End of Summer

I know it’s been a long time since I’ve written a blog post and I apologise. The bottom line is, ever since we lost both our laptops, I’ve kind of fallen off the grid. I would go days and sometimes a whole week without checking my facebook page as well as my email. Whenever I did manage to find a free place to access internet, there was almost always a line up and writing a blog post just wasn’t one of my highest priorities. For the most part, I was getting ready to come home.

I left off just after the World Cup in Barcelona and I’ll kind of sum up the past month of my life. After Barcelona, Jamie Chong, Sarah Austin and I headed to Rodellar for a very quick trip. We climbed for two days and on the third day we drove back to Barcelona to pick up Mathilde Becerra. Since it was Mathilde’s 18th birthday on August 14, we went out for dinner and tried to show her a good time. After that, Jamie and Sarah went north and Mathilde and I went back to Rodellar. Jamie and Sarah took a train and eventually rented a car to head over to Italy and visit Pisa and Rome and then drive back up to Paris for a week. Along the way, they stopped in Torino and visited Lorenzo who is a climber that was training in Vancouver for a while. Mathilde and I went to Rodellar for 4-5 climbing days. While we were there, Mathilde redpointed her first 8a and I onsighted my first 8b! After Rodellar, we had planned to drive up to Imst. Since Mathilde’s passport was stolen, she couldn’t cross through Switzerland and had to stay behind. I made the 12 hour drive from Toulouse-Imst by myself alone in my car. I stopped once after 6 hours of driving for a quick 15 minute break to fill up for gas and check my oil. After another 6 hours, I arrived back at Jorg’s house in Innsbruck and started getting psyched for the comp. If you don’t already know, I managed to make finals and once again make it onto the podium at a lead World Cup. It’s only the second time I’ve been on the podium for lead and the first time was at the exact same competition one year ago.

After Imst, I drove to Lyon to meet up with the Canadian Junior National Team. Junior World Championships were held on August 27-30 and we were in Lyon a few days before the competition to get the team together before the competition. The day before I got there, the team went to a big garden that was filled with activities and the day I got there, we went to one of the climbing gyms to train before the competition. A couple of days before the competition, we headed to Valence and checked into our new hotel. The day before the competition, we wanted to keep everyone pretty mellow so we went on a short hike to a really cool castle close to Valence and at night, the whole team participated in a 3 table poker tournament. Junior Worlds was a lot different this year in relation to other years. This was the first year that I’ve gone to Junior Worlds as a coach and I think being there as a coach makes you look at the competition a different way. After the first two days of qualifyers, only one climber advanced to semis, Elise Sethna. She competed on the 3rd day and placed a very respectable 20th. I saw that a lot of the climbers were dissapointed with their results and I think that some climbers have unrealistic goals. Because I’ve been in Europe for the past 3-4 years for the 3 months of summer I know how hard climbers have to climb to make every round during worlds. In reality, for the Junior Boys category, if you’re not onsighting 5.12c on a regular basic, you’re not going to make semis. To make finals, you have to be onsighting 5.13a. If our climbers know how hard they have to climb to make semis and they know they’re not at that level, they should be training harder. To make semi finals at the World Championships is already an accomplishment for climbers coming from North America. Our sport is still growing and hopefully will continue to grow in the coming years.

Another thing that bugged me about being at Worlds as a coach is the amount of stress that the parents can put on their kids. I found that some of the parents weren’t happy just sitting in a group watching the competition. Instead, they would try and talk to the kids and eventually just make them more nervous. It’s hard to tell a parent that they’re not helping their kid by talking to them but in some circumstances I wanted to. Like I said before, it was quite different to be a coach at Junior Worlds than a competitor. Before I start ranting about nothing, I’ll get back to my trip.

After Junior World Championships I left my car at the Valence train station and went back to Toulouse with Mathilde. I stayed at her house for about half a week before I started making my way back home. After a 3.5 hour train ride turned into a 7 hour train ride because of a problem in Nimes, I was once again back in Valence. I drove 2.5 hours to the French/Swiss border and after a pretty sketchy encounter with the border patrol, I was back in Switzerland. I visited my friend Christina Schmid in Bern for a few hours then made it back to Basel. My friends Omar Momente and Diana Piazon live in Basel and it’s actually Omar who owns and insures the car that I drive around. I had planned on staying longer with them but because of the mis hap with the trains, I only got to spend one night with them. After 3 plane rides, 4 cokes and a lot of airplane food, I was back in the Vancouver airport, where I had started 4.5 months ago. My trip was finally over and it was one for the memory books. This year, I had surpassed all my goals and had the best summer of my life. Hopefully next summer I’ll be able to do the same thing…

5 countries in a week!

During the past week, I’ve travelled to 5 countries. The day after finals in Vienna, I broke the underside of my exhaust system. The second picture is what I drove over to break it… it’s maybe 3 inches high so I was pretty upset. As you can see below, I wasnt sure if they could just weld it back together or if they’d have to buy a new one. I left my car at the gym and went back to Innsbruck.

A full week later, the day before I was supposed to drive up to Eindhoven, we finally got the car to a garage and they fixed it. To get my car, I woke up at 5 in the morning, took the 5 hour train ride into Vienna, picked up my car from the garage and then drove 5 hours back to Innsbruck. On June 11th, we drove up to Eindhoven. The drive was supposed to take 8 hours but after 3 hours, we stopped at a huge stoppage in traffic. The highway wasnt even moving. We took the exit and took a little detour. That was when I notice my engine light had come on. This light isn’t the ”check engine” light that everyone ignores. This was the yellow light that means there’s something very wrong with your engine. I stopped and checked under the hood. Everything was ok that I knew how to fix, oil being the most important. I had two choices, I could wait a whole day, miss the world cup and fix my car, or I could keep driving slowly and hope for the best. I chose the latter. I had the same problem last year and the problem only happened when I stopped the car. The RPM would fall below 1000 and the car would stall itself. Anyways, 7 hours later we arrived in Eindhoven.

The World Cup was a little bit different that ones I had done before. I climbed terribly and I didnt even make finals. My ultimate downfall was just the first problem, it was super easy but somehow it took me 3 tries to stick the dyno. I just wasn’t on my game. Turns out that if I had only taken 2 tries to do the first problem, I’d have made semis.

Problem 2 also turned out to be one of my worst weaknesses which probably added to my bad performance.

Problem 5 was pretty cool though, kind of campusing up a cool little volume to a sort of mantle for the last move. I really like how creative they are during World Cups. It inspires me to set a lot better when I return home.

Oh well, you cant do well at every competition… Semi finals and finals were super fun to watch and eventually Akiyo Noguchi and Kilian Fischhuber won the World Cup and the overall rankings as well.

After Eindhoven, we made our way to Amsterdam. It was my first time in Amsterdam and I thought it was quite a unique experience. First of all, Marijuana isn’t legal in Amsterdam, it’s just tolerated… If you have less than 10 grams on your person, the police won’t blink an eye. Also a ”coffee shop” in Amsterdam means a shop where you can buy all kinds of pot. Also, in the red light district, there is literally dozens of women just standing behind glass doors, waiting for someone to pick them up. Again, prostitution isn’t legal, it’s just tolerated. The weird thing is that the girls are usually quite young and even attractive. There’s of course the parts of the district that are for more adventurous types of people but for most part, they looked like pretty normal women.

Next on our list was Paris and Fontainebleau. We drove straight to Fontainebleau after Amsterdam and spent the day getting some groceries, and finding the gite. A friend of mine from Magic Wood gave me the address of a place he stayed while he was in Font. It is run by a guy named Neil. He’s English so don’t worry about not speaking French. At his house, he has 4 different ”gites”. They range from 2 to 4 people but it’s pretty much like an apartment. For the small gite, you can rent by day, and for the larger ones, you rent them by week. A 4 person gite for a week during the low season is only 250€ which comes out to 9€ a person/day. Thats pretty good considering you get a bed, showers, stove, fridge, everything! It’s super mellow there, and if anyone is in Font and looking for a place to stay, I highly recomment this place. The website is MaisonBleau.

Our first day in Font, we climbed in Franchard secter. Neil lent us a little guidebook with the 4 star problems. It was super hot that day, and I mostly just flailed on some of the harder problems. When it’s hot in Font, it’s ridiculous for climbing, I was struggling on V7’s and 8’s. Our second day in Font, we decided to drive up to Paris. Mathilde is from France and she had never been. We parked in a garage, spend a couple of hours in the Louvre then made our way close to the Arc de Triomphe and then the Eiffel Tower.

Our third day in Font, we returned to the Franchard secter although we went straight to the boulder ”Karma”. I had found it on the last day we came climbing but it was the end of the day and too hot to try it. It was the only boulder above V9 that I could find so I figured I’d try it. I warmed up in the surrounding problems and went to work. When I was 14, at my second Junior World Championships, I had come to Font with my dad and I remember working this problem with Peter Woods. Back then, I was no where strong enough to do the problem and couldn’t even do the first move. This time, it took me about 30 minutes per move. The problem is only about 3 moves but it feels like your hugging your way up the problem. You deadpoint with your right hand to a big sloper with a little indent for your fingers.

For the second move, you have to put in a high hand foot match hell hook and rock really hard on your foot. When you can get the second hold which a super bad sloper, you have to try to take out your right foot which should be still on the starting foot.

All in all, the problem took me about 1.5 hours. The hard part that it was really hot again, around 20 degrees the whole day. After I did the problem, my leg hurt from the moves so we called it a day.

It was only about 3pm when we finished climbing so we decided to drive back to Toulouse. The drive took about 6.5 hours which was relatively easy. We got to Toulouse on the 19th and I’ve been here ever since. In a few days I’ll be driving to Millau for the Petzl RocTrip and then it’s off to World Championships in China!

2nd place finish!

As you may have known, there was a world cup in Vienna on May 29th and 30th. There was 81 competitors for the men and and 51 for the women. This was my second world cup of 2009.

We drove to Vienna from Innsbruck on Thursday. The drive took about 5 and a half hours because there was some construction. My GPS took us straight to our hotel which was just across the street from the competition.

Friday morning was the qualification for the women. Because it was supposed to rain all day on Friday, they arranged qualifyers to be held in the climbing gym rather than on the competition wall they had build outside. We watched the women for a couple of hours and scoped out the climbing gym. It was pretty cool, lots of interesting features and of course a couple of slab climbs for the first qualifyer.

Mens qualification was just after the women and thankfully we didnt have to be in isolation until after their round wad done. Since there was over 80 competitors registered, they decided to split the field in half and put them on two different sets of problems. The way they seperate the field is not random, they take the climbers world ranking and split them evenly, then they randomize all the competitors that have no world ranking. So if every competitor was present the person who was ranked 1, 3, 5, 7, 9, ect would be on problem set number one and the people that were ranked 2, 4, 6, 8, 10, ect would be on problem set number two. Since 20 people make semi finals, they take top 10 competitors in each group. In semi finals, everyone climbs the same problems. The reason they make two group is because if there were 81 competitors taking 5 minutes each boulder, the last climber would have to wait in isolation for 405 minutes….

Qualification

I was seeded 26th in the B group. I did my regular warm up, the area was pretty big so it wasnt that hard to get around other climbers. When it was finally my turn I was pretty nervous just like always. My first problem was a slab problem. I dont have a picture of it, but it was pretty basic just really awkward. It turns out that the slab problems were one of the hardest in qualification. On the hard move of the problem, i managed to get my knee onto the big feature and flash the problem. The second problem went around a giant egg feature.

I flashed up to the last move and had a ridiculous time getting to the final hold. It was so weird, there was a really good foot and you were shooting for a pocket so you couldnt just aim randomly. I fell on the last move once and send the boulder next try. I was kind of annoyed that I had fallen once but I sucked it up and concentrated on the next boulder. The 3rd problem was a slight slab onto an overhang. I fell on the second move 3 times before finally sticking the zone hold. From there, I lunged out left to a crimp and had to hand foot match to lock off to the final hold. The reason you had to lock off to the last hold was because it was another pocket but this time they had screwed in a tiny gib on the inside of the pocket so you couldnt lunge towards it. Its a good thing I went slowly to the hold because if you had to throw for it, it was nex tot impossible to get your fingers in the right place.

3 down, 2 to go. The 4th problem in qualification was in a corner. I dry fired off the first hold and scraped up the back up my hand pretty badly. On my second try, my fingers were bleeding pretty good. I couldnt figure out a move in the middle and I didnt do the problem. The last problem looked pretty hard. Just big moves between decent holds and a kind of a jump at the end. I did the problem 3rd try after falling twice on the second move. My final score after qualification was 4 tops in 10 tries and 5 bonus in 11 tries. I finished in 3rd position in my group so 6th overall.

Semis

Semi finals were on Saturday morning. I went into isolation at 10am just to have a big meeting with all the other team coaches to discuss what to do about the rain. It was pouring outside and the competition was supposed to be on the outdoor wall. The postponed semi until 12:15 when they would make their decision. We came back around 12 and it was still raining. Since the rain was going straight down with no wind, we all decided to go forth with semi finals. The crowd would get wet but the climbers wouldnt. If the rain shifted directions with some winds half way through the round, they would have to cancel the round and everyone would advance to finals. Luckily, after the first few people went out, the skies cleared and the sun came out.

I went out 16th and the comp wall looked amazing. The first problem was absolutely ridiculous.

I flashed to the bonus hold which was the second big triangle feature but I was absolutely stuck. I couldnt match, or go to the next hold. I shot my feet out left and tried to do anything but failed. The next couple of tries resulted in similar or worse efforts. The second boulder looked a bit scary. A little slab wall, then a jump around the lip to a big feature.

I fell on the jump move 5 times before finally sticking the jump with about 12 seconds left. I campused the next move, looked over at the clock and it read 10 seconds. I quickly campused the last move and matched with seconds remainly in my time. The 3rd problem was all features. It started with a jump, then you groped the feature for a couple of moves before making your way to the next one.

Then you had to get your foot up on the first feature and make a really big move to the finish. It took me about 20 seconds to do the last move, but evetually I lunged for it, flashing the problem. I was pretty sure you had to do the last problem to be in finals so I was scared and psyched at the same time. Just from being out there, I knew that a lot of people had already done the last problem. I came out confident and flashed it. It was a problem that suited me.

It started with a dyno, then a huge move to a crimp, you matched that, jumped to the hold up and left, then you just had to hand foot match and lock off to the so’ill double hand hold. I finished semis with 3 tops in 8 tries and 4 bonus in 4 tries. I qualified for finals in 4th place out of 6.

Finals

Finals started at 7:30. This is only my 3rd time in finals. It starts with a presentation of the climbers followed by a 2 minute preview on each problem. After the preview, we stay just behind the wall and come out one at time for each boulder. Since we go each boulder one by one, you usually have at least 20 minute rest in between each boulder. The first one was by far the easiest. The hardest move was probably snatching the second hold because the feet were pretty high. Then you just went up the arrete, jumped to a big red feature and campused to the finishing pocket.

I flashed the problem and all 6 finalist did the problem. The second problem was considerably harder. From how long the first two competitors took, I knew both of them hadnt done it. I dont know if I was more motivated to do the problem because I knew it hadnt been done or just really psyched but I did the problem second try. My first try, I slipped off the second move because I didnt move my foot to the start hold. On my second try, I put my foot in the right place and fired the problem.

It was the second move that was giving everyone a hard time and once I did that move, the rest of the moves werent as hard. Only one other person in finals competed the problem after me. The third problem was another slab. The first move was a really awkward move straight up and you just had to stand there while hold a hold out left with your left hand. Then you had to shuffle your feet along the start hold and step over to another foothold. From there, you slowly made your way out left, then did a big lock off and threw for the top.

On my second try, I got all the way up to the final move only to fall trying to catch the last hold. I got to the last move a couple of tries after but my left arm was just too pumped to finish the problem. Out of all 6 finalist, I was the only competitor not to do problem number 3. The fourth and last problem was also all features. It looked like a giant compression problem so I was pretty confident. I know Im good at heelhooks so I thought that I had a pretty good shot of doing the problem. Also, by the time I had to go out, I knew the first two climbers had done the problem on at least their second try.

I got on and the first move was really hard, probably the hardest on the problem. I kept my heelhooks high on the features for the whole problem and finally deadpointed to the last feature. From there, all you had to do is shuffle a bit to the right and jump for the last hold. I blew on the final feature to get rid of the chalk and sent the problem! It turns out that I had to flash the last problem to come second place. If I had done the last problem on my second try, I wouldve come 3rd and if I had done it on my 3rd try, I wouldve come 4th. Rustam Gelmanov won the competition by being the only climber in finals to do all the boulders. 3rd place went to Kilian Fischhuber. Full results can be found on the IFSC Website.

For the women, Aleksandra Balakireva won with Akiyo Noguchi in 2nd and Anna Stohr in 3rd.

All the pictures in this post were taken by my girlfriend Mathilde Becerra.