Good climbing conditions are not easy to find these days due to the huge amount of rain lately. But there are exceptions: The Verdon canyon. The mistral didn’t only help Nina (Caprez) to do first female ascent of historical route Les Specialistes 8b+, it also helped us with my husband Nico to do the first repetition of the steep 180m long route Tschhh..hou, qu’il est con in the Paroi rouge. Why did we choose this not very known route?
For the training of Vanessa Francois (http://www.vanessafrancois.com/) to accomplish her Yosemite project (Zodiak on El Capitan by jumar), Nico (Potard) and Victor (Estrangin) were searching a steep and dry multipitch route in Verdon. Firstly they wanted to do Ultime Demence, but all the colonettes were soaking wet, so they had any other choice than to return to the Paroi rouge, where Vanessa had already done one route last autumn. This part of Verdon is always dry. They checked out the route “Tschhh..hou, qu’il est con” that finish with a big roof. This is perfect for Vanessa, so she doesn’t hit the rock while jumaring, and besides, it offers a challenging climbing.
Unfortunately they didn’t manage to do the ascent with the original team, since the weather was really bad, and Liv (Sansoz) and Victor had some other obligations later. So a week later, when my mother in law had time to watch after Tommy, I found myself hanging on the rope with Vanessa, Nico and Marion Poitevin in the magnificent canyon of Verdon. The 200m long rappel without touching the rock at all wakes you up!
On 20th and 21st of May we climbed up the route with in order to get the ropes ready for Vanessa to jumar up them. With Marion they were even sleeping on the porta ledge after the 4th pitch to make everything like in El Capitan. Vanessa did her work with excellence, we had some problems with 5 ropes and two portaledges all twisted together in a huge knot, that demanded us a lot of time and patience. But we learned something for Yosemite and we finished the route as planned the next day. With Nico we freed most of the route only the huge roof of the 8b remained a mystery. But once Vanessa was out of the wall and safely back on her wheel chair, we returned to the roof. I was already very happy to find out the moves. Despite a huge overhang I realized that the solution isn’t in strong biceps, but in the legs, feet and abdominals. I found knee bars, heel hooks, lolottes and I began to believe that I could do it. We only needed to find the occasion to get back to Verdon (which is 6h driving from Chamonix).
It didn’t last long. One week later we were back with Nico (and Tommy back with his grandmother – Thanks Nathalie!) Everything ran perfectly during our ascent, we did all the first six pitches without mistake. But anyway we were rather tired coming under the crux, the 8b. Nico put the quickdrawers in and I did a surprisingly good attempt, falling totally on the end of the roof. We planned to spend the night on the nice green ledge 50m on the left, so I didn’t make one more attempt; I preferred to keep the power for the next day.
But the next day I woke up with the pains in the whole body! “It’s gonna be hard to return on the 8b”, were our words in the morning. Besides this the sun was so strong, that we hid behind the small tree and waited for the shade. Around 14h we slowly warmed up on two easier routes above our bivouac and we felt more ready for the scary roof. Nico was the first to go. He climbed much better than a day before, and I was sure that he would do it, but in the moment when he had the final fingerjam in his hand, his foot slipped and consequently hid hand too. The vultures heard some loud cursing. But well, it’s already great to come so high with one broken pulley and painful shoulder!
It was my turn. I had good sensations and I even managed to take a short rest before the final crux. And then, two chipped holds, not very good ones, one sloppy shoulder, finger jam with left and another one with the right hand to grab the final jug. All this with being careful that my feet wouldn’t slip away. It’s cool to see the blue Verdon river between my feet 200m lower! Nico will return once again with Victor to free all in a day.