Thursday, June 9, 2016

highlander - finally - the (s)end


2016 - what to do (change) to finally send the "highlander"?! i did make a plan - and it worked out :)
pic by angelawagner.ch

in winter 2016 i sat down at my table at home. i knew i had to change some things. i was getting 39 years old. and i could just not "afford" to go down on that last move off the "highlander" for another six years. i knew i lacked crimp-power. the short "hangboard-test" back in 2013 and in fall 2015 had shown me the potential. so i decided to go for that again. luckily my fingers managed to cope better this time. still not a 100% but better. i reduced my workload at my job for better recovery (=more sleep!!!) and more flexibility to be at the crag when conditions were prime. 

as the "highlander" is pretty long (around 30moves) i needed "endurance" as well. so i was three times a week at the gaswerk-climbing-gym for some 30minutes-non-stop-climbing-sessions. very easy routes. max 5a. it was all about active recovery and building up some basic endurance. (people were laughing at me doing these easy climbs. but i always was more interested in who laughs last. this was followed by some core-workouts, antagonist-training and stretching. the stretching was important as well as there is a crucial foot-move in the middle of the crux. with enough flexibility you do not have to pull so hard on the holds to replace your foot.

last but not least and may the hardest part; i did cut my daily after dinner chocolate-intake from 50-100g to 25-50g and went for some light running/biking three times a week. this resulted in my weight going down from 72.5kg to 69kg.

2016 - first signs of better power. first ascent of the sds to the beautiful "heritage" in valle bavona


focus
pic by angelawagner.ch

already in march we had some unusual warm weather up in the higher mountains. so off i was to sustenpass to make use of the great spring-conditions. there was still a lot of snow. so i had to walk up two hours with my splitboard and shovel off snow for hours. but it was totally worth it. it’s truly beautiful up there when the road is closed. and thanks to some nice "foen-wind" the air was not too cold but super dry. friction from hell. and i immediately could see the difference to the last years. the crux sequence suddenly felt super solid. even easy. i finally managed to step up my game and leave that five-year plateau. i clearly was stronger then ever before.

first crux of the "highlander"
- it took some time to feel comfortable doing it without a pad... pic by angelawagner.ch

this was the moment i got nervous again. i did not feel like that for years. but now i really knew this spring was different. i felt in great shape and already on my second day up there i managed to get through the crux move for the very first time ever. after falling off that move for six years this was a really surreal moment. interesting enough i still could feel my fingertips. despite just some eight degrees and bit wind.

first crux of the "highlander" - physical.
pic by angelawagner.ch

at the resting point i could feel how i got tired. so i decided to go for it. this last five-move-7B-sequence is really powerful. and almost everybody who climbs "le reve de faire, 8B" (the second part of the "highlander-project") goes down there at least once. already years ago i had sworn to myself that i would not let go there when coming from the "highlander-start". i had the beta dialed. i was able to climb it really really tired.

bad thing was i had no pinky on the second last hold and did not catch the hold perfectly. with the last remaining power i was able to match the hold. i tried to bump my left hand into the little slot but missed it. one split second later my fingers did open their grip and sent me back onto the pads. sitting down in the pads i did not know if i should be happy to finally have made it through the crux orbe angry i managed (so martin like) to go down on the very last move.

going for the move that sent me down for six years - looks easy on the picture. but it is not. at least not for me.
pic by angelawagner.ch

three days later i was back there. and sure enough it did not happen. i was failing three times super close on the crux move. then bad weather hit. snow again. lucky me the following week i had some free days. day one was spent with hiking up with my splitboard again. shoveling the fresh snow off. day two i was up there for climbing. this time ready to finish the business. 

first try was very good. i did stick the crux-move but lost my feet. i did hold the swing but dry-fired off in the very last moment. BIG bummer. this was a big effort and i was really tired. i needed over two hours of rest and lots of food. when i was somehow ready again it already was 7:30pm and getting cold at 2'000 meter above sea level. so i literally was running trough the sequences to be faster than the cold. suddenly i was up there in the crux-sequence again. the move never ever went so solid. perfect climbing. no error. i felt still strong and after a short rest did set up for that last sequence. 

setting up for the last part. easier terrain. but very physical. gets the better of you when you are really tired.
went down once up left on the last move. and was so close on falling on the very last move on the send go as well!!!
pic by angelawagner.ch

and again my pinky was not on the hold. but this time i managed to rearrange it and go for the final move. then while going for the intermediate sloper i suddenly was empty. i was hanging there. but i could feel that if i would do something with my left arm i would fall down. if i would do something with my right arm i would fall down. i was unable to move and i was laughing at myself that i would go down with the finish-jug in front of my face.

in an act of panic and desperation i bumped my right hand up out of the shoulder. somehow it stayed on the second and better sloper. now all i had to do was to lock with my right and go with my left to the monster-finish-jug. easy. but watching my right arm in pure disbelief it just did not do anything. then instincts and experience of twenty years of climbing  kicked in. i flagged my left leg and kicked it hard twice. the resulting swing got my left arm to the intermediate and finally - thirteen years after i first tried this line - into the big finish-jug. it was done. i could not really believe it. may i still can't today.

thirteen years after touching it first. finally on top of the "highlander".
pic by angelawagner.ch

arriving at the top i was so tired i had to sit/lay down for a few minutes. i literally was not able to stand. sitting there on top of the boulder all alone in the middle of this natural amphitheater of big mountains i could see the moon rising. nearly too much to take. after packing up and leaving the "highlander" i may have had my best moment in all this years up there.  the ride and hike down at 9:30pm in bright full moon light with my splitboard was just amazing. words can not describe these moments.

to finish this story i would like to say thanks to all my friends and people who i met and supported me during this journey. in the end i climbed it just by myself. but i am well aware it would not have been possible without all of you. now i can finally quit climbing and start playing chess ;)

on the approach/way down when the road is still closed. as beautiful as it gets!


this may sounds cliché. but after spending so much time up there, putting a grade to the "highlander" seems totally irrelevant to me. when you spend thirteen years of your life to climb a line it really does not matter anymore if its a 6A, 7A, 8A, 9A, 10A... it simply does not matter anymore. all i wanted was to climb that line i had imagined all these years ago. the question was: would i climb it. or not. 
  
for me it’s my hardest boulder for sure. i was not able to complete the highlander when i climbed all the other harder boulders i did in the past years. so for me it's in the  8C-area...  - ("soft" - (because i am so strong) to swing with the mainstream these days). but then i was sooooo close again and again over the years. and its not really my style. its more about finger power. and finger power is not where i am particularly strong and its pretty long. when i finally climbed through the crux-sequence on my send-go it did not feel that super hard anymore. but that was because i am clearly stronger then the previous years. not because the boulder got easier. and despite feeling strong through the crux i still nearly went down on the very last easier move to the finish jug. when something is at your limit it gets tricky. its may a big step up for me. but for somebody stronger its may just a minor step up from other problems. well i have problems myself sometimes to say if something is 6A or 6A+... ;)

so i am sure others will find this easier. may there is better beta (i will write another blog about this). and others will find it hard(er). everybody has his own perception of difficulty. and that is totally ok. grade-discussions about "norming" a grade for "everybody" therefore normally are pointless. you just can not (literally) force somebody else to how hard a route/boulder has to feel for him/her. and if you climb a bit longer you may see one day that there is a lot more to enjoy in climbing then pointless discussions (in the internet) about grades. and honestly i don't really care. climbing outdoors for me is not about others in the sense of competition. i don't want to be stronger then mister or miss xxx. that is not the reason why i went up to sustenpass for thirteen years. 

i (still) have lines in mind i want to climb. some harder and some easier. with the "highlander" it was the same. this was not about others. this was all about me and this piece of rock. very selfish i know. but i am not sorry. the question was not 7A or 8A. the question was getting up or not. very simple. finally i did get up. very simple. this fact and the journey to that special day and the lessons learnt is all that matters. even though i could have just walked around the boulder to get to the top. very strange thing to spend that much (life)time for something you could get so much easier (getting to the top).  but it’s very often the same in life. it does not matter too much what you do. but it does matter how you do it. go for it. whatever this may be for you. good thing though; "there can be more then just one... "- ...and chess can wait... i am off to scramble on some rock... ;)



4 comments:

  1. saustark!!!! - ist dass das Projekt, wo auch gepresster Hase entstand? - zwecks Shortnews Artikel bei Ks.com ;o)

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  2. Wise words... and very inspiring! I'm so happy for you that you finally got it... your lifetime present!!! ;)
    See you up there... at beautiful Sustenpass! Thumbs up.

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  3. really inspiring...thank you for this story.

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  4. WHat!!!! Yessss !!!!!! :D Very proud of you Martin. You are the king of never giving up and it has paid off. This is frickin' awesome to hear.

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