Growing up as a trad climber

I wouldn’t say I had a standard introduction to Trad. I didn’t grow up reading “on the edge”, I never saw “hard grit” (despite all my recent efforts), and my harness had only two loops! But I had for me an outstanding master Jedi, in the Person of James. He definitely doesn’t have the same definition for “danger” than me, he can justify soloing while I can’t. But he is very patient, and well, he has in his pocket a little secret: “Trad is, as I was about to discover on my very first day, something very very special!” My first trad route was an E3, my second an E8. James always uses the same tactic: to learn how to swim he jumps into the water, and he obviousely applied that to teach me trad. Point Blanc, luckily, was very easy protections, slings and a few bomer cams. It was crazy, I loved it!

2 years after my fire baptism, I am back in Pembroke to keep learning. I have for me a quite good fitness from sport climbing, a complete head from competition. For sure I usually can do the moves, but dealing with the fear, knowing where is the limit between safe and bold… this is the things I have to learn. And not to mention…I still can’t place nuts properly. Proof, I ended up quasi soloing a few days ago in an E5 that should have been all right, all because in 1h of climbing up and down I couldn’t spot the placements for micronuts. Interesting to see how even a useless balltnut, barely hanging on its own, can still reassure you!

Having an abseil play at Chupacabra (Ben Bransby old E9, recently downgraded at hard E8) after that, was somehow much more mentally restfull that onsighting another E5 or E6: at least I could figure out my protections, ask James to check, and work out the movements. Except after my first abseil inspection, I had nearly decided I didn’t have the “guts” to try it. For a start I couldn’t even do the crux, and the spice of the route lies in a very serious run out on the crux section. Safe, as it has been tested by Nick Sellars already, but still a very long potential fall!

But we are all the same… first you say no, then it plays again and again in you head until you accept to have another look. I took 3 days to finally figure out the mouvements…, found the courage for a lead attempt… only to fall in the top crux!!!

At that point I took a step back, analysed why I had fallen on the top section that I didn’t think that hard. I figured out I hadn’t succeded to focus on the movements, and had bee hypnotized by the fear, then by the possibility of success. But to that I have the answers: I have learned all those tricks in competition: I know how to focus closer, fill your mind with the movements coming, how not to leave any space for fear, whether that would be fear of falling, or fear of success.

It took me a few nights of mental training, but I went back in Chupacabra, and made it.

It had been a bit of time since I had to pull out all my old trics, as Chupacabra is by far the toughest trad gave I have played to! And I loved it!

James on the successfull ascent of Muy client , E10 ground up.

James on the successfull ascent of Muy cliente, 2011, E10 ground up.

Two days after James dragged me to north of wales, in Teggubur bay. Yoda is injured at the minute, and as a result, he’s fully entered his fonctions of grirgi boy, he helps me figure out the protections, mentors me for every route in Pembroke! So when he told me he would really love to have a look at Chicama, E9, just to see me in the movements, I had to say yes. I owed it to him J. Chicama is Tim’s Emmet baby, a ten year old sea cliff overhang, relying essentially on pegs. And 3 month ago Hazel repeated the route, replacing/adding a few pegs. While abseiling above James I could figure out the moves, and regarding the good state and density of pegs, I got keen for a try. One top rope go to make sure I wasn’t being foolish, and I went for it. It felt really not too scary, not too hard, and once again I have to say I am surprised at the english grades… but well, the more I trad climb, the more English grades are a mystery to me. But they are British after all, aren’t they J?

Thanks a lot Ben (Bransby) and Tim (Emmet) for those two pretty routes!

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