Thursday, January 29, 2015

The first Worldcup of the Season

Competition Iceclimbing is changing.
From enthusiasts that wanted to show what they were capable of to professionals that only train for these special competitions. Some have even never climbed a natural waterfall whilst that is where the sports is named after: iceclimbing. 

You can say whatever you like about this development. Personally I don't think it's a bad development. With professionalising the sports comes a joint development of safety, ethics, media attention, equipment, and new financial flows. And this is exactly what we need to get (and keep?) our sports at an Olympic level.

As part of the growth of the sports logically the difficulty of the routes has increased. The length of the routes has doubled or even tripled and the technical difficulty has increased a lot.
Impressive is therefore the performance of the climbers from the 'old' generation like Sergey and Evgeny. Evgeny stood once again in the finals of the last competition in Saas Fee this weekend. Sergey stood on the podium earlier in Bozeman.

We as Dutch climbers also have the feeling we should develop the sports. 

Five years ago I climbed my first competitions in Daone and Saas Fee. It was such an experience! 
Two years ago Dennis won the speed discipline here in Saas Fee giving a new impulse in the support and understanding of the sports within the Dutch federation and the Dutch climbing community.

We find we owe the federation (NKBV) and the climbing community to build and grow the sports. We find its our job as representatives of the sports to do so.

Then what do we do?
Besides climbing and training (for as far as we can train drytooling and iceclimbing in our flat country) I organise the annual Dutch Drytool Event (an open drytool competition where everyone can enter, equipment is available for free and there are routes on every level) we give clinics in drytooling, and this year we started to extend our team with young athletes. The youth wasn't completely ready yet for the Youth Worldcup but during the weeks of training two older girls got ready for their first Iceclimbing Worldcup here in Saas Fee.
They both did their best. I am proud to have them in the team. It's a good startup for further development of the sports in the Netherlands.

We arranged equipment, a presentation about ethics and history in the sports, specific trainings, UIAA regulations... And just before the Worldcup in Saas Fee we took them for a week of ice, dry and mixed climbing around Kandersteg.
Meanwhile we work on our exposure, made a webpage, keep up several Facebook pages (personal pages, general pages about the sports) and try stay up-to-date with the latest developments through all kinds of channels.

Training, coaching the Social Media, planning, training other athletes... It's a full-time job. And one of the reasons why we quit our job at Edelrid a month ago.

It became a little too much for me this weekend.

The hassle with the licenses when we subscribed, the whole arrangements and planning for the two new Dutch climbers, traveling itself, helping others with their licence/entry/equipment, Dennis who didn't climb as good as he could have done and he got a little injured, not too fantastic nights the past weeks (Dennis has epilepsy and it only occurs during his sleep) and being utterly nervous because of feeling the pressure to perform... All this things took so much energy!

On the morning of the semi's I woke up really early. Just couldn't get to sleep anymore...Tried some breakfast, but decided most would be more fitting for lunch. The bulge of nervousness didn't support the appetite. 
When in isolation I warmed up, slowly. But the bulge in my stomach became a knot and turned into sickness. Again. The reminder of being so nervous worried me enough to having to throw up. And again. 
Why? Why? I was desperate, angry, confused. 
When in the separate isolation just before my climb my supporters (my parents, friends) came up to me. "Come on girl, you can do this." I needed silence, concentration, not words, no distractions.
They couldn't help it, their support for my climbing was just meant in a positive way.
I was wondering where Dennis was. I wanted to tell him to keep a little silence around me. Where was he? Was he allright? Why was he not here yet? 

Time to climb. 
With every move more energy drained to my stomach instead of my arms. The moves were tricky, I was slowly making progress. My hands got tired, pumped. I had to shake, rest. "Come on move on."
I got to the ice, just barely. Had to move to the wood. Just swing in the wood. The energy was gone, the time was gone. In desperately swung and the axe stuck. My... That took so much, that looked so pathetic!

I was sure I was out. No finals there for me. I didn't ever get past the wood!

I went back to the hotel, lay in the bathtub. Thought it all over again. 
My parents and Dennis came by. They told me I was just not in the finals. Got 9th place. 
I knew I was out and even thought I'd be lower in the ranking. 
Not much later Dennis told me there was a mistake in the online ranking. I stood 8th. Meaning I would be in the finals! Surprised, confused.
Pretty sure they just didn't update the latest results yet. 
But then in a comment Alex (the one who does all registrations and results for the UIAA) told me the list was correct. I was in! Bizarre!

I had not much to prepare for the finals so I decided to lay in bed. Relax.

A day ago I wrote down the schedule. From my phone to a little note block I
Wrote down the times. When the route-preview starts, when the isolation opens, when the price giving ceremony would be. 
There was just an online schedule, no printed one anywhere.
To me the times sounded totally logical. 

At 16:00 I was ready to leave the hotel. Some people wanted to come over to the hotel and walk with us. I was sure there was enough time for that. They went to the toilet, picked up some stuff and I thought it was also okay to be a little later in the isolation; less time to get nervous. 
We waited for the elevator (it took ages) and I first walked down into the Boulder room. No one was there. I was about to unpack but decided to walk to the heated room upstairs (second part of the isolation). A man looked with an angry surprise in my direction. All athletes, coaches had their eyes on me. I still had no idea. 
"Too late" the man said with a fairly angry voice in a Swiss-German accent. I still had no idea. 
Dennis was with me, I asked him to join me in the iso. 
We looked at his watch. Still no idea of being too late. 
In what felt like ages a lady came up to me and started in French. I was too late, she said. Confused by all the languages but still understanding I stumbled back in Dutch-English. That it couldn't be. I was in time. I was just downstairs there was no-one there. She blamed me, in English this time, that it was my responsibility to check in time. I was not allowed to start. 
I wanted to speak to the head judge. 
And so we walked out of the isolation. Walking out of the iso meant out of the competition. Only then I dared to ask Dennis for my phone. We never got any printed schedule beforehand and not even at the results-board hung a schedule. I went online (which costs a fortune here in Swiss) and checked the schedule. 16:15 closure of the iso. I was too late. They were right. 
I walked away. Angry, confused and utterly ashamed of making such, such a stupid mistake!

I cried. Wanted to hit something, someone. Run away and never come back. Ashamed of not taking the unique opportunity to climb in the finals. All negativity came out in once: I am such a bad climber, I can't even take care of my own stuff, I don't deserve anything, I can't finish anything, I'm such a looser! 

I didn't want to go back to the venue. Didn't want to get on stage, I didn't even climb in the finals so I'm not allowed to be there! 

With all energy I got and the force of Dennis and my parents Still went to see the men's finals. And still went on the stage when they called out my name. Marc (Beverly) handed out the prices (a bottle of wine and €50,- cash). I wanted to crawl off the stage. Walk out, away from the big crowd waiting for the big winner (Angelika) to walk on to the podium. 

Now, a day later I still find myself stupid and dumb. And still don't feel like climbing competitions again. I feel more like hiding, running away from everyone. Not being around anyone. Away from any situation where I can make mistakes. So ashamed...

Only it's impossible to hide and run forever. So, I'm still here, not knowing what to do, but still here. And maybe even moving on. 
And hopefully soon feel slightly better...

Sunday, January 11, 2015

Bergsport Awards - Mountainsports Awards

Bergsport Awards

Yes, yes! I’ve been nominated for the Dutch Mountainsports Awards!


Apparently I’m the first Dutch Female to climb the Eiger Northface. The NKBV (Dutch Mountaineering Federation) has chosen this as one of the nominations for the annual award. 

The second nomination is one I’m even more proud of. Actually, I’m just very happy with our free ascent itself.
Last Spring we (Dennis and I) freeclimbed the Bibler/Klewin route on the Moonflower Buttress (Mt. Hunter, Alaska).
For this ascent we also got nominated for the Mountainsports Awards in the Category “Alpine”. 

Please, please vote for us on the Dutch website HERE. 

Unfortunately the vote involves a whole questionnaire in Dutch, if you need any help please contact us at

Thnx for your vote!

Austria in the Winter-Rain

Rain is what we got this week instead of ice and snow. 
Mid-winter and warm fohn-weather is what welcomed us.

Ah, well, we can’t change the weather so we just went drytooling. Diebsöfen was the place to be. Until today. It rained so much that the little sweet river underneath the cliff changed into a fierce and loud river. The rock itself became a lovely waterfall...but not a frozen one...
So rest-day it is.

Excited I was last Wednesday when we finally got to our mid-stop in Germany. Ettringen.
I was showed a small drytooling area at the Basalt climbing area close to Kloblenz. But when arriving at the site it seemed people decided it could be freeclimbed. Chalk marks everywhere. So very, very, not-done to try anything with iceaxes anylonger. Time to head on. 

We are on our way to Bad Gastein but the ice isn’t there yet. We decided to make a short stop at Diebsöfen (St. Johann in Tirol)
The hike up took us quite a bit longer then expected. The snow was uneven and sometimes more then waist-deep. We regretted not taking our ski’s. 

At the cave we found a roof full of little icicles dripping, it looked beautiful. The M12 and M13 is what we came for. We hung around a bit but didn’t really find the right motivation. 
Too slow, too cold, too lazy. But hey, we climbed! 

The second day went a lot better. We decided to warm up in the M12 called ‘Fear and Loathing’. Not a very good idea. The route turned out the exist out of crumbly unclear holds. It took forever to find the right way up.
Dennis’ second ascent of the day went much better then the first. He climbed it!
My turn. A lot slower, but climbed it too!
Most icicles were already gone due to the super warm weather and snow and ice kept on falling off the cliff. 

On our way back we met an older lady. We got into a small talk and decided to walk on together.
Maybe we walked a little too fast or maybe she was just really excited about the topic.
She was walking back from the farm up the hill with a small closed bucket of milk.
Fresh milk she told us. She was proud to tell us she walked here every second or third day to get the fresh milk. It tasted so much better then the milk from the supermarket.
I agreed. My uncle and grandmother had a farm just minutes away from my home. We were there almost every day and also were sent by my mum to get milk every second day.
That milk was so much better then any milk I could get.
When I started studying I was too far away to get any milk from the farm and not much later my uncle had to give up the farm.
Too small to grow with the big farms, not the right location. Now there will be a whole new area of houses on the area that used to be my childhood playground.
The lady went on that the scale of the modern farms is not something that pleases her.
I told her about the first-born-milk called Biest in Dutch (in Austrian German it’s also called biest it turned out). She didn’t drink that, it was the milk for the calf, not for her.
She jokingly went on about how there used to be a bull at every farm to get the cows with a calf, but now there’s just a human. She laughed and grabbed my arm, and softly said ‘poor cows, they don’t know what they’re missing’. More seriously she also said she sees that cows are more like a product, not like an animal anymore. They’re being used and disposed like a senseless product. She finds it a sad development.
I agree.

The heating in the campervan is working great making evenings comfortable and cosy.
We weren’t too worried about the rain until we looked out of our window the next morning. Trucks and diggers were fixing the road just next to where we were parked.
Quite a flood had changed the road into an ugly mud-stream effecting houses on the way.
The water up at the cliff wasn’t less. Time for a restday.
What we thought would be just one restday became two restdays. We never expected today to be as rainy as yesterday!
Two days of rain turned all into a muddy, soggy environment. All the existing ice in the region had disappeared (even higher up in the mountains it had rained). 
Skiing also seemed impossible. What used to be a little snow-layer two days ago had turned into an ugly brown mud-slide. 
In town ski-teachers walked around, looking rather helpless...

Though, the weather seems better for tomorrow. More snow, colder temperatures, better conditions. Maybe we can give Diebsöfen a second change or when there’s not too much avalanche danger we’ll get higher up :)

Friends of Vertical Life

We quit our job. 
Yes, in the time where everyone is happy with just any job we decided theres more in life for us then the office we used to work.
So we quit.
Idea for now: climb, climb and share climbing.

Sharing started with the Dutch Drytool Event, clinics, teaching young climbers the drytooling skills and 2015 started with a lecture about what we’d done last year.
Inspiration for the new year.

We can live with just very little. We don’t have a home (thanks mum and dad for being the best hotel in the world) and we don’t have much we travel with.
Just Climbuz and our climbing equipment.
In return we share our experiences, teach courses about safety, techniques, skills and basics, build the climbing community, support business like our home-gym, compete in international competitions, and most of all motivate you!
As reward you will get a mention on our website with a link to your company/website.
Depending on the support there will be more in return (of course).
Think of a lecture, private drytool/climbing clinic, t-shirt with our logo...

This means we can use some support. Not only a pair of shoes, no. Diesel and food is what we basically need.

For just a little effort of €100,- you can be our supporter, our friend.
Feel free to e-mail us to meet up and talk about the possibilities:

Wednesday, December 31, 2014

Vertical Life

Vertical Life is what my blog is all about.
But it doesn't make much sense to post all twice. First here on this blog, then on Dennis website and maybe then somewhere else too.
So. A new site. For both of us.
My blog will stay in use, but the main site will be our new joint website.

With our new site we will inspire, motivate and entertain you and even more: we want to have a forum on where everyone can have an open discussion about climbing and travelling related issues.

We're still working on the site but the basics are online here:

Monday, December 22, 2014

Lecture Sat. January 3. 2015 - Inspiration for the new year!

Recognize the banner on top of my blog?
Let's talk about it.
Together with Dennis van Hoek I'll hold a lecture about iceclimbing and other vertical adventures.
Location: climbing gym Monte Cervino, Bergschenhoek (NL)
Time: 19:00

On the day we'll hold a special drytool clinic.

Subscribe and join through our FB event pages.



Monday, December 08, 2014

DDE 2014

On Sunday evening last week I arrived in the Netherlands.
I had to walk to the climbing gym in the rain (as there is still no bus stop close by).
The gym was going to be my new home for the next week.

My bedroom gives me good dreams
I had just five days to set 22 drytooling routes on the outer wall of the gym.

In the rain, the cold, the wind, and the darkness I worked full time form 9 in the morning till after 11 in the evening.

Luckily a couple friends had been working really hard too the previous weeks.
Bas and Rick have done a fantastic job by putting ropes in the anchors, hauling wood blocks up the wall and even setting quite a few routes.
Also Marit, Tim, Tom, Erik, Richard, Elwin and Fedor helped out with the routesetting. Elwin even set the hardest route in the qualifications. It turned out to be a pretty hard route as only two competitors managed to climb it flash!

The tree-team

That took quite some pulling getting such a huge pole between my legs

Nuff said

19 different qualification routes in varying difficulty from D3+ to D9+ and then two finals (at about D8+ and D11+)

Rick testing one of the routes by night

The wall is ready

On friday evening I had something different then drytooling. 'Sinterklaas'.

Every year we celebrate 'Saint Nicholas'-day on December 5.

The Saint was a good man from Turkey, living in Spain who freed child-slaves and gave them food, a job and housing. The myth says he went by ship to the Netherlands and we always tell children he brings presents for you when you've been a good child over the last year.
The saint has 'little helpers' called Zwarte Piet (Black Peter) that crawl into the chimney's to fill your shoes with presents. The chimneys made the faces 'black as soot'.
Traditionally we buy presents for the whole family and make 'surprises' and a long poem about the tone receiving the present. The idea is to make fun of the others in the poem. Discuss things that happend during the past year, like a car crash, new job, favorite food or something they're scared of.

I drew Dennis for the surprise-poem thing. So I had to make something for him and buy him  €15,- present.
Okay...what to buy for someone who doesn't like to get presents, doesn't like to get goods as he gets emotionally attached to it and then never dares to throw it away when broken or not longer useful.

Peter, the owner of the Monte Cervino gym was working on his present. An artistic impression of a guitar. Or apple, or softball-bat, or... the idea was a guitar.
He was using extremely old wood, over a 1000 years old from the old docks in the Rotterdam harbor.
As I've studied Forest and Nature Conservation I knew a bit about the wood and figured it was Basralocus. When looking for it online I couldn't even find an English wiki for the wood.
The wood he was working on probably comes from Suriname (South America) and it's know for it's high silica content. As it doesn't grow fungae and is really dense (it doesn't float but sinks) it's often used for docks and other water works.
And he had much more of it. Oh, I should ditch the paper-folding-T3-conversion idea and go for this. Make Dennis a present that is utterly useless but too beautiful to ever throw away and then hide the actual present inside it.
Peter and I decided to make a stone. A stone out of wood. I just got two old ices crews from Vera and there we had it. Cutting, filing, shaping, sanding... Every evening and every day of the week Peter, Arjen and I worked on the stone for a bit. On thursday Peter oiled the stone and suddenly it got his whole beauty. The reddish wood with all the lines and even more special, I had the core of the tree in the middle of the stone. On the side I put the old icecrew and the wood was suddenly a story. It almost shone energy, 1000 year old vibrances of energy.

Meanwhile Dennis was on his way from Germany with two friends/colleagues; Vitus and Jan.
The deal: you dress up as Zwarte Piet and you get free food, beer and a place to sleep over the weekend.
They accepted the deal.
Was hastily got them into their costume and just minutes after we all nicely sat in the living room they nocked hard on the door and jumped in with the presents. Dennis' dad started singing "Sinterklaasje kom maar binnen met je knecht..." and all others joined in.
It was hilarious, such a surprise and everyone had so much fun!

Jan and Vitus

On Saturday morning all was ready for drytooling.
Volunteers showed up and the who circus started running.
My parents did the subscriptions, Arjen and Peter the finances and Rutger did an amazing job with all the registrations.
Outside there were fires, tents, flags and Peter had sausages for sale.
Inside there was free pea soup for all competitors.

The first routes are being climbed

Maya having fun

Dennis climbing Elwin's route

Weird people

The idea was to hang under the tree...

Ape-factor XXL

From 10am to 3pm everyone was free to climb. Flash, all routes had to be climbed flash to get the points. With so many competitors (97 in total, too bad not all subscribed and filled in their scores so on the end results it doesn't show) we had to have that rule. If you fall you're out and that hight is your final score. Though there were 19 routes, so enough for everyone.
Some did make some tactical mistakes, like staying too long in the easier routes or going too fast in the harder routes and slipping off the first holds...
Jelle had some really bad luck, twisting a hold twice (=technical incident) and so 'waisting' energy he didn't have enough time in the end to reach the high score needed for the finals. I think he could have done really well in the finals too.

The atmosphere was positive, friendly and open with only one minor accident. A climber forgot to tighten his helmet and dropped his helmet half way in the route.
Much better then last year where I unfortunately had to disqualify a climber.
It was all so positive this time, so satisfying!
People liked the routes, the sun shone, the music was good, no-one stole ice axes, the soup was warm and time was flying! Before I knew it, it was time to start the finals.

Rutger and my parents were counting the results rapidly. Tim and I hung in the wall to adjust the lighting and the holds.
It was getting colder and darker but still quite a bunch of people stayed to watch the finals.

The six men and women were inside, warming up and getting nervous. Whilst outside the first woman started her climb. Noel Diepens.
She was actually not in the finals but as number 6 didn't show up she was added to the finals.
When she passed the wood-log I got a little worried. She climbed well, very well. What if all the other girls would do the same, then the finals would be too easy...
Kind of 'luckily' she didn't make it to the merge of the men's finals. But for a new-be to drytooling, this was a really impressive climb!
The next climber was Jojanneke. The crew of 'IGOKO' a new online climbing shop. She's tall and really could use her length. Unfortunately she didn't get as high as her support-team was hoping for.
Aniek was next. It wasn't her first time in the finals and a couple weeks ago she won the Sportsclimbing Junior Nationals. Not very tall but very strong she got further and further up the wall. The women had 12 minutes to climb. Maybe too much time as it got a little boring to watch the lack of speed. When Aniek got the "one minute" warning she speeded up and slipped off exactly when she timed out. Reaching a new high point.

Aniek in the finals (photo Jan Hoffmann)

Marin was next to climb. She had an advantage, but her advantage became a disadvantage. The small holds from Edelrid is what she'd been training on lately. But she thought when they were turned in a certain way you could only use them as stein-pull.  She lost so much energy on this and fell off early then I expected.
Maya to climb next. She's the daughter of former ice climbing team member and this year's routesetter Elwin. Reaching the finals and qualified second proves she's got the talent too.
Unfortunately she lost her iceaxe in the middle of her climb and thus had to stop climbing...
Finally Anna had to climb. Anna is doing really well in Scotland on the comps and this is her training for the world cup season. I was expecting her to win, but I was curious with how much difference to the other competitors she'd have.
Getting higher in the route she didn't seem as pumped as the others and just made the move where Aniek slipped off. In the chain (the end of the men's finals) she fiddled with her axes and lost one!
Losing an axe means 'out' and her time was almost out too. Still good enough for a first place :)

Anna in the finals (photo Jan Hoffmann)

The men's finals was a different story, also for me.
It took me three tries to climb the route in once within the time, so I knew it was possible but not easy at all! Long moves, technical moves, tricky holds and little time: I'd set the time first on 7 minutes but decided to change the time to 8 minutes when I did the final briefing to the competitors.

Maxime, Tom, Harry, Laurens, Fedor and Dennis qualified for the finals.
Maxime from Belgium was first to climb. We met Maxime last Spring on the Kahiltna Glacier in Alaska where they also climbed the Moonflower Buttress. Great to see him here again in a totally different scenery and performing well again. I expected an clear result: battle between Harry and Dennis, Fedor just below, maybe something good by Laurens and then 'the others'.
Though, that didn't really go as I thought. Maxime got so high in the route! Again I got nervous...what would the others do now...?
Tom to climb. You could see he was not as experienced as Maxime with the axes yet but still managed to use creativity to get high. It was his goal to reach the finals and he did it!
Harry to climb. He got higher, higher, but the moves sometimes seemed a little long for him. The time was running and when going passed the chain at the top of the wall he timed out... Still a few climbers to go...!

Power move by Harry Holmes (photo: Jan Hoffmann)

Laurens' turn. He's tall. And that helps when drytooling. And it was not his first time he reached the finals. One axe still at the top of the chain and one axe in the wood he timed out, so close to the top!

Laurens running against the time (photo: Jan Hoffmann)

Fedor's turn to climb. Ex-iceclimbing-team-member and still very much into the stuff with ice axes. I know what he climbs...he should do well.
Though in the middle of the route he slipped! All axes off the wall he suddenly was flying in the darkness...
Just one more to go. Dennis.
Of course I wanted him to win but the vertical wall the unknown small technical holds and my routesetting style are not really his strong points.
Could he do it?
I was nervous!
Just a few moves up the wall he placed his aggressive Krugonogi Giraffe pick as semi-steinpull in the hold. None of the climbers had used the hold that way. Jelle, who was sitting next to me said he didn't understand why Dennis was using the hold so strangely. The crowd was silent. Suddenly the hold broke! I expected it. Why would you use it in this way?
Technical incident and thus second attempt...
I replaced the hold and Dennis had to climb again.
He moved steady up the wall and clearly had more speed then the other climbers. With just over 2 minutes left he got at the start of the chain. Most climbers timed-out at this point where Dennis had enough time to top the route. The move from the log to the next Edelrid hold was long. Inspired by the DTS of the previous weekend I knew this moves were possible. Dennis tried and just didn't grab the hold, tried again. Again. The crowd was screaming. And I was so hoping he could do it!

Dennis running for the first place (photo Jan Hoffmann)

He passed the 'one-minute-warning' and tried again. I knew the move was long. Come on, put your feet in the chain, grab the axe on the top and go for it! Once again he just missed the hold and fully timed-out!
Ohh! I so wished he would have topped the route! Luckily still enough for a first place :)

Final results can be found here:
More pictures soon on the DDE Facbook site here:

Tired but happy we went home.

But the weekend wasn't over yet.
Sunday morning we stood at the gym again. For the first time we'd have kids drytooling!
A group of young kids from 8 to 19 years old came to learn the new climbing.
We had the worst weather possible: rain and wind and almost freezing.
Still all dressed up well and we climbed outside for the whole day.
So impressive to see the group climb the same routes as the adults did the day before! And swinging the tools was amazing to watch.

Dennis to young climber Letho: "Oh, you better don't use those tools, it's kind of hard to swing them into the wood". The young eight year old tells him "nee hoor", walks to the wood and shows a perfect swing getting my Grivel Froce axes perfectly into the wood.
We really had fun!
Hopefully we can do this more often and establish a youth team within the next 2 years.

That evening Dennis, Vitus, Jan and I drove back to Isny. And today it's office life again. I'm happy I ran this morning (in the snow).

The NKBV just wrote a very nice report with pictures on their website:

Sunday, November 30, 2014

The DTS at Usine

The train takes long. Forever long. The only entertainment left was my mobile phone after I finished all the work on my laptop. My e-book had an empty battery and I couldn't fit knitting needles in my two stuffed bags. 
On Facebook the 'should-the-Dutch-Climbing-Federation-tell-climbers-how-to-use-a-Figure-of-Eight-"belay-device"-discussion' got pretty spicy. Good entertainment for me. I mostly don't comment when I see totally senseless reactions, but this time I couldn't resist. Online it's still going on 2 days later now. I don't care anymore. I had different things on my mind.

Facebook...oh, Facebook...

Gaetan picked me up from the trainstation in Grenoble. His livingroom was now my bedroom.
On Saturday he and some friends organised the 'Dry Tool Style' in Usine, a massive drytool area in Voreppe (next to Grenoble). It was the final of a series of friendly competitions in French drytool areas. All in real rock, totally different from most other competitions that are often held on artificial walls.

The marking below the cave

The sun, the cliffs. What more you you need in life :)

On Friday I helped out preparing the cliff. I belayed Pierre, did gardening and enjoyed the sunny day and good view. So much better then my regular office job.

Gaetan doing some advanced gardening

Usine is a huge cave. The rock on the sides is so compact that is pretty much feature-less. The back of the cave is loose and couldn't even be bolted. Everywhere you see blobs of moss and water dripping down. In the past it had been mined for roof tiles. Before someone lived in the cave, a guy called Bibi. Locals therefor call the cave after Bibi instead of Usine. (Usine means factory, named after the noisy concrete factory underneath the cave)

The factory below the cave

Ze Jezus

A painting in the left side of the cave reminds of Bibi, in rusty brown a Jezus-like figure with a bottle and a big bird decorates the cliff. You need a bit of imagination to spot the big painting though. Once a year he sold home-made spirits (or something) to the villagers, maybe that explains the bottle in his hand.

Pierre drilling and climbing at the same time

The cave has had a lot of different functions. The Swastika cross they hacked away. 
In the winter of 2008-2009 Gaëtan and Etienne (if I'm correct) re-discovered the cave. It was immediately clear the cave couldn't be used for Sportsclimbing. The bolts that were there already were of an old aid route. Gaetan and friends invited their super strong climbing friends (9a climbers) to discover any possibilities for Sportsclimbing, but even they found the cave not fitting Sportsclimbing. 
Route after route got drilled and bolted. Drilled, as there were literary no features at all. And the pockets needed to be deep to maintain them. Impressive routes like the D14 called Bichette are now part of the Drytool Style in Usine.
And now in Summer time other people use the cave. Non-climbers.

Gaetan at his Usine office

That evening Gaetan even cooked a full meal for me, his brother and friends. Soup, pasta and fruit as dessert. I felt welcome and also privileged.

Saturday. Climbing day. 
We all woke up early and it was still dark when we got at the cliff. It was already busy and people already started climbing. Although this was my second day at the cliff I was still impressed by it's size. Now with all the people in the routes it was even more amazing. All these people are drytooling! I'd never seen such a big group of people drytooling on real rock. 
There was music, crêpes with Nutella, vin chaud, tea, and DTS t-shirts for sale. People with big camera lenses were hanging in the static ropes around the roof of the cave. 
I chatted with different people until they told me it was time to start climbing. I'd have a lot to do. They were right. It was going to be a tough day. 

Even the best sometimes almost fall ;)

Gaetan and Jeff showing off

I started with some easier routes on the right side of the cave and after a while I found myself in one of the harder routes. A D10, and I flashed it!

Steph in Infinity, D10
Young climber in orange (wannabe Dutch?)

Surprised with my own strength I went on to the next route. L'Usine, a D11. I heard all the routes in Usine are rather stiff graded, an Usine D11, would be a D12 or even D12+ at other places. But hey, in the end a grade is just another super relative number. 

Slightly nervous I started in the route. My belayer was the local Pack. I spotted him in Infinity, D10, doing a one-armer to clip the next quickdraw. That guy is strong. He'd climbed the route before and gave me all the beta. Telling me I shouldn't do any figure of fours as I wouldn't need them. I wasn't so sure yet and besides, women were allowed to do 'yarinos' as they're called in French. 
I was happy to reach the top and surprised at the same time: I didn't feel that hard! Happy to have flashed the hardest route in the qualifications I went on to do the other ones. Within just a few hours I got third place in the ranking. But not for long. Others that didn't manage to flash the routes still had enough time to project them and still get the points.

Results in process

I kept on climbing with my new friend Pack and continued flashing the routes. 
At the end I had one route left to climb and still more then enough time to climb it. I decided to leave it, save some skin on my hands and some power in my arms. Although, I still had enough power at the end. I just felt really good and energetic. 
Looking back I wonder...if I would have done it...
I was already so satisfied and so happy with what I'd climbed I just didn't care about results. Surprising, me not being competitive.

Preparations for the finals in the dark

Stephanie was competitive and wanted to get it all. She climbed them all. The other girl, Coralie, new in the national French team only managed to climb a few routes. She was new to it all. 
I was set for the finals and qualified 6th in the overall ranking. The organisation decided to split the men and women and suddenly we had 11 people in the finals. Steph, the new girl and me were in the women's finals. 
Though, finals weren't about winning so the prices were handed out before the finals actually started. A good idea! 
I got nervous when it was my turn to climb. Already stressed after Steph almost decided to quit. The new French girl was using the super long iceaxes. And why was she in the finals anyway Steph wondered. If she would have known there was a seperate women's finals she would not have climbed as much to reach the finals. I could see her point. This was her show, her place and suddenly some new girl took it and she even used the super long axes! Also, if Coralie would get te first place, it would be the thing people see. Only the first place counts. And that is true, even if it's a friendly competition the winner gets all. And all that will be remembered afterwards online... I remember very well how I found it to become second in Buxton a month ago...

To Steph it was an unfair game. She didn't have her day. Her mind played tricks with her in the routes, suddenly having to project the routes that I flashed was certainly not what she'd expected beforehand. She's a good climber though, very experienced and her competitive and determined style brought her where she is today. A female mountain guide in France, a climber who's winning competitions and last week she even managed to flash the D12 Castor et Pollux. An impressive ascent.

I didn't care too much about the long axes. They fit in the UIAA box, it's strange no company had searched the iceaxe limit so far and personally I never had the feeling I really needed them. I just think you admit your weakness when you climb with super long axes. I often ask the men that use the long axes if they're trying to compensate their small dick. Not sure what I could ask a women...maybe something like 'so you like big things hay?' 
This was not a competition about who has the longest/biggest. It was about personal achievements, fun and friends. It turned out she did have an advantage though. Being taller then both of us, with the extra long axes she managed to reach some holds. Not with style, not with power, but she made it. For her it was a good practice for the worldcup season, it was okay.

Coralie on her way to the first place

My turn to climb. Jeff belayed me. Earlier the super strong Jeff and Gaëtan showed the route so it was a flash comp but the locals in the finals had climbed bits of the route before.
The first moves were long but I could make them. "Whooo", "sexy" and "lekker lekker" (Dutch for nice or tasty) they screamed to me from the audience. I found it funny. Suddenly one move looked long. Figure of four? I tried, hung around for a bit and tried again. When pulling in the Figure of four on my right axe I suddenly slipped! I was out! Wow! I totally didn't expect to come off. The boys blamed the figure of four. I just didn't knew. I felt bummed! But it was okay, I was happy with my results anyway.
Just a bit later it was Steph to climb. She also did a figure of four on that same hold and slipped off as well! Wow! Again! I was so surprised! The new girl had beaten us both!

Six Pack Power in the finals ;)

It was Pack's turn to climb. He was nervous I noticed. Funny, totally unnecessary as he climbs so well. The men in the DTS series are not allowed to do figure of fours so he pulled his was through with a lot of dynamic power. 
He stalled at a long move in the higher bit of the route. That move was so long! He almost fully dyno-ed and missed! Out! I was really hoping he'd top out the route!

Pack falling off...

When all had climbed I wanted to get a second go. I found I should be able to make the move. Jeff was willing to belay again. No figure of fours. At the move I swung and grabbed it! "I told you, no figure of four" they screamed to me from the ground. They were right. I moved on and on and passed the point where the French girl fell. Again a long move. Sideways. I got the hold, my arms totally stretched to the maximum span. I found a little foothold but Gaëtan screamed 'no feet'. I wasn't so sure about that advice. Got my axe loose and fell! The axe still up in the hold. Again, he was right, no feet would have been better! It took a while before I could get the axe back. It fell to the ground, not the best one was wearing helmets and it dropped just 2 metres away from the audience (sorry for that...)
We cleaned up the crag, hauled all down and went to the 'MacDo'. Pack invited me for a party in Grenoble but after we'd dropped off the final stuff in Crolles it was just too late for me. Time to sleep. 
The train right now, Sunday, is not as comfortable as I hoped for. The mother of 2 sitting next to me isn't the best. A crying baby and an horrible kid. For hours and hours they keep on being irritating. The father goes around the train all the time, aggressively taking money from the girls wallet and leaving again. Hopefully I can get some sleep tonight. Dream of powerful drytooling routes. I love that style. DTS spirit it is.

My home for the rest of this week