Saturday 30th March marked the start of my trip to Gorges du Loup; I caught the train to London then stayed with friends in Hammersmith before waking up at 3 having had about 3 hours sleep we headed to Gatwick and were soon on our way to Nice. Everyone arrived at Peter Wuensche’s beautiful holiday home, had some food and we decided to head out to Deversé to check out whether any routes were dry enough to climb and hopefully get some climbing done.
Thirty minutes drive and we arrived to find that the two routes with in-situ top ropes were dry at F6a+ and F6b+ but so were three other lines… Mekanik Destructif Komodo (F7c/+), Super Mekanik (F8a) and New Power Generation (F8b). Something that I was quite interested in trying was New Power so I decided to get straight on that. I quickly got all of the moves and started to wait my turn to put in some proper redpoint attempts. I had two redpoint attempts coming off at the same move which was just past the crux. After my attempt Buster tied back in and sent the route. 20 minutes rest and I pulled back on and moved through the crux better than any other time and soon set up for the move I previously fell from. Feeling okay I pulled and completely missed the pocket! I decided that the lack of sleep didn’t help and I headed back to try to get some rest and hopefully return another day.
On Monday we headed over to La Turbie which is a cool crag that overlooks Monaco and the surrounding mountains and rock. We went to the Big Ben sector at first where me and Alex tried a tough F8a+ which we found really hard and couldn’t find a feasible sequence to overcome the upper wall. We later found out that this route is harder than the F8b next to it and has a very hard to read sequence. Adam Ondra didn’t even onsight it… I finished off the day with 5 F6’s and a run up and down the approach path.
Tuesday I headed back to Deverse with Buster Martin, Hannah and Peter Wuensche. I dogged up New Power Generation which felt quite easy and hoped that it would go quite quickly today. Buster figured out a sequence on Super Mekanik and I had my first redpoint attempt of the day on New Power… I came off on the same move that I had before. A short rest and I tied back in feeling very nervous, this ended with me falling off very low and off of a move that I hadn’t fell yet from. Buster got back on Super Mekanik and did it first redpoint. Will Smith arrived to try Super Mekanik quickly worked out a sequence with lots of heel hooks and a very different beta to the past 3 ascents that I had seen but it looked good anyway. Third attempt and I caught the pocket just right, moved out to a gaston, then made a slightly reachy move up to another pocket, dropped the knee and fell three moves from the top! Will jumped back on the F8a and ticked it on his first redpoint attempt, it was another great fight to watch, especially with the ‘interesting’ sequence that was used. Back to New Power and I got up to the pocket and gaston again and somehow forgot the sequence and dropped the route again… After quite a long rest and belaying Will while he started to work on New Power (where he found more heel-hooking) I tied into my brand new Mammut Serenity 8.7 and stepped on to the easy slab and moved through the roof. I hit the two finger pocket, and caught the pinch; next came the three finger pocket and I took the cut-loose; this time I took the biggest cut loose that I have even taken on this move and had to pinch harder than ever to keep myself on the wall. Powerful campus move to a slightly sloping edge and roll over to an okay hold. I moved into the undercut and fought my way through the rest of the route to the top. I had done it; my first F8b! First 8b on my 8th redpoint attempt- I was very pleased and was left feeling psyched to try a few more tough routes in the Gorge (provided that they were dry). 10 minutes after the send Will gave me beta to try and flash Mekanik Destructif (F7c/+). The flash attempt ended around 4 moves from the top on the last hard moves. I pulled the rope had two minutes rest and went again falling at the same place. I kept doing this for training and got rather pumped in the end.
On the Wednesday we headed to Mesa Verde were I decided to have an easy (-ish) day after the day of the 8b so I onsighted some 7’s including a nice and long (long compared to most of the routes that I do) F7b called De la Terre au Ciel. I also belayed Ellie May on her first F6c+ since her injury which was quite impressive! Alex and Buster both did L’Ogre and Walou la Voie that day too.
The following day myself and Will Smith went back to Deverse where I wanted to do Mekanik Destructif and Super Mekanik and Will wanted to finish New Power Generation. I warmed up by dogging Mekanik and then had a redpoint attempt. Not long afterwards I topped the route; this was one of my favourite routes that I did on the trip. Completely manufactured and very few natural holds but the moves were great on an overhanging wall without any proper rests. If this route were natural then it’d possibly be one of my favourite routes that I have done yet. I then started to try Super Mekanik which traverses out left on slopers, pinches and undercuts just before the tufa section at the top of Mekanik Destructif. I figured out a sequence that worked for me and rested for a while before having a redpoint attempt. Meanwhile Will was looking very strong on NPG but was having a bit of trouble getting the heal to stick on the poor foothold that he was attempting to use but I knew that as soon as the heel stuck he would top the route. I had my first redpoint attempt on the F8a where everything felt good and I fell two moves from the chains, I changed my foot sequence a little and then had another long rest where I got very cold and lost psyche but soon after I warmed up again I was ready for another attempt. Flowing through the Mekanik section better than ever, I arriving at the break off point feeling fresh, I moved out to the undercuts, onto the slopers, made a few moves on slopey edges and got the jug to clip the chain. For some strange reason I kind of enjoyed this route, the holds weren’t very nice (they are natural though) but I enjoyed the style and moves but it defiantly isn’t my favourite route that I have done. Shortly afterwards Will topped New Power Generation; watching this was probably some of the best climbing that I saw on the trip, it was an awesome battle and very tense to watch.
Most of us headed up to Greolieres just after mid day on Friday but very few people climbed there so later in the afternoon some of us headed over to Mesa Verde. I belayed Will while he tried L’Ogre and Buster did a route with 4 clips (made from two screw-gate carabiners and a sling) when the route had around 12 bolts, so he climbed up and down the route taking out a draw each time, putting it higher and repeating the same, he managed to do it first go in this style. The route was graded 8b but I think Buster said 8a was more appropriate. Buster then tried Situation Explosive and did it second redpoint so I asked him to leave the draws in and I was going to try it too. Before I pulled on Buster said that I could possibly flash it and I thought that there was very little chance that I could flash an 8a in my current state (feeling very tired and rather cold) but I pulled on anyway and climbed the wet technical slab to the ledge and was now at the crux… I crimped a two finger edge and the grabbed another poor crimp and threw everything I had at an okay hold, I missed the good part of the hold and just managed to hold a sloper then go again to the slightly better part of the hold where I relaxed and prepared myself for the next tough section, I got a high heel, crossed over to a crimp fell into a side-pull/undercut, hesitated then snatched for a good hold, clipped. After that I was on the easier section on my way to the top until I came to a poor side-pull where I had to do a weird twisty move to another good hold but just before I had the hold I felt myself moving away from the wall, so I screamed a little and slapped for the next hold. After that I was three moves from the top and before I knew it I was clipping the chains to my first 8a flash!
Jonny White did New Power that day and Alex did Super Mekanik. For the next few days I took it quite easy at Mesa Verde as I was feeling very tired, it was then time to leave Nice and the trip was over. I am looking forward to hopefully returning sometime soon to have a go on 7pm JP Show and I’d like to try Magma which is a link between New Power Generation and Super Mekanik.
This trip has left me feeling more psyched than ever to get out and do some projects and to train.
Thanks for reading,