martedì 25 dicembre 2012

- The North Sail

A couple of weeks ago I've been for a few days to Cresciano taking advantage of a period of good weather and I have some interesting news to share. One day while I was walking to get to the Dreamtime boulder I found myself again in front of a tall arete which is just before the Jungle Book sector. I had already looked at it several times wondering if it was possible to climb: it looked quite hard in the middle section where you have to squeeze two sharp aretes, plus it looked way too frightening at the end where you won't like the idea to fall from what seemed a tricky finger crack. So usually I just moved on to try something else but this time I happened to have a short rope with me... let's give it a look!

I abseiled down, cleaned the crack from the moss and tried the upper moves on self belay... ok it's easy here, no excuses! So came down and I started to build a proper landing with rocks at the start which was just above a huge pond of water. Something turned up in my mind, I definitely wanted to climb this line now! I spent some time to figure out the middle moves and the sitstart. There is a quite intense section from a big undercut before establishing in the crack, and it involves a strange toe hook while pinching the arete. From there you may still jump down safely before engaging the final part. The sitstart is not hard on his own but then it's tricky to get the undercut properly when you come from the right arete. It was enough for the day, I finished to stack a few more rocks to make a better landing and went away.

The next day I came back focused, I tried once again the top section with the rope and made myself ready for the ascent. I was alone and had three big pads which were enough to cover the hard part, afterwards you don't really want to fall... I had a couple of good goes but both times I felt too scared to continue. Shit I really do need some help and cheering up here! So I had to wait till the next trip, when a few friends helped with spotting and I could finally fulfill the dream of climbing this great new line which is probably among the best in Cresciano. You can watch it in the video I made a few days later with my friend Gianluca, it also shows it's right slabby brother (which I found to be called Salamandre)... something between 6c and 7a+ crazy, tall and with a fairly good landing where you can to take some good falls.

Later on speaking with Cresciano guidebook authors I found Klem Loskot already climbed the line from the big undercut and gave it 8a+ but unfortunately it soon got into oblivion. In my opinion I was thinking to give it 8a/8a+ from the sitstart and 7c+ starting on the second deck with the big undercut. The full line seems better to me anyway so I've decided to keep the name I had already thought calling it "The North Sail". Hope you will discover and fall in love with this great problem as I did. It could be a good one if you are spending your Christmas holidays around Cresciano... by the way... HAPPY CHRISTAMS, HAPPY CLIMBING !

venerdì 23 novembre 2012

- the Swiss Recipes

Hi everybody, you probably didn't hear many news recently, cause I've been mainly training indoor (at the Pareti Sportcenter in Parma where I've recently started working) to prepare the Italian bouldering championship. Unluckily I've managed to get ill just before the competition and had to climb with the fever all the way to the finals where I could do nothing more than trying to get to the end... it has been fun anyway, just a pity to see all your hard training vanish. No worries, I can always try again next year.

Soon after the competition I moved to Switzerland together with several friends from England who came for an holiday dreaming about Cresciano and all the classics that Malc and Jerry were climbing in Stone Love... what better of some granite and sunshine to recover and get back in shape?

Together with James, Leo, Tim and Anna we had a lot of fun: hard bouldering during the day and good meals at night to feed your body and your mind. At the end of the holiday everybody got some brilliant problems done: including La Boule, La Pelle, Kirk Windstain, Frank's Wild Years and Il Partner. As for myself I went mainly climbing to Chironico where I still had several problems I missed to check out.

I did a few classics like Souvenir and Teamwork, and was really pleased to climb Delusion of Grandeur, Einfisch Kleinfisch and Conquistador, which I also did in it's new direct version (maybe half a grade harder... 8b?). Especially Delusion and Conquistador (both versions) were among the best ones I climbed in Chironico so far, and probably among the best all over Switzerland. I'll leave you with this stupid video that gives a good idea of what our holiday was... anyway Bouldering Recipes is what this kind of short "beta" videos we keep posting on the internet is all about, so why not make it clear and add some proper recipes? ;-)

Happy climbing, and keep it for fun. Michele.

venerdì 26 ottobre 2012

- Weekend in Amiata

After a couple of weeks of work at the climbing wall I finally took a short break and went back to my little house in Siena keen to start with the winter season in Monte Amiata.

Friday I went with my friend Bengio to "Sasso Corbaio" where he had just opened earlier in the week a new route called "Alibracciapinne". This short route that goes through a little cave is more like a 7 moves boulder problem... nothing to clip, nothing to hesitate: you do it or you just take the fall. It was still pretty warm and It took me basically all day to finally stick that move and quickly run at the belay. We agreed with Bengio it could be around the 8b grade... but we both suck at grading so you'll have to go there and judge on your own!

The day after I met with Lorenzo and Trevor (a visiting friend from Sheffield) at the Vetta sector, trying to find cooler temperatures. It was not really cold, but I took some time cleaning a new line on one of the many big boulders spread around "Achille" and I finally gave birth to "Apollo", a great highball problem around 7b+ or 7c that I would recomend to everyone, as the fall is not too bad and the climbing simply great!

It is just the start and many lines are just waiting for somebody to try. Sunday I took a rest day and I travelled south toward Ascoli, where I met with Mauro and Daniela. The next day they showed me something I was willing to see since a long time... and I hope to tell you more about it next time!

giovedì 4 ottobre 2012

- Orco Trad Climbing Meeting 2012

Two weeks ago I had quite an interesting experience in Orco Valley and I think it's worth to share with you some thoughts before writing again boring stuff about Rocklands and grades... ;-)

Also this year I've had the pleasure to participate as a guest to the second international trad climbing meeting organized in Valle dell' Orco by the Italian Alpine Club. During the first two days I've had the opportunity to see the famous walls of Sergent and Caporal and admire their stunning granite lines that proved to be an irresistible attraction also for a boulderer like me!

I've had the opportunity to make my first real experience on a multi-pitch, and learn something from much more experienced climbers... I wonder if one day I will also manage to bring my skills on these super smooth walls and help to bridge the different climbing disciplines, once considered so distant, but nowadays  getting clearly ever closer.

Thursday evening I held a little talk called "Boulder Trad", where I retraced the steps of my climbing life, showing pictures and short movies about my bouldering trips and my latest experiences of traditional climbing, explaining what I found in common between these two disciplines apparently so different.

Friday I could follow young Pete Whittaker in action on some of the hardest European cracks such as "Greenspit" and "Glowes of War": the boy jams and sneaks into these horizontal cracks as it was daily routine, but I could see for myself how different is this style and how much technique is required! Today is Saturday and we came to the last day of the meeting opened to the public and to whoever wanted to discover the world of traditional climbing. Weather has not been great in the morning, discouraging perhaps some people, but it soon turned into good, giving us another wonderful day of climbing in the valley.

As for myself I've finally climbed the famous "Kosterlitz" crack and I've managed to close business with a route that repelled me earlier in the week. There's no better sensation of coming back home feeling that you have learned something.


giovedì 30 agosto 2012

- Rocklands 2012: mr. Ego and the global climbing community

Two weeks have passed since I came back to Italy from Rocklands and I found myself right in the middle of this nightmare we call "summer" with temperatures reaching 40° and 80% of humidity... sweet were the days when I used to wake up with the noise of birds, to have breakfast wearing my jacket in front of the gas heater, having the dilemma of where would be best to go climbing, even if it would have been probably better just to rest.

Now I'm stuck home, too warm to climb, I have time to look back at this experience, trying to remember every single person I've met and the good times we had together. I have to say it has been a good trip, probably even better than last year. Even if I could not send all the problems I wanted to do, I had the opportunity to make a lot of new friends from different countries sharing my climbing and my home with them. Everybody was trying his best on some classic problems or futuristic new lines: sometimes you had success, sometimes defeat, bad skin and sore muscles... just as climbing should be.

Saying that I mean I truly had a great experience and I really enjoyed my climbing: Rocklands is not just a super "hardcore" destination where you can go and try all the hardest problem on earth, it is indeed a really nice place where you can be just fine sitting down looking at the horizon without bothering about climbing at all. Despite that there are several things I noticed during this trip, as well as last year, that deserve some deeper thoughts than the usual blog post where you say how cool was your experience, how hard was your climbing or how long your tick list... this things are more connected with the climbing community itself, and to what do we search in our climbing and what do we feel important about it.

Rocklands is obviously a well known bouldering destination were you do really meet people from all around the world, and offers a great opportunity to observe things on a wider scale than our small little spots scattered around Europe, which are full of "locals", local habits, local rules, and of course... local grades.  (and yes, also Fontainebleau is like that!)
Rocklands on the other hand counts just a few locals, it is actually quite hard to meet a south african climber. Boulders have been discovered and opened by many different people from different countries, at quite different times, starting back in 1996, when I was still 11 playing at school. There is no "local" community that really keeps one eye on the place, you do not meet the 50 years old man that comes to you and tells you how you have to climb a problem. When you are there you do really feel that place belongs to everybody, it belongs to our global climbing community that reads news on the web and looks at climbing videos on Vimeo or Youtube.

Let's try to start with that: when are we happy about our climbing? When do we feel proud of something we do? During this trip I've seen a lot of people psyched to send their first 7x or 8y grade boulder problem, and they were truly happy when they did, and it was a pleasure to watch and share those moments with them. Of course It is one of the best feelings: you are on a big trip in a climbing heaven, you are living your dream and pushing your limits achieving something you've never done before and sometimes also surprisingly fast... but is that really true? If you look back at your normal routine down at your home crag with your long standing 7b project you tried for ages and cannot still do, while there you just sent your first 7c after just few days of efforts ... what would have been best? Send the old 7b project or this amazing new 7c line in Rocklands? Of course to 90% of the people 7c is better than 7b...

But in the end what is 7c? What is 7b? These are just numbers somebody put in front of the name of two different pieces of rock, one of which we couldn't climb and one of which we just managed to climb. I think we should all learn to be happier if we manage to do something that has been a real challenge for our body: the hardest the challenge, the happier we should feel when we finally accomplish it. That's quite simple, and it is the only way we can use to measure how hard has been something for us: the amount of time and efforts it took comparing it to other things. But there is another important factor that plays a key role in our perception of happiness: our ego. We all tend to feel better when our efforts can be recognized in an official and public way, so as it is impossible for other people to understand our personal feelings regarding a specific climb, we created grades and use them to tell pretty much anything of what we just did to other people.

So here lies a dilemma: if we just want to try our best we can go and pick up whatever problem we like, that represents a real challenge for us, otherwise if we also want our efforts to be widely recognized we need to find a problem we like, that represents a real challenge for us and that also has an attractive grade, that's for sure a harder task... but here our ego can help to simplify things a little bit...  don't we really like the problem so much? Has it been less challenging than expected? No problem, our ego does a pretty good job to make us happy anyway whenever an interesting grade is involved... true?

I think we all have to learn how to balance between our ego and our feelings, and that's because if I look back into my climbing life I'm starting to forget many of the climbs I did, but i will never forget the ones that has been a real challenge to accomplish, it seems that our ego struggles to keep up with that in the long term. A great example is the FLASH thing. Nowadays all that matters is to flash a boulder problems, it is a harder task for sure and makes out of a less interesting grade still good news to support our ego. But what do we retain of a problem we flash after a while? Personally almost nothing, there is no big fight like in an on-sight sport climbing route, most of the time is just watching video betas on the internet and go execute the moves like a robot. No fight, no epic, no creativity. We should feel almost sad if we send  a problem first try, it did not give us the challenge it could have done. But we're indeed happy if we do, at the point that sometimes we try problems just to flash them and if we don't manage to we just walk away.

Taking things to excess we will end up just to try numbers, to browse the guidebook in search of something  of a desired grade we can send quickly, and especially if we are a "pro" climbers, to try something that will make interesting news, leaving behind everything else, even if we like it, but we feel it would be a harder task, or just not newsworthy.

That's an aspect of climbing I've experienced in Rocklands, and I can experience every day surfing the internet: everybody going crazy with big numbers and big news, as if we're more likely to get happiness out of our ego when we found ourselves in the middle of the global climbing community rather than at our quiet home crag. At home, where the "locals" pretty much know everything, and grades have already been lowered after endless discussions , we still feel free to engage in long big fights on some problems we like even if they have a low grade, but when we go on a big trip and meet altogether in the global climbing community, we like to go big, and we tend to try the problems that will satisfy more our ego than our feelings.

Fortunately in Rocklands it's so full of great and beautiful lines that it's not hard to find something that will be good for both your ego and your feelings, but our smiling and excited ego makes quite a mess when it comes to the fact of being rational, so if you add the lack of strict vigilance by "local" climbers, you get to the point that it's quite hard to find rational and harmonious grades, even because everybody's ego kicks in at a different level, and most of all... at a different grade!

Hope I didn't annoy you too much with those random thoughts I had in my head, anyway you can always just look at the pictures, as we all did when we were young and we had a book in our hands...  but if you're interested next time I'll try to be more specific and make some concrete examples. Otherwise you may just enjoy reading the list of the strange things I liked  most and I won't forget about this trip... so, like it or not, wait for a second post!

sabato 21 luglio 2012

- Rocklands 2012, in the middle of the dream.

It has been almost a month I am in Rocklands now and time has come to write something about my trip. I landed in Cape Town on the 26th of June under cold heavy rain, and coming from 38° in Italy it has been quite a refreshing start... My friend Clement was waiting for me and time we got the car we were already driving along the N7 dreaming about rocks and red sunsets of the Pakhuis pass.

This time we found a nice place to share at the Alpha Excelsior Farm: here is a vineyard, a lovely coffe shop run by Becky and we're just in front of the Pakhyus campsite where to go bouldering or meet people around the fireplace in front of the bar at night.

We soon got to know some finnish, norwegian and slovenian guys who are sharing the house with us and it's nice to go climbing together, having a barbecue at night or just discuss which is the best pizza recipe...

Weather has been fairly good comparing to last year, it means not too warm and good to explore new climbs in the lower sectors I struggled to visit last year because of the heat. Just one thing got worse: you are now quite sure to be charged 5 euros a day if you want to climb, even if you just want to try a problem for about half an hour in the evening... it feels more like going into a climbing gym instead of being free bouldering into the wild.

I had time to try some of the boulders I was more willing to climb, and luckily enough I've already managed to climb some really good ones such as Leap of Faith, The Arc, Tea With Elmarie, The Hatchling, Megalo, Quintessential end El Corazon...

Each of these problems is really good and I think I will remember about the feelings it gave me for quite a long time, I just don't want to talk about grades at the moment, as I still think there are many inconsistencies with most of the places where I use to climb in Europe, and it will deserve deeper thoughts on the difficult subject.

At the moment I prefer just to leave you with fresh shots of our experience in this nice strange place: when I'm not climbing I'm trying to get some good pictures you can see on this Flickr album, while Clement is always willing to film what's going on and show it in his weekly updates on his Vimeo account. I'm really happy he captured my ascent of El Corazon, as it was one of the things I most wanted to do and I can now show you the fight it has been on my first session this year.

Now we're just in the middle of our trip, much has happened and much still have to happen, but we do need a small break from climbing now. Luckily enough some rain has come leaving us time to rest our bodies and eat some proper food that will make us stronger than ever when the sun will come to shine on Rocklands again.

See you next!

venerdì 22 giugno 2012

- Lagoni guidebook and System Wall

Hi everybody, here in Italy is getting really warm and I can't wait to go back to South Africa on monday to breathe some fresh air again... Not much going on recently on the climbing side, but I've been busy working on the Lagoni bouldering guidebook (here you can see a preliminary editing of the look), which should be ready by autumn, and on a video about the System Wall, a new training tool designed by my friend Roberto Bagnoli... feel free to ask him if you have any questions...

Next time I hope to give you updates directly from Rocklands! Enjoy the summer, hope you won't melt under the sun ;-)

domenica 27 maggio 2012

- Il Dado è tratto !

Giovedì ho approfittato di una delle ultime belle giornate ai Lagoni prima dell' avvento del caldo estivo e delle zanzare per andare a provare questo progettino trad che cavalca uno dei rari tetti della zona. Avevo addocchiato la linea da un paio di anni, mi ero calato per pulirla, ma poi non ero più tornato in quanto all' epoca era ancora al di sopra delle mie capacità e del mio scarso materiale. L'arrampicarla con la corda dall' alto non è stato un gran problema, in fondo si tratta "solo" di un 7b/+ boulder su grossi svasi, però la dimensione e l' affidabilità delle protezioni nelle piccole crepe del tetto ha richiesto una meticolosa fase di test, che ha visto fallire parecchi pretendenti prima di giungere al fatidico Superlight Rock #4, l'unico che sembrava in grado di reggere nella scaglia sul bordo del tetto.

E allora sia... "Il Dado è Tratto" mi son detto, sono partito, ed è così nato il primo vero E7 6c dei Lagoni che si possa fare con la corda senza bisogno di crash per salvarsi le caviglie. A tutti gli aspiranti ripetitori sarò contento di dare consigli, ma tutto il materiale chè può servirvi in fondo è questo...

martedì 1 maggio 2012

- An Italian back on Grit

Two weeks have passed since I've come back home, and I think I've seen the double the rain I saw during my five weeks staying in Sheffield... every time I look out of the window I just see dark clouds and big drops, and I soon miss the endless afternoons I spent out in the Peak with a lovely sunshine and a nice breeze.

I have to say I've been quite lucky with weather. It has not been the best to pull hard on sharp boulder problems, (which is what I usually do the rest of the year) but at least it has been nearly always dry, and I could go out and try as many routes I wished, without the nightmare of getting too cold and end up with frozen tips... I'm Italian after all... even if it was too warm to try the hardest routes out there I still had to finish my homeworks and repeat many of the classics lines of the 80's and 90's, and there was nothing better than some sunshine to cheer you up for that. Eventually I could always go down at the Climbing Works to finish myself off if I wanted to!

So back to Sheffield, back to porridge oats, carvery and big tea mugs, back to see old friends, make new ones and climb on this fantastic rock that can give you everything for a moment and just leave you with nothing most of the times. At beginning there were four of us: me, Filippo, Gianluca and Lorenzo (you may better know him as "Nibile"...) but we soon lost a member who went to fight his way out the darkness of The Cave leaving us alone to deal with chilly wind over the exposed gritstone edges.

In fact at the beginning it has been chilly at times, and I already told you of my first experiences of the trip on Careless Torque and The End of Affair (see my previous post). Soon after I started to look at the sharp one, the famous Voyager, a big overhanging prow put up in late 2005 by mr. Ben Moon, which has now become together with The Ace, the symbol of hard gritstone bouldering in the Peak District. I briefly tried the problem a couple of times last year while spotting my friend Dan, but I still had to find a sequence good enough for me.

The problem is the closer you look at the rock the bigger you see the pebbles you have to pinch and squeeze on the prow in order to stay on... the line is great, but it is really painful, and every time you just have a few goes before tearing big holes open in your fingers leaving blood all over the place. Lucky enough, I could soon figure out a good beta, involving a high heel hook an a massive pebble, and having some skin left I was able to send the stand start the next day on a perfect windy afternoon... (everything is easy on a perfect windy afternoon, isn't it?) But it was not over, the goal was to complete the sitstart: it is logical, hard and still unrepeated since that day in 2006 when Ben was captured in this video that already made history.

So I went back to try again one or two days afterwards, and I had a few good goes, almost managing to hold the key sloper near the top, but that was it: my fingers were bleeding and I still had three weeks left to climb in the Peak. I was not in a hurry and I just left, quite confident to be able to climb the whole thing before the end of my trip... but I did not take weather into account. In fact we had a few more good days but the CWIF competition was approaching and I was trying to heal my skin and train a bit for that: I did not want to let the Beastmaker team down because of me, making Ned Feehally and Chris Webb-Parsons angry, as they could have kicked me out of home ;-)

As a result I trained more indoor (say, more than before) but I still went out in the afternoon trying to do my best on some highballs and routes. The first one has been The Promise. Almost next to Voyager is this short balancy route James Pearson put up in 2007. It was originally given E10 7a, as gear is just a poor ballnut #1 placed in a tiny crack at the height of your feet as you are going for the crux. After several repetitions and some safe falls on that piece of gear the grade went down to E7, but when you are up there you're just relying on that, and nothing else can stop you from falling on some nasty rocks seven or eight meters below. So the route can be quite safe if gear holds or quite dangerous if it fails, (and it recently happened) so you'd probably be happier to have all the pads we had that day to save your ass...

After some hesitation to reach the big sloper at the top on my flash try I managed to do it second go, quickly followed by Ned. The fall was not too bad as we managed to build a decent landing, but the climbing is about font 7b+, which is always tricky if you have not tried the moves before, and you really have to commit. It has been for sure a great experience for both of us, and you can see it fully featured, together with some other great lines in the film "Life On Hold" that Nick and Rich from Outcrop Films have been nursing for a couple of years, following the action of Ned, Dan, Mickey, Dave and other great climbers around England.

The day before the CWIF was supposed to be a rest one. My parents and a friend from Parma were visiting for just a few days, and decided to go bouldering at Robin Hood's Stride. Even my friend Rich was off from work and I still had to see that place so... "Why don't we go and try Kaluza Klein? It's a slab, it won't be tiring, and it will be fun!" So we went there: Rich abseiled down, gave a quick brush to the holds and tried the moves a little bit. He soon managed to do everything but he was so stretched on the last big reach that his feet often slipped due to the bad angle they made on rock. I thought: "I'm taller, I will be fine".

I placed a small mat over the big rock at the bottom and I started for the lead. It took me a while to find the balance and smear my feet up the bad footholds, and eventually I was there, ready to commit for the big throw, with no chance to come down but to jump off. So I tried, but I didn't hit the vertical crack high enough, and was now totally out of balance with nothing good to hold on. Funny position: completely incapable to move I desperately try to swap feet and I soon found myself into the air. As the rope caught my weight I was already with my ankles against the pad on the rock: "not too bad... next try!"

The CWIF qualifiers were as funny as tricky as usual and we managed to do well winning the team prize, but the day after I soon started to feel pretty tired from all the climbing I've done and  my skin did not feel any better too. Never mind, you can't always have everything, it was definitely time for some sleep before watching the finals and going for a curry with everybody else. After that weather soon became quite warm and still, but it didn't rain and everything was starting to dry. I went back to try Voyager a couple of times, but in such horrible conditions I really struggled to move even if I was in a good shape. As depressing as it sounds... time has come to put on a harness again !

One of the lines I always wanted to try was Braille Trail, the blank slab featured in Hard Grit where you have to dance with your feet on some tiny pebbles having to rely on three hand placed pegs as a protection. We borrowed from Kathy a special piece of metal she used on the second slot during her ascent of that route (see picture here). The nice door handle she used in the first one was missing, so we went to buy a simple peg before leaving for Burbage south. Rich went down to clean the holds and check gear, and we found that we could actually use a safe ballnut #2 into the first slot, and a small cam into the third one which apparently got way bigger than it used to be... Everything felt quite safe, at least till you get established onto the arete (I slipped while getting there on my first try and did not fall that far), there one more tricky move gets you to easier climbing above, where you can just relax and calmly top it out... I loved it so much I did it twice to take a few pictures.

Next stop has been a quick three days trip up to Cumbria to visit my friend Dan and check out some nice sandstone. On the first day we went to "Queens", a small and peaceful crag lost in the middle of a bleak moor along the Hadrian's Wall. I soon felt at home as the rock is very similar to the one I have in Lagoni  and I had the pleasure to climb Queen Kong a five stars 8a prow Dan opened some years ago (see more pictures on Mark Savage Blog). Next day was a rest one for me, and after all the cold we got the day before it felt quite odd to be by the ocean in St. Bees, where I could enjoy some lovely weather just taking pictures and watching my friends climb these crazy boulders sculptured by water and wind... definitely a must go if you like bouldering by the sea !

The third day we traveled back to Sheffield in order to be present at premiere of Life on Hold, but we decided to stop on the way at Ilkley crag in Yorkshire where I had the dream to check out The New Statesman, an outstanding route John Dunne put up back in 1987. Regarded E8 7a, the route climbs up the right arete of this huge bouder dominating the hill above the town of Ilkley. It looked to me even better than I imagined, probably the most beautiful bit of gritstone I've ever seen, and in ten minutes I was already abseiling while Dan and Kathy were enjoying the boulders spread on the grass at the base. The route is huge and it took me a while to clean it, to roughly figure out the moves on self belay and to decide which gear would fit best into the small sandy crack you find at two thirds height and in the even smaller one near the top.

As I did not have all my gear I just found a poor single cam placement in the first one and wasn't able to fit any additional wire in. The climbing above was just a single 6b move to get to further gear, and having done it twice in a row I was quite confident not to fall there. After all the process was done it got late and wetaher was starting to be cold and humid. I was feeling tired but I knew I could still master the moves if I went past the hard first crux. That could have been the only chance to get the route done, being it far from Sheffield, so I just didn't think twice and I started for the lead. Unfortunately after placing the small cam I got quite cold, and was starting to feel slightly shaky... at that point there was nothing else to do but carry on. As I made a high heel hook trying to reach further up the arete it suddenly slipped without warning, and I fould myself into the air at 10 or 12 meters height. I could hear gear fail, I hit a small mat on a side and I rolled over my back out on the soft grass... not too far from a big rock! I stayed a couple of minutes on the ground before standing up, then we packed everything, and I drove back to Sheffiled with a very stiff neck... I've been very lucky this time.

It took me one day to recover from the fall, and despite some pain in my chest I was soon ready to get up early and fight the heat at Froggatt together with James Blay. We had quite a good time there as he finally sent Renegade Master and I made the first padded ascent of Screaming Dream, an old E7 7a by Mark Leach, which is now a brilliant 8a boulder problem... way ahead of his time back in 1987! Above is a nice video of that morning edited by James.

Time was passing quickly, and spring was definitely on the way. I had just a few days left to to stay in Sheffield and still wanted to go back on The New Statesman, as well as see for the first time Millstone crag and the famous Master's Edge. Luckily my friend Paul Bennett had just finished preparing his thesis and had time to come out and climb with me. The result were two memorable afternoons, with a nice breeze and plenty of sunshine, during which I could feel a small step further in my mind, not just by climbing The New Statesman but also by soloing Edge Lane (E5 5c), and flashing Master's Edge (E7 6c).  Nothing could be better to finish my trip to the Peak this year, and I was happy to celebrate with a good pint with friends before having to drive back to the continent, where I would spend one more week in Fontainebleau with Italian mates, but that's another story, and most of all a very different rock...

I'll leave you with the nice video that Paul edited of the New Statesman, and with the one I made myself with the routes I climbed ground up. It's just average footage from a fixed camera, but at least it captures real action and gives you the feeling of the moment, especially during my fight on Master's Edge, where I could mix some closer shots courtesy of Phil Kelly. Many thanks to everybody who shared his time with me or helped me out. It has been lovely to come back and I think you'll probably have to stand me again next winter... be ready ! ;-)

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