Ultimate Routes. Steve McClure (left) and Lynn Hill both lost on a wave of rock in Gorge Du Jonte, near Millau.
Warning: long blog post! climbers only I suppose :)
So, this trip has been a new learning experience. I watched some of the Petzl Roc Trip at the weekend. The men and women's ultimate route was a whopping 90 meters long. I was just tired looking at it from the ground (and dying from a sore neck - it took about an hour per person on each attempt :).
As it happens, you can read the updated posts here (day 1 - Nina Caprez and Chloé Minoret onsight female route) and here (day 2 - Sharma flashes male route and Andrada comes close) about it and Steve McClure's descriptions of each route on the comments for this article. Seriously, to see someone climb a single pitch of 90 meters in one go is outrageous (albeit the men's route did have a sit-down rest two-thirds of the way up and as Steve pointed out, you can recover on the 7a piece). For me, it was a good reminder that just as I get used to the idea of climbing long 30+ meter pitches (most routes we've been doing abroad are shorter than this), they're already working on bigger and newer and more inspiring ideas.
It's an interesting year in climbing, Ondra and Sharma have gone to a whole new level of skill that we're all only just starting to realize. A recent article on UKClimbing pointed this out
.......This could be because European sport climbing attracts less interest over here than say, a good old British headpoint, but the reality is that, in terms of World climbing standards, Ondra's achievements are a significant step forward and an E9 headpoint isn't.
Is this the magic energy sauce? Petzl-branded energy drinks especially for the Roc Trip :)
I've been thinking quite a bit what the stand-out skill that most of these climbers has. I've watched Lynn Hill, Dave Graham, Steve McClure, Dani Andrada and a few others in random locations this year alone so would like to think I'm starting to get an idea :)
Strength is a huge factor (duh). I don't mean big muscles but rather raw strength to hang from any-sized-edge. I mean that they can basically hand one-armed from a door-frame edge (watch E11 for the demo and see the photo here of it from UKClimbing's review of it along with said picture of Dave McL one-arming on a door-frame). And from what I saw of the Slovenian National Climbing Team (yes, they're on a paid-for holiday - one of three each year - to Gorge Du Tarn :), they've all got fingers of steel and just don't get pumped on routes as they're so strong. I'd like to think that I've got pretty good finger power but in comparison to these people, I'm not even at the races. I know what my focus will be for this winter - more power and more laps on high intensity small holds. These climbers obviously have to do mileage on routes (see below) but if you're not strong enough on the holds, you just can't improve!
The second part of the skill-set is quantities of mileage on lots routes. Not just for stamina, but for the experience also - it increases your wealth of movement-knowledge by trying different moves and learning new positions (watch this video of Dave Graham and his footwork alone to get an idea of crazy, outrageous foot positioning.
And then, finally, there's just sheer mental strength. This is a willingness to just push and push and push when they're pumped, when all logic (and most likely their arms) are telling them to give up. There's also their willingness to just learn from the process and to enjoy just working and learning new moves and routes (watch the old Dosage footage of Sharma talking about not 'wanting' to climb his super-route Realization at Ceuse and just having go through the experience). To help you in this, I'd recommend The Rock Warrior's Way: Mental Training for Climbers (Amazon link). It'll make you challenge yourself and probably realize a few insights into yourself about life in general but boy is it worth it!
For everyone else, o.k. a one-armer on a doorframe is wayyy hard but think you could even make steps towards getting stronger? And think you'd enjoy and feel more confident in your climbing if you felt stronger on holds?
All ideas welcome!!!!
#1: Spot the climbers - Steve McClure on the over-hanging prow in the middle, Lynn Hill lost in rock on the two ultimate routes at the Petzl Roc Trip, Gorge Du Jonte
#2: Petzl Energy drink. Photo by Naomi
#1 & 2: Petzl Roc Trip