lunedì 25 maggio 2015

Grampians. First part.

Many thoughts spontaneously appear in mind when you hear rumors about Australia. For European people it is certainly one of the further destination where to go and one of the most iconic country we usually desire to put foot on. Kangaroos, Outback, deserts, coast life, Ayers Rock, koalas are just few of the images which spring in our  mind once you think about this land. The charm of the coast is also great to think; Life and green nature on the border, wilderness and desert inside the huge continent.  For a totally focused boulder person like me, Australia also means Grampians, which has been one of the longer “must” places at the top of my list.  I have been waiting many seasons to see this well-known type of rock and after few years of postponements, 2015 seemed to be a proper year to make my first check.  

After a quite long but comfortable flight, I reached Melbourne last 4th May in the evening, where Ricky, a friend of mine who is staying here since October 2014, picked me up and lead me to Stawell.  This little village, located East just outside the Grampians National Park, has been our home since 3 weeks and  it will lodge us for the rest of our trip.

Since I planned this travel in March, I immediately promise that this trip would have been just a first check down here; I wanted to give a first look at this early world class spot, in order to get another trip in the future, knowing a bit better the logistic. I knew many good sectors would have been close after the fires and I knew that I could not visit more than a half of the Northern “old” area. It is definitively a bummer to be here and know that it is not possible to check some locations like Hollow Mountain Cave, Project Wall, kindergarten or Andersen. But nature has to make its own loop to recreate what has been lost and this priority is actually much more important than seeing some stones. Besides this little negative fact, even the weather has been pretty ugly during the first weeks: many rainy days or days where we saw all the 4 seasons in 12 hours. The weather is of course bizarre; the sun shines and you go out, you place the pads, you put some chalk on your hands and then the rain usually comes. After 5 minutes the wind blows, the rock dries up quickly, you put the pad, you start climbing and a new shower comes again. We saw these routines many times in a row in many day; but as we all know, there is nothing to do to remedy  the bummer of the rain; just a good dose of patience and hope can calm the disappointment. Some days the wind anyway let us some windows of opportunities where we managed to climb some problems.

Trackside, the biggest northern area where the climbing is allowed, is the place where we mostly have been to. The rock is nothing special, just normal quality sandstone. Some boulders stand out from the mediocrity, but sure there is only a little range of nice things among the drop-offs or the many gym-lines under the roofs.  One really good problem that surprised my senses is “On the beach” V13. It reminded my thoughts to a well known problems of Font, “Noir Desire”. Looking at it, it seems that someone has shot against the wall some cannonballs, making some perfect holes which contain perfect sculpted edges, pinches and slopers. This brilliant problem starts with a tricky toe hooks section which leads into the crux part with an intensive lock off to the last positive hold. After that, you only have to climb safely into the no-fall terrain. It sits on a ledge, and it is basically forbidden any mistakes once the hardest is done. Another really good problem in the North is Killian Fishubber’s  “Wave Rock” V12; A super pure line with only the necessary  poor holds located in the middle of the shaped wave. Unfortunately, I am still fighting to catch the proper beta and some moves are still missing. “Ammagamma” V12, the super world class famous problem, aka the icon of Grampians bouldering, is quite good although the first part is pathetic and heinous for the tall climbers, since your ass is really close to the ground. This is pretty bad. My expectations for this problems weren’t so high, but at least the rock and the holds are pretty nice to climb.

We also spent some days in the Southern part, during the only periods of good weather. This part of the Grampians is basically split into two big sectors, Mont Fox and Buandik.
Mount Fox is the place where everyone would probably like to go. There, you can find the famous cobwebs sandstones, which at first look are pretty amazing. The boulders are impressive to watch cause all of these features and textures. Unfortunately, most of them don’t climb as good as they look in my opinion. The features are everywhere, especially in relief, and this fact makes a lot of holds and structures which make the lines less pure. Despite this, some problems are anyway worthy. I have spent two sessions  trying “Owning the weather”, which might be my favorite one in the area. For its beauty, I am locating it at the top of my goal projects, even if it seems to be too tough for my skin. The first day on it, I was able to do all the single moves, while during the second session my soft skin split on the medium finger tip and the game quickly came to end.  I would definitively like to work a bit more on this one. The right side of this prow is simply incredible and it would be the best thing to bring at home once the travel will be over. I hope to recover my split and grow up a tougher skin for this one.

During the last weekend we spent 2 days in Buandik as well.  The hiking is pretty long but definitely worthy once you reach the top of the hill: great orange/grey sandstone balls and breathtaking landscapes behind your back. It might be my favorite area here in the Park; The rock has not  a great look as in Mont Fox, but it climbs better and I appreciate more the holds it makes and the grain it has. “Cherry picking” is one of the world’s best for sure and only this problem would be enough to make the hiking worth. If you reckon that beyond this, there are other good hard lines to attempt, the things become even more exciting to go up. We only checked half of the area and during the next days in the south, we might go to check the other problems that have been put up.

Beside climbing, the life we are making here is nothing too exciting. We bought low-cost food, we eat it, we saw amazing sunsets and we always try to avoid kangaroos which cut off our way. They are as cute as crazy.

Here the list of the lines I climbed in the first part of the trip

Occam’s Razors V13/14 ***
Cherry picking V13 *****
On the Beach V13 ****
Ammagamma V12/13 ***
Last resort V12/13 ***
Zeus V12/13
Kate Upton V12 (flash) ***
Red Mist V12 **
Lost for life V11/12 *
The Outsider V11 ****
A puzzle about belief V11 ****
Love boulder V11 ****
Butcher Choice V10 (flash) *
Mad Max V10 (flash) 

A puzzle about belief V11, Grampians (AUS). Screenshot from the video

Ammagamma V12/13, Grampians (AUS).  Screenshot from the video

Cherry Picking V13, Grampians (AUS).  Screenshot from the video

The Outsider V11, Grampians (AUS).  Screenshot from the video

On the Beach V13, Grampians (AUS).  Screenshot from the video

Occam's razor V13/14, Grampians (AUS).  Screenshot from the video

venerdì 1 maggio 2015

Home Projects - April

The month of April has run away in a blink of an eye. There have been three weeks when I only wished to "produce" new stuff, cleaning, completing old projects and searching for virgin pieces of rock.

During the last weeks in the Forest, I was starting to be weary to hang out only repeating problems that everyone can try or climb and I was losing the principal meaning of the inspiration. I wanted to do something original, something that could have born from my vision. I started to think about home; there were many stuff which I cared and which I desired to climb, much more than going out and trying something in the wood of Font. This is why the last part of the trip have been pretty boring in some aspects. The last days I was quite worn, both physically and mentally, and it was definitely time to rest and to recover the skin for my home's projects. Motivation was extremely high. After few days on easy stuff I left Font and immediately the day after the journey I stood under my main goal of the spring, i.e. the often wet line in Valle Cervo ( a valley upon to the village where I live). This giant bloc has always been seen with timorous eyes until the last April when I cleaned it seriously and I saw it was doable. In autumn, after few sessions to figure out the beta, I missed the easy upper part dropping out of the pads and I injured the heel. Winter passed by and the psychological trauma started to fade. The first day this year I was really focus and regenerated from the little "accident". An eventual ascent would have meant oodles of positive feelings. First of all, it would have been one of my best FA so far. Secondly I would have won the trauma completely and, third point, I would have done the main project in the first day. Excitation was really high; too much high. I had to calm down the enthusiasm to avoid another bad fall. Rush always ruins things. The slightly rain which came in the noon got me edgy, but at least the excessive enthusiasm was appeased. The sun appeared again while a dry and cool wind started to blow. The rain gave me the good mood; at 5PM everything was ready; dry holds, fresh air, 7 pads and one spotter. My mind felt free and light. After few attempts in search of the right body positions, I got the proper way again. I rested for a while, trying to increase the good sensations further; I felt it possible and I was feeling great. I started climbing the first section and for the first time in that day I got into the middle sequence. I was breathing as much as I could, letting the positive flow come inside me, replacing the negative memories of the past autumn. I got the slab with the chalk bag this time and I was more prepared for doing it. I pushed my soft shoes upon every crystal of the smears, I tried to climb into the flow and I reached the sum. I linked the reckless project of home. I felt alive.

Nichilismo, FA. Valle Cervo
First project ticked. Many other ones were waiting. The best lines I wanted to do were situated in Bavona and Donnas (Valle d'Aosta), but both areas were too warm for an eventual climbing day. I bitterly had to abandon and erase them from the plan. I anyway had other nice problems to clean and try. I hence had two days of cleaning, brushing a true king line on a orange diamond and another cool cave of pinches and flat holds. I unfortunately hadn't the time and the occasion to attempt them; there is still a bit of work to prepare them and their sizes require tons of pads and few spotters. They will be postponed. Beyond this, I also climbed on some lines I found during the past seasons, getting some progresses on the hardest lines of the valley.

After putting up a new line called "Little (s)wing" in honor of Hendrix's classic, located in Champorcher, I had a short and intensive peak in my shape. Skin was getting good, probably thanks to an antihydral use; my body conditions were perfect and the motivation got the highest point since I have been climbing. I was surprised. I climbed on the hardest projects of the zone. Both of them are hard for my sizes and skills, and, before 10 days ago, I couldn't do all the moves on both. Their styles are quite dissimilar. The first one is an overhang with slopy crimps, insane gaston actions and though footworks. It is relatively short; it counts 8/9 moves for the hands, while other 10 for the feet. It is steep and every single move is really challenging. The second one is up in the village of Gaby and at the first look it is quite impressive. It is a perfect 90 degrees cut roof, 6 meters long with an additional exit on a cool granite prow called "no way punk" for a total of 22 moves.

Until last week I missed one specific move on both as I said but after four days of work I completed all the single actions and I started to get some link. The wall in Champorcher still remains a long project; I felt I need a further step in my shape to complete it; While the big roof is definitively possible within the year. Last day I missed the ascent after the crux, where it is still hard but it is just a question of endurance. Working a little bit more can be a really nice new one and it is getting really high in the autumn list, when the temperature will be good again for that sector.

Now it is time to leave the home's project aside for a while. It is time for some Grampians actions down under the world; but only 5 months are missing to the beginning of the autumn and I can't wait to try these problems again.

Here some photos of the projects

Working the crux of Champorcher project. Video still.

Working on Champorcher project. Video still.

Working on the big roof, Gaby. Video still.

Working on the big roof, Gaby. Video still.