called Les Chemins De Katmandou. Bolted by Laurent Triay and climbed by Sharma in 2002, the route packs quite a punch in its relatively short height of 100m. A 50m 8b leads to a 20m 7c+ and finally a 30m 8b+ up the bulging headwall. The climbing on the 1st pitch is great and is worth doing in its own right, but the climbing on the 3rd pitch is simply exquisite – a contender for the best route I have climbed on limestone!

Caroline following the 3rd pitch

The 3rd pitch is very dynamic; long move after long move on perfectly sculpted pockets. After the first day on the route, I was not so hopeful about my chances of climbing it quickly. I was struggling to do some of the moves on the headwall and didn’t quite see how I would be able to link it all together, especially after the addition of the first 2 hard pitches.

Caro and I returned a few days later, and thing could hardly have been more different. After warming up, I climbed the 8b pitch on my 1st try, and the 8b+ pitch on my 2nd, after a slight refinement of the method for the crux. Caroline also made great progress on the route, despite several very long moves on the 3rd pitch. We will head back soon for her to make a try from the floor and probably shoot some pictures in the process.

Looking up the 1st pitch of Katmandou towards the 3rd pitch headwall!

It’s strange how your performance can change so drastically from day to day, something I must try to remember in the future when routes feel too hard for me. I am happy to have got it done so quickly, and excited to begin the next part of the project... Newfoundland

No comments: