Thursday, February 23, 2012

Twin Towers meltdown

The last day of our iceclimbing trip this Winter.
It was warm outside plus 5 or maybe more. And we were tired. The last day, so we MUST climb. But what. Too warm for Kiental, too warm for any proper ice and the thing we really wanted to do was not in condition. Ueschinen then.
Dennis hardly found the motivation to ski up that bloody hill, we even took a break, drank some tea before we went on. It took ages to get up. I remembered running up there last Summer, back then it took me 1:10 to run up and down again. Now it took us more then one hour to just walk up...
Around us the snow fell off the trees and the skins of our skis were full with thick blobs of wet snow.
Finally there.
The ice was quite thick and beautiful as always. Although Ueschinen is a bit like 'sportsclimbing for Alpinists' the surroundings, the big icicles, snow and the mist in the valley makes it a bit a mythical place.
We had no goal, so just went up one of the routes we wanted to do some time. Twin Towers. We were doubting, or maybe Matador? Twin Towers had ice. So it became Twin Towers.
I decided to go up first, and Dennis was okay with that.
It starts in a bit of ice, then some good hooks and a couple torques before you get to an enormous move. There are scratches close to the hold on the wall I moved, moved and found it way too long. Tried again and made it. But then Dennis and I came to the idea of moving into the ice instead of the stone hold. The move was as long but in a different angle which could make it better. It worked, so I decided to to this in my next attempt.
After the long move I had some rest in the ice before getting onto the next long move. From a sketchy hold very long to a good hold and then very long again to a good hold. Then long into the ice and okay from there on. But no more bolt, so an grounder (?) if you'd fall from that part to the top.
It was Dennis turn. He now knew all the moves. We took a close look together to be sure about all the moves and as he's quite a bit taller then me it should be all right to flash the route.
Dennis says "Not being warmed up it was so nice to move in to the freehanging in the middle of the roof to get a rest.
From here its “only” 4 hard moves in to the next overhanging ice. I found the hooks first try made some big dynamic moves and found myself in the curtain on the end of the roof. I climbed the icicle careful being scared to waste my Flash attempet. YES made it. First M10 flash."

I always get quite nervous when Dennis climbs something and I haven't done it yet. It's the same feeling as on competitions. Knowing most girls will climb the route to the top, knowing I should be able to do that too, but now prove it and actually do it gives me a big 'block in my throat'.
I climbed up the first part. Swung into the ice and took a nice rest. I tried to breathe normally but the 'thing in my throat' got my breathe stuck. I had a nervous feeling in my stomach and my mind was playing with me like an angel and devil telling me what to do:
"It's all right if you don't make it". "You should climb it now, you can do this 2nd GO". "It's hard so you probably fall off." "Come on, climb on, it's not that hard." "What if you fall, then you failed again." "You're getting tired, move on." "You're going to fall." "You can't make it." "You're strong enough to do this."...
On and on this goes in my head. Making me forget every move, having to hold on twice as hard on every hold. Dennis had to help me on what move was coming next. Meanwhile my hands became tired, forcing me to shake more and move slower. I got frustrated by the insecurity and the idea of failing to climb it. I got slower and didn't want to be slow. Why did I feel like this, it got me quite desperate, screaming, almost crying to myself that I had to move on.
I had to do a figure of four on the sketchy hold but my axe kept on turning. Come on, do it. I moved back again, to take some rest, tried again, moved back again, tried again, moved back again and finally did it. But then my hands were bailing out on me, forcing me to shake. I was not pumped, not like you have when you climb normally, it was just my hands.
I found a hold in between the next long move, hoped it was okay and moved from there. My hands slipped almost out of my axes, desperate I was, I could hardly move my hands slipping away. "Put your feet in the ice, feet in the ice" Dennis screamed to me. I desperately moved into the ice. There I could rest again. My mind still playing tricks.
From here it was just a couple more moves in okay snowy ice blobs and a nice icecle.
Dennis placed a screw in the top part, making it more comfortable to top out.
And that's what I did. I climbed it. What a relief.
My first M10, and that 2nd GO.
Time to go home.

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Swiss style

Just one more day left of our immense Winter trip.
2 months of non-stop Winter climbing all around. We traveled through 8 different countries, climbed 4 Worldcups and quite a proper bit of ice and mixed. Although it was not always good, satisfactory and fair we still had a good time.
Today we wanted to do something good, something that was just for us.
We drove to Kiental (after it took more then 2 hours to get the car started) and suddenly decided to stop in Mitholz instead :)
There was this waterfall Dennis tried years ago and he wanted a re-go. A free-standing in the start, an okay middle part and an impressive top bit. Graded in the old topo as 6-, in the new one as 5+ and Dennis remembered it as a full 6.
It was all dripping, leaking, wet. We didn't bring our Gore-Tex so the softshell had to do the job. Forget the downjacket here...
After climbing it we can say: it was a 6. For sure.
To celebrate the fun that evening we drank Rivella and ate Rösti. Swiss style.
- movie soon :)

Friday, February 17, 2012


Cold as in having a cold.
After almost 2 months of climbing we finally got one. Thanks to Romania and the travelling we guess.
(With the snow in Romania we got a huge delay: first we waited in the plane in Bucharest for 3 hours, then we stood in a que for 4 hours, then we got crappy dinner in a restaurant where everyone was smoking, then we woke up at 4:30 in the morning to catch our delayed flight, that was delayed for one hour and when we got to Munich we figured our flight to Geneva was canceled and then we waited again for quite some hours to finally arrive in Geneva on Tuesday evening instead of Monday midday...)
We had a restday yesterday but last night we both had the same thing. We really couldn't sleep and had a blocked nose and a heavy head all night. Addicted as we are we still wanted to climb what we planned Almenalp-something (sorry, I'm so bad in remembering route names). A mixed line that you can see from the Scout Centre in the Kandersteg Valley.
We were hopeless. First it was the walk up which normally takes 30 mins. We were struggling in the snow covered in it up to out waist and sometimes we sank in to our chest. When we were finally there took me ages to climb the first bit (M9). Figuring all the moves, some sppoky holds and the ice in the start. Although it was partly bolted it was still a bit scary to climb. We left the draws and some screws and decided we'll come back in two days when we hopefully feel better...

(sorry forgot to put the pictures from Dennis' camera on my laptop)

Update: had a semi-restday today and went climbing with Rick in Kiental. Fun!

Thursday, February 16, 2012

Kandersteg pt. 28798346467....

We're back home again.
Home in our own little campervan at our favourite Winter place Kandersteg.
After the worldcup we're quite tired of all the travelling, disappointments and the no-real-climbing-stuff.
So we're here for one week before Dennis' starts his work/studies again.
No pictures here this time and you might be wondering where are all the little movies she makes every time. Well, I had quite some bad luck with electrical equipment. The only electrical thing this still works is my laptop.
First my pink camera died (the battery doesn't work anymore...) then my iPhone decided to quit (the screen isn't working anymore, for the second time, I already replaced the screen with a new one just a couple months ago) then my Suunto watch broke down (advice: don't buy the Suunto Lumi, cappiest watch ever made by Suunto in less then two years I'd already sent it back to Suunto three times, and had it replaced twice next to that...) and then on top of that all my brand new Contour camera decided to destroy my SD-cards and quit as well... So the only camera working now is Dennis' small camera and after all the bad luck I don't dare to touch it.
But at least we're climbing :)

Sunday, February 12, 2012

Busteni 2012

I just woke up with a nice movie: STS on the Ben. With loads of real climbing, snow and horrible Winter conditions: lovely.
Watching the climbers I wished it was me being filled with spindrift snow and getting soaked with water and sweat that after a while would freeze again...
In stead I'm in Busteni, Romania where I woke up in a room stuffed with climbers. Every bed occupies at least two people. I'm not sure how it really happened but I got an autograph of a climber on my chest and remember doing the same to that climber. So I had to explain something to Dennis and he just laughed. Luckily.
The party was funny and quite a bit crazy as the usual iceclimbing parties. Russians drinking quite a bit too much, the Korean can't cope with alcohol (probably because he's Asian), Radka dancing like crazy and Kendra and me enjoyed trowing peanuts everywhere.
I tried to go asleep but our bed is exactly above the party room so the bouncing music still kept me awake for a while.
After almost 2 months of Winter climbing it's now all getting to an end. I had to say goodbye to people that feel like close friends but will be far away for the next 10 months again (where would we be without Facebook). Thanks everyone for the support, chatting, help, climbing and all the other fun. I'm going to miss you all.

Meanwhile the whole day passed by and it's evening. I just took a shower in the Duct tape shower and packed my bag. We're leaving tomorrow morning at 6. We bought the train ticket and we'll fly around 12-ish to Munich and later Geneva. We're sort of lucky by buying the expensive flight from Swiss as the company that was cheaper went bankrupt this week and the French were on strike causing quite some trouble for other climbers who were also flying from Swiss.
Today we skied. My second time ever on a piste. And I did quite well I found, at least if I compare my skills to that of most of the other skiers. Gosh those Romanians we're just going straight down like suicide torpedo's without making any curve or bend... Dennis tried to practise his snowboard skills but failed as his rental board (the best he could get) was far too small and flexible with bindings that even a beginner wouldn't like. Oh, yes and his boots weren't too good either. I felt sorry for him. He loves the snowboarding but just couldn't do 'his thing' on the crappy rental stuff. My ski's were fine tough.
Later we went for dinner together with Gordon and Kendra. They're now also sleeping in the mountain-hut enjoying movies and chat about climbing. Here in the mountainhut is pretty good to stay. The people are friendly and today I learned a lot about the Romanian history, giving me more respect for the country. Unsurprisingly the issues here today are not too different from what plays in the Netherlands. That worries me sometimes. How far away are we from yet another war? It sometimes really seems it's 1935 all over again...

Yesterday evening we couldn't be bothered all of the finals (is that bad?) We missed out the speed and stuff. The climbing wasn't much better then the qualifiers and the semi's. The women had a strange weird but okay route with Maria, the Russian girl topping out. The men's finals was as epic as the rest of the comp. Three Russian finalists climbed and all popped off one of the first holds. Without consulting the head judge the routesetter stopped the competition, sent back the climbers into the isolation and changed the hold for something loads bigger. Then the three had yet a new chance and climbed quite a bit higher. They had 13,5 minutes climbing time and were traversing left to right and back again. It was long and because the climbing was long it wasn't too spectacular and interesting anymore to watch. I'm happy one of my favourites, Markus won finally after all his bad luck in the previous comps.
The final results can be found here on the UIAA webpage.

That evening we had dinner together with Katherine and Malcolm at their rental home. We enjoyed the food veggies and almost forgot the nuggets. We chatted and I figured Malc has been having quite a bit of the same disappointment in all the comps as me. Mentally we're quite a bit alike. The good thing is that we both still know we can progress and get better but it would have been so nice to show what we're actually worth...
Kendra came with the point that some climbers (Steve House) are looking for a climber to mentor and guide to become better. I think, because theres so much I can still learn that would be a good thing. So, hereby: who know a good mentor. Someone who can guide me up in how to climb proper souple WI6/7, boulder 7C, climb 8b, do proper trad like 7c's, get onto hard trad mixed M10 and more and of course get some proper ED/ABO routes on my Alpine list. Anyone? I don't mean with guide 'put me on a rope and just do seconding/toprope climbing', I guess you got that :)

This week will be our last ice/mixed/alpine Winter week. Romania was my last Worldcup of this season. There will still be another one in Kirov, but with just Russians on the comp, a lot of travelling and expensive housing and more it's not worth going. Actually I just don't have the money for it.
Hopefully without any coach or mentor I'll still be able to reach my goal of the week :)

Fireworks at the climbing structure in between the mens en women's finals.
The twins Dennis and Malc getting ready for the party.

Saturday, February 11, 2012

How-do-they-dare-to-call-this-a-worldcup pt. 2

Unbelievable. It's not even 12 yet and I'm already homesick (not homesick as in wanting to be in the Netherlands but homesick as wanting to be in our little van somewhere in the mountains away from all this shit).
I woke up at 23:00, 00:00, 01:00, 02:00... and finally again at 07:30. They kept on walking, talking and one girl got the brilliant idea to take a shower at 03:00 midnight. So I had a good nights rest.
I was in time in the isolation and was nervous but could work my mind to focus on other things. I imagined that the thing I was going to do was just another add-on boulder in Dennis bedroom-drytool-boulder-room: long moves, tricky holds and sure I could do it and just have fun.
I forgot my gloves and luckily the mens and women's semi's were at the same time so I could ask the men for a pair of fitting gloves (no way I could ever fit in the women's gloves...) Malcolm (UK/Denmark) had a spare pair for me (Thanks Malc).
The route preview was different from usual. The Russian suspected the Europeans to help each other with how-to-get-the-right-place-of-the-hold-with-your-axe-when-climbing. We suspected (are sure) the Russians shout hits to each other as we sometimes see them move, hear some Russians shouting and then they make the moves totally different but correct. Everyone complains about that so they came with a solve. Sort of.
They made pictures of every hold that would be in the route, stuck them up in the isolation so everyone could see the holds beforehand. One little problem with that was, that all pictures were black/white printed so quite vague and they were not printed as they were put in the route so you still would have advantage if your fellow Russian would shout up how to use the hold.
It was my turn to climb. I waited in the isolation tent, trying to stay warm. My warm up was good though, trying to simulate the climb, visualising it and warming up my shoulder muscles better then average for all the sideway holds in the route.
I climbed the ice, slamming my axes in as I didn't want to fall off there (as happened in the qualification). Then the holds. The first hold was flat and you had to move to an steinpull. I didn't want to fall off in the start so it took me some time before I decided to waist a bit of energy and time to make a figure-of-four. I moved up to the undercling/steinpull quite easily with that move and wanted to go on. Suddenly the judge said "Marianne stop climbing". I was confused, why stop, was it really the judge telling me to stop climbing of was someone in the audience just joking with me. She said it again. I turned around to look at if she meant it and then she said "go". So I thought it was a mistake and then she said again "stop climbing". I got angry as I didn't knew why I had to stop my attempt, what did I do wrong? She told me I used the edge of the structure. Really? Really? Did I really use the (forbidden) edge of the structure? If I did I would have noticed. But I was still not allowed to climb on. I jumped out of the hold and angry, confused, disappointed I stood on the ground again. I hadn't even clipped the first draw! I felt okay when I started, okay, better then really nervous, for the first time I felt okay and then this happens! Gordon, Malc and Dennis watched back the footage and it seems that my foot went under the structure when doing the fig4. I didn't notice that at all and if I would have touched it I would have noticed that for sure. My boots are quite soft and I'm always very conscious of my climbing.
I have the feeling they try to play really strict on the rules with me. I just heard that in the first comp in Korea they wanted to disqualify me (that was avoided by one of the judges), later I heard that they find that I complain too much about the rules and regulations. And, I know, if I'd would have been a Russian climber doing the same thing (if I really did that 'thing') she could just climb on.
I could put in an appeal/protest but why? They already made their decision, paying €100,- would just be a loss of and extra €100,- on to of the rest of all the costs. They're never going to change their mind anyway. (And here I actually wanted to add a lot of curse words)
Honestly, how could this happen, what happened?
I don't feel like I had the chance to show what I'm worth, actually, I now feel more like questioning 'am I worth anything?'.
I feel angry, confused and quite useless right now. What the f*** am I doing in here?!

Oh, yes, yesterday Dennis and I both climbed speed. Dennis was again the best non-Russian, me one of the last in the result list. As usual. But I climbed extra slow and didn't fall off so I got full four climbing attempts. Better then last year (where I had just 1/4 climb)...

Pictures: Dennis' speed attempt and how far/low I got in the semi's...

Friday, February 10, 2012

Little Russia in Romania

Just back in our shared room.
It was busy last night with 6 others grinding their iceaxes when we tried to sleep and the couple sleeping above us moving the bed in a good rythm (don't want to know what that meant).
In the middle of the night I woke because of some alarm/phone. I noticed I felt pretty sick. Really sick and sore stomach and no idea why. Tried to toilet but nothing worked. Finally I got back to sleep feeling a bit better then during the night, luckily. At least I was able to eat my breakfast.
The isolation was packed. Steph explained it as being in the emergency hut on the Mont Blanc with Russians lying everywhere. I think it came pretty close to that.
It was first too cold and later too damp and warm. The warm-up was too small for all the climbers and the single toilet was occupied constantly.
I was 18th to climb (of 24) and warmed up okay-ish. The route looked quite strange with stone holds that we were not allowed to take as steinpulls because they might brake. The fourth hold was a sidepull that didn't look too good. I asked the other girls about the hold and they said it should be fine as it was just qualifications and it was low in the rout. I trusted them thinking of my new climbing plan: faster climbing without hesitations on every move.
It was my turn, Catherine helped reminding me of my new plan in the isolation and wished me luck. Gordon was climbing on the mens route and fell off somewhere in the start, then Markus got a second turn next to me (after he popped off in the top with a twisting hold).
I climbed just a couple moves and found it hard to find the holes in the snow/ice (snice). Suddenly I hung in the air when my left axe ripped out of the snow. As it's a qualification and haven't clipped the first draw yet you're allowed to start again. Losing precious time (we only had 5 mins for the whole route) I got really stressed. It slowed me down, stressing me even more. Two times more my axe almost ripped out forcing me to really hack in the ice, losing even more time and thus stressing me even more. I reached the top of the icewall and now had to get focused on the other style of climbing: drytooling. Focusing on the holds reminding what I told myself: move faster. The idea was to make a move in 3 steps. Preparation, movement and stabilisation. Only the movement to the next hold has to be steady and slow, in the other two parts I could speed up. And so I tried, realising I probably had just a minute left after the fall in the start. I came to the sidepull move, felt the hold, surprising myself that the hold was worse then I thought. I had no time, I had to move. As stable as possible I moved onto my axe, doubting the stability of it. I was getting onto it as my left axe popped off the not-so-good-hold before it. For two seconds I hung on the sidepull but as the hold stands sideways I slid off in seconds dangling in the air again. No second chances here, and just happy the belayer actually held me.
I was too astonished to even think of crying, being angry and having any feelings at all. How could this happen, how?
I instantly lost all faith in my new method. Wondering why I actually got all the way here to climb four moves on some crappy stones in glassfiber/epoxy.
They tricked me again, making me believe this worldcup would be better then last years here. "Yes, they changed". Yes, they changed. And made it worse.
The Russian routesetters made some big (huge) mistakes. In the mens route they had the same problem with half of the men falling off the same hold (including Dennis) and loads of climbers ripping out off the ice, losing precious time just like me. The routesetters are old, heavy, one tiny one big and they don't even test the routes making it a big gamble.
Dennis spoke to one of the routesetters after his disappointing climb. "And what do you think" Dennis asked the routesetter. "Not so happy I thought after 4 competitions people are strong, it's too hard" he replied. At least he realised...

Hopefully better at the speed or maybe a second chance tomorrow...
Thanks for
Ow by the way, as I guessed the livestream isn't working.

They sell crap in the stores here. The registration yesterday. Ursus beer, better then water and the menu, piept is chicken we figured after we ordered. The opening dinner, tables full of cold meat. The isolation warm-up wall still being build when we're already trying to when we're warming up (perfect timing...)

Thursday, February 09, 2012

Busteni 2012

Again in Romania.
Sorry to say but it really is the last place you want to visit. In some ways even worse then the trip we had to China a couple months ago.
But we're here.
The train ride was not as epic as last years' and we arrived safely in Busteni without having to share Dutch cheese with the conductor a criminal and a nazi and a walk over the rails to get into the Busteni train station.
This evening is the 'opening dinner' and ceremony (eat a lot of different types of meat in small slices, great if you're vegetarian. I'm sure they have vegetarian chicken, beef and pork. You know, chickens don't eat meat so they must be true vegetarians)
We're lucky being here. The French are on strike meaning most of the flights are canceled and next to that theres so much snow on the railway and the roads that even if you arrive to Romania it's still hard to get to Busteni.
And then once there we noticed hardly anything changed: tramp dogs, chaotic infrastructure, and in the mountain hut the organisation seemed totally waisted on some moonshine. Pavel (Russian, UIAA organisation and former expedition climber) trying his utmost to explain that there still loads to do... This midday we discussed the horrible isolation tent where we cooled down before our climb and sat for hours, hopefully that will be improved. Now I hope I can sleep tonight without getting nightmares of the belayers we had last year...

They say on the website you can follow it all live. Haven't figured yet if it's true. Here at least the website of the comp:
The program is a bit different then we're used to. Women climb the qualifiers and the semi's on the same day and the finals on the next day. You can find the whole program here.

In Romania they sell beer in 2L plastic bottles
The sign to announce the ICW
Secondhand Dutch clothes are being sold in Romania in shops like "First class European"
Caminul Alpin is where we stay, close to the Ghetto Hotel...

Monday, February 06, 2012

Champagny: worldcup climbing with -30 C

After the 'real-ice-sessions' in Cogne it was time for the Worldcup again. This time it was Champagny-en-Vanoise. For the first time in 10 years a Worldcup on French soil/ice again.
We enjoyed the lovely -25C on the first day when we arrived and got warned that it would get worse/better in the next days with tempeartures dropping to -40 in the night and finally when I was happy to climb the semi-finals it was -30 C. Though, I could handle the temperatures quite well and enjoyed the climb: loads of ice, a real ICEclimbing competition and not just the drytooling as on the previous comps.
Again I was too slow, not pumped at all but a time-out made me land on a 12th place, just not good enough for the finals, again...
Dennis had quite a bit of bad luck (again) and made a mistake by skipping a hold, it just, just, just took him out of the semi's. He was so close!
We'd put in an appeal (long story) resulting in more confusing things which made me to skip the speedclimbing comp that evening.
Dennis did climb the speed later that evening. It was FREEZING cold and hard to put a good time. He finally became (un)lucky 13th. After the bunch of Russians (that are probably used to the cold...)
Yesterday we went skiing, for the first time on my own (brand new!) ski's :)
I did okay, I guess, but I'm wondering how all these people go down the piste so, fluent, souple and gracious. Still need some time to practice I guess.
Now up for some more iceclimbing, a visit to the Petzl factory (thanks to Erwan) and then fly to Romania...
(note for the pictures: yes the thermometer is working...)