Sunday, 9 September 2012

Last Soul Sacrifice

My time in Loup has drawn to a close, and to be honest I’d begun to feel ready to head home and have a week or two off climbing to recharge the body and the mind. After a couple of (rather hot and humid) days onsighting in Verdon I returned to Loup with my sights set on Last Soul Sacrifice, a long, classic 8c famed for its super resistant style. It breaks down as a tough resistance 8b to the first chain, where you find a disappointingly poor rest (use the good undercuts for your hands or a crappy knee bar?), followed by another cruxy and resistant sequence to the top. Oh, and it’s all amazing climbing on tufas and pockets, barrelling from around 45 degrees overhanging at the bottom to maybe 10 degrees at the top – just how I like it.

Nat Berry on Sika (8a)

After a few days of falling at the top crux it was starting to feel like a bit of a battle. My body was tired. My head was tired. Having a go and trying hard felt like an unwelcome necessity rather than an enjoyable opportunity. The weather was deteriorating, and in the gorge clouds and rain mean that the wind of power – the only thing which really allows you to climb here in summer – doesn’t blow and humidity leads to crappy conditions (the wind is caused by thermal effects due to the sun). 

I awoke on my rest day, however, to sunny skies and nice temps. Shit. A quick trip to the local café told me that the forecast wasn’t too good so I quickly decided I’d better take the opportunity and ditch the rest day. Arriving at the crag something had clicked in my mind. The pressure was gone. The unjustified expectation of success was gone. The thoughts about what route to try next and what to write on my scorecard – all too present and distracting when my head’s not quite there – had evaporated. And the wind had arrived. Unlike the day before, I was excited to have a go and ready to put in a fight. Not for the tick. Not for the points. Not for the achievement. Just because I wanted to do those moves, flow through those sequences, milk those knee bars until my calves felt like they were going to explode, and fight until I couldn’t possibly fight any more. Just for fun.

Sam Hamer on Quossai (8a+) with a busy crag. Deverse is a good place to climb if you need to find partners as there are always a good bunch of locals and visiting climbers to hang out with and get belays from.

Who knows whether it was the improved conditions or the improved attitude, but this time everything worked. It was a fight, even on the easier last few bolts to the chains, but I enjoyed every minute of it. Clipping the chains wasn’t so much a feeling of relief, as it would have been the day before, but an added bonus on a try that I’d really enjoyed. Thank heavens I fell off that previous day, or my experience of the route would have been so much the worse for it. I got some photos taken from a rope as Muriel Sarkany was shooting pictures on Ultimate Sacrifice, which recently became her first 8c+, but haven't been emailed them yet. Stay tuned.

My last few days were spent doing a bit of onsighting and flashing, failing miserably on routes without tufas and sampling Abyss, one of the crag's classic 9as. Wow. What a cool route - relentlessly steep, loads of tufas and blobs, knees/heels/toe hooks galore. I'm planning my return for next year already, and it's top of the list. First there's the little matter of getting 9a strong!

I love my van!