If you’re that kind of a ‘too serious’ climber, don’t waste your time on reading this rather humoristic approach to frivolous adventures of light-headed people. Instead, spend your time on more rewarding matters, such as campus board or studying in library about psychosomatic conditionings.
To avoid any further irrelevant introductions and four regions we’ve already been to – We’re in Verdon. At last, after two years of searching volunteers, I arrive at Verdon, accompanied by Bartłomiej Jodłowski, known commonly as “Jodła (fir tree – transl)”. and his girlfriend Olga.
Our first day is warmup in wet „La Buchet”. For the next day we have planned the main attraction – our first multi-pitch climb ever. Our choice is Seriee Limitee 6c+/260m ED+ on Samson’s Couloir – I won’t deny that we were mostly attracted to this route due to it’s name, and how majestic Samson’s Couloir sounds – Bible’s biggest beefcake’s! Our scheduled start – next morning.
We take our time to wake up around 9 – who would hurry on holidays?! We are just after breakfeast when morning slowdown kicks in. It seems somebody’s doing something, but in fact everone sits in the car and slacks off. On the opposite I’m totally psyched – I remind them “Duuudes! Let’s go!”„easy, easy! 5 more minutes till I finish coffee... We’re gonna make it there before 11 anyway..” We arrive at the parking lot on 13. Then we still have to pack ourselves – and as everyone know, proper choice of equipment is a basic matter! We take our time, and I start to rememberthe last time when we were preparing for some multi pitch, so I discreetly pass Jodła headlight – “probably we won’t need it, but it may always come in handy.” Olga, looking at our attempts to finally get ready, starts to worry. She asks “isn’t there any risk?” She meets my derisive response- „Yeah, it is, extremely, and that’s why we’re heading there! It’s no jokes anymore! It’s gonna be a true mountain adventure – who knows, maybe we’ll break our legs?” Jodła unfortunately comforts her “relax, if we don’t come back or at least contact you before midnight, feel free to call helicopter.”Ready and packed at last we head out to find our way. From parking lot there’s a tourist path, and a sign pointing us to our couloir with an adnotation “15min”. We are keen on finfing it, but we’re somehow unable to do so, but our guide says we’re headed the right way.Even though we finally pass by similiar wall, we find it to be Duc – it’s on the other side of the river, and it’s too close – it cannot be it. Path leads through amazing, long tunnels with thick darkness, as mostly there is not even slightest source of light there. I have a great time wandering in through the void, forgetting our destination.
Yet after half an hour long walk, we start to have doubts and ask leader of canyoning enthusiasts. It turns out, that Samson’s couloir is just a part of the mentioned before Duc. We go back, get on the other side of the river by using steel rope, and c.a 16 we’re under the route! 8 magnificient pitches of pure fun await us. We take a sweet photo right before heading out.First off, we have problems finding the start – there is some sort of mark, but the name is different... But the general formation looks similar, so I don’t care that much. Helmet on my head adds more gravity towards my movements, increasing their dignity. Rock tends to be not as solid as I thought... It generally seems a little bit too pumpy for 6b+, but I’m not too efficient. Reaching first overhang, and trying to traverse onto it, I start to get angry on myself for being irrationaly scared of loose footholds, slow tempo, and inefficiency of movement. When I finally grab two underclings, and decide to give my best (oh, irony!), I destroy foothold, but holding on with the last remnants of my power I somehow manage not to fall – it seemed so solid!...3 mins later, really pumped, I finish the pitch. One look at gold bolts attacking the face of the Duc starting with the traverse, and I realise it’s not our route. Looking back at mail-on, and I start to realise it only holds up to 200kg – how opportunate, that I haven’t eaten for a while :). From this perspective I start to see our line. I go back and force my way traversing back to our original line – we don’t have time for repetitions. When Jodła arrives with our heavy backpack, we start to realise we haven’t got that much time – actually, we haven’t had it in the first place.
It turns out, that Samson’s couloir is just a part of the mentioned before Duc. We go back, get on the other side of the river by using steel rope, and c.a 16 we’re under the route! 8 magnificient pitches of pure fun await us. We take a sweet photo right before heading out.First off, we have problems finding the start – there is some sort of mark, but the name is different... But the general formation looks similar, so I don’t care that much. Helmet on my head adds more gravity towards my movements, increasing their dignity. Rock tends to be not as solid as I thought... It generally seems a little bit too pumpy for 6b+, but I’m not too efficient. Reaching first overhang, and trying to traverse onto it, I start to get angry on myself for being irrationaly scared of loose footholds, slow tempo, and inefficiency of movement. When I finally grab two underclings, and decide to give my best (oh, irony!), I destroy foothold, but holding on with the last remnants of my power I somehow manage not to fall – it seemed so solid!...originalNext pitch awaits Jodła, who also starts to feel the mountain adventure, and what comes with it, the pump coming off easy moves, just like on his first competitions. After intense frustration and taking making many unnecesary movements, he finally reaches for anchor. Next pitch is 6a+, so I try to make up for the lost time. Crack for dulfer and thoughts about our lack of time allow me to break my mental limits. I’m making my way like a tank! That’s it! Jodła also breaks through a little, and makes next 6a+ in a better style and with less effort. We make the first half and start to nter the main, picteresque exposed wall! We have an hour until dusk :)I lead the next 6c, Jodła leads another one. It starts to get dark, and after the 3rd bolt, wall starts overhanging, and Jodła can’t find the next bolt. We switch, and in the end I have to lead it. Climbing with heavy backpack while not being in a good shape starts to exhaust Jodła quickly. Seeing how slowly he fights his way up, before my way up I quickly give him my ascenders.
After next breathtaking pitch I fesast my eyes upon the surrounding beauty and freedom. What a wonderful experience! No fear, no effort, only pleasure and flow! Sky is already navy blue, sparkling with thousands of stars. I see the moon starting to rise up and shine brightly on the valley left below. [At least 30 mins later] F***! Where is Jodła? It’s a great time and place for a snack. The ledge is pretty comfortable (after remembering how to use proper knots instead of just hanging on two quickdraws), but I try not to enjoy myself too much, not take away the magic of the moment. My thoughts are disturbed by sounds coming off from around the corner. I see Jodła (starting to resemble a worn-out vegetable rather than his normal tank-like shape) arguing physically with ascender. It seems he does one-armed pull-up with the whole equipment, and then pulls the device 10cm higher... the whole pitch :). But the thought of eating makes him little bit more lively, but without his usual enthusiasm – it means he’s on the edge.
After magnificient, enjoayble feast (it’s not getting any darker anyway) I storm my way up the penultimate pitch 6c+. Pitch slightly overhanging, natural features, sometimes longer run-outs. The funniest part is, when having to stick to the wall I have to search for the footholds with my hand, because the headlight is too close to the rock. Thankfully I took my training shoes left with just thin layer of rubber. Jodła polishes his technique of ascending, and much more skillfully arrives at the the beginning of last pitch. The next one is really easy, so we quickly arrive at the top and hit high fives. Jodła catches the signal and calls Olga, letting her know of our success.Thanks to that call, we find out, that Olga really loves Jodła, and because she was worried, exactly as Jodła told her, she called for the heli, but as nobody talked in english, and nobody knew where is Duc, they’re not even getting ready yet, and more importantly for us, that it’s impossible to descend other way around, or by using some other line next to ours. Of course, as proud Polish, we immediatly call out the heli, and in addition, I decide do find some other way down, because leaving something on our way down in the wall would be such a waste. “Maybe it’ll get steep, but it’s surely possible!” We decide on our course and get on with it through dense bushes.
2hrs later...OK, maybe that way down wasn’t the smartest choice – We’re heading back! We wander at least half an hour through identical bushes and decide to sleep. Jodła lays down exactly on the spot where he was standing and falls asleep immediately. He didn’t even switch off his headlamp. I take my time to carefully prepare my den, using my rope to make myself as comfortable as it can be wearing shorts in the middle of the night on the windy peak. I fade out thinking that it’s at least warm summer night. I wake up in convulsions, shaking from the cold. It’s still dark, but I know I won’t be sleeping any more. I would make some exercises to warm myself up, but I’m way too tired. Even before sleeping I was starving and thirsty, and our food was completely gone on the 6th pitch.
„Jodła! Are you awake?” He is, and for quite some time, as he only took non-breathing thin quechua jacket, but he forgot to zip it up before sleeping, as he literally felt asleep immediately. I force him to start acting quickly. It’s starting to dawn. We still have to find our line. The matter is complicated by the fact that we have no prusiks, and jodła is scared of making some fatal mistake because of exhaustion. That’s why we decide on the system of Jodła lowering me first, and then me finding the anchor, and lowering him to me. It takes time, and forces us to leave some gear, but as Jodła says “I’m rich enough”.
It took us some time with that way of descending, but I felt like in some kind of a story, thanks to a wonderful morning mist swirling around us and above. Jodła rather took notice of the wonderful feeling of freedom taking clips of the wall 300 meters above the ground, slamming to the wall and scratching the corner with the rope. After one of them he decides, that he can afford it, and he won’t take the another quickdraw, promising to buy me that one back :)We arrive finally around 11. And it surely was, an amazing, nearly mountain-like adventure, even though we safely made it through. When Jodła regains some of his powers, and the ability of deciding on his own, he clearly states: “NEVER, THE F***, AGAIN!” What’s up with him? :)
But seriously, it was one of the best days of my life...PS. A few months after the events above, Jodła mentioned that in the end, we could go back for those quickdraws. :)