This is the hardest rock climbing I’ve ever tried to do. It’s so hard, that I’m not even embarassed about leaving draws on 6c+s and 7a’s, because they are my projects and they are so, so scary. But frankly, I perform about the same on 6cs as I do on 7cs. They all feel like good moves, then I get scared or tired, or I see that I’m still 20 meters from finished, and I either fall or stop.
After my long rest I went back to Medicin Douce, a 6c+, which is kind of like an 11b, which had exhuasted me after like 4 moves on two separate occasions. This time I sent it as my warm up and it was all super easy. I have no idea what’s going on. I guess I was drunk or tired or freezing or some combination of those the last few times I tried it. Anyway, I was happy to get it and that it was not, after all, hard. Of course I finished the day by freaking out over rope issues on a famous 7a called Petite Illusion, and left my draws on it. Going to head up in a few hours and, hopefully, warm up by sending that.
The thing that I’m scared about in general while sport climbing on vertical stuff like this, is getting the rope in the wrong place relative to my leg, falling unexpectedly and turning upsidedown then smacking my back and head against the wall with dire/fatal/semi-permanent consequences. This fear kept me off of Las Animas wall in El Salto, is constantly in my mind in Potrero, and has backed me off of half a dozen routes here in the last ten days.
That type of thing has happened to me once, when I first started climbing, in Mexico. I had a helmet on and was fine, and I can’t even remember the route it was on. It happens here at Ceuse, it seems, somewhat regularly. At least, people talk about it all the time. “Arse over tits” the Australians say, in that vulgar Australian way they say most everything.
The other day climbing with German Eva, I was almost done with Javanaise, a long thin 7a. It was very cold, kind of raining, getting dark, the few good pockets were full of very cold water, and I had to do a high heel hook and move off a shitty greasy sidepull to another big rail a good five feet above me. It was not a hard move at all, to picture or do, or do half-way and back out of. The rope was attached about twelve feet below my feet and way off to the right. I had no idea how to put the rope. I did it both ways, both looked wrong, so I down climbed and bailed. This, or some version of it, has been my MO at Ceuse. It doesn’t matter the grade, I do it on hard stuff and warm ups, and I don’t fall, I downclimb on shitty holds and bail.
Eva, fearless German
Eva on Javanaise, 7a, tall and scary and it was off and on freezing rain. This is just how they do it in Germany.
I have been telling myself to just get over it and sack up and not think about these unlikely rope scenarios, until I hung out with Maddy and Tashe, the British girls. Tashe had, on thier second day in Ceuse a few weeks ago, had a bad upside down fall on a pretty easy route. She hit her hand, shoulder, and head, had to go to the hospital, had a concussion, now has a tweaking shoulder and her hand is numb most of the time. To be fair, she also electrocuted herself on one of the live cow/horse fences that are all over the place here, which contributed to the hand thing, but still.
Maddie and Tashe describe bad falls here at Ceuse, and onto miniature pieces of gear at their favorite chossy British seaside limestone trad crag, Pembroke (google image it, omg).
I’ve been thinking of my rope fear as kind of irrational or at least exaggerated, but after talking to Tashe I’m kind of embracing it. I might be content to just do my downclimb thing for now and hope that I’m learning something, however incrementally. And of course, it will keep me from concussing, which is probably more important since I’m getting the hell out of this vertical, alpine scene tomorrow morning and heading to Rodellar with Grug not Greg the Tazmanian. Should be a good time. This badass Swiss woman, and an American couple named Andrew and Susie are all heading there as well, so by next weekend it should be a healthy posse. The guidebook shows a ton of steep 7b tufa lines between 10 and 20 meters long, and at 3000 feet below Ceuse with an approach of less than 20 minutes, I am ready. Until then, I’ll try as many of these vertical lines as I can, and chalk it all up to education.
George the German, who is having a lousy trip as he’s coming back from almost a year off of climbing, says that’s valid. “You won’t forget,” he said. It all adds up and you improve over time.
Here’s hoping. Ceuse is amazing, and I know I’ll climb here again someday, but I am happy to be leaving.