Thursday, 2 August 2007

When it comes natural

Caroline is a weird one. Since the first time we ever met at a climbing wall years ago she has always shown some serious potential for climbing but always seemed reluctant to apply it. Over the years I’ve realised that she’s afraid of being sucked into climbing and forgetting about her running, and also there’s the little matter of Caroline’s extremely low threshold for Muppets – and lets face it, theres plenty of them who climb! Over the past year or two Caroline has put climbing on the back burner for a number of reasons – college, work, exams, assignments, running training.

Since around February I began to apply myself to some regular, easy training on the board at home and without any pressure Caroline began to hang aswell while doing knee-lifts (kidding herself that she was actually training for running, Haa!). It’s amazing the affect this has had – it’s gradually become part of our routines and we’ve just got on with it and forgot about it. Meanwhile our fingers have been loaded and rested, loaded and rested – gradually getting stronger. And if you can hang on easier – you’re confidence on the rock rockets!

This trip we ended up in the Gorge du Tarn again. It couldn’t have been a better location for what we needed. Firstly we needed a holiday and some Sun (something like over 60 consecutive days of Rain back home!), secondly the Tarn offered a great chance to measure progress over the previous two years of life-induced climbing inactivity.

Caroline on the 7a+

Our last visit here marked Caroline’s first ever sports climb and by the end of the trip caroline had lead 6b+ and nearly onsighted a 6c – but never tried a route more than once (much like meself! Doh!). Two years later we arrived in beautiful 35 degree heat and we had to shake the rust off Caroline’s leading head. First route was a warm up 6a+. I lead it and to be honest it felt hard for the grade! Caroline was next up – it didn’t go well – the whole process of moving above the bolt was going to take some practice again. Anyway – back on the horse again and next route up was a 5c which Caroline romped up and really enjoyed – and that was that – Caroline’s leading head was in gear.

The next day I lead a 7a+ and before I was lowered off Caroline shouts up that she wanted to try it on lead… Eh? Grand! Two distinct crux sequences, one at the second bolt with a long move to an edge and then a rest below a small roof near the top and a stiff sequence on shallow pockets over the lip to the chains. Caroline leads up it and makes it to the chains after a few falls, working a sequence through the roof. The next day she lead it first try cleanly to the chains – Caroline’s first 7a+. Chuffed!

Caroline on her second redpoint attempt on Toutes des Chiennes, 7b

I was seriously impressed! (plus there was the little alarm bell somewhere in the back of my brain shouting “Get the finger out! She’s catching up!!”). The next day while walking away from a crag I stop and turn around to see Caroline stood, staring up at a 7b I had lead the day before… it was next on the list. This one was different. I remember the reachy, pumpy crux moves off slopey sidepulls through a bulging wall. I was confident that Caroline could do every individual move but to link them all cleanly on lead would be a major ask considering Caroline’s limited experience. 3rd attempt on lead and Caroline was clipping the Chains after a successful Redpoint! Buuuhhh?? 7b!!

Chuffed at the chains - not many make it to 7b at all - never mind so quickly!

We tried to work out just how many leads Caroline had ever done and it’s coming out as less than 20 sports leads EVER! With results like this from just some casual hanging and no climbing during the past year I’m getting freaked! Well the end result of these routes is that Caroline is seriously motivated for some training and some winter redpoint trips back into Europe mainland to push her limits … 7c, 8a?


robinb said...

Great post dave! Congrats to Caroline!

Dave said...

Caroline says Thank you :)