It’s been a couple of days now since the Lead World Cup in Briancon. I managed to walk away with the second silver medal of my career in lead. I’m now climbing in Ceuse France for a couple of days with my girlfriend Mathilde Becerra. I think that lots of climbers after competing at the Briançon world cup tend to go climbing in Ceuse as it is only an hour and a half away.
The competition was pretty crazy and the wall was much different than Chamonix. The wall was shorter than in Chamonix with much harder routes. Initially, I thought this would be a good thing, but I found the qualifiers and semi-finals very hard. I managed to get to the last move of each qualifier route which secured me in semi-finals near the top or the athletes. In semi-finals, I had a much harder time climbing the route although still managed to get through to finals in 5th spot.
After not feeling so good in my semi-finals, my superstitious side of my mentality kicked into full gear and I started changing things up. I changed my boxers, t-shirt, took a nap, and ate red meat (Chinese style beef noodles) for lunch. I convinced myself that finals were on a completely different day, and I guess it really paid off. I even sat on a different side of isolation so that even in the back of my mind, it was like a new experience. I do all these things just to help the mental of the competition.
At 7:30pm, the women’s finals started and our isolation didn’t close until 9pm. I found it nice to have a chance to watch the other athletes because in semi-finals and qualifications, you’re so worried about getting warmed up, that you really don’t have a chance to watch anyone else. I got to relax, eat dinner at a normal time, and watch the women’s final in peace. It was nice, although the route was too easy and by the end of the finals, there were 5 tops… With the new scoring system, ties in finals are calculated in this explicit order:
- By countback to Semi-finals and if needed to Qualifications
- (if still tied) – By Time (mm:ss) on the finals route taken to fall or clip the final quickdraw.
Among the 8 finalists, there were only a couple of ties. Momoka Oda from Japan was tied with Mina Markovic from Slovenija in 5th place. Helene Janicot from France was tied with Johanna Ernst from Austria in 1st place. After ALL those girls topped the route, first place was calculated between Helene and Johanna, with the “slower” climber being in second. Charlotte Durif from France came 3rd by topping the finals route (in her 8 minutes, but was irrelevant). Mina beat Momoka in time and claimed 4th, with Momoka in 5th. It’s a pretty weird way to score things, and I was in lengthy discussions on how to improve it. At the end, I’d welcome any comments, but I think that the way it is scored right now is a bit strange.
Take Charlotte for example, who wasn’t tied with ANYONE going into finals. She could climb her finals route within her 8 minutes WITHOUT any stress. If she topped in 2 minutes, or 7:50 (as she did), there was no different. Now take Helene and Johanna, who know they must not only TOP the route, they must beat the other in time… So Helene has to climb quickly, but not TOO quickly, or else she may not complete the climb. There are numerous arguments for all this, but this is the clear disadvantage to people that are tied vs. people that aren’t going into finals. I know that the only reason they approved time in case of ties was to get rid of the superfinals.
If climbing can get rid of superfinals, then there is a much better chance of making the Olympics and everything because if the TV station says climbing ends at 10:00pm sharp, if there isn’t a winner by 10:00pm because of a tie in finals… it looks AWFUL. That’s my little rant on this predicament, and I find the new system “works”. It’s far from being perfect, but it does make the finals quite entertaining…
After watching all this unfold, I was already ready to climb my finals route. There were no ties in men, so it was just going to be the height of the route, and because I’ve never even seen 5 people top a men’s final, I wasn’t too worried. For the presentation of the men, they decided to do something a bit out of the ordinary. Just before the presentation, they took us up to the 3rd floor of an abandoned building just to the right of the courtyard where the climbing wall was. When they started presenting the athletes, each one of us 8 were behind a different window in the abandoned building. We would step forward with a big spotlight on us, wave our arms for a few seconds, and then step back with the light going out. I think it was pretty cool, although it may have taken them a bit longer than “organized”. After that, we still came down to the wall for our 8 minute preview anyways!
After our preview of the finals route, I was sooooo excited to climb the route. It looked very long (at least 50 moves), but it looked like a good show, and a few rests that looked not bad. The start looked delicate, but not as hard as semis. From the middle, it was mostly big moves, with hand foot matches, a sideways dyno and lots of heelhooks.
I was 4th out, so my turn came up pretty quick. I made sure to have my iPod playing as loud as I could so I couldn’t hear anything from while Jakob was climbing 2 before me. As the Korean climbing Hyunbin Min was climbing, I got my shoes on and finished preparing. Only a couple of minutes after he started, I could feel some commotion coming from the wall, and just as I asked “is he still climbing”, I saw him walking across my looking disappointed. There’s only one reason to have that look, and I was pretty sure he slipped on the route before the first roof.
I put on my liquid chalk and got into my mode. I walked out to the route, looked up for a while, and felt like it was time to go. The first 1/3 of the route went exactly according to plan. I climbed well, quickly, and got all the draws pretty well. Before I knew it, I was just starting the roof. Out the roof, I came slowly; with a big move to what we thought was a big egg sloper. We were wrong; it was a massive jug… With no feet to help the rest, my bouldering logic came streaming forward. I knew it I went into the Figure4 position; I would be completely safe on the rest. I put my leg over my arm, and then hooked my toe hook over the underside of the volume. I wasn’t moving, and I couldn’t even move my arm, it was prefect. I could just lean back, and not really use any force in my arms. After a good 40 seconds or so, I knew it was time to leave the rest, and I started out right.
What I thought was going to be 5-6 moves with the same heelhook turned into something quite different. When I grabbed the first undercling off the rest and put my heel hook in, it seemed exactly like a move I would do while bouldering, so I just mantled up on my leg, and skipped 4 moves quite easily. Inside my head, I was grinning because I absolutely love skipping moves in world cups but only if it’s easier than the original method. I perched up on my leg and rested my right arm. I matched feet with my left hand over the lip, and it felt exactly like another bouldering mantle I’ve come so used to. I sat down on my right leg, and grabbed the bottom side of the volume as an undercling. I guessed right, and I wasn’t holding onto any holds with my arms, and I was resting again.
I was over halfway up the route now, and I knew there was a sideways jump coming up. I couldn’t stay here too long, or my muscles wouldn’t be able to engage on the jump. The move coming out of the roof was hard, but I felt good from the rest. I went up and right past 3 beige holds and set up for the dyno. When I got there, we had all previewed a two hand jump, but from how the feet were positioned, I was pretty sure I was only going one hand, I just hoped I could span the gap. I put my left foot on, crimped hard with the right hand and stabbed out to the mini death ball. I stuck the hold, and it was much better than I had thought. With the good feet at max extension, I was in yet another rest and feeling great. As soon as I got to the “rest”, I knew I had been climbing for a while, and although I never come close to the 8 minute timer, if I was in another rest, I could have climbed for a long time. I looked down at the clock, and I was pretty sure it said 5:02 minutes had gone by. This meant I had tons of time. The volume was big enough to match back and forth as in the picture, and when I left, I felt pretty good again.
The next sequence of moves were very basic. Hand up, hand foot match, hand up. I did the first 3 moves pretty easily, and then got to a weird left hand banana hold, and it was BAD… I looked down and left for a foothold, but there was none. I instinctively went back to the method I previewed, hand foot match heel hook. The heel was high, but as I was setting it in and lowering my hips onto it, I felt the move come into place. I grabbed the next pinch sloper and straight away into the next volume. Another “jug”. It was kind of a jug, but with bad feet, and I had to get the clip. I clipped as fast as I could and crossed into the other part of the volume. I was staring at the next long draw and the moment of truth set in. Do I skip the draw, and try to clip from the obviously worse next hold, but not risk falling here; or do I clip the draw and risk falling after clipping (worse thing). I felt good, so I decided to clip, and it turned out to be the good decision. I did the clip, and got the crimp with my left hand. I threw my feet way out left onto the volume and was getting very pumped, and fast. I tried to rest a few times back and forth just to stay on the wall. I rested my left hand long enough to do the match move, and then was kind of in a corner. While perched on my foot, I could slowly reach out left to the next hold, fighting the pump in my arm. I grabbed the next hold and it felt so good, but I couldn’t really rest on it.
I was resting back and forth on my arms, but wasn’t recovering much. I could let go long enough to de pump, but then when I grabbed the hold to rest the other arm, the pump would come back too fast. I couldn’t stay here any longer. I looked up over my left arm and saw the 3rd to last hold. I was still 8-9 moves (and a downclimb) away from the move, but I thought about trying to do the massive skip. The downside was that the cross was big, and if the hold wasn’t good, I’d fall, and only get my left hand + as my score. I knew that if I fresh and it was just a bouldering problem, I would’ve been able to do the cross easily. That wasn’t the case, and I brought my feet off the volume and started down climbing. I brought my right hand down to the right hand sloper, and I was hoping it was better than it looked, but it looked impossible to hold on to. I grabbed it, and the hold confirmed my first impression. I knew I was going to fall on the next move, so I set my hips up to make sure I tagged the next hold. I flailed blindly for the hold around the volume to make sure I got the + off the right hand. As I was falling, I was already laughing, out of joy. I was within the last 5-10 moves of the route, and was absolutely destroyed. As I fell, the crowd came back into focus and I looked down at my time. 7:31, the longest climb of my competition career.
On the way down from the route, I had a huge grin on my face. For me to climb for 7 and a half minutes is ridiculous by my standards… I had climbed great, and when I got down, I was told I was in first place. With 4 climbers to go, I knew I was at worst 5th place. After watching Magnus Midtboe and Romain Desgranges fall below me, I was for sure on the podium. The world cup winning from Chamonix, Sachi Amma seemingly cruised by where I fell to make a few more moves and fall himself. The last climber of the night was Ramon Julian Puigblanque who fell on the big move in the middle of the route.
Now that I’m in Ceuse, I’m trying to convert my training to outdoor accomplishments. I’ve already done a few hard routes here in Ceuse, and with only one more day of climbing here, the chances are grim that I’ll actually do anything new… That being said, I hopped on one line that I might be able to do tomorrow!
All the photos in this post were taken by Heiko Wilhelm of the Austrian Climbing Team. Thanks!