Friday, September 4, 2015

First time out of Europe: Rocklands, South Africa.

I don’t want to spend so much words to describe how much beautiful Rocklands is because this is a Worldclass and well-known area where climbers from all over the world come to test their self with the endless boulders has to offer. Rocklands is situated in the Western Cape region of South Africa, 3 hours driving far from Capetown.
The pass
It was my first time out of Europe and it was the first time I had the chance to climb for one month in a row. I shared this unforgettable trip with my brother Andrea, Gabriele Moroni and Luca Rinaldi, by far the best guys I could share with because the psyche and the motivation we could give one to each other was amazing. The expectations about the place, about what I would have found down there, about the thousands of boulders I could climb on, were soo high, as high as my ticklist. 
Actually Rocklands is mostly a destination for climbers, because there aren't many other things to do except hiking in the national park, so basically every foreign person we met down there was a climber. The locals people are very kind, the climbers are welcome and definitely respected from them  and even if they are not keen on climbing, they know you are here for climbing so basically every evening they asked us how our climbing day was like.

Babbons at early morning.
When you leave the endless valley of Rocklands to go to the closest village, I could experience with my own eyes, that the situation between whites and blacks in not changed at all because the whites are the one to have the territory and the properties and the blacks are still the poorest race that work for them.
Of course they are nice and a lot of time they helped us to carry the foods in the car so we were used to give them 20/30 rand in change of their help. I’ve never seen smiles so big.

The climbers we met down there were so friendly and sometimes we had the chance to try some boulders  like “El Corazon”, “Golden Shadow” and “Power of one” with strong climbers, so it was fine to share one to each other the different ways we figured out to do the moves. Sometime it worked sometime not, but the only thing that matter was that we were having fun together in one the place best worldwide.

The climbing days were always quite long, for the first 3 weeks we had not hurry to go climbing so we were used to get up at 9, go outdoor at 10 and we were used to climb till 6/7 pm when the sun went down. Later we were used to go to Traveler’s rest to check out internet with a fresh beer or a coca to celebrate what we had done during the day.                                                                              
The last week when the trip was coming close to an end we wanted to exploit all the day since we had different unfinished business and we had to move from a sector to another. So the last days were soo  busy because we climbed from early morning till late evening where we had funny night sessions all together with the headlamps .

We had many plans about our rest days but then when we got the car in Cape Town we figured out that was impossible to go too far because we were not sure if we would be back at home since the cars we rented were so old and nonfunctioning at all.
We were used to stay around to check some boulders we were looking to try, in order to not get lost when we wanted to try them or we were used to grill some delicious meat to revive the hearts and the taste buds.

Actually we had one crazy adventure on our 3rd day in Rocklands or rather our first day of rest.

We went to Clanwilliam, the closest village, to buy some food for the next weeks and in the way back to the cottage, Gabriele instead to move from the 2nd to the 3rd, something went wrong and he puts 1st instead and the gear box broke out. We were in the middle of nowhere and the phones didn’t work, we were fucked up.

Car fucked up.
We were lucky that few minutes later 2 Austrian guys, we met the day before, just stopped to help us and luckily this little story finished with an happy ending. To be honest the trip didn’t start very well because the first days we had a couple of problems with the bathrooms and with the cars but then the trip turned to be spectacular.

A lot of boulder problems I sent are indelibly printed in my heart,  not just because of the hard grade but  because the lines its self are simply incredible, and stand on the top of one of those is the same thing to get the rarest gem, priceless!!
If I have to choose among the many  gorgeous boulders I was able to archive, I’d choose  “SKY” and “El Corazon”.
Somehow both of them went down in a day, and just this thing was crazy but It was even crazier that I took down  “El Corazon” on my 3rd try from the start.

El Corazon, Rocklands (SA), Pic. Andrea Zanone
El Corazon is an amazing block ,heart shaped, freed by D. Woods.  The day I went for it was my 3rd day of climbing and It was supposed to be an active rest day and the deal of the day was to check out the line with the rope since the block is so high and scary.

I tried twice the second move to the lip and I felt it okay for my size and for my skills so I tried a bit the first move even it was not so comfortable to test since the move consists on a dyno from a single pad incut crimp  to an incut edge far on the right. I tried enough to understand that was doable so the psyche was too high and the line too beautiful that I decided the active rest day was over and that it was the time to switch the crush mode on, so I went down to fix the landing with the pads while Luca was testing it as well with the rope.
I did a first try from the ground but basically I just let me fell  to test if the landing was okay, and yes it was. I did another try where I grabbed the crimp with right hand but I was not able to keep the swing;  I was starting to know how the first was like. Luckily 2 guys from Cape Town join us with more pads so the landing was way  safer  if we were fallen in the high part.

Luca did a couple of tries and he was so close to get  the first move so this thing got me psyched to try hard.  On my third lap happened something ridiculous because I stuck the first move without losing my right foot so I could take the edge very well. I was amazed but when I realized I stuck, I put the left foot underneath a little roof, I took the intermediate, I locked off with my right arm and I went for the last move. When I caught the lip I felt like in paradise, I topped out really fast and I enjoyed this awesome moment seeing the panorama in front of me and hearing the echo of my liberating scream spread along the valley.
I sent it so fast and so easily that it even not became mentally, I still don’t know what happened in that try, kissed by fortune. Completely out of the blue ascent.
The highest point and main send of my trip, not in term of grade, but in term of beauty and for its wonderful climbing,  was “SKY”.

This world class line represents to me the perfection, 3 holds very far one to each other with just one way to do it. Everything had to be perfect for me, the foot sequence, the hands’ position, the coordination for the second move and I also had to be lucky.  

Sky 8B Rocklands (SA), Pic. Andrea Zanone  
Before to go to this line we made a little stop to warm up on “The Hatchling”, that is an amazing half-egg shaped boulder balanced on another one. This line is soo great.

Later we move on “SKY” and on my flash go I already felt so close, falling on the second move. I knew I could do it but I took me quite a lot to link the 2 moves together  but after many tries  all come together in one perfect moment... This top notch block is always been one of my lifetime dream so I cannot describe how proud I was to stand on the top this line.

I can say, that at the end of the trip I had no regret, the trip has been a success in every aspects and  I can't ask for any better, because I climbed everything I wished and more than I expected and every day have been filled with new wonderful climbing experiences, so I left the country with big smile and still right now I have clear memories of every blocks I've been able to send.

Rocklands and South Africa in general, is amazing and it's defintely a wild country, completely different from a European reality.. You are basically in the middle of nowhere, you can enjoy the place in its finest purity, you can enjoy everything it has to offer, amazing views that nothing can't beat, the amazing lights and colors when the day get old and the sun goes down, the contrast between the white sand and the orange/black of the rocks. It's amazing to hike back to the car under orange and red painted skies thinking about what you did during the day.
Sky full of stars
My eyes during this month were able to experience something that I will cherish for the rest of my life.

Roadside sector
I left a part of my heart downthere so I'll be back one day.
I wanna say thanks to family that made this trip possible and to my friends Andrea, Gabriele and Luca that cheered me up every time. They made this trip unforgettable.

I climbed 25 boulders problem from 8a(V11) to 8B+ (V14) range.

Best Hits: 

Golden Shadow (8B+ V14) ★★★
Sky (8B V13) ★★★★
El Corazon (8B V13) ★★★★
The Vice (8B V13) ★★★★
Mooiste Meise (8B V13) ★★★★
The Power of One (8B V13) ★★★★
The Power of Bar One (8A/+ V11/V12) ★★★★, flash
Black Shadow (8A+ V12) ★★★★
Armed Response (8A+ V12) ★★★
Oral Office (8A+ V12) ★★★
Tea with Elmarie (8A V11) ★★★, flash
Green Mamba (8A/+ V11/V12) ★★★★
Shosholoza (8A V11) ★★★★
The Amphiteather (8A V11) ★★★★

Tea with Elmarie 8a flash pic Andrea Zanone

Friday, May 15, 2015

Magic Winter

This winter season has been pretty rad and It has been definitely a turning point in my climbing life. Climbing a lot of hard stuff in the last few months signed the end but also the beginning of a new path.
I'm feeling definitely stronger in the head and my approach to the hard things is totally changed, I’m not intimorated anymore to try problems at my limit and now I know that the process of improvement is a long thing and you have just to try over and over till one day everything will work perfectly together and you’ll finally be able to get it.

Dt. Med Dent Pic. Stefan Kuerzi

I’m not used to spent too time on a single thing especially on a boulder because I always had a lot of must-do thing that I could get in a day, so for me was much more satisfying to climb on 8As or 8A+s then on a 8Bs.
This year I had some no gravity days and I was able to pull off a lot of stuff from 8a to 8a+ range so I decided that was the time to move forward and to try something that I had to spend a lot energies on.

What I’m going to talk about are the two days that have left a huge mark on my life forever.  
On these two different days happened something that I had never experienced before, something that sometimes is not that easy to explain with words.
-      It was Saturday, January 31st when I was keeping in touch with my friends Gabri and Luca about what we’ll have done the day after. They were in Cresciano with some crazy friends that were in Ticino for a couple of days, the conditions were awesome so we planned to head back to Cresciano to join the crew again because we were sure that despite all, it would have been a good day.

I was keeping in my mind what I would like to try but when I was there I just followed the flow and the crew. I could have never known, but it turned out to be an awesome day, and by far the best of my life!

The crew that had gathered was insane. It composed of Gabri, Bazoo, Sbisi, Giulio Bertola, Davide Gaeta, Michelle and a whole bunch of other guys.
The first boulder I tried was “La pelle direct 8A+”, Bazoo explained to me the beta he used the day before and I eventually found myself at the top after around 30min of trying.
Since I was there I figured on trying the left variant [8A] also, that is way more different to climb on and it definitely gave me more troubles than the original one.
After a little break I had a try from the start, the feet stayed, the fingers locked and I luckily ticked another one!
The day was still early so the crew split up. I moved with Bazoo and Davide to Jungle Book and Sbisi wanted to get “La Pelle left” since he was soo close.

Jungle book was under the sun’s heat, that was quite strong even in February, but the motivation was extremely high so we checked it out anyway.
Bazoo showed me the beta once again for the original sit start but it was so hard to have a good friction on the last slopy part of the problem when you come from the sit.
One attempt my both hands slipped off altogether and I dropped down onto the pad like a sand bag. Ahaha! My skin started to get worse and the finger tips were red but it eventually and rather thanksfully went down for Luca and me.

For me the day could be called finished because 3 8A's in a day sounded pretty dope and I was definitely satisfied but the motivation of the whole crew dragged me in the right way so I was also able to finish off “La Nave va 7C+”, an awesome technical slopy edge, with crazy rock quality, I finally finished off with “Gecko 7C+”.

Boogalagga Pic. Stefan  Kuerzi

-      -The other perfect day that features this perfect winter season is about the highest point of my climbing lifethus far.

What I’m going to write about next is the result of all the hard work and hard training. The result of a lot of failures, falls and days spent under one single boulder or rather entire sessions spent trying to figure out just one single move.
Boogalagga is the result of all of this.
This line has always been the main project for me, from the beginning of the bouldering season in Ticino, in fact the first time on it was in December when I spent a couple of days in Chironico with my brother and Niky Ceria.
Boogalagga Pic. Stefan  Kuerzi
I did it starting from the second move to the top, that is not that hard at all, but if you fail to make everything perfectly you can definitely fall.

The boulder itself consists of one single move if you use the beta straight to the pocket (depends on the size) because the first move is damned hard, but it is not all about strength, it requires perfect body positioning and exact coordination as well. 
Everything for me had to be close to perfection for sending this beast, I mean, I had to be in a good shape, my skin had to be dry and regenerated and also the climbing conditions had to good.

I came closer and closer and every time I figured out a new foot beta for the first move because also a foot 2cm more on the right could make differences on doing the move or not.
The day that Andrea and Luca took down the problem I was super close and I quickly realized that I had also one chance to get it.
So three days later I came back. I felt strong in the head and ready to climb this one. In fact after a couples of tries I stuck the first move to the 2 finger pocket and I climbed all the way up.
It was something so incredible to be stood on the top of this boulder. A boulder that I had dreamed about for years and years.

Boogalagga Pic. Stefan  Kuerzi

Boogalagga can be called “THE LINE” because it is a tall and proud bloc that follows this awesome overhanging prow. The holds are insane and the movements are unique and after all is is an 8B boulder problem that for me marks the end of a cycle but at the same time signals a new beginning.

 Here there is the list of the boulder I was able to climb this winter (in order of beauty):
Similitudini Aosta Valley. Pic Andrea Zanone

- Boogalagga 8B (Chironico)    
- Amber 8A+ (Brione)
- Zarmina 8A+ (Champorcher)
- Conquistador 8A/+ (Chironico)
- La Nave Va 7C+ (Cresciano)
- Similitudini 8B (Outrefer)
- Wie im Urlaub 7C/+ (Brione)
- La pelle direct 8A+ (Cresciano)
- Jungle Book sit 8A/+ (Cresciano)
- Gecko 7C+ (Cresciano)
- Conquistador direct 8A+/B (Chironico)
- La pelle left 8A (Cresciano)
- Viva il Cavaliere 7C+ (Cubo)
- Le Pilier 8A (Chironico)
- Wrap Artist 8A (Chironico)
- Baby Mammoth 8A+ (Chironico)
- Second life 8A/+ (Chironico)
- Pure Addiction 8A/+ (Chironico)
- Souvenir 8A (Chironico)

Friday, March 20, 2015

My goals for 2015

The last couple of months have been amazing because between rain and sun, rock and gym I was able to think about the personal goals I would like to accomplish in this 2015.

I decided to start training by myself because after almost 5 years I think to have understood which are my weaknesses and which is simply the best training way for me.

I’m feeling definitely stronger than I’m never been, probably I’m in the best shape of my life and the training has been paid off. I introduce on my climbing program, exercises that I never experienced before, like TRX and Rings, which were complemented by intense fingers strength on beastmaker and climbing sessions in the gym.
Week after week I started to see the first improvements and luckily the motivation was always high but after a while I wanted to leave training for a couple of weeks to test the progress on the rock.
I’ll speak about my season in Ticino in the next story because the season it’s still not over and definitely syked for Brione and for Magic Wood later.
I wanna focus and explain my goals for this year because in my opinion is very important that every climbers set their own goals for keeping the motivation constantly high even if sometime everything went wrong and somehow you are not able to do what you expected.

My personal goals on bouldering are to try to consolidate the 8B grade because I’m feeling mentally and physically ready to definitively break this barrier.               
Since I’ll be in Rocklands in South Africa the whole june would be awesome to flash some other 8As.

Trying hard on Lucky Man. Pic Pierre Zanone
Instead regarding for sport climbing I still have a dream that have to be realized this next summer. The route is always “Lucky Man 8C” in Gressoney that I was not able to pull off for tha bad injury caught me last july. 
At that time I was sure to have the ability to send this routes and probably If it was not for the injury would be already in my pocket but for bad luck or whatever you want to call it, it's still there to be climbed.

When I’ll be back for SA I guess I’ll spend the rest of the summer up there and if the route will go down soon enough I’ll try the extension called “SS.26 8C+” or I ‘ll move on the still unrepeated “Elementi di Disturbo 8C+/9A” opened by my friend Gabry Moroni. 
It’s an awesome line though.

So my main goal is to send a couple of 8Cs and maybe something harder because I’m sure to have the right skills to try on such hard stuff.

We'll see what it will be!!

Last thing but not less important I want to announce my new partnership with Edelweiss and Five Ten for this year.

The new stuff

There are both worldwide known brands that produce amazing high quality stuff and I’m definitely proud to be part of them.

Hopeful for some good weather soon to test all the stuff on the rock.

Catch yaa soon.

Sunday, February 15, 2015

A summary of the last few months

Well, what to say about the new year. This 2015 has been quite busy for a while, I started to train as hard as I never done and the 2 sessions per day take me off a lot of time and a lot of energies. The rest of the time I work with my father and every evening I come back home soo tired.

First, back to a couple of months ago when I was climbing  in the amazing crags in Spain, under the warm temperatures that  feature this season. Actually this trip was not as I expected, of course I had a lot of fun because the crew was always the same but there was something different.

The fog above Uldemolins in the early morning

For the first time I wanted to try something harder, something that was at my limit even if the time to try something that hard is always too short, because if you think that in 10 days you have to get confidence with the type of rock and the style of climbing, be in a good shape and find out the right line, is not that much. 
This was a good challenge with my-self but everything went wrong, I mean that, a combination of lot of events didn't make this thing happen.

First of all, the weather has been a little bit crazy because the conditions, in the days before the new year, were insane for climbing in the sun, the friction was perfect, actually what a climber needs for good send tries.                   
At the beginning of my wishlist there was “El Membre 8C” in Siurana that I really wanted to try, at least once, to check if it was possible. I checked twice and I was able to get all single moves except one so I decided to move to the neighbor “Mr. Cheky 8B+”. 
I had good tries on it so I decided to take one more day in the new year for sending it.

Zona 30 El Laboratori Margalef

The conditions in the new year changed, so much so it was impossible to climb and the projects I had in a specific sector were blown away from sun’s heat so we had to move to the shadow for climbing.
In addiction of these temps my shape was crazy and uncontrollable, some days I was so strong since I was able to onsight my first 8A ever at Cova Boix sector in Margalef called “Doctor Feelgood” and some days I felt just so weak with terrible pain fingers.

When I understood that I had no more chances on the hard things I tried, I opted for some relax climbing days together with my dad, just climbing easy stuff for fun. We spent one of the last days at Esperò Primavera sector in Siurana where after a good warm up I onsighted 2 of the 3 7b+ on the main red wall, respectively called “Mandragora” and “Papagora”. These 2 classics 35 meters routes climb as better as they look, it’s just simply amazing to enjoy the moves with empty mind.
Mandragora, Siurana. Credit Andrea Zanone
Mandragora, Siurana. Credit Andrea Zanone
Despite all Spain never betrays expectations, see ya next year I guess.

When we came back to Italy I didn’t know if I was more psyched for bouldering or sport climbing, but also here the temps were crazy, It was winter but with spring temps because a hot wind, probably arrived from Afrika, made the climbing possible in crags where is usually impossible.
My brother and my self takes advantages of this to back on an old uncompleted proj where we were so closed in may/june.
We spent both Saturday and Sunday on it; the first day I brushed up the line and I gave some tries to refresh the moves but on the second day I wanted to try hard.        
The route is extremely powerful and intense since you can’t even chalk but thanks to the awesome friction this thing was not a problem because the hands and the rock were totally dry.
On my 2nd try of the day I gave all my energies but it was not enough because I fell off at the very last move to catch the jug where you can clip the chain. I did a heartbreaking drop off because the last bolt was a couple of meters lower  but when I realized that everything was okay and that I fell at the last move, the adrenaline and the tension disappeared leaving a sense of nausea, sickness and utter helplessness; I was just feeling empty as if the energies had left my body.

I had to take a very long rest and after a good lunch I recovered a bit and I felt ready for one last try.
I climbed loose and precise and this time I stuck the jug, I screamed out for the happiness cuz I ticked by far one of the hardest routes.

The line “13 Guerriero” was bolted by Alberto Gnerro, and even if it’s chipped, the route climbs well, the movements are nice and the climbing is really technical. I probably got one of the few ascents, maybe the 4th or 5th, an elite anyway.                                          
The grade is a separate story, It’s just 8B but I can definitely say that this thing is a solid 8B+ but this is the bolter’s rule “hard grade”. I’m not totally agree but  I respect it.
From these weekend I stopped with rope climbing to leave space for bouldering, because for me winter means cold, friction and Ticino and just these 3 words makes me syked.


Thursday, November 13, 2014

The comp season

The season comp has been pretty weird this year, It started with the first Boulder Italian Cup in Rome this past April. I trained hard all the winter for this date and I was quite syked to compete, but every competitors know that the psyche in not enough to do a great performance. Train for competition it’s every time a rebus because it’s really hard to listen to our body and to understand ,for example, when it’s time to stop training; but this is the hardest  thing that a climber have to complain, even after many year of climbing experiences some climbers are not fully able to understand them-self.                    

Be in shape in that place, in that precise moment, when you are in the “ARENA”,  is definitely so hard, much harder than try an hard proj on the rock. I kept competing over these years despite my poor results because only with a comp victory you can say “I’m the strongest today” and none can’t say anything about this, just keep quiet and train for the next comp.
Coming back to the Italian Cup, it was a total disaster. Probably I arrived too over-trained or just too tired to deal with a comp that was played in a single day (qualification, semis and final). The qualification was okay and I got into the semis quite easily, but then when the real comp started I felt just to tired and after two boulders I lost my head and I finished at the bottom of the ranking, around 20th position with one top in countless attempts.

Qualification round in Rome. Pic Pierre Zanone

The Italian competition calendar is unmanageable because the comps are played with several months away so It’s definitely impossible to be in shape a whole year. The next comp ,after the one in Rome, would have been in Gressoney in the middle of August,  but my shoulder injury didn’t allowed to take part. At that time could climb yet but when you are in the middle of a comp you think just to stick the holds and to make the best you can without caring about any injuries; so I decided to wait till the next one that would have been one month later.

I started to train again, mainly on my own moonboard because the climbing gym were closed and because moonboard  and fingerboard are the best things to strengthen the big back muscles and the fingers strength in very less time. After the injury my right back side was basically without any muscles, there was a huge disproportion form the left side and the right one so just a miracle could get me back in shape in such a short time. The training was worth quite a bit  because the comp went quite well even if my semis round seemed more like a lead comp because I climbed the problem with my forearm fuckin’ pump. I was 10th topping 3 problems in 7 attempts.

Few days after this comp I went to Frankenjura for a couple of weeks with my homies Andrea and Gabri with a little stop of 5 days in Stuttgart for the Adidas Rockstar. It was absolutely really worth the stop because and location (Porsche Arena) and the competition are amazing. The time in Frankenjura was awesome but I decided to take this time to try to send as many historical routes I could. Here a short list on my favorites:

-         Bastard 8a+ Jerry Moffat  ‘89
-         Centre Court 8a+ W. Gullich ‘87
-         Slimline 8a W. Gullich ‘91
-         Ira Technokratie 8a W. Gullich ‘84
-         Chasin' The Trane 7C  J. Bachar ’81 (OS) 

Slimline 8a/+ Frankenjura Pic. Andrea Zanone
After this long trip, probably my longest trip so far, I had like 3 weeks for training again for the last Italian Cup in Milan.
Saturday, October 18 I had the qualification round; I felt like a big dragon, I was able to stick everything, all the problems seemed like sooo easy. Unfortunately I didn’t have this power the next day on the semifinal round and I flashed just one problem of four, finishing this circuit not in best way for sure.

My motivation for training increased again because I really hate when I’m not able to do what I know I can do. One comp still left in the calendar, the most important of the season, the Boulder Italian Championship in Modena. The last year I had and amazing comp, getting the best position so far, the 4th place, but this year would have been very hard to accomplish the feat again because all the Italian strong boulderers were there. I started to be in shape one week before the event and I arrived at the comp in a really good shape. The semis round was definitely the best so far, the boulder were awesome and well settled for sure. 
I was able to top 3 tops in 6 attempts finishing the season in the 10th position.

I’m definitely very proud and happy of my performance even if I could do slightly better making fewer mistakes on the first boulder. It was so easy but I failed 2 times for the wrong interpretation of the problem, but even if I had flashed the first one, it would have been not enough to get into the final because the second boulder was hard for me to do in 4 minutes so I would have placed 7th, the first one out of the final or we usually call it “ the first of the fuckers”.

2nd semifinal boulder in Modena Pic Edo Limonta

Making a summary, now that the comps are over I can say it was pretty poor of results but the winter is coming, the bouldering season is at the gates, the training period as well and I’m psyched as never to start it in the best way.
Let’s go training and take down your own projs! :)