Saturday, 26 December 2009

Yesterday (well a few weeks ago now but it was yesterday when I began to write) I turned 24.

In recent years, birthdays have become less and less important and I have gotten used to letting them slip by without a song or a dance. Up until a few days ago I had assumed this year would be the same, but assumptions have a developed a recent habit of biting me firmly in the ass, and my 24th year would turn out to be anything but mundane!

Im sure most of you already know this, but Fontainebleau is rather conveniently situated not too far from the grand city of gay Pari, providing excellent activities for rest day or restless night alike. My birthday was on a Tuesday, so the sensible thing seemed like a little night out with the boys (Adam and Keith) on the weekend before. After quickly checking the listings of the various clubs, we stumbled upon something we hardly believed – Laurent Garnier was playing an all night set at the Rex Club as a Christmas gift to Paris. Amazing!!!

Acording to the website, tickets were sold out, but Keith assured me that we would still go, as there was not a club on earth he couldn’t get into if he put his mind to it! We hopped on board the train from Font, and were whisked off to Paris in no time at all. Arriving at the club it was bitterly cold. Adam and I stood on the street whilst Keith went inside, prepared to drop his A-Game if the situation called. Fortunately, the website was misleading and there were still a few tickets left, which quickly became the property of 3 very excited Englishmen.

To cut a long and quite blurry story short, this was most probably the best night out of my life (I am struggling to remember any others that surpass it). Laurent played an incredible set - varied to the maximus, and the company inside the club was rather pleasant to say the least. What more could a guy want? We left the club at around 8am, and were in bed back in font for 10. As I fell asleep, a wide smile spread across my face as I remembered little snippets from the last 12 hours.

The first day climbing in the forest on this trip was not quite the Renaissance I hoped it would be. After not climbing here for over 2 years, I felt like I would come back and float. My projects would all feel easy, my hands and feet would stick to the smooth features, movement would feel effortless; basically I would be just like Tyler. The reality however, was quite different. I felt heavy and sluggish, my movement felt uncoordinated, and my skin felt slippery. When I struggled to climb some of the warm ups, I was forced to re-evaluate my aims and settled to just climbing lots of c’s in an attempt to feel the flow.

Day 2 brought a slight improvement but I still felt like my biceps had halved and my weight doubled. I was pleased with my prize of La Chose, a classic tick from “The Real Thing” but compared with my true goal of Karma, it didn’t really cut the mustard.

Day 3, and things started to improve. We went to Rocher de Bouligny to look at Geko and battled to warm up through the freezing temperatures. The holds on the stand start looked simply terrible and I wondered how any human could possibly climb this problem. Keith had a few tries to explain the beta, but unfortunately split his tip along the first joint, unsurprisingly in the same place as old war wounds from last year’s siege.

After a few burns, I was starting to feel the problem, but was repeatedly spat off one of the upper moves – a slap from a small undercut and terrible sloper to a reasonable sloping dimple. I was trying to place my right heel on a tiny but positive sidepull but The position felt awkward and consequently I was falling. Keith assured me that he used a slightly higher heel hook and encouraged me to try it, but after looking at the proposed hold, and finding it looked significantly shittier than my chosen one, I shunned his advice and fell off some more. Eventually I gave in and tried the higher slopey heel and you guessed it, it stuck solid and I topped out. Ladies and gentlemen, if your thinking of a masterclass, look no further than our very own technical genius, Unclesomebody!

The Gek - thanks to Adam Lincoln

Day 4 dawned the coldest and clearest so far, but not before I bagged Amok at the end of the last. This is a truly special problem and one definitely worth seeking out – see BTT for relevant beta! I hardly slept a wink the night before due to lots of confusion running around my head so didn’t expect too much of a performance from my little head. The weather was simply too good to stay indoors, so I packed up my gear and an extra jacket with ideas of just relaxing at the rocks. Once everyone else began to climb, it didnt take long for the psyche to take hold and pull me into the game. I spent the first few hours repeating problems from previous trips (which fortunately felt easier than I had remembered) as well as adding in a few variations/lower starts/ linkups.

Later on in the day, I made the small hike with Adam over to Immoteph, which is a beautiful compression prow, tucked away from the hustle, bustle and polish of Cuisiniere proper. This problem is simply awesome and well worth seeking out. After a few tries working out the beta and falling on the same move, I readjusted my sequence and topped out in gorgeous rosy light, a nice end to the day, all things considered.

Immoteph - thanks to Adam Lincoln

The snow came, making climbing nigh on impossible, so what better way to spend our time than “party in Paris”. The Rex club began to feel like a second home, and I wondered if the bar staff were talking about the strange English guy with nothing better to do than party all night, every night the club was open?

The time eventually came to leave for home (well home for now) and on Saturday afternoon we began the long drive back to Innsbruck. I was sad to leave Font for quite a few reasons, but am sure I will return again in the not so distant future – there is simply too much unfinished business...

Friday, 18 December 2009

The last few weeks have been a bit of a blur, with a lot going on in a relatively short period of time.

I left Innsbruck for a hectic week of sponsor related activities, but not before having one final day trying my project in the Zillertal. Armed with a hand-warmer in my chalkbag, I hoped that I might be able to find just enough to get me through the top crux. Unfortunately the rock was colder than I had ever felt before, and even the comforting heat from my chalk bag failed to hold off the unbeatable numbness. 2 moves from the top, with all feeling lost, I barn-doored off the technical crux and once again found myself dangling in space.

Dundee was the first place on my tour, for the 2nd stop of the North Face Speaker Series in the UK. The talk seemed to go down pretty well, and I got a lot of questions/autograph requests at the end, which tends to be a positive sign.

With spirits high, I headed down to the opposite end of the country for my 2nd North Face event, an open Coaching clinic at The Climbing Academy in Bristol. The climbing academy is a great venue and one I would certainly be more than happy to have as my local venue. Set out in a similar way to the Climbing Works in Sheffield, TCA has various colour coded problems, well set and suitable for all levels of climbers, as well as a dedicated circuit board, campus board, fingerboards, stretching area, cafe, treatment room etc etc! The Open Coaching clinics they hold run from around 2pm until 9pm and are a very informal affair where users of the wall can come and ask the coach of the day for advice on any aspect of their climbing. The atmosphere on the day was great, and I particularly enjoyed helping out with the youth squad who had a couple of very talented young members. Keep up the good work guys.

After a few days hanging out in Bristol, It was time to head off into the sunset again for the annual North Face Athlete Summit in San Francisco. The Athlete Summit is a chance for all of TNF's athletes to get together, talk about the past year and future plans, as well as learning what’s going on behind closed doors. The highlight of the trip for me was the final party, which took place on what looked like an old Mississippi river steamer (just obviously without the steam) which sailed around the San Francisco Bay, pumping out quality dubby-breaky-electropop thanks to Ana Sia.

TNF athlete summit, another snippet from renan ozturk on Vimeo.

The party finished way too early, but for the 4 or so hours it did go on for I had great fun dancing with the usual suspects with one important addition to the team - Yuji Hirayama. Before this trip I had loads of respect for Yuji, based solely on his climbing achievements, but after meeting him that respect has gone through the roof. Not only is he a genuinely lovely guy, he dresses fly and can dance like a daemon. Yuji is my new hero and when I grow up I want to be just like him ;)

The Legend That Is...

Right now I’m in Fontainebleau, France where life is good. When I have a little more time, I’ll let you know what’s been going down...