Goodbye for now Ticino
When I think of Switzerland I picture snow topped peaks, cute little houses and lots of boulders… Safe to say I was not disappointed by Ticino in any way.
On 18th November one of my favourite Americans, Alex Johnson, arrived at Manchester Airport shortly followed by a friend of hers Sasha. The three of us spent a day braving the brisk winds and heavy showers seeing some sites in Liverpool City centre. We had a fun session at The Climbing Hangar and signed a few CAC calendars too. After saying goodbye to my good friends and family we spent two days traveling to Switzerland. Possibly the best core work out ever. I have never laughed so much!
Rain, sleet, hail, snow, ice. We had seen it all on the drive. I had been warned about the weather in Switzerland and had prepared myself for many a forced rest day sat by the fire. Cold and unreliable seemed to be a recurring theme from peoples experiences. But every day for four weeks we woke up to totally clear blue skies.
I had been intending to arrive in Switzerland swatted up. I had planned on watching videos, writing a tick list and buying the guide books. I failed. I arrived with very little clue of what I wanted to try and where I wanted to go but I was psyched and ready to start trying hard. However, for the first week or so I felt pretty lame and it took me quite a while to get into it. I found it really hard to just be out in the cold, never mind climb in the cold. It was hard to warm up, I felt all my old injuries and niggles every time I pulled on and my back got full of knots. I soon found myself getting extremely frustrated at continually retuning home without any sense of satisfaction regarding the effort that had gone into my climbing.
When I got to Switzerland I felt like I should do what I thought you were supposed to do. See lots of areas and climb as many classics as possible. For a while I stayed away from the big numbers and tried to get lots done but I was not feeling much fulfilment. I wasn’t getting tired, I didn’t have to fight, I hadn’t pushed myself.
I had 4 weeks in Switzerland, I spent two weeks lacking motivation, ignoring my desires to try hard and not embracing the perfect conditions and the incredible rock. I needed to remember that I was on holiday, get out and have fun. I spent months training for the world cup circuit and competing and soon enough I will be doing that again but I had time to have fun and embrace whatever aspects of the sport I wanted to. Do what I wanted to do, not what I thought I should be doing.
There were two boulder problems that I was ready to get stuck into. Freak Brothers and Franks Wild Years, I had got close to both of them but left my first sessions with moves uncompleted. The boulders are graded 8a and they are total classics. From my past rock climbing experience (which is far from extensive) I have either been able to climb 8a fast or I have known it’s not possible for me. These climbs seemed possible, but I didn’t do them straight away and I didn’t know if I could. I found it really hard to know what to do. I knew to climb them would take a significant amount of effort which scared me. Did I want to put the time into these problems that feel like battles or walk away with my tail between my legs.
Grades. They are necessary but they are so annoying. Grade wise these climbs were not at my limit but both were very physically and mentally challenging. I climbed two 8a’s in Switzerland before these two both in a matter of attempts not sessions. Frank’s Wild Years ended up taking me me two sessions and Freak Brothers took me five sessions (the longest I have ever spent on any problem on a trip).
As climbers we develop in our sport with some form of attachment to grades. In some sports the attachment is to time or scores. Ours is grades. In competition there are no grades just results. But outside it is about the numbers, the bigger the better right? We all want to see progression, development and improvement. Who cares if you do the warm up boulder? Who cares if I climb a 7a or even an 8a? I do. I wanted to climb Franks Wild Years from the moment I saw it, the same for Freak Brothers. I wanted to do them fast to have more time to try other things but sometimes thats not the case. I accepted that they were worth the time it was going to take me to climb them, how ever long that was going to be?
Grades are there as a measure and we can use our previous achievements to set targets. On this trip I had specific goals that I wanted to achieve. And some of them were grade related. I have climbed 8b and multiple 8a+’s. I want to climb harder and I want to push myself further. On this trip I did not climb anything harder than 8a. But I climbed one of the hardest boulders problems I have ever done.
The moment I topped out Freak Brothers was one of the most satisfying moments in my climbing career to date. I had spent more time sat on the mat underneath that boulder problem than any other problem in the world. It tested me in so many ways but most of all my determination and persistence were challenged. Wanting to do something so much and knowing and believing you can and falling off again and again is new to me. Slowly I am learning about projects. I have just read Crux Crush’s interview with my good friend Angie Payne. She talks about projecting and I feel embarrassed to complain about 5 days when she has spent over 50 on her current project. Reading this has made me excited to start challenging myself more on rock and start really actually pushing my limits. Angie is one of my biggest inspirations in both climbing and life. Her motivation, determination and positivity is second to none. I definitely would recommend you check out her interview HERE! I would also like to thank Ned for being so supportive and pushing me get back on Freak Brothers. I had definitely considered not going back multiple times but he seems to know me better than I do. He deserves some credit for dealing with the mood swings encountered too. I think he was as relieved as I was when I got to the top.
So I am not leaving Switzerland with the tick list that I desired. Nor the climbing experience I had expected. Before coming out here there were two boulder I was sure I wanted to try Amber and Boogalaga both 8b. I didn’t try either of them. I didn’t actually try to climb 8b at all. I still don’t really know why I didn’t. (I did try to climb 8a+ and thought I had but I started in the wrong place)
I am happy with what I have climbed here and I am inspired by the countless hard problems I have seen and not tried. I used to wonder why people always go back to the same places when there are so many climbing areas around the world to see but now I understand.
Today is our last day and it’s raining. I finally get a forced rest day by the fire with a quick trip into town to eat crêpes. Next stop is Fontainbleau! 2 weeks in font before training begins. Fingers crossed for good weather so we can consider doing some climbing as well as consuming lots of cheese and wine.
This is only Goodbye for now Ticino.
Picutre Blog and a video from the trip coming sooon 🙂