I did go outside a few more times to Smith Rock, Pinnacles, Donner Pass, Jailhouse and Big Chief, and sent a few more 5.13’s along the way. But back to my Summer climbing... I wrote this post over the 10 weeks I was traveling, but only now got the time to put it all together and post it.
Pre-Nationals Training Camp, Atlanta
Like last year, I went to the pre-nationals Training camp in Hotlanta at the amazing Stone Summit Climbing Gym, organized by the US National coach Claudiu Vidulescu. I was really excited to return as I remembered how much I liked it last year. During the two-week camp we climbed 6 hours a day 3 days on, 1 day off. We did a lot of endurance, power, and speed climbing. The two weeks seemed to go by really fast, and by the end of the camp, I felt really strong, and I was psyched and ready to go to US Nationals.
US Youth National Championship Sport & Speed
The first day of the competition went very well. I on-sighted the sport qualifier route 1 and placed first in qualifiers for speed. On the second day I was one of only a few climbers to top the sport qualifier route 2, and as for speed I put up the second fastest time securing me a place in finals.
Day 3 was semi-finals in sport and finals in speed. I was really happy as once again I on-sighted my sport route, as semis are usually very hard. So as you can guess I was psyched. Last year I was having some buffer in speed compared to the competition, but this year Joe Goodacre proved to be a tough and dangerous competitor. I knew I had to pull out all the stops… I’m standing in front of my route next to Joe… Ready, Set, Go!!! I pull as hard as I ever have and pull and pull and pull, and hit the top… Result I post my best time of the whole three days and beat Joe by half a second! I’m psyched, I just have to control the second run. I climb more relaxed, and still come in ahead of Joe securing first place and...
Finals for sport started a bit hectic, I woke up nervous. After a good warm-up and stretch I was ready to climb. The route was a big overhang that suits my style of climbing. Before I knew it, I was climbing up the beginning section. It seemed easy, and I was feeling confident. I’m about half-way through the roof when I move to the next hold maybe a little carelessly, not in perfect balance, my foot slips, I barn-door, and nooooo!!! I’m falling!!! Unfortunately I fell quite early finishing only in 7th place in Sport climbing. I’m devastated!!! I came to Nationals soooo much stronger than last year, I was sure I had a big shot at winning this, but… it happens! The most important thing is to keep your head high and get over it. I’ll be back next year!!!
Well it wasn’t that easy to get over it. I kept on replaying the scene in my head, wondering why I did that dumb mistake. Over and over I would do it right in my head, but then back to reality: I ended up in 7th place at US Youth Nationals… :(
But then my Dad comes to me, consoles me again, and asks me:
“Do you know where we’re going tomorrow?”
Me, “Home I guess”
“No, we’re flying to Geneva”
In a daze, “Why what are we doing there? I thought you couldn’t go on vacation…”
“Are you kidding me!!!!”
“Feeling a little better?”
We left directly from Atlanta, and flew to Geneva in Switzerland. We rented a minivan, and went to visit family for a few days. Finally it was time to start our climbing adventure, and we drove 5 hours to Ausserferrera in eastern Switzerland close to the world famous Magic Wood bouldering crag for a week of bouldering…
Magic Wood, Switzerland
Bouldering!!! I have to say that it felt great to be back bouldering, even though I’m not in bouldering shape right now. In Magic Wood I had a lot of fun. There are lots of boulders in the middle of a forest with a river rushing down on one side. The rock type is called Gneiss, it looks like granit, but less coarse and grainy than in Bishop. The boulders by the river are very slick, and you mostly have to climb on slopers, but it gets more crimpy as you climb farther into the forest. The landings aren’t great as there are lots of roots, and big holes in between.
On our first day, I on-sighted Unknown V6/7 (7A+), Bosna Genial V6 (7A), Bosna Royal V6 (7A), and Iron Butterfly V8 (7B+), and then went to work on the famous Never Ending Story Part 1 V12 (8A+).
I was able to dispatch all the moves except for two. By now it was getting dark, and so we headed to the campsite.
We had dinner and headed to bed. The next day we warmed up and I got on Jack's Broken Heart V12 (8A+). I surprised myself by being able to do all the moves but one in a very short period of time. After trying Jack's, I got on Octopussy V11 (8A) and I did all the moves except one which was just too reachy for me.
I then on-sighted Supernova V9 (7C)!
After this I went to try Never Ending Story Part 1 and was able to unlock all the moves and I made a lot of progress turning all the low percentage moves into higher percentage moves. By now it was dark and I was having trouble seeing all the holds. So we left for the campsite. The next day I woke up at 7:30 a.m., had breakfast, and went climbing. I sent Grit de Luxe V7 (7B), and Slip Slap Slop V6 (7A), which was reachy for me and forced me to dyno onto some really small crimps. I tried Jack's Broken Heart again and came very close to sending but it then started raining so we went to try Massive Attack V12 (8A+) but I couldn't span the second move although I could easily do all the rest.
We had to leave the next day for a family reunion but we came back one day later. I on-sighted a First Ascent linking two existing climbs and called it Bipity Bopity Boop V5 (6C+) and U-Boot V4 (6C), a really cool traverse at the edge of a boulder. Then I got back on Jack’s Broken Heart, and this girl asked if she could try it with me. Turns out it was Shauna Coxsey! We worked it together and shared beta, and once again I came really close but unfortunately it started to rain again. So we headed to the one dry climb in Magic Wood. Drumroll Please............THE NEVER ENDING STORY!!!!! This time, Guillaume Glairon-Mondet was working it, while Mélanie Sandoz was filming his attempts… I surprised myself by falling only five moves from the end.
We now only had one day left in Magic Wood so since everything in the forest was still wet I got on Never Ending Story again, But this time with Shauna Coxsey. I helped her with beta and she helped me refine some moves to be more efficient. After refining the beta I gave it some goes from the start and fell twice on the 4th to last move, once on the 2nd to last move, and once on the 3rd to last move. In the end I came devastatingly close to sending the climb but we had to leave. If only it hadn’t rained soooo much… Next time I guess…
Ever heard of Edelweiss? It's a pretty rare flower that you find in the Alpes. Guess we got lucky we saw several in the mountains in the Grisons in Switzerland...
We drove back to Geneva late afternoon, had a typical Swiss Raclette dinner of melted cheese on potatoes with the family, slept, and the next morning we drove to Céüse, and got there right in time to climb in the afternoon and evening.
The whole package, GREAT climbing, GREAT views, and lots of FAMOUS climbers. Céüse is an awesome long Limestone wall at the top of a mountain. I have to admit that I wasn't particularly fond of the hike (steep non-stop for 45 min to 1 hour) on the first day or the second or the 3rd even, but by the end of the week I was doing much better, and sort of liking it. I even got into a little competition with Tim, a german climber to try to make it in less than 30 minutes. Didn’t happen, but I made it once in 34 minutes... By the way, did I tell you how the hot it is during the hike? Well it is hot! We usually left the campsite around noon to 1pm, as the walls got in the shade around 2:30pm. But the trail wasn't in the shade... It's weird, because as soon as the walls get in the shade you need to put on a jacket if you're not climbing. Perfect climbing conditions...
I had already come to Céüse last year for 4 days, but by then I had only been climbing on ropes for 5 months or so. The climbing here is quite slabby, and very technical, so last year I had a hard time even climbing mid 5.12’s. On the first day I warmed-up and right away onsighted a couple of 5.12’s, so that felt great! Then I saw Ethan Pringle who gave me a few tips on climbs I should try.
I went to try Bourinator 5.13b (8a) and powered through the bottom crux and fell at the top on the last hard move due to pump and a misread of the climb.
It was getting dark, and we didn't have any food at the camping so we had to leave to go to a pizzeria before it closed so we ran down the mountain and got to the pizzeria right before they closed at 10pm.
I’m definitely feeling much better and stronger than last year. The second day was the hardest day for the hike as I was still sore from the first day and not quite used to it yet. But the climbing went pretty well. I did some 5.12a's and 5.12b's (7a+ and 7b) and then sent Bourinator 5.13b (8a).
Sasha DiGiulian and Matilda Söderlund were working Dures Limites 5.14b (8c) and Sasha told me I should give it a try. After that I tried to on-sight Makach Walou 5.13a (7c+). Sadly I fell at the very top, past the last bolt, because I didn't realize that some holds at the far left were on. So the next day I headed up warmed up, and sent Makach Walou while Alizée Dufraisse was warming up next to me!!!
I then went to try Carte Blanche 5.13b (8a) and fell just once on the reachy crux. I then exchanged beta and worked with Mélissa Le Nevé on Dures Limites 5.14b (8c). We then all went down to the campsite and joined a camp-wide BBQ. Sadly we didn't have any meat to bring, but my brother Yolan and I still scored a free Kebab from Mélissa, so I'd say it was a pretty good day...
The next day I had a good warm-up knocking down three 5.12a's (7a+) and then sent Carte Blanche 5.13b (8a). I then tried Le Poinçonneur de Lilas 5.13c (8a+) and fell after the 7th out of 10 clips on my on-sight attempt. Not surprising as that is the big crux.
I also tried Slow Food 5.14a (8b+) but got my butt kicked on my 1st try, but on my 2nd go I more or less figured out the moves. I then watched Anthony Gullsten on-sight it like it was a piece of cake! On top of that he's seriously good at foreign languages. He's Finnish but also speaks French, Spanish and English fluently...
On our last day I warmed-up on three 5.12's (7a+ to 7b+) and then sent Le Poinçonneur de Lilas 5.13c (8a+)!!! I tried Slow Food 5.14a (8b+) again, and got all the moves down pat and went to try Petit Tom 5.13b (8a) but by then it was my 4th day on and I was so tired I just couldn't climb anymore.
Including Magic Wood, I had climbed 13 days with just 3 rest days in between!!! So we went to bed and the next day we started packing up and we headed to Barcelona for two days and then Rodellar for two weeks!!!
Céüse is definitely the place lots of strong sport climbers go to in the summer. Apparently even Chris Sharma was there during our stay bolting some new project, but I didn't get to meet him this time.
Rodellar is a very small quaint town that you reach after driving 20 miles on a small winding road. There are a few locals, and lots of climbers, canyoneers, and hikers, that’s it. We set up our campsite, checked out the town, had dinner and went to bed. I was so excited to climb in Rodellar that I woke up early rushed to have breakfast, took a shower, and packed my backpack to go to the Kalandraka Bar & Refugio to meet with Scott Cory, Cicada Jenerik, and Brian Antheunisse.
It being our first day Scott had offered to give us a tour and bring us to a good warm-up spot and show us some routes. So as you can guess without hesitation we took him up on his offer. When we first got here we weren't sure if we were going to stay here for the whole time or go back to Céüse after a week, but as Scott was showing us around and letting us take it all in, I knew, without a doubt, that I wanted to stay the entire 2 weeks. Scott showed us El Delphin a big hole in the rock that looks like a dolphin with a climb that goes right up its spine.
Rodellar is very different from Céüse. Instead of one big long wall, it’s a bunch of walls and caves in a valley around a river. The rock is also Limestone, but not as compact as in Céüse. We almost had an accident one day, as I broke off a big foothold that landed only inches from my brother who was belaying me. But that only happened once...
Definitely easier hikes, but the weather is also much warmer…
At first the climbs and caves look smallish, but then Scott brought us to "Las Ventanas" and as we rushed up to it and we were all admiring it, I knew that I was going to be spending a lot of time here. Can you imagine big crazy overhanging routes with big Tufas everywhere? Well, when I say big, I mean big! Lots of routes all 100 feet or more!!!
A few 5.11's and 5.12s, to warm-up, but then most of the routes are 5.13a and above.
And then you understand why it's called "Las Ventanas", when you see those big arches and holes in the rock. Ventanas means Windows in Spanish...
I spent the first few days just getting used to the rock and not trying any hard on-sights or super hard projects. There were sooo many sick climbs that it was hard to focus on any specific project. I just wanted to try them all… In the end I only focused time projecting two routes, Ixeia 5.14a (8b+) and Espirit Rebeld 5.13d (8b). The others I either dispatched quickly, or just didn’t get psyched on and moved to something better.
After getting used to the rock I jumped on Made in Mascun 5.13a (7c+) and on-sighted it!! The day before I had tried a climb called Ixeia 5.14a (8b+) and had a pretty good first run on it so I decided to try a again, and got very close to sending it on my 2nd try of the day. Suddenly a big storm came upon us, but Andrea Szekely and Scott Cory both still sent Pata Negra 5.14b (8c) before it got too wet. Scott told me that he was getting hit by hail on the last few moves to the top…
On this one day, we decided to join Scott, Brian, and Cicada to go to "La Piscineta". This crag is about an hour hike away, as it is in another valley. But WOW!!! It was sooo worth the effort... The biggest cave of all!
Scott and Brian came here to work Cosi Fan Tutti 5.14c (8c+), a 150 feet constantly overhanging monster route. They used our 80 meter rope, and when they lowered, they had barely 3 inches of rope left in the grigri. I on-sighted Pim Pam Plouf 5.12c (7b+) for warm-up, and then went to try Pieds Nus sur la Terre Sacrée 5.13b (8a) which I also almost on-sighted. I was sure I was going to send it 2nd go, but I guess I was too tired on my 4th day on, and never got it done. Brian was able to send Cosi Fan Tutte a couple of days later. I will definitely try it next time I'm going to Rodellar.
The next day after warming up, I tried to on-sight El Delphin 5.13a (7c+) and almost made it but some holds were wet, and my foot slipped off on one of them. So I lowered and sent 2nd go!! A few days later my brother Yolan was able to send it as well, his first 5.13 in a long time, as he’s been hurt for a while. Last year he came to Céüse only to learn a day earlier that his arm was broken…
On our second rest day we decided to try canyoning for a change. My parents used to do it a lot when they lived in the South of France, but I never got to try. So we went to try the Oscuros de Balcès canyon... Soooo much fun!!! We spent 3 hours rappelling in a waterfall, jumping into river pools, sliding, swimming, and even going through underwater holes. Definitely something I will try again!
Unfortunately, I had to wait five days to try Ixeia again, as most of the Tufas were wet due to seeping water. So I went to try Welcome to Tijuana 5.14b (8c) a few times, and got all the moves figured out, but it still was a hard climb to link… In the end I just couldn’t get psyched on it, as it is a very short but very bouldery climb in a small chossy cave.
The long Tufa-lined climbs in "Las Ventanas" and "La Piscineta" were just sooooo much sicker, that I stopped trying Welcome, and just returned at the end of my last day to recover my quickdraws. I met Piotr Schab from Poland who had just sent Era Vella, his first 5.14d (9a) in Margalef a few days earlier at 15 years old…
It was frustrating to wait for Ixeia to dry out, but when I finally got back on it, it took me three tries and some changes in sequence (as some holds were still a little wet) to send:
I then tried the route just right of it, Espirit Rebeld 5.13d (8b) and got to the top in only 4 falls. I tried it again that same day and fell just once at the main crux.
Ramón Julián Puigblanque showed up and started on-sighting 5.14’s right next to us. He’s barely taller than me, but amazingly strong!
He on-sighted four or five 5.14a’s with barely 10 min breaks in between!!!
After that I went to try Le Branlotin 5.13c (8a+) and set the draws. I tried it twice but then we had to leave, as it was getting dark.
The next day I came painfully close to doing Espirit Rebeld falling after the main crux right before a giant knee-bar rest. I rested and calmed down for about an hour, and then sent it!! The next day was our last day and we went to Las Ventanas to warm-up and then went to Le Branlotin 5.13c (8a+) and I sent it first go!!! After that I tried a few hard on-sights but was so tired I just couldn't anymore.
Rodellar has been a great learning experience for me, because of all the drop-knees, knee-bars and lock-off's you have do, as well as dealing with Tufas which force you to constantly change your direction and balance or you pump out in no time. It really got me to improve a lot on my technique.
Arco Rock Master Festival in Arco, Italy
Now onto the Arco Rock Master Festival to compete in the Rock Junior International!!! We first stopped in Geneva to say goodbye to the family in Europe, and we drove my Mom, brother, and sister to the airport, as they had to return to the US a week earlier.
In Magic Wood my Dad asked me if I would be interested to climb in a big international competition. I wasn’t so sure, as I was still feeling a bit of pain from US Nationals, but he said I should think about it. Finally I said OK, and he answered, “Good, because I just signed you up at the Arco Rock Master Festival!!!”
So, at the end of our trip, my Dad and I drove to Arco in Italy so that I could participate in the Arco Rock Junior International during the Arco Rock Master Festival. I wanted to check out the competition scene in Europe, and Arco Rock Junior is one of the only Open International competitions that allow youth under 14 years old to compete.
Arco is a really nice little town with old buildings that is built right under some large amazing limestone cliffs. It is full of climbers and bikers. We walked through the main shopping street, and I counted no less that 14 climbing stores. I got to visit them all too!!! :)
The competition took place over two days, with three disciplines, speed climbing, bouldering, and sport climbing. Ultimately the title would go to the best all-around climber. I competed in the B category (born in 2001 and 2002). There were climbers from 17 countries, mostly Europe, as well as two from Ecuador, a Japanese girl, and an American (yours truly)... :)
The first day was hard as we had speed climbing in the morning, bouldering in the afternoon, and sport qualifiers in the evening. We had two runs on the same speed route, and I posted the two best times of the comp finishing in 1st place in speed.
For bouldering, we had to complete six boulders with a maximum of five tries for each. I easily flashed problems 1, 3, 5, and 6. I should have flashed problem 2, but did a dumb mistake, and it took me three tries. Problem 4 was the hardest, and it took me three tries to top it out. I ended up being the only climber to top out all 6 problems, securing a 1st place in the bouldering competition as well.
In the evening we had our first sport route on the famous Arco Rock Master arch. I believe that it was rated around 7b, and I ended up being the only climber to get to the top. After the comp I met the Belgian National Team. They were very nice and invited us to dinner, which was really fun.
The next morning we only had the final sport route. I thought that it was pretty easy until five moves from the top, leading to a very hard move two moves from the top. Four of us ended-up all falling on that move, but I still placed 1st in the sport climbing competition due to my qualifier top out.
Ok, that definitely made somewhat up for US Nationals!!!
Tim Bucher from Switzerland took 2nd place, and Rafal Bak from Poland finished in 3rd place. The award ceremony was at 2pm, but by then it started to rain pretty hard, and so we had the award ceremony in pouring rain. All I can say is that it was definitely an adventure!!! I really liked this competition, and I hope I will be able to come back in the next few years. I just regret that I couldn’t stay to watch the Arco Rock Master, but I have to go back to school…
All in all it has been a long and amazing trip, and I’m definitely going back!!!! Hopefully sometime soon...
I’ve been away from home for 10 weeks since flying out to Atlanta!!! I sent ten 5.13a (7c+) to 5.14a (8b+) during my trip more than doubling my total in that range.
Last year I had sent my first and only 5.13a, but this spring and summer:
For warm-ups and to improve my on-sighting skills, my Dad had me try climbs up to 5.12c (7c). At the beginning it annoyed me at times as I just wanted to get on hard projects, but after a while I started to like it. I on-sighted almost all of them…
During the trip, I also ended up sending at least one route for each grade between 5.10a (6a) and 5.14a (8b+)… I don’t know why, but that felt good too…
During the trip I also made a ton of new friends, including Thoma (and his 4 brothers and sisters) and Antoine from France, Fabio and Tim from Switzerland, Thilo from Norway, Lena from Germany, Alex from Israel, Piotr from Poland, Yu and Mizuki from Japan, and Harold, Lionel, and John Alexandre from Belgium to name just a few.