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    Notes and advice from Sean McColl.

Redemption on PuntX (9a, 5.14d)

I’ve just completed my second 9a (5.14d) to date. The one I just did is called PuntX and it’s located at Gorges Du Loup just outside of Nice, France. This route and I have a little bit of a history which is what made me come back and try it again. In 2008, when I was touring Europe with Marshal German and JJ Mah, we came to Nice to climb for a few weeks. After doing a few hard routes myself, I directed my attention to a much harder line. This line was PuntX, which at the time had only seen 1 or 2 ascents and was tentatively graded 9a/9a+ by the first ascentionist. After trying all the moves and figuring out a good sequence, I started giving it redpoint burns. At first, I was falling 2-3 times in the route and I think after a few good tries, I had it down to two falls. PuntX is about 30 moves of power endurance; it’s about 20 meters long and goes up a steep 35 degree wall. Every move is pretty hard and there aren’t any real rests. There are some good holds, but I never stop to rest. The hardest move is in the middle of the route with a hard lock off to a bad pinch; when you get the pinch, you have to unwind your body and up to the next hold. From there, you have another 10 moves to do. The crux of the route lies right at the top while coming out of the overhand. You have to cross off a good gaston to a mono; you hold the mono and do a pretty big move to the lip with your left hand. Once you have that hold, you have to hike your right foot up and lock off up and right. You grab a terrible intermediate and bump up to a flat hold. Once you have that hold, you do one more move and it’s more or less over as long as you don’t muck up the last few easy moves. When I was trying the route back in 2008, I would get so pumped before the hard move in the middle. Because the move required you to be pretty fresh, I kept falling there. I’d usually fall again somewhere up near the top with the crux move off the mono usually shutting me down. On one of my working sessions, I was up near the top of the route and I got to the mono move. Because you don’t need to pull very far up off the mono and more to the side, I would take the mono with my pointer finger. On one of those tries in 2008, I dry-fired out of the hold, and tweaked my whole forearm. I couldn’t even pull on the end of that finger without it shooting an agonising pain through my forearm. I spent the next few days in the McDonalds hoping it would heal. Miraculously it slightly healed after 4-5 days and I started climbing again within the week. Because I only had a week or so left in Nice, I didn’t even look at the route again. This year, I went back with a vengeance. I had planned to hit up Nice a while back with Mathilde and we finally found our chance. I knew I was only going to have 4 climbing days in Nice which wasn’t a lot. The first day I didn’t even try the route, I wanted to get re-familiarized with the crag before jumping on my project. I repeated a couple of 8b’s and fell on the last move of one of the ultimate link ups a couple of times. The next day (the 22nd) I decided it was time. I didn’t really want to do any more link ups and I figured 3 days would be a nice time frame for the route. The first try on PuntX was mainly just trying to find the moves again. After getting the moves back into my head, I felt a bit better. I also decided I would only take the mono with my middle finger and I figured out that if I hold my other fingers down with my thumb while in the mono position, it was much easier on my tendon. After a good rest, I went for my first burn and I actually did amazingly well. I got all the way up near the top most crux before pumping out of some of the best holds near the top of the route. Because I fall pretty far with every try, I actually never dogged the route after that first time this year. My second try of the day was even better. I got all the way up to the mono move and even snagged the next hold. The problem is that there is one hard lock off after you do the move off the mono, and I was absurdly pumped so I couldn’t even get my foot to the foot hold. I could feel my middle finger tendon through my forearm and knew I wasn’t going to be able to try it again today. The 23rd was a rest day and I was back at the crag bright and early (9:30…) because I know that it gets hotter and hotter throughout the day. After my warm up, I attacked the route again. My first try felt good but I fell on the mono move. I was pissed but I knew I didn’t snatch the hold after the mono very well and that was the reason I fell. Because the move is a lateral type movement off the mono, you don’t have any time to re adjust once you’ve committed. If you don’t hit the hold around the lip very well, you fall, as simple as that. My second try was EXCACTLY the same as my first try which really steamed me. I figured that the reason I was falling was because I was trying to keep my left foot on the wall during the mono move. I told myself that on my next go, I’d expect my feet to cut. It worked; except for on the move after the mono, although I felt strong, I pumped out grabbing the intermediate. After my third try, I was just happier that I had made progress. I had gotten to the LAST move, and I knew that once I stuck the bump, it was over. It was only 1:30pm, but I could feel the sun coming, so I went to the beach with Mathilde and relaxed for a few hours. The morning of the 25th had come and I knew it was my last climbing day in Nice. It’s kind of funny how strong you can be when you know you’re going home that night. As I told Mathilde in the morning, I was kind of over the route. I knew that I could do it, but at the same time I knew that I wouldn’t be too disappointed if I went home empty handed. As I try to frequently remind myself “there’s always another day”. I warmed up the same as I had for the past few climbing days and took my 40 minutes of rest before getting ready for the route. The conditions were alright and I felt good. Before I got on the route, I was discussing with some of the climbers there how fast I climb the route. I naturally climb fast and because of the nature of the route, it actually works out pretty well. I figure the faster I climb, the slower I’ll get pumped… I told myself that although I climbed fast, I would try to climb even faster this attempt. After climbing and clipping the second draw, I down climbed to the jug and stared up at the route. I took off and my heart started beating. I could feel throughout the whole route that I was strong. I got to the mono move, hiked my foot up and threw to the hold. My feet cut but I hit the hold well enough to re adjust with my feet cut. I threw my right foot back on the wall and pulled up to the intermediate. The bump for the last move was painfully close but I stuck it thanks to the encouragement from below. I quickly hiked my foot up and grabbed the victory jug. I let out a cry of excitement but quickly re focused as to not blow it on the 5.10 (6c) finish. For those of you wondering, I did not blow it and clipped the chains a few moments later! [singlepic id=142 w=640 h=420 float=center] This was the second 9a that I’ve done but the routes were somewhat different. This route had lots of holds and the moves were very hard. Dreamcatcher is more like 3 boulder problems separated by rests. As I said before, I don’t stop to rest on PuntX. One of the climbers below filmed the ascent and said I took 1:40 to climb the route to the victory jug. That’s just a few more seconds than it took me to complete my “duel” route at the Arco Pre-World Championships. Another few funny facts about the route were 1. Before climbing the route, I noticed that I bringing up my cleaning brush for no reason because I never dogged the route. Because I wanted to be 23 grams lighter, I placed it in my bag… 2. I had placed my point and shoot camera on a rock which showed the whole route. I set it to video but my camera ran out of batteries about 40 seconds before I finished the route… 🙁 Luckily another climber filmed the ascent and I am thinking about showing the ascent at the VIMFF. 3. 7th ascent, but I think I might be the fastest in climbing time! 🙂

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5 days of Bishop

So far, we’ve had 5 days of climbing here in Bishop.  We left Vancouver Friday afternoon just before the Olympic opening ceremonies started.  I thought it was going to be a couple of hours to get across the border but to our amazement, there was not a single car at the peace arch border and we drove straight through after a few awkward questions from the US Border Guard.  Our first day of climbing was on Sunday and we went to the Buttermilks.  Come to think of it, we’ve only been to the Buttermilks and surrounding areas for the past 5 days.  We haven’t even taken a true rest day, today is a “half” rest day because we’re going to drive up in half an hour. I’ve managed to get on a lot of things I wanted to try including The Swarm, Spectre, The Buttermilker, and Stained Glass.  A couple other boulders I’ve looked at were completely wet including A Maze of Death and A Scanner Darkly.  I think I’m pretty close on the Buttermilker and I’ll try to go back to the Swarm to give it another few tries.  The hard part about trying the Swarm is that the holds are so sharp, you can only try it a handful of times before you’re afraid of your tips ripping off.  On my second day, I managed to send Stained Glass Sit Start which took me about 3 days to complete.  We have another 4 days of climbing and I think I’ll jump back on The Buttermilker today. Jamie Chong has also been taking some photos and uploaded some good ones onto his site.

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Bishop here I come!

It’s been decided, I’m heading down to Bishop during my Spring break. As most of you probably know, the 2010 Olympics are going to be held in Vancouver in under two weeks now. They’ve already started shutting down roads for the Olympics as well as jack up parking fees. They’re trying to convince 33% of people who drive to work to either take public transit or stay at home. They’re afraid that with all the traffic, it’ll be grid locked for most of the day. That aside, I’ve decided to go to Bishop. It took a bit of convincing but I’ll be going down with at least Jamie Chong. Our tentative plans are to leave after school on Feb 12th, and come back on the 23rd. I also managed to snag mens Olympic quarter-final hockey tickets on the 24th, so I’m aiming to get back for that. I haven’t been to Bishop in 2 years. Two years ago, I went down with my family just after Christmas and stayed for the New Year plus a couple of weeks. Just after New Years, there was a huge snowstorm while we were in Reno dropping off my parents and when we got back, there was 3 feet of snow everywhere. After a few more days, the snow settled in and it was climbable. This was when I did Mandala SDS! I’ve put together a tentative list of boulders I’d like to get on and they are as follows:
  • The Swarm 8B+ Secrets of the beehive
  • Spectre 8B Pollen Grains
  • The Buttermilker 8A+ Buttermilks
  • A Maze of Death 8A+ Buttermilks
  • A Scanner Darkly 8A+ Buttermilks
  • Form Destroyer 8A+ Buttermilks
  • Stained Glass 7C+ Buttermilks
Those are just a few boulders I’d like to look at and try.  If there’s any others that you recommend, I’m open to options.  I’ll only be in Bishop for 10 days, so most likely, I’m not going to get around to trying all these boulders.

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