Thursday, May 31

France Update

Life here at the base of the mastiff… is not so bad. Ceuse is truly an incredible crag, and the more I get to know the surrounding area the harder I think it'll be to leave. I imagine what it would be like to live here; I'd have a few goats, some chickens and a big garden... Make my own food, hike to the crag daily, just lay around on rest days.  It's the vibe here. French country style living, with one of the Earth's best crags just an hour hike behind you. 

afternoon storms... everyday...
outside our bedroom window
I cruised up to Paris for a few days to pick up Marisa. It's a shocking change from the Verdon or Sigoyer to be back in a big city, but Paris is a one of a kind place so we made some time to enjoy it.
Incredible stained glass inside of Notre Dame.

The Louvre. Painfully huge. Too much to take in but a must for any Paris visit.

As Godly as it seems out here, it's still not beyond the usual buzz kills of the spring. It's been raining quite a bit. I'd say over half the days are rainy to some degree, and while the slabs dry out rapidly, it takes a ripping wind or days sun to dry some pocketed or tufa sections. Some routes have essentially been wet now for nearly three weeks and a few larger storms over the last week have kept the trend going. 

Usually this kind of thing would certainly bum me out, but there are so many amazing routes here in Ceuse that regardless of some rain, there is almost always something dry-- and this being my first time here, I'm stoked to try basically anything.

I've been trying a really cool open project here on the Berlin Wall. It was bolted last year by a Gap local, and since, it's been tried by a variety of French climbers as well as the random passer-by. It's essentially the final open line to the top of the wall and it climbs quite well. It opens with a couple sharp bouldery sections through some decent rock (it'll clean up) and directly into the first crux surmounting a small overlap. This part is really shouldery and powerful. The rest above is on an undercling with smeary feet-- not ideal. From here you gun it through a massive headwall of grey stone without any rest, using tiny pockets and precarious feet for what seems like a hundred feet. There's one bolt of fluff climbing to the chains. It's thrilling and technically very engaging. I've one-hung the route three times now, but a crucial pocket in the bottom is wet, and it's hard to say when it'll dry out. Stoked to try it again!

I've also been sampling Biographie-- a legendary route on the wall of the same name. A hard boulder problem guards the beginning of this stunning route. A few years ago an important hold in the bottom crux broke, making the first few moves of the route significantly harder. I've been able to figure out the moves, but I've yet to put them all together. The rest of the route climbs pretty damn well, although its legacy has left it quite polished. It's a seriously impressive line, and one that I'd really like to climb at some point, maybe on this trip, maybe on the next.

I did manage to take down a really unique climb on the Demi Lune Sector called 'L'Arcadémicien' 8c. It's a relentless blue/grey streak that looks completely blank from below. There are essentially no features in the route, just a spattering of sloper edges and the occasional shallow pocket. It was cool to learn this route because it seemed like every little hold needed to be grabbed a very specific way, and all the rain had completely washed any chalk away, so finding the sequences and grips was a pretty serious adventure.

In between the wet streaks and my efforts on these burly routes I've been knocking down some fantastic 7's and 8's. Ceuse may have a reputation for being a hardpersons crag but the bulk of the quality really lies in the 7a-8a range. I've done too many world class routes to list them all, but it'd be a crime not to reveal some of my favorites (if you have no interest in Ceuse climbing or wish to continue believing that your backyard crag is indeed the best on the planet I would not read on) --  'La Couleur Du Vent' hard for 8a, an incredible blue streak with a punchy and unrelenting ending. 'Berlin' soft 7c+, a boulder problem down low leads to amazing Red River-type pumpy crimping to the top, a crag classic. 'Dolce Vita' 8a+, two distinct boulder problems- one on pockets, one on edges, with a rest between, excellent. 'Petit Tom' 8a, a perfect big brother to Berlin, my favorite on the wall. 'Makach Walou' 7c+, resistant, a little steeper, awesome! (the previous 5 routes are literally right next to one another, and all world class for their grade. Leading me to believe that the left side of the Berlin Wall could potentially be the single greatest stretch of limestone in the world (??!!)). 'Archetype' 8b+, amazing crimp boulder problem up a golden section of wall, all the way to the top. 'L'ami Caouette' 8a, a hard boulder problem down low to a pumpy top out on interesting edges and pockets. 'Angel Dust' 7a+, big, sequential moves up a perfect wall of generally good pockets, with a hint of technical climbing up top, the best 12a on the planet?? 'Monnaie de Singe' 8a+, classical given 8a but few agree, a bit of a black sheep but the moves are brilliant, boulder problem to pumpy top out. 'Cent Patates' soft 7b+, totally different climbing, with great position and cool holds. And lastly, 'Femme Noire' soft 7c+, just about as close to perfection in a climb as I've experienced-- thrilling space between bolts, a nice variety of movement up a striking line for a full 35 meters. Damn. I could easily keep going but I'm sensing that only a few people are dorky enough to be enjoying my fun-list. Email me for the full version. 

Needless to say, Ceuse is incredible, but last weekend we needed a break from all the rain so we packed up and made the beautiful 4-hour drive south to Nice, where a good friend of mine was presenting a short film at the Cannes Film Festival. I'd visited Nice before, but I had totally forgotten about how rad it was. A bitchin' waterfront and a very lively vibe atop a city with origins over two millennia old. It was everything we needed… a break from the countryside, some blazing hot sunshine, and a refreshing change of scenery. We happily returned to Ceuse a couple days ago. Now we'll spend the next week at our bad ass gite beneath Ceuse, before heading up to Chamonix to poke around and check out the Arcteryx Arc'ademy event! 

If you have a few minutes to burn-- check out a cool little video (episode 2) that Arc'teryx made with me during my stay in Canada last summer, with rad footage from the Canadian Rockies... Planet X, Acephale and Lake Louise

I'm very pleased to announce a new partnership with Smith Optics. This is a brand that I've been following and psyched on for many years. They make an incredible product, and have a strong presence in action sports and the outdoor sector alike. They have a killer website-- check out the Smith Lounge for more info on athletes and events, with photos videos and all that. Very stoked to be representing Smith!