Thursday, 7 July 2011

Caro's Katmandou

She did it!!!

Hard work, determination, and a little helping of pride really do work wonders. After the first session on Les Chemins de Katmandou, where she barely managed the crux move 1 in 5 tries, Caroline topped out on her ascent of the entire route early last week, 4th ascent and 1st female ascent (as far as I know), a fine effort indeed.

We headed back to La Jonte to meet up with Facancisco Taranto Jr for a photo shoot after the Millau Natural Games. Caro had just finished a 3 day team training session in the French Pyrenees, meaning firstly we couldn’t arrive in the Cliff until 4pm, and secondly she was exhausted. With little chance of a full ascent, we settled with fixing lines up the whole route for Francisco, and shooting on the top pitch with the evening light. I surprised myself by climbing the top pitch again on my 1st try of the day – its really quite amazing at how much more energy you have without climbing hard pitches to get there.

Caro had a play on the pitch and managed to figure out a new method for the crux; normally taking a 2-finger pocket as a mono would make things trickier, but in this particular case, the inverse seemed to apply for Caro. Content with making one of her crux slaps static, we all headed down to the car and campsite, grabbed some of the local speciality “Aligot”, and went to bed, ready for yet another early start and an 8b for breakfast.

6am feels especially early after a shitty night’s sleep, but at least in France you are rewarded for such an unhealthy hour with warm, soft, freshly baked bread! Conditions on the rock felt horrible and I struggled to second the first pitch. Caroline had just dispatched it on her 1st try of the day, complete with screams, wild slaps, and falls without falling. Having now experienced the conditions for myself, I really understood why!

I joined her at the belay and climbed through to the top of the 7c+, not without a big fight I might add on the awkward final moves around the arĂȘte. Caroline arrived perhaps 10 minutes later and seemed to be feeling good. We arranged the belay, exchanged a few words, and she set off for round one.

Move after move, I was constantly amazed at how well she was dealing with the incredibly reachy and powerful climbing. This pitch is her anti style, but she compensated for the long reaches by working her feet up very high, and on the few occasions where even this failed to provide enough, solved the problem with an all out jump!

She arrived at the mid-way rest before the crux and prepared for the upcoming intensity. After a few moments she signalled to be ready and set off, fumbled her feet, missed the next hold and was off. I joked with her not to worry as this move was one in every two, she tried her best to smile and joined me back in the belay.

One in two was right, as next try she cruised this move to arrive at the end of the crux section. A long move with high feet from a one pad under-cling mono brought her to the intermediate edge. After a small adjustment of the feet, all that remained was a 5cm bump (although at full stretch) to a good 3 finger pocket, and probable victory. She paused a little too long, and fell with her fingers in the hold – merde!!!

One of my personal little tricks I have discovered over the last year is to imagine that a route continues after the top hold, or that there are harder moves still to come after the actual crux. This helps me to deal with the “summit fever” – that sudden panicky pump that takes you by surprise when you excitedly realise the end is “right there”. I told this idea again to Caro in the hope it might help in even the smallest way. She was so close to finishing the route, but the sun was coming fast, she was getting tired, and all her hard work was close to becoming nothing. Multi-pitch brings so many more elements to climbing – these extra elements make the final result all the more worth, but can cause quite a lot of heart ache along the way!

Caro set off, and from my perspective looked to cruise the route, moving fluidly, really flowing through the hard moves. From her perspective, things were a little different... She admitted feeling tired and weak, the worst of her 3 tries of the day. However, she knew this was to be her last try, her one and only chance to finish this journey and she needed to make it count. She told herself the route was the final of just another comp, and whilst ultimately not important in the wider scheme of the world, it was of the highest importance in the “there and now” and she needed to find a way to make it work, to dig deep into the reserve tank and find a little magic. The huge smile across her face as I joined her at the top told me just how happy she was with the result.

A magic day.

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