When life takes control over climbing routine

Beautiful Siurana.

It’s been a while that I’ve been attesting about my climbing life here. To be precise since last September, when I could send my first “all-waters-proof” 9b La Barrière in Jansegg (CH) – and some 8c+ in Kochel in early October 2018.

It is not that I have been climbing less since then, I little yes, but a rhythm of not more than one day on and two or three days off has become normal to me quite some years before. And it is not that I’ve been out of shape. The crux in high end rock climbing for a long-term worker (on routes) like me often lies more in the detail. Organization.

My performance logically bases on all the physical aspects of climbing, too. But not as much as in other strong climbers. I rely way more on psychological power. Motivation. Timing. Mindset. Being in the right place on the right day.

I haven’t been hitting these perfect moments too often in the last months.

It started in October with The Wind of Climate Change in Kochel (about 11+, 9a+/9b). Fagus Magus (9a/9a+) plus an 8b+ first pitch. Fair rest points, but nothing no-hand. And thus, a marathon of a single pitch. The 8A+ crux close to the top after 70 moves and 30 meters. A far move into a small two-finger-pocket. In November I hit the edge of the pocket twice. But never could hold it. And conditions on the Rocky Wall is no easy issue. In December it gets too cold for long routes like this.

I switched to a shorter, practically brand new line in the lower section of the Wall. Engel für Charlie. (Angel for Charlie.) Totally natural 30m technical climb on great rock and about 9a/9a+, as well using an open project of Stefan Glowacz in the middle that must have been bolted in the 80ies or 90ies. But it got wet.

Ralf in Basica (8c) on the Rottachberg.

On the Rottachberg I can send Basica (8c) second go of the day after two tries months earlier. And on the China-Mauer an 8b+ second go I don’t remember the name of. I am feeling fine and light and blessed with stamina how I almost never had it.

But the winter and the weather force me to change again. Well, I can’t really use the word to force. Big Hammer nature in Pinswang – a great line on one of the most colourful rock of the northern Alps. And a great challenge when you don’t use the two holds, that have been either replaced or reinforced – but ended in any case with Sika on them. The 7C crux after an 8a+/8b route and a moderate rest turns into 8B boulder! (How much a single good hold can change a sequence.) Makes it as hard as the big Kochel project. By the end of the year I link the crux once in a whole, but never came back since then.

Mostly because we leave to Siurana. At first 10 days before Christmas and again three weeks in January. Telling myself the story of “how-to-not-send-La-Capella-even-though-everything-starts-perfectly”. The route has changed a little bit since I came pretty close to sending the first two boulders from the ground in February 2018 (we will speak about how much a 7b+ exit can change the difficulty of even a 9b later). The edge of the first small hold has vanished, but I get used to this harder sequence quite quickly. Anyways the extra strength you use down there will always be missing further up.

While our brave six-year-old boy goes to school in Cornudella – and really loves it, even though he only speaks a little Castillano and French, but no Catalan – I at first approach quickly to a sending state. Before getting bound to bed for one week by a mighty influenza with four days of 40° of fever. Already before this forced rest I link the 8A/8A+ boulder of the first six moves to the 8A+/8B boulder of the following eight. After the illness I bring it further up, until I fall two times from the last small hold. And I have ten days to go!

It seems impossible to fail, but I manage to do so! The weather gets windy and cold and on the shady crag the skins gets hard and likewise slippery. (I call it hyper-conditions: Too cold, too dry, too windy.) I have a couple of tries that are way better than my best one in terms of fitness – bus always end by zipping out somewhere on my way.

We must return home, but it is still January and I am planning to come back not too late. But first we move from the Bavarian Alps to Frankenjura, where my girlfriend starts a new job. For me it’s bad timing – my close hard projects suddenly lie three hours more to the south. And then a close family member dies in an avalanche and normal life stops at all.

At a point like this it feels strange to go on writing about a leisure thing like climbing. But in the same time, it felt important to carry on with it. Carry on with something. It stabilized and structured the new and somehow amputated everyday routine. But logically I skip all plans too leave again, no matter where to. And concentrate above all on my family and in terms of climbing on the nearby: Frankenjura. Twice a week for one hour. Mostly with the GriGri or the Jumar on a fixed rope. 15min of driving. 5min by feet. Two hours from door to door. As in addition we don’t find a Kindergarten for our daughter and there is no school bus for our son, that’s the maximum possible.

Springtime in an 8b+ in Soulce (CH). Pic: Adrian Stämpfli.

And it is enough for me.

I make good progress in Corona (9a+) – being able to almost send the crux from the ground and link it with the upper part exiting to the anchor. But I ignore my own principles to “rotate” in projects at home, so that I am not more than one day on per week. While I am paying a lot attention the typical Franken finger injuries, I overstrain my left foot from the drop knee in the Markus Bock beta. Even though people wonder how one can stop or take a rest so close from the goal – I postpone this one. My climbing mantra has been transformed over the last years so deep into a hedonistic approach, that I just can’t focus on the moves when I feel pain in the same time. Probably I am just too old for foolish things like this. And there is no hurry. I am leaving close by and getting more into the Franken style now every day.

We have to pass in Switzerland several times, and each time that I try e.g. one of my old boulders there on the Cousimbert (there is a new video of two of them), I am getting high on how I still developed in my 30ies. Up to 8B+ I can resend old projects from years ago in only one session.

And by the beginning of May I then finally get into a routine again that allows me a quick 9a-ascent in Frankenjura. But this video still has to be produced. The story to be told. A.s.a.p.

La Capella in Siurana waits for me and will surly not oppose to my developing Frankenjura shape. If this accounts for The Wind of Climate Change in Kochel and Big Hammer nature that are much more into stamina, is not so sure.

But anyways I want to go on reducing my ecological footprint. After having stopped flying in 2017 I want to enter a bike-approach-routine. Everything is so close here – I don’t need to move 1.5 tons of metal together with me. The foot from Corona is fine again, too, and for the latest 9a ascent I already checked out the direct exit that adds an 8A+ where the 9a dodges right into a no hand rest and a 7b to finish. All this in a perfect freshly green beech forest and the owl hooting nearby.

Kind of the easiest way to make you forget about what you’ll maybe never finish.

One thought on ““Only” one out of four (damn close 9b projects) – When life takes control over climbing routine”

  1. Hey Pirmin,

    schön mal wieder von Euch zu lesen. Die Kindergartensituation ist bei uns auch echt bescheiden und wir hatten noch Glück. Beide Kiddies haben einen Platz. Aber mir scheint die Kommunen planen die verfügbaren Plätze spitz auf Knopf. Das echt frustrierend und man ist als Eltern fast ausgeliefert. Die einzige Wahl die man hat ist, dass ein Elternteil nicht arbeitet.

    Ich habe mir erlaubt eines der Bilder bei theCrag hochzuladen: https://www.thecrag.com/event/2480111472

    Gruß Kai

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