Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Dutch Drytool Event 2012

We did it. 
Better and bigger. 

This weekend was the international drytool weekend. 
France had the DTS.
Scotland the STS.
And we had the DDE.

We don't have a website. We just had a Facebook Event Page and managed to get more people then the STS and the DTS together!
91 competitors subscribed. 
Next to those who subscribed there were also some who just paid and climbed without the competition element. 

This whole week we'd been hanging on our favourite Dutch mountain to get the 20 routes ready for the big day. 
The last two days we'd spent on testing and adjusting everything. 
Goal of this event was to have as many people as possible to try drytooling. 
So we weren't looking for the next Dutch talent, weren't trying to gather a drytool team... We just wanted everyone to have fun :)

On Saturday all was set for the day. Tents, wood for the fires, flags, banners, ropes, sound...
It all looked cosy and nice. 

Before the storm ripped the flags and tents...

And then the storm came. Super strong wind gusts even ripped the banners off the wall. 
All big tents were blown away, broken or ripped (those tents are always on the terrain, this never happened before!). 
It was all too wet to get the music safely started...
When it started raining that morning we though: 'We have to cancel the event!'
But then the rain stopped and over 70 drytoolers were waiting to subscribe.
The show must go on. 


And so with went on. 
Quite some start-up problems but thanks to Rutger we could actually do the registration in time (sort of in time).
Dennis dragged half of the climbers outside in the wind and introduced the whole group to their new friends: Nomic and Nomic.

I took the last group for an explanation and forgot to explain how to actually hold Nomic and Nomic. (Too much stuff on my head I guess). 
The wind wasn't really cooperating either...

The easy and the harder routes

Spot the leashes!

Rutger trying hard in the swinging logs

To my own surprise all went pretty smooth. No big accidents, all just happy faces and around midday the bar&kitchen crew had pea-soup ready for everyone. 
At three 'o clock exactly it was time to get ready for the finals. In less then 15 minutes we had a list with the finalists. 
8 men and 6 women were there to climb the finals. 
On Toprope. 
We decided lead climbing with this wind would be too hard and maybe even dangerous. 

I hear you thinking...'why was this all outdoors, don't you have an indoor wall there?'
Yes we do have an indoor wall. Pretty big one actually. 
But as almost all is overhanging indoors, we got a bit of a safety issue there. When you'd drop your iceaxe it would land in the middle of the gym where all people are belaying... And we wanted to keep all the routes open till the Summer season. 
And say it, drytooling indoors sounds like AID climbing on toprope. It's just not real...

We first thought to just have 6 people in the finals in total. 
Maybe one or two women. 
There wasn't really enough space for another route on the main wall (next to the 20 we'd already set) and we thought it would take too long if we'd have more then 6 people climbing. 

But it's also quite unfair to only give a chance to the men and not to the women. So the best 6 women were invited to climb the finals too!

The hard thing with that was, that non of the women were actual iceclimbers. Placing a good swing in the wood in the start of the route was quite an issue. 

Loads of hooking in the female finals

Only Rachel managed to get passed the wood section, passed the long move from the log and onto the technical traverse. 
Totally out of time (climbing time was 5 minutes) she managed to reach all the way to the high end of the wall. She popped off a small hold but was obviously the best female climber in the comp.

1. Rachel Nilwik
2. Jascha van de Bunt
3. Karin Hoekstra
4. Monique de Groot
5. Sanne van Merrienboer
6. Aniek Lith

Fot the men it was a different story. They managed to pass the wood section in the start.
But as only some were real drytoolers, they weren't too secure on the technical traverse.
I made the route in such a way that real drytoolers would have an advantage on the sportsclimbers with iceaxes. Knowing how to place your axes and move securely on the sketchy holds was a pré.
Most climbers popped off early, but some managed to pass the traverse.

Ferdinand in the finals

Laurens got pretty high up, but Roeland just passed him before he was out of time. Laurens was climbing for the first time with iceaxes he said, not bad to gain the 4th place :)
That time thing was quite an issue. All climbers knew that they had 5 minutes. With one minute left we'd call 'one minute'. But the judges thought five minutes would be too little time to get all the way to the top.
Dennis and I were pretty sure the time was enough.
And with normal lead climbing they don't call 'one minute'. Never.
So when Roeland was climbing he never heard the sign 'one minute'. And then I called him out after 7 minutes as his time was up, for real.

Roeland climbing the finals, Dimitri van Heezik (photographer) and Tim van der Linden (NKBV) in the wall and Dennis brother Arno enjoying hot chocolate in the cold.

Roeland doing something 'rare' for his climbing style: making a dynamic move

Confusing thing there. It really pissed me off, as I just wanted the competitors to have a hard but honest finals.
It got dark fast, so we provided all competitors with headlamps so they could still spot all the tiny footholds.
We had two friends from Germany, here for the comp. All the way from Germany!
Jan had a bit of bad luck in the qualifications but Markus made it to the finals. He really went 'a muerte'! He flamed his way almost to the top. But got out of time...

Markus 'a muerte'

Then the last one in the finals. Jurgen Lis from Belgium.
Breathing heavily, pushing hard but steady he was quick and solid. Passed the hard sections and found himself on the last moves. Two jumps, or dynamic fig-fours. I was nervous. I knew it was possible...but could he make it. From the small donut shaped hold he had exactly one minute left, feet on the wood, he pulled, jumped and at the same time swung his axe in the final hold. He made it!

Jurgen op the top!

And so it turned out that Jurgen, the organiser of the Klimax Drytool Event in Belgium won the comp in the Netherlands (after Dennis, won the comp in Belgium).
Full results list here.

An international stage: Belgium first, Germany second and a fake French guy third ;)
(Fake French: Roeland van Oss is UIAGM Mountain Guide and lives in Chamonix, France)

1. Jurgen Lis
2. Markus Urbanowski
3. Roeland van Oss
4. Laurens Machiel
5. Ferdinand Schulte
6. Yannick Lis
7. Job van Hemert
8. Thijs Ruijgrok

The best

A lot of things can be improved I think.
Next year we need music (not possible this year because of the wind/rain), an online subscription system including online payment, more time to explain the routes to the new climbers, maybe more super easy routes as warm-ups, and maybe we should make the thing two days, so we can have more quality time (for explaining more about hardwear, safety and where to climb outdoors)
Suggestions are welcome.

It was SUPER to see everyone climb and share the passion for dry/mixed/ice.
Thank you all for being around!

Special thanks to:

  • Rutger Elink Schuurman to help with the registrations, even today he's still working on it to get a clear result into the NKBV competition system.
  • Jeroen de Winter to host the competition in Monte Cervino and helping out with the routesetting
  • NKBV Tim van der Linden, Dirkjan van Heumen and Joost Hofman for promoting, judging and the medals for the best three climbers. 
  • Petzl BeNeLux for providing 43 iceaxes, helmets, climbing holds, and soup
  • The Monte Cervino crew for belaying, serving hot chocolate and soup, putting up the tents and more
  • Ramses Beer, for providing the best beer (Poolvos and IJsbeer) for the finalists.
  • Mark Heine for providing the portaledge (altough we didn't use it)
  • Jeroen Bliek for the music that we couldn't use unfortunately
  • The old iceclimbing team for giving us the inspiration for this event.
  • And you all for being around.
And oh, yes, we're still looking for sponsors for the 2013 worldcup/ice season.
Any support is welcome :)  (warm blankets, heaters, hot chocolate, or just money so we can recover in warm housing after a hard iceclimb)
Please e-mail us to talk about the possibilities!

Friday, November 23, 2012

Work readings

Next to wanting to be a climber I sometimes also have to earn money in other ways.
Teaching height safety courses for example.
A new safety guideline came out for work in the wind energy sector.

'Arbocatalogus Windenergiebedrijven'.

Thursday, November 22, 2012

Dutch Drytool Event 2012

This week I'm working harder then ever to get my favourite local climbing gym ready for the biggest climbing event of the year: Dutch Drytool Event.

Super stormy weather with rain... Perfect to go out for some routesetting...

Last year I organised the event in another gym. 
They promised me all kinds of things. Money, being part of a climbing team and I was free to keep some of the routes so I could train for the worldcup. 
After a week they took out almost all routes, forbid us to climb and completely ignored all promises that were made. 
After an pretty angry short letter I wrote they got even stranger... A very weird disparaging phone call I got was for me the end.
I lost all my training routes, was not allowed to climb in the gym any longer, was not allowed to be part of the climbing team and got none of the money (€500,- in cash and €500 in clothing/goods) they'd offered. Only if I'd excuse myself for my angry letter...


Time for a more positive and healthier gym.

Monte Cervino was very willing to host the event.
Petzl got some money left on the end of this year and sponsored ropes, helmets, loads of iceaxes, 'snert',  (pea soup) and more.
The NKBV (Dutch Alpine Club) sponsors it all with help in advertisement, money and on the day we'll have official NKBV judges and people who do the hard administrative part.

The former national iceclimbing team (Elwin & Fedor) testing the routes

Dennis, Jeroen and I made 20 (!!!) routes this week. Some are super fun and 'adventurous' with big tyres and wood. Others are hard with long moves and tiny footholds.

The main wall today. With the finals and two of the other hard routes .

Goal is to have something for everyone.
If you've never climbed with iceaxes before you should be able to climb at least 2 routes.
And if you are a semi-pro with your axes you should fall off at least 2 routes ;)
This day should be the most awesome introduction to drytooling for you.

And yes, we have a final round too. Only the best 6 will get there. The route will be around M10 (+++) with technical, long, and tiny things to hang on in between of course.


Sunday November 25. 2012 >> That is this Sunday!

10:00h       Registration:
10:30h       Start + explanation of all the routes & more
13:00 - 13:30h Clinic iceaxe/icescrew sharpening and hardwear care
16:00h       Finals
17:00h       Movie

€12,-         Costs (incl. iceaxes, helmet, snert and free clinic)

Address: Hoeksekade 141, Bergschenhoek

More info and updates on our Facebook Event Page.

No excuses: The weather is good, the iceaxes are good, the food is good, the music is good and you are good!

Thursday, November 01, 2012


Happiness, pain, hard work, long days, amazing views, heat and cold, rough hands, beautiful people and in the middle of that circle... me?

Last month I was in Colorado.
For the first time in the States.

As an European I had my ideas on how it would be. Fat people, nationalism, weird expressions on freedom and the immense landscapes.
I saw it all but didn't experience it in the way I'd expected.
It was better, much better.

Already on my arrival, when I asked for directions on how to get to Boulder people were kind, friendly and they had humor.
"So I don't need to change" - I said when the guy at the tourist office told me what bus to take to Colin's house. I dragged the big bag on my shoulders and another one in my hands. Sweat on my forehead.
"No" he said. "You should stay the way you are."
Totally jetlagged and tired of the long trip it took me quite some seconds before I understood what he meant.

I texted Colin that I was at the busstation.
He picked me up with his green car and welcomed me in his climbers house.
Climbing video on the TV screen, climbing gear in the livingroom, a dirty bathroom and the average forearms were bigger then my fat calves.
Guess I felt home already.
I wasn't offered any time to rest. The first thing we did was discuss where to go the next day and what to do before the start of the try-outs.

We visited Eldorado, drytool-Vail and then drove to Ouray.

Curious, excited and nervous I stood there the next morning.
The full moon kept me awake that night and the idea that there were bears around got me excited (wanted to see one sneak around!)
Bryan, one of the advisors for the program, arrived first. No-one of the group actually knew what to say, how to act. Insecure as we were there on that first day. We hardly knew each other (met almost every one with the dinner at Steven's place the night before).
We joked around "we should make a t-shirt that says 'Steve's team'" or "let's get 6 fat kids out of town to show up here".
But then Steve arrived, we almost wanted to 'salute' him, but we didn't.

The week was filled with all kinds of things. We went sportsclimbing on the first day, did a scramble/multipitch on the second, learned new rescue techniques (thanks Vince) did Mount Sneffels (Snæfell) and drytooled too. In the evenings we presented our Alpine expedition ideas and reflected on the days.
The six of us became a close team in less then a week time.

Colin Presenting his Alpine ideas

Yodel arete

The six of us, l. to r. : Steve, Buster, Braden, Kevin, Colin, me and Steven

But two had to go...
A team of six (actually seven) is hard to mentor. You'd have to split yourself in two (or three) I guess.
So eventually four of us were allowed to go on after this try-out week.

I woke up in the night, the moon still bright and big. Still no bears around.
I was out, I thought. I must be. Shit.
Totally disappointed for all the reasons I'd made up in my head I woke up in the cold that morning.
I liked our team, it motivated me, inspired me and I really didn't want to leave.
I my head I was already making plans on what to do and where to go. Yosemite?
And although it's one of my dreams to climb there it didn't look as beautiful as being here with all those super enthusiastic climbers.

We all had a personal talk with Steve again that morning. And I was in!
I'm in, in, in! Am I? Oh, yes, what a relief! And at the same time: oh, my, I'm going to go climbing with Steve and the team for TWO years. This is... (my brain made little spin-loops) amazing!

Time for some restdays after this intense week.

Buster, one of the climbers was planning of going to Indian Creek for a couple days.
Steven would work and Colin too.
So. Indian Creek it was.
I heard about the place, knew that all Europeans that went there got so confused and could hardly climb 6a's.
Funny thing: I expected to only climb Alpine stuff this month and didn't even take shorts and then I suddenly ended up in the Utah desert.
Driving to 'the Creek' was a sweet sight-seeing trip for me. We saw sandstone arches, the real Colorado landscape and life and Newspaper rock was beautiful!

↵ Use original player
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Indian Creek, ultimate crack climbing from Marianne van der Steen on Vimeo.

The campsite was really dirtbag. Really: Campfires, dust, beer and bad guitar players in the freezing darkness.
The next morning it was time to climb. Buster, local in the Creek smoothly guided me around the best climbs.
The first we did was a nameless 5.10 that felt like hard 5.11 for me as European.
Headjamming felt better then handjamming and although the sandstone was perfectly shaped I always took the wrong cam to fit...
The only crack experience is my local place called 'Ettringen'. Short Basalt climbs in an old mining area in Germany. It wasn't the first time I stuffed my fat fingers in the rock, but this was so different!
After a while I got a hang on it and started to get addicted to the climbing style.
Suddenly I could imagine why people would spent their whole life on climbing in this harsh dusty desert.
After two climbing days my hands felt sore but good and it was time for the next adventure.

The Black Canyon

With a group of five we'd climb ten (TEN!) days in the Black Canyon.
The Black Canyon is a mythical place. If it would be in Iceland I'm sure there would be big Goblins and Trolls living under the big river boulders.
But here we only found poison ivy and loose rock.
The gneiss and schist is old, oxidated and worn by the strong water and it's filled with white pegmatite dikes.
First the walls look small, until you reach the lowst, darkest point at the river and suddenly realise that the little stream you saw from the viewpoint is a violent white river... And thats where you start your climbs.

This doesn't actually mean you'll get a rescue when it's getting dark :)

Buster, Colin, Steven, Steve and I were going to be the team.
We were going to be each others teachers, mentors, climbing buddies and friends.
Goal was not to climb the hardest of the Black, but become efficient, get to know new techniques and systems, be fast through using the right systems and route finding skills.

The weather-Gods gave us just a couple climbing days before the rain started...
We bailed, went back to Ouray/Ridgeway and drytooled with our local guide Steven... in the rain.

The ground was still wet when we went back for yet another week of intense climbs.
Steve was totally high on coffee when he arrived that morning. We were all still sleeping...

This week I was dragged out of what I call 'my comfort zone'. I was feeling better, the cold almost disappeared, and my mind found that my body should train harder.

So we got into Astrodog.
The idea was to do a link-up with another route to get to the top of the Canyon again.
I felt slow, insecure on the strange granite, I was cold and was far from fast. I felt disappointed in my own achievements before I even started on leading. Ashamed for my bad climbing results my mind started to give up on me. Just as usual.
My head is my weakest climbing parter, weaker then my pumped forearms, weaker then my hungry stomach, weaker then my dehydrated body. Weaker then the worst cam I ever placed.
When my mind tries to get involved, thats when I get out of my comfort zone.
And the request for getting out of that comfort zone worked, I got totally out of it... (Thanks Mind for helping out...Thanks for nothing...)
And then we realised it was getting dark. The sun coloured orange on the other side of the Canyon making the shades to become big monsters and finally it all turned into silence.
We had to go down. Now.
Rapidly we build an anchor, left a cam, abseiled down, pulled the rope, abseiled another pitch and another. And... Stuck.
The rope got stuck.
The sky turned black, the moon that accompanied me in the start of the trip had disappeared.
It was just us now and our tiny emergency light.
Steve climbed up in the darkness, miraculously fixed the rope and got down again.
We pulled, and pulled, and pulled, and...Stuck, again?!
We pulled the wrong end...
There we went again, down another pitch, and another...Stuck. Again.
Buster prussiked his way up and down.
We prepared our abseil gear all together with the light, in the darkness we were dragged onto the cold rock until one of us found the next belay.
Meanwhile we were in contact with base-camp through our little radio's.
The rope got stuck twice more before we were finally down. Down in the poison ivy.
There we searched for our bags, lights and food.
Now the Tyrolean, the river and the Cruise Gulley...
That Gulley is meant to walk/abseil down, not to 'cruise' up. We climbed up the two fixed ropes, avoided all poison ivy and loose rock.
Around midnight we arrived at the campsite. Steven and Colin prepared pasta. I never drink beer, but this one, with the pasta was the best I'd had for a very long time :)

The next day was a restday.

Buster and Steven enjoying the restday

But it was not over yet.
Colin had still one route to do, and me too. The longest rock route in Colorado.
The Southern Arete on the Painted Wall.
A challenge again. Not too hard. I thought. Until Colin said "you make it look like it's an 5.13".
Apparently I was still not used to this typical gneiss chimney climbing and got myself pumped in an 5.9
Great. I'll climb the scary traverse, you can do the chimney here :)
I was lucky, I climbed the beautiful finger crack at the end of the route!
Strangely my mind started to bug me again. The loose block at the end made me feel insecure. I was afraid to drop one on Colin whist leading and asked him to take over for me. Asking it made me feel weak, can't I even lead an easy 5.6 anymore (hello mind?!)
In the darkness we walked back to the campsite. We found big deer bones on our way through the bush and found it hard to get back to the hiking path.

Colin climbing the beautiful crack at the end of the Southern Arete

Every evening we had a campfire. Hot chocolate or tea and good discussions about how to improve all we did.
Steve referred to his own mentors and his time in Slovenia.
He told us "climbing is 80% mental."
Maybe even 90% if you just take the Black Canyon climbing or Alpine climbing.
I'm sure my climbing success is depending on my mind. Hard.
And maybe thats also why climbing is such a beautiful thing.
Climbing for me is a combination of many different elements. If those elements all all in the right direction then climbing is perfect. It feels perfect, looks perfect, sounds perfect...
Although my mind wasn't perfect, my body, the surroundings, the new friends I now have, the climb, the rock, the food, the air, the... just everything felt super good.
Especially us five as a team felt super good. All, Buster, Colin, Steven, Steve are original and special individuals all with different strengths. That combined was, as to say in American English; awesome.

And that climbing feeling made this one of the most intense trips I've ever made.

All I learned, felt, experienced this month are things I'll keep with me for my whole life. And I feel that is going to happen again, for the next two years. Two years for a lifetime. That is just worth anything.
It almost feels like love, maybe it does feel like love. Uhhhh, yes...butterflies in my heart, is that the same annoying itchy butterfly that I sometimes feel in my tummy?
Hey there you butterfly, shall we fly together for these two years?

...and what about after those two years?
Then I hope to create those butterflies for others, so we can pass on our new experiences and keep the Alpine Mentor Programme for many next generations to come.

Thanks Steve.

After that last day we said goodbye (...so how do you say goodbye?)
Buster and I went on for a couple days. Visited Rifle, Estes Park (Windy Mountains National Park) and  then Colin texted: Alexander's is in.
On my last day in Colorado I got little stars in my eyes and swung my axes in the ice like my life depended on it. Oh, what a good feeling to hold my babies. (read: Nomic iceaxes)

Alexander's Chimney, Rocky Mountain National Park, Colorado from Marianne van der Steen on Vimeo.

On the airport I had tears in my eyes, if there was anything wrong the lady at the customs asked me. Buster answered for me as my throat was filled with a big concrete block.
No, there was nothing wrong, it was all just good. Too good.
When can I go again?