It was so cool to have something like this come full circle. I found and cleaned this boulder in 2006 with friends from the region, Kuba and Yves. I brushed tons of possible lines, notably Scarred for Life 8b+, which I eventually managed that season, but the prize rig at the "Fuck the System" mega roof was the first line you walked up to.
Foundations Edge, 8c, Fionnay, Switzerland - Dave Graham
The daunting, beautiful, grey headwall. It begged to be climbed.
Immaculate grey gneiss, somehow reminiscent of schist, dabbled with a strange intermittent patina of limestone. Holds run in vertical and horizontal structures, nothing more, and the angle must be around 70 degrees, must steeper then one first thinks. It was obvious there could be two starts. A lower line starting in the middle of the big roof, then charging directly out the headwall, and a higher start, which sort of traverses into the headwall from the left. I only got a chance to dabble in the moves back then, but the low start seemed like new levels, and the higher start was harder then anything else on the boulder, and in the entire region of Valais.
Between 2006 and 2009 I returned to develop more of the boulder, but was always injured somehow and never got a chance to truly attempt the king line. In 2011 I flew to Switzerland with the sole intent of climbing the higher start, but was turned around at the border in Genveva. It turned out that I was banned from EU, and wouldn't be allowed to return until the spring of 2012.
I finally made a trip this spring to begin attempting the line for real. Nalle Hukkataival and I had high hopes of working the full line, and arrived to what ranked as the shittiest conditions we had ever seen. The boulder was barley climbable due to snow and constant rain, but we came up with some methods that worked, considering half the holds were wet. Weather worsened and the temperatures rose. I tried to climb on the problem, but most days it was impossible. Until the Fouhn came one day.
That was the first time I ever made a breakthrough on the problem.
The ultra rare south wind with the power to dry any rock, was blowing as a storm system attempted to burst into our region of the alps. The wind gods battled, the boulder changed color, and before I knew it I was falling in the crux move. I never would have known, but the beta I was using was far fetched, and not the correct method. I battled until I split my fingers, all the while convinced I was getting close, and that y sequence would work if it stayed dry. I could do the boulder in two overlapping sections, but I just could not link it.
Ultimately, the giant roof became saturated with water. After the Fouhn ended, the temperature rose about 15 degrees celcius, and the cold rock in the roof instantly condensed as the hot summer wire settled in. Any hope of climbing on the roof was ended. The season was over.
Like the snap of a finger.
Even though it was like torture trying to climb on such an amazing problem is such horrible conditions, I decided that I would return in fall. It seemed nearly impossible to find a window with the ever evolving weather patterns, but the best best seemed like October, providing it wasn't a wet fall, or it didn't get snowed out in a freak false winter.
I started my trip off in Bulgaria doing an event for Walltopia, which was super fun, cruised up to Finland for an invite competition that was surprisingly awesome, then jetted down to Geneva to recoup my rental car and B-line it for Verbier. Weather was not good. It had just rained the last three days, and snow was coming the following evening. I woke up and drove straight to Fionnay, temporarily juked out by all the Vache du Rinde (giant terrifying black Val de Bagnes cows) who had taken up residence along the trail, but nevertheless arrived at Fuck The System to see a nice color grey on the wall, and the main section of the climb dry, free of seepage.
I was elated.
The top-out was wet, but that was to be expected. It was still and humid, but very cold, around 3 degrees Celcius. I was astonished at how dry the rock was under the roof. I hand't seen it like this since 2006. It felt like a dream, even though I was just stuck in between recollection and the present.
As I had come to Verbier alone, and my homies were all on vacation in Spain, I would be solo for about ones week. I had lots of crash pads, but the boulder is tall. I began using my old fashioned pad stacking system to access the holds, and started warming up in the frigid ice box where my project lived. Immediately, I noticed my old method was crunk. I began exploring new sequences and lost myself in thought and action for hours upon hours. By the end of the session I was feeling distract. There was no method that I could devise that worked top to bottom. Like a rubies cube, the boulder felt ever more perplexing. I had a fitful night of sleep, as it snowed about 6 inches, dreaming of climbing the boulder with sequences that would probably never work, wondering why I felt so strong and light whilst sleeping, and so heavy and weak when I stood at the base of the climb during the day.
I geared up in my winter attire, and commenced with hauling more pads out to the boulders, along with my rope and snow removal gear. Systematically I removed snow while hanging on my gri-gri, but the ice that had fused to the rock was not fun to discover. More snow was falling, and it was well below freezing. My only hope was to do the boulder before everything began to melt. That would happen in one week. Or so the forecast said.
After my snow removal warm up, I started climbing and broke through with a new sequence in between freezing my ass off in the frigid -5 C air, and 95 percent humidity. Luckily all of the water had frozen, and seepage was not a worry. I was extremely syked on how the rock felt, and climbed for around 8 hours until I couldn't do one move on the boulder. My new method took me farther out right on the wall, put me in dodgy positions, and felt like it would be much more resistant, but seemed to work, which made me a very happy camper.
I slept like a baby, and woke up to a horrendous sight.
It had snowed about a foot overnight, and I was worried my shitty C3 citroen rental car (which is junk btw, NEVER buy one…) even arriving to Fionnay in the first place. I was haggard sore from the past couple sessions, but decided to have a stab at the daunting snow removal, and brought my climbing gear just for the novel hoe that maybe it could somehow still be dry enough to try.
After trudging through mud snow and cows, I arrived to see the boulder in winter wonderland mode. The main wall was dry minus some dripping streaks of water, which was awesome, but there was more then a foot of wet snow everywhere, and the top out was buried. It was time to get to work.
Like building snow men, when snow is perfect, it was pretty fun getting all the snow off. I would make a ball of snow, which packed up perfectly, and then roll it in a path which created giant snowballs which I could jettison off the top of the boulder. Thanks to the sticky nature of the snow, it only took about three hours to remove all of the snow of the 100 square foot boulder (thats a guess btw, its huge, I dunno the exact figures here) and the future looked bright.
I began climbing on what was climbable, and again, had another breakthrough.
What had been messing me up all along with my beta was getting this right hand edge off this big double bump too far too the right. I was forced to do a more powerful matching sequence to get my left hand on the edge, and then never really have the hold the way I wanted, as the was no way to move my right hand. What I discovered was that I could bump my right hand to the correct spot, in order to match more efficiently and be set up for the next hard move properly, by utilizing this hold I would drop my hand down to, and kicking my feet out right and into a tenuous bicycle. This enabled me to cruise through the middle section without getting all stretched out, and gave me a fighting chance to get to the ending in the right position. I rested the next day and began to feel like a little kid again, excited, and giddy, I stared at the rain that fell and assumed everything would be fine. It was just snowing up at the boulder, and hopefully enough snow and ice had been removed that the top out could be dried. I wouldn't slip and break my neck or anything heinous. Everything was gonna be fine. The beta works. It was only a matter of time. And I was not going anywhere this time.
My friend Yves Burri returned from vacation the next day, and we went out to the boulder in a relaxed manner. With no real expectations, as I had never even started trying my new method from the ground, I went into the day feeling open to anything. After all the stress with the rain and snow and heat and shit beta and shit weather, I felt ready to just enjoy the session, enjoy the fact could try it in the first place, enjoy the fact I wasn't alone, and that I had cool new beta to try out, which could, potentially, somehow, work just fine.
As we prepared the pads, the wind started blowing. We looked at the forecast and a huge storm bringing rain and hot air was brewing nearby, and it was most likely the last day to make any type of attempt for a long time. Fired up, I rapped then ending, dried off the key holds on the half soaked top out, brushed the holds, and booted up. I started trying from the bottom, it was humid, but around 6 degrees, with an ever present breeze, a phenomenal situation for a boulder stuck in the wettest part of the woods. I started getting farther and farther, the beta worked. Each attempt I would get a move farther. I would take my shoes and force myself to rest, letting it get colder, and drier, watch the rain come and go. I fell of the last move the next attempt. Exasperated and pumped, I took my shoes off and rested again. I ate some food, had some tea, and watched the rain move back and forth, then booted back up.
It was an awesome climb. I battled it out, got super pumped, and didn't kill myself falling off wet top out. 19 moves, and about 12 meters long, and one my favorite pieces of climbing I have ever done.
The sequence is powerful and tensiony, yet flowing. I love the body positions you get into while you climb it. Very athletic, yet balancy.
Rising above the bad weather and heinous knee injury I sustained this spring made it feel even more rewarding.
Now that the first objective is complete, and I have good beta for the upper half, all that is rest is beginning the next circle of attempts from the lower start. I have done all the moves now, but unfortunately it seems like it will be wet for potentially the rest of the year. I will return as soon as its dry, even though thats a tricky thing to time. Its truly challenging when searching for the next level in bouldering to find something that is logical, enjoyable, and a step above everything else you have ever seen. This rig fits the bill. I feel really grateful nature made it happen, and I lucky that I somehow stumbled upon it.