maandag 29 april 2013

The North Face Kalymnos Bolting Fun!

‘Kalymnos... A climbers paradise.’ I have to say this place is one of the only places I’ve ever been were everything is about climbing. Kalymnos is a tiny island with a lot of rock, a lot of sun, sea, good food, super friendly people and a lot of routes. I can also subscribe it as a sport climbing ‘vacation’ destiny. It’s not the kind of climbing area you should go to when you want adventure and hardcore climbing. 

When I first heard about Kalymnos I had the impression there were only steep routes with big tufas and stalactites. There is a lot of those but in fact, Kalymnos has a lot of slightly overhanging and vertical sectors with good grey rock and a crimpy climbing style. 
Thanks to Jacopo (check out his cool blog!) I could join The North Face in its organisation of their relatively new event ‘The North Face Kalymnos Climbing Festival’. Our job was to develop a new crag and open new routes for the PRO competition of the festival. The goal was to find good routes of all grades with specifically some hard ones for the competition. 
Once arrived in Kalymnos I met Hansjörg Auer and Iker Pou who joined us for some bolting. Not knowing any of the two we made a good team and had a lot of fun bolting and joking around. With the four of us we rented some scooters and raced around the island to complete our job. 
First we started to explore the island with the help of Claude, who is a Frenchmen living on the island and developing new areas, we found what we needed. This local helped us and The North Face a lot, thanks man! 

Starting the day with coffee and Greek yoghurt and ending with a king’s dinner we bolted almost 10 days to establish the new crag. I can’t say a lot about it yet because of the friendly competition format of the festival but soon we will announce the guide of the new crag. 

I wasn’t planning on bolting sport climbing lines this trip but I’m happy I did it. It was a nice experience in an amazing place with a lot of fun people and I have to say we added some amazing new climbs to the Kalymnos sport climbing island. I’m glad I could help and enriched my own experiences too. 
Hansjörg's hands: You think the new crag will have tufa's?
Right now I’m in Val di Mello. After when we came back from Kalymnos I still had a week of time to get some climbing done. I went on my own towards Val di Mello but some bad luck that fell over my head. Since the three days I'm here it has just been raining. The good thing is that the Melloblocco festival is going on and there is a lot of people and some other things to do besides climbing. We could climb a little bit on the competition boulders who are covered with a tarp and protected against the rain.

In three days I'm going home and I really hope the weather turns out better soon! Good there is a little gym here so I can keep on climbing! :)

I also would like to thank Jacopo to let me use his pictures on my blog! All the nice pictures from Tom et je Ris are taken by him, thanks man! 
Scooter Fun on the island!
Me laughing with Iker before he decided making a backflip with the scooter! 
The victory picture on top of 'Tom et je Ris'! I quickly stole it from his blog :)

zaterdag 27 april 2013

Verdon classic - Tom et je Ris

The Verdon was great! After Millau and the world cup bouldering Jacopo and I were glad to be out in nature again to enjoy some climbing and amazing environment. The Verdon is really big, when I saw it I understood why its second name is 'The grand canyon of Europe'. 
From the first day we both saw one obvious line in the canyon: 'Tom et je Ris' (8b+). Jacopo and I both got to know the Verdon and especially the amazing line because of the famous poster of Nico on the big (and sharp) tufa’s of 'Tom et je Ris' (read also Tom et Jerry). 

After we did some classical multipitch routes on the technical and vertical walls of the Verdon the tufa line was dry and waiting to be climbed. The climb is on the east side of the canyon and has an approach of 1 hour and 10 minutes. You have to approach the line from above and it is really hard to find the anker of the line. Before going up we searched some information about the approach on the internet, apparently it was hard to find the anker and a lot of people rappelled down the wrong line on their first go. 
We were not the only ones in the Verdon, the other climbers mostly were Belgians, and this resulted in a fun group on ‘Camping à la Ferme’ in La Palud. Two of those were David Leduc and the forever travelling Tim De Dobbeleer. Always a lot of fun with those Belgians! On his last day, David joined us on the hike, search and try of Tom et je Ris. 
Once we found the anker, we rappelled down de amazing 60 meter tufa line into open space. Due to the steep wall we had to do an airy rappel down to the anker where the route starts. Rappelling down the beautiful line with perfect limestone tufa’s and the bolts nice and far apart was really intimidating. I was the first one trying the line, warming up on it because there is nothing else to warm up on, I went from bolt to bolt. 
The moves where amazing, following a slopy tufa with some 'sharp' crimps going into three other perfect tufa's. Climbing from one tufa to the next some endurance climbing and little cruxes resulted in one pumpy journey. Because of the huge length of the route and the bulgy overhang it was impossible to see the belayer from halfway up (30m). This gave me an amazingly free feeling, climbing on my own in a hard route somewhere high up, magically. You really have to do it al on your own!
'Sharp' rock! 
After that first day Jacopo and me where psyched to try this intimidating line again. On our second day we got to know the moves a little better and could place the many and almost similar sequences in a row. Still we couldn’t send the line. After only two try’s each day my skin was completely destroyed, it was like I had been touching some coral riffs in the sea.
We took one day off, ate a lot of French bread and pastries, drank too much coffee and enjoyed one of the first hot and not windy days! That same evening with our belly’s full of pastries we hiked up the hill and slept at the top of Tom et je Ris to give it our last tries the following morning. We did this because we had to leave the next day towards Bergamo (IT) to catch our flight towards Kalymnos (Greece).  

Waking up in nature on top of a big canyon with the huge birds flying by we prepared for our last tries. We both gave the line one warm-up try where after Jacopo gave it a burn. Walking his way up through the hard start he realised to fight in the end against his exploding arms and made an ascent. Now it was my turn, happy for Jacopo but focussed for my try I gave it everything. Fighting through the hard sections and shaking on the many rests I managed to send this line too. 
This is one of the best sport climbing lines I’ve ever climbed in my life. The approach, the airy rappel, the intimidating line, the height, the steepness, the big rocky canyon, the far spaced bolts, the climbing style and the perfect rock made this climbing experience better then every other sport climb. It’s all about ‘everything’! 
I tried to get those tufa's closer to each other! 
After our Verdon experiences we left that same last day towards Bergamo, slept on the side of the road and caught our flight the next morning with ‘The North Face’ team towards Kalymnos. No climbing this time, but searching the island for a new crag where we were going to bolt many new lines for the ‘The North Face Kalymnos Climbing Festival.’ 
More about that on the next post … 
David Leduc on our first day. 
Jacopo giving a try!

zaterdag 6 april 2013

April and the unexpected journey...

During the last two months I got to deal physically with some bad luck. After Siurana last winter I injured my wrist a little bit. I could keep on climbing but not at my normal level, bouldering I couldn’t do at all. When the pain in the wrist was almost gone my whole body was protesting me being an active Duracell bunny. Apparently I had a little virus and my immune system was kind of resisting fighting against a cold or a fever. This made me being tired really quick after a little climbing session or taking the bike to school. 
Those little things have been holding me from training and getting in good shape for my April-trip. This was kind of frustrating but I’m glad I’ve never been that sick I could not go on this trip. 
So now… what about this trip? Like every climber knows, meeting people and travelling is the best way to make new plans and discover new areas just from talking to other climbers. This is how it went for me for this April-trip. In Siurana I met Melissa Le Nevé, talking to her about some future plans and goals she told me full excitement she had a boyfriend at home who had similar plans as me but having a hard time to find a climbing partner. I decided to contact him so we could try and climb a little together. The guy I’m talking about is Jacopo Larcher, a young Italian climber full of motivation to try out unknown stuff and push his own limit in all disciplines in climbing. 
We quickly made some plans to meet each other. We decided to go climbing in April in Cadarese, Italy and Switserland so I bought my ticket to Innsbruck, Austria, where he and Melissa live. But the thing that can happen when you plan a trip happened, due to this crazy long and wet winter, Cadarese and our plans in Switserland were soaked! So we had to find some new plans right now. 
Enjoying the Innsbruck mountains. 
I still went to Innsbruck where we were forced to climb in the gym. A great training gym I would say, now I understand why all those strong competition climbers from Europe move over there. Besides that, even more important then the gym are the mountains. Apparently there is so much climbing, sport, trad, ski and alpinism around that town.

Climbing in the gym between all those top competition climbers was frustrating because of my bad shape but also motivating me to become better and start training more specifically next winter. 
The main wall of Cantobre
So the plans changed. We stayed two days in Innsbruck and then we drove towards Millau to watch Melissa compete at the bouldering worldcup this weekend. After the qualifications on Friday, Jacopo and I drove towards Cantobre, a small but beautiful climbing area 15 minutes away of Millau. Luckily the weather wasn’t so bad and the rock was dry. We were both so happy to just be outside and be able to climb a bit. Today the weather was too bad to go out in between the semi-finals and the finals.

Sunday evening Jacopo and I will move on towards Gorges du Verdon where the weather will be good … we hope! The Verdon is a famous valley with on both sides big rock faces of 250 to 300 meters. Climbing started here in the sixties when they used pitons and nuts to find their way up the high cliffs. First they just climbed routes on the faces where cracks could be found. But in the eighties sport climbing became popular and they started to rappel down the high cliffs and bolted routes on amazing vertical faces. Now hard routes have been climbed mostly on the upper part of the cliffs.
Les Gorges du Verdon
Our goal is to find some classic and exciting multi-pitches that start ground-up! Let’s respect the old school style! With tons of motivation and sweating hands I’m excited to do some multi-pitch climbing with Jacopo. 
After that Jacopo (who is also in The North Face team) and I will go towards Kalymnos, Greece. The plan is to bolt a new crag for the next ‘The North Face Kalymnos climbing festival’ in October. Thanks to Jacopo I will join the bolting team and open new sport lines at a complete virgin crag. With my bolting experience from last year at the Petzl bolting trip in Piedra Parada, Argentina, I’m psyched to open my eye on some new lines. 
But what is ‘The North Face Kalymnos Climbing Festival’
A picture from the festival of last year.
The festival is a place where climbers from all over the world can meet each other, climb together and enjoy the amazing atmosphere on the Greece Island. Each year The North Face searches for a new virgin crag and opens around 30 new routes with as main goal to leave a new crag behind for the Kalymnos climbing community. The festival is a combination between some friendly competitions like a marathon of climbing and a more pro comp where invited climbers try the new hard routes together. In the evening there is a lot of activities like lectures, movies, parties and concerts. Fun guaranteed! After bolting, I’m definitely psyched to go out there in October!

For more info, check the TNF website of last edition in 2012: The North Face Kalymnos Climbing Festival 2012
I’ll keep you up to date about our wet climbing activities in France right now! Hoping for good weather next week so we can crush some of the Verdon rock! 

Here you can find the places i'll visit this April-trip 2013.

View April 2013 in a larger map 

donderdag 4 april 2013

The North Face and Avventura

With this post I would like to bring the news that from now on I have a new brand and a climbing store who will support me in my climbing and on my next trips. With a lot of fun trips and new goals in the future they will help me to make all this come true. 
I would not be lying if I say that The North Face is one of the most famous outdoor brands. Everybody knows it as an innovating brand always ready to develop their gear more to the needs of the outdoor people and especially the climbers. I’m excided to go out climbing this summer with the help of their technical gear. 
Avventura is one of the first outdoor stores Belgian climbers could enjoy. The first store was opened in Gent and started really small but fast became popular due to the large offer in climbing gear. Soon after that two other Avventura stores opened in Brugge and Brussels. I like the store because of the same spirit we share. Making the Belgian climbing world live and spread out ideas and information about climbing and all its possibility’s. Like I already said a couple of times, climbing is more then a sport and is rich in all its facilities. 

From now on just until September I will be travelling a little more again, so much projects and so much new areas I want to visit. This summer the dolomites and Chamonix are waiting on me. I’m excited to go back to the mountains and try out my ice axes and crampons on some snowy approaches. 
For the moment I’m travelling too, but where and with whom I will make you clear the next post. 

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