Wednesday, 2 November 2016

I AM STILL A CLIMBER SOMETIMES. OR: THERE'S A RIGHT TIME AND PLACE FOR EVERYTHING.



 Perfect.
 Perfect.
A little less than perfect. 

As I've said and said and said, I pride myself on being able to express perfectly every imaginable thought and concept, analyzing their deep essence and meaning. This time though, I'm struggling to grasp exactly what lies underneath the mere facts, so I'll stick to the mere facts. 

The first day was amazing, and I allowed myself the luxury of visiting a new sector. A new sector, new boulders in a place where you've been climbing for almost twenty years now, is really a luxury and fuck me, I absolutely reveled in it. Basking in the Sun and in the Glory of ticking every problem, I got seriously reminded about everything that's great in climbing. 
All alone with just my girlfriend, agonizing with anticipation during all the three minutes that were dedicated to the theraband warm-up, it's been great to feel my body adapting to the task, morphing from steel-beam rigidity and mobility to steel-beam strength. Or something like that. 
I found myself in a bulimic orgy of problems, with the main difference that it was nothing pathologic. For once, I didn't even think about grades. 
The desire to climb every problem made that thought superfluous. 
Pocket pulling a go-go, sun on my back, chocolate and protein shakes, nothing else comes close. 
An amazing prow at 7b+ refuses to surrender under my assaults, so I'm forced to use all my four limbs, trying to actually put some weight on my feet, and it goes. I am the best. 
At that point I decided to try a problem in a roof, that was still marked "project" in the guidebook. I immediately had a sequence, that involved skipping at least three pockets. Unsurprisingly it didn't go. 
Campari Sprits and food followed, both in inhuman amount. 

The second day was still amazing, but I woke up feeling as if a freight train loaded with cement blocks had run over me. 
Back to the new sector, I did nothing apart from repeating a few problems for the camera and spotting my girlfriend. And eating chocolate, bread and honey sandwiches and protein shakes and protein bars. At some point I went back to the supposed project. To be truly honest, I couldn't believe that it was really a project: there were holds, and I know that there are many strong climbers that climb there. So I imagined that there could be some ultra-deep low start. The only problem was that it was a boulder bridged over two boulders, forming a small tunnel, so there was no deep start. I then imagined that the start could be on the opposite face of the boulder, then you would basically downclimb and join what appeared to be the logical start. I tried this, broke a few holds, hit my head twice on the nearby boulders and understood that it was no go. I decided to start one hand movement lower than I'd started the previous day, and fuck me it made a difference. 
My body was quite stretched and serious pulling was needed to stay put and not touch the boulders on which the roof sits. 
After a couple of fumbled goes, I did it, as the magnificence of the picture above shows. Best photo I have, possibly. 
So, with the new sector basically ticked I went to visit and old friend. A long traverse in a roof that I'd been after since 2010. It was dry, and I remembered all the moves perfectly. I was terrified, they were hard. The following day was going to be the day. 
Again Campari Spritz and food in unjustified amount. 

Even the third day was amazing, but my mental skies were full of grey clouds, the grey clouds of uncertainty, doubt, and pressure. I woke up at 6:40 and couldn't go back to sleep.
The roof was my target for this trip, and with Winter approaching I knew that this might be the last chance of this season. I had taken the chance to avoid the project with the excuse of the new sector and its chanting sirens, but now I had only one option. 
I believed I'd done this problem in 2010, as this video shows, and as I wrote in this blog entry
Anyway, I was wrong. After long hours spent on the internet and speaking to one of the guys who regularly climb there, I discovered that the problem shown in the video was in fact a first ascent, and that the original problem I was after laid a few meters on the left of the roof, and it was a much more serious proposition.
Back to the drawing table... 
In the Summer of 2015, with all the new info, I managed to climb one of the coolest problems I've ever done, as I wrote in this other blog entry. This problem also constitues the first half of the original traverse that was starting to feel like a hidden treasure to me. 
Then in September 2015 in was back there again, as I wrote here.
From that weekend of 2015 until a few days ago, every time I would do my theraband warm-up my thoughts would go back to the problem that had smashed my shoulder, to the project in front of which I was now stood. In 13 months I'd done a lot of theraband warm-ups and I'd thought to that moves a lot of times... 
My last session, one year before, had left me not only with a painful shoulder, but with a bitter taste also. The moves had felt hard, I couldn't repeat the 8a and I also couldn't link the second part on its own. Summoning all the hypocrisy I was capable of, I blamed the torrid conditions and tried to forget about it.
Now, I was feeling a coward for leaving the project to the last day, I knew that I should have dedicated all my available time to it, leaving the last day for the new sector. But the damage was already done, and there was no turning back. 
I took it very easy, spotting my girlfriend and eating, I even tried to have a nap in the Sun. I couldn't sleep, but it helped me a lot, at least in terms of a cool tan. 
And finally I am here. All the holds are dry, a couple of ones are a bit humid but I brush this thought off. 
I don't have enough pads for the whole thing, so I ask my girlfriend for an even more accurate spot, to avoid being impaled by some sticking tree branches or crushed onto some rocks. 
First go, all the bad memories of the last session disappear in an instant. The sloper feels good, and forgetting all my past errors, I perform every move perfectly and complete the 8a part, then I enter the proper roof. Months of snatches, weights and training have made my shoulders bigger and more powerful and the crux move goes down without a problem. I struggle on the reach though, a long sideways reach to a blind, distant undercling. But I get it nonetheless. I cut loose and using momentum I paste my feet on the slopey holds of the back wall. I am horizontal over some big rocks put in circle to be used as a bonfire, and I mutter "Spot me very well here." to my girlfriend. This thought breaks the magic and the thought of falling off onto the rocks enters my mind. I still do the cross move to the other undercling, but then I fuck the feet placements and I am back on the ground. 
I pant and pant and can't get enough air to fill my lungs and fight the effort. I am spent. By just one go. 
I find myself in a mist in which I am happy for what I've just done, yet disappointed because only four moves were left. Happy because I had retroflashed the 8a, disappointed because I had let a negative thought make a big damage. I was so close. 
And now I am exhausted. I am over. It is over. I have to wait another year, soon it will start snowing here. I can't wait any longer. I don't want to. I won't.
One more go. My forearms are the size of a balloon and I take off my thermal that compresses them too much. After a few minutes collecting my thoughts, every other second that I wait feels unbearable and I must go again. 
I am not rested enough and it feels. 
I fumble the first two feet placements and in anger step off and start all over again. 
This time it goes better, but still not perfectly. I do the first part again, but then the next moves are a bit precarious and I waste energy. I'm at the shoulder move and as I start compressing my right foot slips off the hold. A gigantic hold. A hold so big you could lose your shoe in it. 
I swear and swear and swear and now I'm sure it's really over. 
Or maybe not. I force myself to rest forever, I put on my down jacket and try to make blood leave my forearms. It's a long task. 
After what seemed an eternity I am there at the start. Should I take my thermal off or not? How will it affect my forearms? I keep it and go. 
I immediately feel incredibly well, I feel the rubber squeak onto the rock. I am so comfortable in this storm. 
I tap my left hand on my trousers, the sloper feels amazing. Feet are perfect and I am easily at the hole. Instead of cutting loose I instinctively keep my left foot on and heel hook with my right. I feel the difference and I know that I'm climbing perfectly and I congratulate myself. With the left foot on, I am a bit further away from the next hold and I'm not prepared to this. I struggle to identify it from the new position, but then I dig deeper and get it. I feel the difference again in my body position and I know that I have to pull harder to avoid a lethal swing. So I pull harder and I avoid the lethal swing. I keep motoring, everything seems different. 
The left hand hold, instead of frustration, gives me confidence and I do the next moves with a sense of pleased surprise. I must be doing good. At the shoulder move. My right foot is sunk so hard that it hurts this time, and my position is so perfect that I can match without putting so much pressure; I can even briefly let go with my left hand to recover a little. 
The reach. 
The reach is still hard, I feel my left hand sliding a little but I don't care, I get the undercling. Paste feet and push as if I were to break the rock. I feel extremely solid. I am over the rocks, the thought of asking for a closer spot comes and goes and remains a thought, because as soon as I realize it I am eyeing the right hand pinch and before realizing that I'm eyeing it, I am reaching it static, and then the sensation of it being much better than it ever felt reaches my brain and shocks me. I am three moves away and I'm feeling powerful. I cross over with my left hand to the final pocket, toe hook still bolted to the rock and I go to the blind edge behind the small prow. 
And I miss it. 
I had missed it the day before on a quick rehearsal and I had thought about how hard it would be, if I were to miss it coming from the start. And now I'm coming from the start and I've missed it. 
But I am so solid that I stay calm and search for it, then grab it. Everything feels good, I cut loose in control and one second later I am at the final jug with my left hand, then I match and jump off. 
I gasp for air once again, and in between gasps I keep repeating "I can't believe it." Again and again. 
I lay down on the mat and keep panting, I ask for a hug. 
I know how hard it is to be with an obsessed climber. 
It's over now, I've done it. 
Year after year after year, a story that goes back to 2010 has now come to an ending. The happy ending. 
I still can't believe how well I climbed and I still can't believe that I climbed it. I am so happy. I take my flask and sip some whiskey that my girlfriend brought from London. Before leaving for this trip I'd filled my flask again because after all I was sure it was going to be gorgeous.
Tomorrow we'll go back home. Tomorrow it will be sunny and clear again, but I don't care, because I've done it today. 
Later on we go for a walk, then we go visit the nearby LaSportiva factory for some bargain sales. It's packed with climbers buying stuff. They're all clean and branded. I am a mess of patched jeans, tape and blood stains. 
I look around, and wherever I turn I think "I am the strongest one. Noone else is as strong as me." 
And I feel like Jerry.
 

Saturday, 1 October 2016

NOTHING NEW. OR...

The rule of the part time blogger is that after a hiatus, one should immediately renew the enthusiasm of the followers, by announcing exciting news, a strong resolution, or a mega project finally hammered into submission. 
Not in this case. 
I have nothing special to tell, but I want to start again with some good habits that I had to put to one side in the last months. I spent the entire Summer working and studying, and now I am finally free. 
Belive it or not, I climbed a new problem in May, in the only couple of hours that I've spent on rock in ages. 
This problem is cool, it's always been there, at one of the most frequented areas around, and it was never cleaned. The most essential line of crimps on the lip of a roof, for the most elementary of all traverses. Not. 
While the holds were all there, in their glorious and different forms, from majestic, grainy slopiness to pointy teeth, or plain razor blades, the sequence was far from trivial. 
With a brainless enthusiasm I got to work and after five minutes my skin was already thrashed, but I had a sequence. Torrid temps were suggesting to let it rest for a few months, but that would have been too easy. 
I don't know how I managed, but I climbed it. Pulling as hard as I possibly could, surely must have helped.






I called the problem "Animali Senza Tempo", which means "Timeless Animals", and it's a reference to sharks, crocodiles, and few other beasts that are almost exactly the same as they were at the beginning of evolution.
In a few years time, this problem will be "discovered" by someone who is sure to be the first boulderer to set his or her eyes on this line - because he or she is sure that bouldering didn't even existed here before their arrival -, it will be "freed" with all the possible cheating techniques, brushing holds out of the soft rock, eliminating spikes and blades, not sticking to the lip, all in the name of climbing progress, all in the name of shameless self promotion. 
These ridiculous individuals have all my pity, compassion and sympathy. Only, I have no pity, no compassion, no sympathy at all. 
I wonder how one could possibly believe that nothing existed before them. I wonder why people aren't interested in knowing the facts, the history. They revel and bask in ignorance, in name dropping, in being servants of the local starlet, in shining of reflected light. 
People are uninformed, they love to be uninformed, so that they can believe what they like to believe without having to stick to facts, but then when they make public statements, being uninformed, they misinform others. 
I could go on forever on this. I won't. 
But you could ask why I don't face this issue, why I don't face these people and thell them how things really are: that they haven't invented anything, exactly as I didn't; that problems X, Y and Z were climbed ten years ago; that they cheat on routes and boulders. 
Well, there are many reasons. 
First of all, I don't care that much at all. Knowing the truth, what is false doesn't affect me. 
Second, they don't deserve the truth. To quote Jack Nicholson in "A Few Good Men", they can't handle the truth. Truth is not for everyone, not for those who want to be the first ones, the unique ones, the rebel ones, the pure ones. Truth is democratic: there's always someone else who's been there before, done that before. We only need to widen our views. 
Third, I don't want to cause a stir, and if I speak, there will be much more of a stir, there will be a Maelstrom that will suck them all. 
Finally, being a bastard, I take great pleasure in seeing how they all make fools of themselves in front of my eyes, and in front of the eyes of those who have been around for a while. 
It's fun, I started this post wanting just to reacquaint myself, just to post a couple of pics, and look what I've done. 
But I left the most amazing news last, the most incredible of all news: I want to rock climb, I'm going rock climbing tomorrow.
Now tell me if this isn't really unbelievable. It is.
 

Sunday, 10 April 2016

SON OF S.A.M.

With the powers granted by all the fucks that I don't give about what's going on in the climbing world, thereunto enabling me, I hereby officially command that the Board season be considered over, and as a consequence I order that the Summer of S.A.M. commence, where S.A.M. stands for "Singles, Anabolism, Metcon". 
Getting the front two crimp I immediately feel that something's wrong. And I refuse to admit it. I refuse to admit it because I have convinced myself that today I am going to climb one last project before the arrival of Spring and high temps. I mean, higher temps. After one week with up to 26,5° a sudden couple of cloudy, rainy days have given me renewed hope. I've been struck by luck and I must take advantage of the bitch. 
I have slept until late after a very tiring week, I have eaten well and I have done my usual, loyal general warm up routine. Then it's time to awake the fingers. Big slopers, 35°, big rungs back3, big rungs front3, small rungs back3, small rungs front3, small rungs front two crimps, one arm the incut rung. Fingers are ready. Time for some recruitment. A dumbbell complex with low reps, at full speed, is followed by some cleans and some snatches. The speed is there. Time to rest. I am ready. "One shot, one kill." I say to myself as I leave the ground for yet another moment of glory. 
That's why, when I feel the crimp, I refuse to believe my sensations. I start sliding off and I barely make the second move. I crimp the motherfucker out of the hold, cut loose (I mean, seriously, what the fuck? I thought the times of cutting loose were over!) and in disbelief fuck the feet sequence, then, like a hippo rolling in the mud, I try to get the next hold and I'm on the mats. 
Jesusfuckingchrist, this is shit. I am shit. I am a shame for climbing. 
Maybe 21° are still a bit too many for this project, that I've trying for a couple of years now, and for the last 8 weeks... 
I keep my calm, because I know that on this planet there's only one thing that's stronger than my body, and it's my mind. 
I go through all the moves, sometimes sticking them, some others not. 
I rest. 
I feel, with complete sureness, that liquid chalk is a disadvantage in these conditions. It forms too thick a layer on the skin, and that's why I slid off. Temps aside. 
I start again. This time, it's one shot and one kill. Not. But I make it to the third move. Moving in the right direction. Keep moving. I feel strange sensations when moving my feet, time to check the shoes. The soles are dented. Session after session the footholds - despite being slightly rounded - consume the sole in the same exact spot, and after some time a dent appears. And it changes everything. Out comes the file, and as I've done dozens of times, I start filing the dent out, cleaning all the small ridges in the rubber, making everything smooth and level. 
"One shoot, one kill." Bang. I get to the last move of the crux and fall with numb fingers. Excellent. This was my personal best on the problem during the past weeks, with perfect temps. Numb fingers mean switch fan from 3 to 1. Rest. 
Everything goes as programmed, I am a machine. I execute perfectly, not a single hesitation, I am static, strong motherfucker. But the last move is hard. 
Three more times I get to the last hard move, maybe the hardest of the problem. And three more times I don't manage to seal the deal. 
I keep trying until I feel that I have no more chances. The season is over. I set the last move with a different hold, a generous 2 cm finger jug, and I immediately fire the problem as a consolation tick. But the season is over. 
I feel that I've done everything I could, to climb it. But it simply was too hard, at least for the day. Attaboy. Boy done good. 

At the end of the Summer, last year, I decided that I would dedicate myself completely to the Board during the Autumn and Winter. I decided that I wouldn't set any new problem until I'd done all the existing projects. What a great decision it was. The real thing. 
I stuck to my program and went through many projects that I'd set in the past years, and methodically climbed them one by one. I found myself stripping some holds that I had added when the original sequences seemed impossible, and I found myself climbing those problems as I had set them years and years ago, when my imagination was limitless and I didn't care about doing them. It was all about the perspective, all about the future. This future became real, and moves that I had imagined became moves that I was performing. 
And it's all about this. Nothing else. Getting to know that with some time and dedication, I can climb stuff. Nothing else. 

I became particularly bitter and cynical about the "climbing world" as of late. Many of the things that I read seem to me incredibly ridiculous, and I feel surrounded by attention-seeking behaviours of all kinds. Problem is: I know everything. I know when people cheat, I know when people use grades to belittle others, I know hypocrisy and I know envy. 
I would have never imagined it, even few years ago, that one day I would have felt so far away from "mainstream" climbing, and at the same time so happy about my climbing and my attitude. 
The Board. The Beastmaker. The Iron. Just these. So happy.