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MVH. Micha Vanhoudt – climbing blog

National Geographic

This month National Geographic interviewed me for their Dutch and Belgian website. NG even posted a gallery with pictures that Thomas made during the past few years. Rab, my sponsor that’s keeping me warm, organised the interview, and although it’s only a short publication, I’m really proud to be on the website of National Geographic!

You can read the (Dutch) interview here and check out the gallery here.

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Rab shop!

Rab -the brand that’s keeping me warm and dry- opened their first shop-in-shop in the Netherlands and in the world for that matter! The shop is located inside the outdoor and travel shop Kathmandu on the Oude Gracht 256-264 in Utrecht.

So the biggest collection of Rab-clothing and gear on European continental soil can be found there!

For some more history about the brand, check out the interview below with Robert “Rab” Carrington who founded the brand.

Nina and I have met Rab last year in Margalef (ESP) and this year again at Raven Tor (UK), and with his first 8a climbed at the age of 60, he’s still going strong!

Interview with Rab Carrington from Rab on Vimeo.

RAB Shop

Frankenjura II

Frankenjura again! A mere ten days after our long trip we returned to the southeast of Germany. A short five-day trip, which turned out to be amazing!

The autumn conditions were great throughout the entire time we were there. Cold and crispy-dry air, the kind of weather you read and dream about, but never seem to get. This time we were right on the money!

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On day one I was able to quickly tick “Odd Fellows” in the first try of the day. Odd Fellows is an 8c on “Pornowand” that escaped me last time when it kept shredding my fingertips the minute I touched it.

Chuffed! What a start!

The next day I went to work out the moves of “Penumbral Solar Eclipse”, an 8c at “Vergessene Welt”. Ever since I had seen this crag in the film “The Wizard Apprentice”, I have wanted to go there. In the movie Adam Ondra climbs a 9a, which shares the last moves with the 8c and I liked the look of it.

Although I was keen for that route, somehow I didn’t feel that I was doing well in it. I felt tired and found the dyno at the end a bit hit and miss. I worked it three times that day and then climbed a short 8a+ next to it to cool down. I left the crag a bit doubtful, and I wasn’t sure there was any point in returning during the days we had left.

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The next day we met up with local Nico and his family. Nina climbed a nice classic 7a called “Ikebana” and I flashed another really nice route called “Insomnia”.

Fourth day, fourth climbing day. We went back to Vergessene Welt. Warmed up, placed the draws – 5 minute break – went for it, clipped the chain. Wham! Penumbral Solar Eclipse dispatched, second 8c of the trip!

Like with Odd Fellows, it’s just great when things work out fast. Most of the time it doesn’t happen to me; it’s a rare thing. But when you’re on a high… it’s great and good things keep on coming!

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I still had a quick peek in “Life’s blood for downtrodden”, the 9a that shares the end. It went pretty well; it has my name written all over it. So hopefully I can go back for that one day… maybe next year…

On the last day I felt pretty trashed, but Nina was still going strong. After sending another 7a, “Zeitreise” on “Pottensteiner Wand”, she made quick work of “Schwebebahn”, a very rewarding 7a-flash.

I’m having a bit of a break now, before training for our next trip in December. If this winter turns out half as good as the last weeks were, I’ll be a very happy man!

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Frankenjura

I don’t believe that the Frankenjura needs any introduction… As a sport-climbing venue it has been on the map since decades thanks to climbers like Güllich, Albert, Sykora, Löw, Thon, and many more.

Located in the southeast of Germany, it’s only a six-hours drive from where my girlfriend and I live. Just perfect! After our ten-months trip to Spain last year we didn’t want to go far this year.

So we started our trip in Munich where the World Championship in Bouldering took place. Although I’ve seen a couple of World Cups in Vienna during the last years, I had never seen Adam Ondra climb in real life. Take it from me: to see him take the title –controlling his mind and body like that- it was just unreal. Un altro planeta. At the women’s Jule Wurm took the title on home-soil… and the crowd roared…

Great atmosphere, catching up with friends from all over Europe; it was a wonderful evening.

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After that we dashed to the centre of the Frankenjura, where we rented a place close to Pottenstein. Time to get our hands on some rock!

In short; we had a good trip. The weather wasn’t always on our side, but with three 8c’s climbed, I feel like we’ve got value for our money.

I climbed the ultra-short “Downset” quite fast, the steep resistance-route “Steinbock” and the atypical roof called “Roof Warrior”. Perhaps more would have been in the cards, but as mentioned before, you have to deal with the weather you get and from the third day onwards I was forced to take the holds a bit inventive due to popped index fingers.

At first, when I was standing underneath “Downset”, it looked impossible. But after a while I was able to make all the moves, which aren’t more than just a handful. I took a rest day and the next day I was able to send it first try of the day. Seems that the training and bouldering before paid off!

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“Steinbock” was a different story. It’s a looking fantastic route, a steep piece of rock packed with pockets, no really hard moves, but surely enough of them. Like most roof-climbs it’s quite technical with subtle heel- and toe-hooks. I fell on the last move on the day I climbed “Downset”, but being that close so soon wasn’t very helpful. It’s a paradox, I know, but my head often reacts quite weirdly in a sabotaging way. In the end it took more tries than it should have, but with the moral support of the enthusiastic local climber Nico and the always helping talk from Benny (Wataaah!) I was able to finish “Steinbock” as well!

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Enter the rain… We spent almost a week driving around; looking for dry routes to try, visiting neighbouring cities; we even went to the bouldering gym Café Kraft once.

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In the last week I still wanted to try and climb a route called “Odd Fellows”, but with a battered left index finger I could only have one good go a day. Knowing that I could only try it once felt a bit too pressuring to me. (on a side note: the right index finger healed quickly, the left never did…)

The day I left “Odd Fellows” for what it was, we bumped into Nico again and we ended up underneath “Roof Warrior”, a route that I tried earlier. This time I got lucky! Despite the rain from the week before it was dryer than ever. I took off just to try the moves again and surprised myself by clipping the chain.

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All in all it was a successful trip and apart from those 8c’s I was able to send a bunch of 8a and b’s at high pace. Frankenjura is great and I can’t wait to go back!

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Shadowmover 2.0

Two weeks ago a blogpost of mine was published on the website of Rab. My sponsor for technical clothing and gear. For my blog, click here (with more pictures)or read it below.

Since the beginning of this year I am living in Belgium again after an absence of three and a half years. Moving from an alp country (Austria) to one of the lowlands was quite a change for me. Swapping the endless climbing potential for a handful of crags that are very weather-dependant was like biting into a sour apple. Nonetheless a part of me was happy to be back in this small –sometimes surreal- place.

Those few Belgian crags do have their cool routes though, and one of those routes on my list was “Shadowmover”. A short power-endurance route that I tried one day back in the summer of 2010.

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“Shadowmover” is a route from the 90s and like most routes from that time it sadly has some chipped holds. Luckily the hardest move is all natural and it still happens to be a good route. As far as I know, the route had seen its last ascent in 1998, before a crucial hold broke low down leaving a harder entrance boulder behind.

That one day in 2010 I couldn’t find the solution to solve the beginning, so this year I returned. After all, “Shadowmover” was on my “list of intermediate projects” … a big name but in reality nothing more than a beer mat with some route names on it.

I have been trying the line on and off, but it was only at the beginning of June that I made the “click” in my head and really went for it. Approximately a month ago it was done. With the new boulder sequence to start and an addition of three extra draws adding a roof sequence at the end, it is a bit more than just a broken route re-climbed. That’s why I gave it the name “Shadowmover 2.0”.

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I must say I’m quite chuffed to have climbed it. It might ultimately not be the hardest of routes, but I feel like I have finally made the start to climbing my other unclimbed and much much harder projects in my home country.

For example I have bolted a new line right next to it, which turned out a lot harder than I hoped for. A line that feels like a completely different ballgame – totally next level for me personally. A line that sails under the working-name of “the Mantra-project”. It’s possible, it’s possible, it’s possible, it’s… 7C boulder into 8A+ boulder into 8B boulder or something like that.

Another one would be a line that has been of climbers’ interest for the last 30 odd years. It could become a benchmark-route…

My list of projects keeps on growing…

A small country, but so many lines to climb… forever onwards and upwards! Go hard or go home!

Pic’s by Bram “Junior” Lambrechts, 2010-pic by Thomas Schermer

New Orleans Heavy Weight Division

After my trip to Magic Wood I swapped my pad for a rope again and went to the Frankenjura. It has been quite a while since my last visit to the old area. This time Nina came along, her first visit to the Frankenjura. We got the idea of going there from a friend, Bram aka “Junior” aka “Belgians strongest fingers”, who’s lately my partner in crime when it comes to hanging around in hard routes.

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He had this project in the Frankenjura called “New Orleans Heavy Weight Division” on the Endorama crag, so I just tagged along. The first day it rained all day, but in the evening we still decided to check it out. The last four meters were soaked, leaving the rock covered in a slippery black film (water and lichen are just a winning combination). Still, the crux was at the bottom of the route, so we tried some moves anyway.

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Bram went first, showing me all the methods. Then I had my go, warming up from bolt to bolt, trying his methods. Bram again: went through the crux like butter, “shall I continue?” he asked whilst hanging on a crimp, gobsmacked I yelled: “Yes, you fool! Finish it!”

With the final hold in hand he slipped off… with dripping wet shoes and hands. Right, I went, my second go (!), made it through the crux as well. Continued with a good pace and there I went; with my nose at the chain and water running down my arms. It would have been to good to be true.

The next day we warmed up, Junior climbed it a wee bit nervous in his first go of the day. Slightly nervous as I was I did the same… Beers earned!

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Magic Wood

Last month I went to Magic Wood, the famous boulder area in Switzerland. Although it was a rather spontaneous decision to go there, it was good to grit my teeth again and gain a bit of power by bouldering.

But let’s start at the beginning: Early May I bolted a new line in Belgium. A real fusion-route, being a sportclimbing route but only existing out of a series of interconnected boulder problems without rests. It’s not exactly a king-line but interesting none the less. It’s packed with crazy heel- and toe-hooks, dead point slaps, moves on tension and counter-tension, iron-cross moves, cutting loose, walking your feet around, … it has it all! Unfortunately it turned out to be ridiculously hard – so hard that I could barely hold on to the hardest sections.

So the very next day I was driving to Magic Wood.

Once in Switzerland I met up with some of Sheffield’s finest climbers: Sam and the young prodigy Dominic who got to tick his first 8A+ problem. It was nice to do some outdoor bouldering again and to try loads of different moves, but what helped me the most was that I could tap off some of their motivation. I even got to climb some 8As.

As always, I left with a bunch of projects for next time, but at least now I have the feeling that I got a bit stronger and I can start negotiations with my own project. Let’s see who caves in first!

Pictures by Eddie Fowke; much obliged!

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Mr. Schermer

Get your hands on a copy of Climbing Magazine’s Photo Annual 2014! In the category Best New Photographers 2014 Thomas got selected with a shot we made last year in Siurana.

Quite a bit of effort went into this shot, but it was worth it! Cheers to Martin for belaying and rigging.

This edition is available since this month and can be ordered on their website.

PS: Thom, don’t worry, we’ll still make your visionary shot happen 😉

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Training course!

Everybody, there’s a new training course starting on Monday the 26th of May at I-vy climbing gym in Sittard. The emphasis of this practical course will be on gaining some last-minute endurance for the summer.

If you’ve planned a sport climbing holiday and you still want to gain some fitness before you go, then this course might be the right one for you.

For more information, feel free to get in touch with me via the button “contact”.

Note: This is a completely different course to the one that was given earlier this year in boulder gym Graviton. Whilst those classes explained in depth how to train theoretically and practically to reach your potential, this one focuses on how to practically gain that last bit of extra for your route-climbing holiday. However, more master classes like the one that took place in Graviton will be organized later this year. The exact dates and places will follow and are going to be available via the button “training”.

Training

Spirit

Last weekend I climbed Spirit, an old route in Belgium. It’s short, bouldery and most importantly, it’s in the shade!

So far this year I’ve been extremely busy with basically everything, except for climbing or training. When I had the time to do anything related to climbing, I was mainly searching for some interesting lines or trying ridiculously hard moves.

A process with its highs and lows; I went back and forth from cheering and bouncing around like a happy child to a depressed, droopy clown. People who open routes will recognise this feeling. But let me paint the picture anyhow:

The Highs:

-When you find the perfect line: being in a good location, with high quality rock and very hard and cool moves… within reason

 The Lows:

-When you find nothing

-When the newfound line is always wet

-When it turns out to be too hard (meaning: if I train for the next ten years then MAYBE I’ll climb this on a good day when there are two moons in the sky and pigs can fly)

-When it turns out to be too easy (strangely this is even worse than when it’s too hard)

-When there’s a fair amount of blank wall in the middle of the route (there isn’t always something…)

-When you work out the potential route and it becomes the home of a bees’ nest

-When you find a line shaped by nature to perfection and literally ALL holds are too fragile and break off

-When you realise that most great lines are already bolted and the amount of rock in your country is very limited

-When some bloke claims that he’s seen that particular line four years ago and calls it “reserved”

 Anyway, enough of my nonsense… I did get something done in between; Spirit, an old route that I estimate to be around 8b comparing it to other routes on the wall. Because of the era it was bolted in it has some chipped holds, which is unfortunate but more the rule than the exception in Belgium… It’s far from being the greatest line, but it was good fun.

Back to the projects now. Back to my never-ending search!

Pictures by Tim Van Der Sleen

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Ettringen

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Last week I went climbing in Ettringen, an old basalt-quarry located in the Eifel, which is a volcanic park in the Southwest of Germany. The climbing area itself is quite big with plenty of routes in all grades, and although the majority of the routes are bolted, most people go there to test their trad-climbing skills.

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After a very rainy trip to the Peak District (post still coming up) at the beginning of this month I was keen to grind the rust off those borrowed camalots. So together with Thomas and Tim from my home-gym we got on some of those basalt-cracks.

Basalt is a kind of solidified lava and for me it was the first time that I climbed on it. It’s very compact and poor on holds, resulting in most of the climbing being on arêtes and cracks. I always find it enjoyable to get my hands on a new type of rock. Learning how to move on it and adjusting your technique can be a very satisfying process.

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The conditions weren’t exactly on our side. It was warm, quite wet and loads of tree-pollen in the air, but somehow we all had a fun day of nice and relaxed climbing. Sometimes that’s more than enough!

I went home with some easy trad-climbs including a beautiful line called “Seepferdchen” and the (slightly over-graded) compression route “Merlin”, which is actually bolted.

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I’m happy to have discovered this area so close to home (1h30 drive). There’s also a North-facing cave in Ettringen with some hard routes from Daniel Jung. I guess now I know where to go this Summer to get strong for my own projects!

Pictures from Thomas Schermer

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Our long 2013-trip…

After ten months of climbing in Spain and driving around in our camper van last year, we’ve been home again for already ten weeks. I have the feeling that I should write some sort of synopsis to close off that crazy year. But where to start?! It was a good year; a very long and exhausting year and it turned out to be completely different than expected.

Having all the time in the world is a strange position to be in.

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In general we’re used to (or better: we’re forced to get used to) having deadlines: short trips, work obligations, winter with buckets of rain, and so on. Imagine having none of those deadlines. At first I thought it was great, but soon it became weird having that much time on my hands. It was hard to grit my teeth and get into the so called “A muerte-zone”.

Regardless, I’m satisfied and so is Nina! She did amazingly this year and climbed her first 7c, Antológica in Margalef. Also in Oliana, Rodellar and Siurana she filled her backpack with some classic testpieces. I clocked off with 75 routes going from 8a up to 8c+. My ultimate goal of climbing another 9a wasn’t in the cards this year, although I got really close on Rodellar’s test-piece Ali Hulk. Physically I was more than capable, but after four months on the road I wasn’t able to stay focussed and peak mentally. But that’s all right, routes don’t tend to run-off!

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Instead I’ve learned a lot about myself and I like to think that those lessons are more valuable in the long run than a short-lived success.

One of the most important lessons I learned is that full-time climbing does not work for me. Some other input besides climbing would have been beneficial. I’ve been reading a lot and so on, but what I really mean is that sometimes I just wished to be in another place and experience a bit more of a socio-cultural life. I actually fled to Berlin once.

Secondly, it’s good to have a fingerboard above your door. You really miss it when you don’t have one. Just climbing without training made my fingers weak. I sure wish I had nailed one on the van. Got a portable one now from Revolution!

Thirdly, you can never bring enough books.

Fourthly, it’s good to have a home with actual walls to retreat to. A mobile home is cool, but enough is enough!

Talking about it, we had a guest in our camper during the last ten days in Siurana. Our good friend and photographer Thomas waved his new camera around and pressed the button as soon as his right hand was beer-can-free. I’ve published a some pictures in this post.

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During our trip we’ve visited Margalef, Oliana, Rodellar, Belgium (having what turned out to be a very stressful break!), Céüse, Albarracin and Siurana. We’ve met tons of lovely people and made climbing plans for the next ten years… There’s just so much rock around!

My agenda is packed; good things will happen this year, so stay tuned! I’ll blog more often as well, the very first thing on my list.

Still would like to thank all my sponsors (Monkee, La Sportiva, Rab, Beal, Revolution) for helping us making last year possible, and the people who followed us on this website.

Cheers!

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8c+ & 8c

We’re in the last month of our trip and our agendas are slowly filling up with appointments in Belgium, Holland and Germany. Things are coming to an end and somehow that seems alright with me.

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But for now we’re in Siurana and slowly – but surely – I have the feeling that I found my style of routes that I like the most. Short, slightly overhanging, bouldery routes that combine finger strength with technical precision.

Siurana has loads of those lines, in fact apart from the sector “El Pati” most routes are like that. Because Siurana has so many little corners and crags, all walls have their own unique atmosphere. At least that’s how I experience it and that’s what I love so much about climbing here.

Routes with a tat of “je ne sais quoi” and that feeling of solving a puzzle.

I’m taking my time for them, enjoying the process of making progress in those routes. Sure, with some more determination some could go down faster than they eventually do, but sometimes the road is more important than the actual destination…

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I’ve been bouldering around in all kinds of different routes here; now and then I find one that I really like – so I’ll stick to it then. Two weeks ago I climbed a new 8c from Dani Andrada, called “La Pequeña Mowgli”. Very short, on perfect limestone with only the necessary holds on it. Some small and medium-sized crimps that link a nice series of moves together. This one went down very fast thanks to our power-boosting short trip to Albarracín.

Last Wednesday I climbed “Chocolate caliente”, an 8c+. Although the route is only 15m long, it isn’t actually that bouldery. It’s more of a “keep-it-together-route”. Very enjoyable!

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I still have a list of routes that I want to climb here in Siurana and a lot of motivation to go with it, but whatever happens next is okay with me. As long as we can enjoy the last weeks of our trip and enjoy this autumn. Some friends from Austria are here (Es war der Hammer, euch wiederzusehen!) and more friends will be visiting. Our last month will be great! Let’s hope the recent snow melts fast…

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Archive pictures Siurana: Thomas Schermer 

¡Albarracín!

Some people might have read my last blog-post (in German) on the website of Monkee Clothing, but I’ll briefly sketch the last weeks for those who didn’t anyway.

The past weeks we’ve spent in Margalef. We have only ever been here in winter, but the area is actually great during September. Good temperatures (for the shady walls), not many people and trees packed with peaches and almonds!

We got to celebrate my girlfriend’s first 7c and I’ve been climbing a lot of routes in preparation for our next tour stop, Siurana. Having worked my way through nearly all of the routes at sector “Catedral”, I climbed approximately 20 routes from 8a to 8b+ and crushed the 300 mark for routes of the grade 8a and higher.

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Unfortunately I injured my right ring finger on a mono on one of the last routes I climbed. It’s a strange injury that causes a lot of burning pain in the hand and below the wrist, whilst it stings in the elbow. I had an injury like that last year on the left ring finger. It took seven (!) months to heal. Now it’s completely fine again, so I’m confident that my right hand will regain its strengths sooner or later.

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With that knowledge in the back of my head, I knew that crimps would cause me no pain what so ever, so leaving for Siurana was the way to go!

The first days in Siurana were just overwhelming; I love this crag, the climbing, the scenery, … to me it simply is the best crag I’ve been to. It was unbelievable to me that we haven’t been here earlier on during the trip. Soon enough however, I remembered why that was: heat. Apparently we had a cold front those first days, which had to make some space for blazing heat. Warm weather and small crimps just don’t mix well.

We decided to go to Albarracín for ten days, even though we expected the conditions there to be far from good… but we weren’t going there to perform anyway.

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Albarracín is Spain’s most famous bouldering area. It’s quite big and full of red sandstone boulders; basically the same stone that you can find in Pfalz and Vosges du Nord.

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We had some great autumn days there, the landscape is amazing and the bouldering is fairly good as well. I haven’t been bouldering in a long time, but after a couple of days I got the feel for it again and things started to go down. On the third climbing day I worked out and climbed three 8A boulders (Zatoichi, Monos (sit) and Klem’s Traverse). A climbing day later I climbed another 8A (Pintures Buldestres (sit)) and the last day I climbed again two 8A boulders in a day (El Varano and Zarzamora (sit)). Apart from those six I’ve sent twenty problems going from 7A to 7C+. Not bad, I say, for a total of six climbing days.

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Still, we left with mixed feelings. The rather soft grading is one thing, but what I found really hard to grasp is the way this great piece of nature gets treated. I always thought that rumour has it that Albarracín was threatened with closure for climbers… I can see why!

I have never ever seen a nature area being treated with such a lack of respect. The vast majority (not all of them!) of climbers are simply damaging this area. If people would behave like that in let’s say Berdorf (Luxembourg) or in some climbing venues in Germany, climbing would be banned there for the rest of the century and for good reasons, too!

Dozens of unleashed dogs, unwilling to listen, scaring wildlife, barking and crapping everywhere. Hardcore electronic music being played ridiculously loud until two in the morning accompanied by never ending screaming at children and dogs. More than one hundred cars and vans parked completely randomly. Litter on the ground, everywhere. Loads of burning candles in a dry wooded area, whilst the people who lit them are getting drunk and high. People crapping in between boulders that have popular problems on them, not even covering up their toilet paper. The usage of steel brushes on the soft sandstone (=chipping) just was like the icing on the cake of shitty behaviour.

We climbers use nature as our gym to practice the sport we love. Like it or not; with that comes some responsibility.

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However, Nina and I had a great time there and the climbing is good. So visit the area (respectfully) before it’s too late. It sure is worth the trip!

Yesterday we arrived back in Siurana where we’ll spent the last six weeks of our journey. Hopefully the weather gets colder, but stays dry and we’ll be able to tick some projects off the list!

Stay tuned!

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Benoît and Pata Negra

Yesterday: Benoît Davison – one of Northern-Britain’s finest lads – climbed “Pata Negra”, a true stamina-monster in Rodellar. Your reporter on the scene, who was given the honour of belaying, could not believe his own eyes! Benoît dashed off as a sheer bolt of lightning, tackling the first crux with a frightening grunt. After that he quickly continued to the middle of The Great Roof, where he positioned himself in a no-hands rest that can only be described as being revolutionary! – McClure, old chap, take the boy for a climb, there is quite a bit to be learned here. – Like a hot knife trough butter he continued trough the redpoint-crux, reaching the safe haven of the shake-out hold. Having entered easy terrain now, he had to finish it. We – on the ground – felt our knees turn into rubber, our hearts thumping in our throats. Benoît stayed cool as a cucumber and being the oiled climbing machine that he is he headed onwards to the sky. The crowds roared when he clipped the chain, applauding and patting each other on the back. Benoît, our hero, still feeling fuzzy from his great effort, floated god-like an inch above ground, chuffed as he said and finally free. The biscuitless hard work had paid off for there he climbed his first 8c!IMG_2803cutIMG_2801cut

Process

A good friend of mine told me I should write about processes. “Nobody cares about raw facts, Micha, it’s all about the process!” Point taken…

After the Monkee-Photoshoot in Nürnberg I felt a bit more relaxed. I guess it was good to get away from climbing for a few of days. Still, the thought of climbing (badly) was all a bit much to take.

Long story short, I needed some more days off. I needed to go somewhere else, somewhere I would return from craving for climbing and a healthy lifestyle… I was going to Berlin.

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Nina dropped me off at Barcelona airport, I got on a plane and by the time it took off all the climbing demons seemed to have nested themselves in my head and driven me mad.

I could choke on the free spongy sandwich. The plane could turn into a ball of fire. Birds could fly into the turbines, turning themselves into poulet-rôti and take the plane down.

Nothing of all that happened, in fact nothing happened at all. By the time we were landing it wasn’t about having some time off; it was about damage control.

I was going bat-shit crazy.

In Berlin I spent some time with my friend Thomas. We did some sightseeing, went to an exposition, had some beers and came up with some ideas for future climbing-projects.

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We talked about the gigantic expectations I had and why they where nonsense. I’m not a professional climber, I don’t get paid to do it, I don’t have a trainer, I don’t even train. I should just climb and have fun!

The following days I became quite content being a tourist; taking some pictures, having coffee in the sun whilst reading my newspaper. With that balm on my soul, it was time to get back to climbing.

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The next day I was on a plane to Spain.

I decided I needed a different approach, by climbing stuff that I could finish in a day. So the next days I only climbed routes up to 8b. But a fresh start also required a different location. So we drove our battered van to Rodellar.

We hooked up with some very nice British climbers (Ben and Will are the young dogs to watch!). The simple life was setting in and we where getting used to it. Climb when the weather is good, rest when bad. Eat good food, listen to music, read books, stuff a piñata, celebrate birthdays and shoot pool.

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After nearly three months of climbing the both of us are finally feeling a bit fitter and we’re starting to do well. Nina’s operating in the 7b’s and I’ve climbed two 8c’s: The Mummy (brilliant moves, probably the best route I’ve climbed in Rodellar) and Welcome to Tijuana. One of them, -Tijuana- took me quite a bit of effort, but I really wanted to climb it with the original start and with not a single quickdraw pre-clipped. To me this seemed the only correct way and I’m happy and very satisfied to have climbed it like that.

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There wasn’t any new process going on though, just the ordinary trick of over-compensation (get so strong that you can climb it no matter how nervous you are. Basically, operate below your level). BUT, things are bound to change, because birthday-boy Mark has lent me a book called “With Winning in Mind” by Olympic champion Lanny Basshan. It’s the book that Jerry Moffat writes about in his biography. I will give it a go, see if I can turn whining into winning. (much like turning water into wine, if you will)

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I don’t really know what I’ll try next, there are just so many good lines here. Unfortunately most of them are too long for me…I’ll probably stick to the short ones.

But I can always get better, right?

Oh, some great news from Vienna! Kraftpaket Berni Fiedler repeated Barry White! When I got on the boulder the first day, Berni was there and played along to find all the puzzle pieces. It’s good to see the circle completed! During the last two and a half years I’ve climbed many of his routes and it feels good to be able to give something back. Thanks for all the great lines Berni!

You can find his blog via this link

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Monkee-shoot

Intermezzo! Two weeks ago –before moving on to Rodellar- I flew to Nürnberg to take part in the Monkee photo-shoot. It was good to be away from the crags for at least a couple of days and relax a bit…

Marion, the mastermind behind Monkee, had gathered all of us in the already legendary Café Kraft. Guntram, Johanna and myself represented the team and – to secure future performances – we went out to eat a bucket of ice cream.

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The studio-shoot itself the next day was great. Heiko joined us and just by his biceps-size he pays tribute to Güllich and Albert. The house-photographer, Frank Kretschmann, took the pictures and I can’t wait to see the result. The 2014 collection sure looks fly. You might want to reserve some space in your closets!

You can find the making-of from last year below:
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MONKEE SHOOT 2013 from funst on Vimeo.

Pictures by Hannes Huch.

¿Qué ocurre? (What’s occurring?!)

We’ve been in Spain for nearly five weeks now and since my last entry much has happened! To start off, we’re doing our very best to destroy our mobile home. Hitting walls and balconies, I’ve good hopes to hit a pedestrian next time!

So, about the balcony: a very small street in a very small village, crawling through, looking in both mirrors, and forgetting about our height… BANG! The picture says it all, I guess.

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It happened on our way to Oliana – the home of hard climbing – and so the first days there I’ve spent more time on the roof of our truck than on the wall. We’ve lost quite some time with it and had to re-think our plan. Eventually we decided to stay in Oliana for a while.

Nonetheless I was able to fix our resilient home against all odds – rain in particular – and make it waterproof again (10% metal, 10% wood, 30% silicon, 50% pure luck).

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Finally some climbing in Oliana then! We had the moral support of some friends (headcount 16!) from Vienna who where renting a house in a nearby village. It was really nice to see them and climb with them again since we moved away from Austria.

Things started going like they should go; trying some routes, having some laughs, beers and birthday-parties, Johanna walked Fish Eye, our mobile home stayed in one piece.

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Nina climbed her first 7b and I climbed the shortest route on the wall: T1 Full Equip, 35m. Oliana is great! I’m trying almost every route on the wall, so I made a list of routes that I eventually want to do and hopefully I’ll leave this crag with a concept that I only know from magazines and Wikipedia, called: resistance.

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Climax Magazine & Geo Kompakt

The new issue of Climax Magazine is out now, featuring a nice article about the Viennese climbing scene and climbing around the Austrian capital.

The editors published a picture of in my own route “Elza”, taken by Claudia Ziegler … They wrote some nice words, too!

The same picture appears as a spread in this month’s issue of the non-climbing magazine Geo Kompakt, which can be compared to National Geographic. The digital edition of the current issue can also be found on their website. Or go straight to page 15-16.

To the Climax-crew: nah, was soll i sogn?! Es woa einfoi urleiwand! I würd so ab un zu nochma vorbei schaun fürn Ottakringer! Grias eich aus Spanien!

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Sabbatical!

Since two weeks we’re on Spanish soil, which means that our sabbatical has finally started!

So here’s the sugar:

  • A mobile home,
  • Spain,
  • Ten months,
  • Oh, and a bottle of single malt

We left a wee bit later than planned, but the days were just packed. After all we had a move to manage, and saying goodbye to Vienna definitely took its toll.

Margalef

The past weeks here in Margalef we haven’t climb much, the weather wasn’t exactly what you would expect from Spain (Rain with capital R), which sure made my head go crackers. But things are bound to change! They just have to.

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We also had some troubles with our used mobile home, mainly the gas-installation wasn’t working as it should have worked… in the end, nothing that a bit of duck-tape and some wild hammering couldn’t fix!

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At the moment we don’t really have a plan. Like where and when to go, we’ll probably just make it up along the way (seems like the master plan of my life).

On the rest days I’ll try to keep my blog up to date, so stay tuned!

Hasta luego!

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A new year, some new sponsors!

 

I’m happy to introduce some new sponsors! For this year I’ve applied for sponsorship with several companies and luckily I’ve made it with all the brands that I would love to represent the most:

La Sportiva

New shoes on my feet!

From now on I’ll be climbing with La Sportiva shoes and go and drink my coffee with some fine Italian sneakers on my feet. I’m really happy to be on the team and feel honoured to be supported by them! Having just received some fresh pairs straight from Italy I can’t wait to try them out on rock soon.

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I left my previous sponsor Evolv, for the main reason that some of their shoes got remodelled and didn’t fit me that well anymore. Still, I would like to thank them and CJ Agencies for the good cooperation during the last five years and I wish them all the best!

Monkee Clothing

I’m very excited to announce that from now on I’m a happy member of the Monkee family and will be showing off their clothes!

Monkee supports both Nina and me on our Spain trip (more information soon); so watch out for some sharp dressed climbers! I’m really enthusiastic to be on the team. The energy that goes out from the brand is very motivating. You can check out my presentation on their website, or straight via this link.

New Collection!

Rab

Let it snow and let the wind blow! I’ll be warm anyway!

The British brand Rab supports me with their technical clothes, like down-jackets, rain-jackets and other gear. It is great to be representing this brand as they produce only products of exceptional quality.

Beal

I’m in my fifth year now with Beal and they keep amazing me with their ropes. The other day I received the new Unicore Joker. The Joker has always been my favourite, being light, thin and stretchy, and now it’s available for the first time as Unicore using Beal’s innovative technology of glueing the core to the mantel. It makes even the thinnest rope more durable.

Revolution

Although I’ve written about Revolution before, there’s some more to tell!

First of all I’ll be the contact person for the distribution of their holds and gear in Belgium and the Netherlands. From now on you’ll be able to reach me via: micha@revolutionclimbing.eu

Softgoods are upcoming as well! We’ve designed some great shirts, see the pictures, and we’re doing our best to smash crash-pad prototypes!

So keep in mind folks: the best shaped polyurethane holds and crash-pads come from Revolution!

Revolution Tee

Good times, exiting times; great things are bound to happen!

2012 – 2013

As mentioned in my previous post; during New Year I was in Spain. It was a fairly relaxed trip, after digging deep before Christmas I sure could use a holiday. So I did, good wine and equally good food, the occasional glass of scotch, easy climbing and last but not least: loads of friends (and a unicorn) that were there!

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We rented an apartment in Cornudella de Montsant, the last village before Siurana. So most of our time we’ve spent at the old crag, but once in a while we drove to Margalef, where some other friends have been climbing on a newly developed crag called “Espadelles Extension”. I’ve climbed some steep routes there, getting my first pump in more than six months… it sure was painful.

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Clearly my stamina could barely drag my holiday weight above the ten-meter mark, so in Siurana I tried a shorter route. A very hard project actually and it was interesting to try it. Although the moves were mind blowing, I have to admit that I wasn’t all that motivated and after a couple of days I left it for what it was. Soon we will be spending more than enough time in Spain. It doesn’t run away.

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Ever since Spain I’m having a break from climbing. My days are just too packed with work, but most of all I’m trying to charge my batteries again and enjoy our last weeks in Vienna…

Pictures from Thomas, as always.

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Twilight in Margalef

 

Barry White

After a very relaxed trip to Spain, I returned with Thomas and Claudia to my boulder “Barry White” last week, of which I did the first ascent last December. Thomas and I wanted to do some filming; Claudia joined us to make some pictures.

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Even though I’ve recorded the actual ascent I wanted to make a proper video about it. After all, that block sucked up a great amount of time and effort. Since I’ve started trying it in March of last year it took me approximately twelve days.

The last days on the boulder were the hardest for me. I knew that my girlfriend and I would be leaving Austria soon and the weather wasn’t on my side either. In fact; during the last six days I changed my crux-method four times (not always for the better) and I battled arctic conditions (-7°C and similar temperatures) Shovelling snow, moisture from my fingers freezing instantly on the holds, frozen bananas, frozen sandwiches, frozen iPods and phones. Despite filming the video almost a month later, it gives you a fair image about how it was.

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It was so cold; I just couldn’t feel my brain.

To hell with it! I climbed it eventually, redemption at last! Now I can leave Vienna in peace, my last two projects climbed. The sandbagged old school route “Hobby Extra” and a FA of “Barry White”. I’m still so very happy about those two!

I hope to see some repeats of the boulder, it sure is great!

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Barry White from Hugo on Vimeo.

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Revolution

I’m very proud to announce that I’m in the Revolution Team!

First called Pusher; Revolution is the company that started it all! From the first ever produced crash pads to the big modern holds as we know them.

These days they still make the best crash pads on the market (I know, the area where I boulder is the most destructive area imaginable for a pad!) and excellent holds!

They have a massive amount of different models and can produce very fast. The holds are made out of polyurethane and therefore very light, durable and last but not least they can take some bending on uneven surfaces like climbing features and modules.

Because they are so light it makes all the difference in the world building with them.

For more information: revolutionclimbing.eu,

info@revolutionclimbing.eu

and revolutionclimbing.com

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Hobby Extra, Leche Caliente and Elza

Jawollo! It did it!

Last Sunday I finally climbed “Hobby Extra”, a classic test piece just south of Vienna. It was named after an old brand of strong cigarettes, the Austrian equivalent of Belgium’s “Groene Michel”.

Climbing this route was so f*ing hard for me, it feels like it’s the hardest route I’ve ever done. Ridiculously short and very steep with barbaric moves between small and painful holds. Absolutely unforgiving and my anti-style, to me it confirms the progression I’ve made during the last two years.

The first time I tried it is more than one and a half years ago and I couldn’t do any of the hard moves. As it felt so impossible and the conditions have to be so spot on to be able to stick to this old-school piece of rock with seemingly zero friction, I didn’t really try it again. But it stayed in the back of my mind as the one route without which I would not leave Vienna.

Then the winter was coming, leaves falling of the trees, weather getting colder and shittier and I started to feel that I was running out of time. Although we will only be leaving Vienna in February, I knew it had to be done this year and soon, before it got too cold for route climbing.

So I went back around six weeks ago. The moves felt better and after several days (!) I could finally make all the moves. I started to see a chance.

The problem was that my pride didn’t allow me to pre-clip anything in this route. As it is known around here that pre-clipping the first two (although safer – ok) makes it at least half a grade easier, I wanted to climb it as it was opened, nothing pre-clipped, old-school, the hard way. It may sound weird, but I was definitely prepared to sacrifice a broken ankle or two for this piece of Viennese climbing history!

Anyway, I was close to doing it last month, but then I had some bad luck with the weather (too warm, way too humid) and by the time the best conditions started to come around, I was driving through Germany to buy a motorhome for next year’s trip to Spain and then on to Belgium to see my family. There went my fitness, right down the drain. The local beer, grandmother’s cooking… I just couldn’t resist:

After a week of intoxicating my liver, Nina and I went straight to Siurana. I lived healthily and climbed a cool route named “Leche caliente” quite fast, lost some weight, came back and as usual got ill. Went again to Belgium, got even more ill, wasted away on my mother’s couch for week and on my first day back in Austria I went straight to “Hobby Extra”. Funnily enough things went pretty smoothly. So today, still coughing and sneezing, I expected nothing and climbed it in bitter 0,5°C after a horrible first attempt. Well, miracles do happen!

I have to honestly admit though that I’ve never fought as hard in a route as I did today, nor did a route ever feel as hard as this one. I was grunting like a warthog, Nina was screaming… funny! Normally we suffer in silence. It helped; I guess.

Save the best for last, people say. So this is it, probably my last hard route in Vienna. It sure was the most difficult one for me and I’m a happy man now!

So I still have one open account here in Vienna. And that’s a great boulder-project. I hope that it will still fall!

Oh, now that I think about it, last summer I did the first ascent of my own route, which is called “Elza”. I’ve bolted it in May, it’s really cool and it also has a hard extension for future generations. Claudia Ziegler made some really cool pictures, so I’ve posted these as well!

Stay tuned for some more stories soon!

Cheers!

 

March

Bouldering

Loads of things happened since my last blog-post “Aufbau in Margalef!” First of all, as soon as we came back from Margalef I felt a lot stronger, therefore I was finally able to send my boulder-project Hocus Pocus!

To clean it, figure it out and climb it I needed approximately eight days spread over two months. Found quite some wicked beta. Although people were enthusiastically trying it, it has seen no repeats so far. Some days later I made the second ascent of “Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close”, which is a very good test piece by Bernard Fiedler.

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Motivating times, so I got crackin’ with a new and hard project, which a friend of mine had been trying before. Crazy line, first you have to tackle this roof – heel- and toe-hooks, squeezing with your feet, … the whole shebang! After that you have to negotiate your way around a big bulge.

The best beta I’ve found so far is as simple as it is ineffective: compress the shit out of it. The holds however can be picked at will. Just draw some random tick-marks and you’re good to go.

Soon, conditions were out of the window. The heat went up and the friction went down. I realised this when I slid of one of the holds, ripping four fingernails in one go on my left hand. After some inner reflection, whilst watering a nearby bush, I thought it was time to quit with bouldering until next winter. After all, bouldering is just a way for me, not a goal as such. I was aching to climb routes again. Later, ready to store my crash pads away, Jakob suggested that we should start with our boulder film. We did, but our pace is rather slow. Should be online around 2019. Maybe.

Route climbing

After Margalef and all the bouldering my confidence was growing. It was time to get on with my main goal of the year: “Erfolg ist trainierbar” in Adlitzgräben. I tried it a couple of days last year and hadn’t gone in it since then. Now those powerful cruxes went a lot smoother, actually, it was a difference of night and day compared to last year. The power was all there, I just needed to gain some resistance.

Later that month, on the 27th, it was a bit of a weird day. Nina really wanted to climb outdoors; I couldn’t really make up my mind as to what I fancied. We wanted to go to another crag, but in the end we went to Adlitzgräben anyway. I warmed up for two hours, really relaxed, then nearly got my head chopped of by a falcon; wasn’t thinking what so ever about my project. But we were there, so why not work in it, right? So for the first time ever I made it through the crux, starting from the ground. A couple of meters further I fell, because I was so surprised.

Went down, happy as fucking Larry about my progress. I rested for an hour, ate and drank. Then I went up again. Not as fluidly as before but more focused I stuck the crux again. Passing it before really helped a lot in my head. I needed that to believe in it. The second hard section that follows straight after the crux I climbed on the skin of my teeth, barely making it to the good hold. It didn’t go smoothly at all after that. I had to put up quite a fight in my head. All I could think about was that I didn’t want to climb strategically or smart. I just wanted to head on so I could fall; failure is my comfort-zone. My head went crackers! But against all odds, I kept it together.

Drinks were on me!

Pictures

Last February Thomas and I joked about it in Margalef. If I would ever do my project, Thomas would come over to shoot some pictures. Now that moment was there, and a lot faster than hoped or planned. Who could have thought that? Who would have expected that? So later that week Thomas was flying in, pretty much straight from Lisbon. Packed with a ton of photo-equipment, useful and useless, he brought it all! He also bought me a nice bottle of single malt on the airport.

Future starts yesterday [sic]

So climbing my project was a tick off my list. Unfortunately I had added a bunch of other “to-do’s” on it. But the first upcoming thing is our trip to Spain. We’re mainly going to climb in Margalef and Siurana, although I also want to see some other areas eventually. Last week was hectic with a lot of work, so I’m looking forward to getting moving, getting fitter and stronger again after partying so much (loads of birthday-parties). Our friends Ollie en Moniek are already there and other good friends will come as well. We’re just going to enjoy our time, totally carefree now!

Aufbau in Margalef

We’ve been in Margalef during the last two weeks of February. It was great to spend some time in the sun after those arctic first weeks of 2012.

Climbing wise: Well, this year I have the plan to improve my climbing in general and as I just started training I didn’t want to rush things in Margalef. I didn’t want to try anything too hard, I just wanted to climb a fair amount of routes in an atypical style for me. So I just tried 8b’s to build up a good fundament for this year.

I had zero resistance – in those few longer routes (a sad 20 meters) I got pumped like mad – but I think I’ve gained some basic strength and maybe that’s why I was able to clip some chains. All in all, things went swell and I left Margalef with more confidence than when I arrived. Motivation is kicking in!

During the upcoming weeks I’ll try to figure something out on how to gain some maximum strength and tweak some of that into power. I guess I’ll just do some bouldering, there’re still a shitload of projects out there.

After that I’ll work on resistance. To be honest I can’t wait to climb some proper routes again. Plenty of hard lines still to be climbed!

Soon, soon … spring is finally coming!

Pictures by my friend photographer Thomas Schermer, who is currently city hopping through Europe. Check out his (picture)blog: einenmomentbitte.tumblr.com

 

The wake-up call…

This year I will have spent equally as much time visiting doctors as I have spent in a climbing gym.

That is not good. That is problematic.

I thought about this bold – but unfortunately true – statement a lot during the last days. I have a lot of time to think now, because I am forced to rest. I have over-stretched a tendon in the right shoulder during a short trip to Margalef, where I hoped to become fit again. Because lets face it, since “Hulk Extension” (pics!) in September I haven’t done much, and to be honest: I couldn’t. I was and I am physically and mentally a bit burned out.

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I knew about my mental state, but somehow I refused to believe that I am physically cooked as well. In Margalef we bumped into Mathieu Ceron, a Dutch climber and physiotherapist. When I told him about the pain I was feeling, he examined me briefly and didn’t look happy. In fact, he looked like shit was about to hit the fan.

I listened to some good advice he gave me, but at the same time I thought that it was probably not so bad. Climbers quickly think in slogans like: “no pain, no gain” and “suck it up, you butter-ball” and so on.

Anyway, I see things clearly now, which is good! I have to start listening to my body and actually plan rest- and peak-periods throughout the year.

Jimi Hendrix once sang: “90 miles an hour girl, that’s the speed I drive…”

Sorry Jimi, but I’m pullin’ over for a coffee

 

Blut und Honig

Last week I went climbing again in Niemandsland. I went there because Barbara Raudner asked me to give her some beta on “Honig”. She recently climbed the beautiful 8b+ called “Indotimes”, so now it’s time for a new project.

Being in Niemandsland again felt nice, during July I climbed there on and off for nearly three weeks. Great times, with great people! The highlight of those climbing days was definitely climbing “Blut und Honig”. And for sure it’s about time to blog something about that…

So here it goes: it’s pretty long and pretty cool. The route basically exists out of two parts. The first part is called “Jenszeit des Lustprincips” and is 8c, the extension is called “Honig”. When you climb them in one go, the 45 meter-route is called “Blut und Honig”.

It’s possible to climb “Honig” on its own if you climb a parallel 7c+/8a and after the chain traverse into “Honig”. That line is supposed to be 8c on its own, but I think it can’t be harder than 8b/+. It’s hard to tell, I guess it’s all about your ability to recover.

Jenseits des Lustprinzips


The crux of “JdL” is a strange boulder problem where you place the palm of your right hand on a sloper, with the left hand you pinch another sloper, from there you move semi-dynamic up to catch a bad undercling with two fingers. At that moment you’re entirely stretched out so you really have to maintain a lot of pressure on your feet… after that there’re still two difficult sections in the route.

Anyway, weird boulder move. It’s still a bit of a mystery how I was able to do that, because I’ve always considered (semi-)dynamic moves to be avoided when your name is Micha Vanhoudt (or Guy Van den Berg).

 

I’ve send that route the 21st of June. After four days of working it and trying it, to be honest, I didn’t expect to do it that fast. From that moment on I secretly hoped to do the entire route, but I decided just to focus a bit on other routes at Niemandsland. Those following two weeks where brilliant: Several times a week we were climbing at Niemandsland with a bunch of nice people. The atmosphere was very relaxed. Slowly I became fit by doing other routes, as a result my confidence grew a lot, which was essential. As Spanish climbing wisdom says: “It’s more important to feel strong than to be strong.”

On the 9th of July I did “Honig” (described earlier), the second part of “Blut und Honig”. Now it was on! From that moment on I knew I could do it. I climbed the second part a couple of times, so I really knew it by heart. My plan was to become that fit that I only had to pass that horrendous crux from “JdL” once.

The 14th of July was my day. It was a cloudy day, fresh with a lot of oxygen in the air. Nino from the gym “Rotpunkt” belayed me. I messed up the crux, he lowered me to the ground, told me to relax… and then I took of again. 35 to 40 minutes later I clipped the chain. Wow.

The aftermath


Well, that was that. First repeat of Berni Fiedlers “Blut und Honig”. In the end that route went down pretty fast. So my plan of approaching the other routes in Niemandsland as training-routes really worked out.

I was quite happy about it. However the grade kept swirling around in the back of my head. It was opened as 9a by a really strong climber, with far more experience in difficult routes than me. It was all very confusing. I don’t know anything about 9a, nor about 8c+. To be honest; most of the time I don’t know anything about grades at all. The only thing I did know was that 9a just didn’t feel right at all.

When I look back at it now, I think that “Blut und Honig” is an easy 8c+, to me. However, it should not be underestimated what a world of difference it makes if a route suits a person or not.

But after all, who cares about the grade? The most important part is to find a route you like. A route that’s beautiful and motivates you. It’s all about having fun.

Big thanks to Nina, Jakob, Chris, Nino, Barbara und Hannes, and everybody else for a nice first summer in Vienna!

Cheers!

Multi-b*tch

To get the good vibes going we opened our second Belgian beer. It’s not easy to get your hands on them over here (and they are for sure not cheap), but they were essential to kick-start our little expedition!

It’s Friday the 5th of August and tomorrow Jakob and I will take a peek at “Massada”. Ten pitches long, up to 8b. A 280m-long limestone multi-pitch on “Blechmauer” opened by the Gsenger brothers. Located in Höllental, an hour South of Vienna.

Saturday 7h30: after a crappy night of sleep in the car we poured ourselves full of coffee (the really strong black stuff that you can drink or spread on your bread). “Auf geht’s!” Half an hour later we are standing under a waterfall also known as “Massada”.

At that moment we should have decided to turn around.

“Well, we’re just checking it out, right?” So we went up anyway. You’ll get the pitches in this order: 6a, 8b, 7a, 7b+, grass and trees, 7a+, 5, 7b+, 7c+, 7a+. Jakob took off for the first pitch, so I would battle the second one.

It was soaking wet –every hold, every foothold, the whole wall-. Climbing felt impossible. Luckily the steep second pitch has an aid-option. Between the bolts there are some 8mm-bolts with an aluminum lip. Hanging there in the morning, water running over my helmet and face, I couldn’t help thinking about Séan. Climbing through that “black hole” on their recent big-wall trip to Greenland. I am surprised that he even fitted in that off-width with such a massive pair of balls.

Back to reality: Eventually I reached the chain. I made 8 to 10 moves on a 30m-pitch. Pathetic; but there was no other way. The third pitch was dry from the 3rd bolt on, but also quite crumbly. “Fourth pitch looks dry… entirely!” That pitch the game was on! Finally some climbing, a nice slightly overhanging to straight 7b+ on relatively solid rock. The difficulty of that pitch situates itself around the 3rd and 4th bolt. The holds were positive, but I read it completely wrong. That happens I guess. The rest was not so hard.

The fifth pitch is a connection-pitch where you walk 10m over a grassy ledge. Time to open our little improvised haul bag. We were advised to use a little haul bag instead of a backpack. It was definitely worth it, we couldn’t imagine climbing with a backpack, even as a second climber. After the essential lobster- and champagne lunch, Jakob took off for number six: a very technical 7a+ slab. Nicely dry, but also quite dirty (footholds breaking off and all sorts), we managed to go up this one reasonably fast.

Also pitch seven is a connection-pitch. An alpine-style 5. Twenty meter of loose debris with two bolts and some “garbage” to hang in your quick draws. It’s not too bad though. It’s easy and you wouldn’t fall. Still, it definitely makes you climb more attentive. When I reached that chain the valley was packed with clouds. As the 7b+-pitch above me was soaked as well, we discussed what to do, and eventually the weather decided it for us.

Bollocks! Down it is.

And so we rappelled, and we got soaked, and our egos where bruised.

We licked our wounds at “Weichtalhaus” beer(s) in hand. (Weichtalhaus is the local “Chamonix-pub”, but with more down-to-earth prices).

Conclusion: The key-pitches where unclimbable due to being wet, the weather also wasn’t on our side, there’s a lot of loose rock and we weren’t able to even try the last hard pitches. The truth is: we got our asses kicked and mercilessly spanked off the wall.

The wall doesn’t run away. We’ll be back.

And we’ll be strong…

De grot van Ali Baba

Net terug van Rodellar. Veel valt er niet over te zeggen, enkel dat het een fijne en ontspannende trip was. Nederlands topsporter (wtf?!) Michiel Van ’t Nieuwe Huijs was er ook met zijn vriendin. Hij was vooral bezig met bier drinken en klimmen in de Ali Baba-grot. Leek me een prima plan, dus daarin ben ik hem dan maar gevolgd.

Best gezellig daar, elke dag zaten er locals in de grot die we nog kenden van vorige zomer. Brazilië was goed vertegenwoordigd (Ali-Hulk) en de laatste dag zagen we ook Dani Andrada aan het werk.

Diezelfde laatste dag maakte Nina nog een video van een poging in Hulk. Misschien moet ik toch maar eens leren wat sneller te klimmen…

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Hulk from Hugo on Vimeo.

Boulder-Weltcup Wien

Gisteren was het dan zover: de wereldbeker boulderen in Wenen…

Wat misschien wel het meeste opviel was de afwezigheid van Kilian Fishhuber in de finale. Jammer voor het Oostenrijkse publiek, maar de show van z’n vriendin Anna Stöhr maakte veel goed. Als enige topte zij alle problemen, de enige die haar het vuur een beetje aan de schenen leek te leggen was de Amerikaanse Alex Puccio. Tot boulder nummer drie: een bijna verticaal probleem waarvoor men over een zekere finesse en technische bagage moest beschikken.

Die Anna ging erop en erover -net zoals bij de andere problemen- en daarmee kon de rest enkel nog voor de tweede stek knikkeren. Stöhr is op dit moment de sterkste en zonder twijfel de meest veelzijdige. Van een andere klasse. Heel erg indrukwekkend.

Bij de mannen won de Rus Dmitry Sharafutdinov. Misschien waren de problemen iets te zwaar, want enkel het laatste werd getopt.

Ik had het nog nooit in het echt gezien, zo een wereldbekermanche. Blij dat ik geweest ben, want het was echt de moeite waard. Sterk dat die klimmers zijn… onwaarschijnlijk! Iedereen die het graag met eigen ogen wilt zien: op 18 juni houdt de karavaan halt in Eindhoven!

The mental game

Het is alweer twee maanden geleden dat ik nog wat deftigs gepost heb. Ik had het gewoon te druk met… klimmen. Maar het moet gezegd worden: sinds m’n trip naar Spanje in januari was de drive wel een beetje weg.

Ik ben dan maar beginnen boulderen. Enkele locals namen me mee naar een bouldergebied op een uur rijden van Wenen. Fijne graniet, fijne sfeer. Ik begreep eerst niet zoveel van het boulderen, maar na enkele keren was ik wel verknocht aan dit gebied. Mijn grootste zwakte (dacht ik) was steevast maximaalkracht. -En hier zijn goeie blokzalen, maar oh zo saai- dus nu heb ik tenminste de kans om wat aan die paparmpjes van me te doen: boulderen.

Eind maart reden we dan naar Siurana, maar om eerst wat uithouding bij te kweken zijn we een week naar Misja Pec gegaan. Over dit Sloveense gebied kan ik kort zijn: de ene achtstegraadsroute langs de andere, veel volk, spekkig en vochtig. Het deed een beetje denken aan een klimzaal. We zijn vroeger teruggekeerd omwille van de hevige regen.

Éénmaal in Siurana vielen de lijken uit de kast. Ik wist dat ik niet fit zat en dat het mentaal nooit zo goed gaat, maar ditmaal… had het niets meer met hobby of sport te maken. Ik trok het gewoon niet in mijn hoofd. In het verleden had ik het ook wel, maar nooit zo erg. Ik voel dan een soort van mentale druk, een allesoverheersend spanningsveld. En voor de mensen rondom mij… tsja, leven op voet van oorlog. (M’n vriendin en mijn vrienden hebben een oneindig engelengeduld.)

Dan wil ik er steevast de brui aan geven. Waarom moet het zo moeilijk gaan? Uiteindelijk gaat het nergens over. Gewoon lekker klimmen op wat rots. Samen met vrienden doen wat we graag doen. (privilege!) Klimmen in de natuur, ’s avonds een biertje. En toch. Toch loopt het mis in m’n hoofd.

In Siurana heb ik een week zelfs helemaal niet geklommen. De laatste zes dagen vielen alle puzzelstukjes dan toch nog samen. Éénmaal terug thuis had ik het gevoel dat ik er weer mee weggekomen ben. Nog maar eens. Maar het is wel duidelijk waar de grootste lacune zit: in mijn houten kop. Stom, want ik voel dat ik fysiek nog meer als voldoende ruimte heb om te groeien als klimmer. Bij de zwaarste routes die ik doe zit ik niet tegen m’n maximum aan te schurken. Er zit gewoon meer in. Nu heeft Nina een boek voor me gekocht: “Maximum climbing – Mental Training for Peak Performance and Optimal Experience” van Eric Hörst.

Leest lekker weg. Ik heb m’n setjes sindsdien slechts één keer door de Weense bossen gezwierd. Schoenen twee keer… wel maar één schoen. Progressie heet zoiets.

Het belangrijkste is dat ik het steeds beter herken en ook beter kan duiden. Soms lukt het me om net voor het kookpunt in te grijpen. Dan denk ik aan Jerry Moffatt. Zijn boek las ik in Siurana. Zopas klom ik nog een mooie route in Adlitzgräben, tijdens de succesvolle poging dacht ik: “yes, I feel excited. This excitement will give me this extra edge. It’s a great day, I feel great!” (je hoort dit in jezelf te zeggen met een Brits accent, bij voorkeur een van Wales).

Mentale druk (opgelegd door jezelf) blijft vaak een beetje taboe. Ik denk echter dat de overgrote meerderheid van de klimmers er onder lijdt. Ik ken er in ieder geval genoeg. De vraag blijft natuurlijk: wat doe je eraan?

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Blok

Weliswaar ligt het Nederlandse Blad Over Klimmen -kortweg Blok- al bijna een maand in de rekken, toch nog even wat schaamteloze sluikreclame!

Want: hoofdredacteurs Bart Van Raaj en Arnold Pippel hebben mijn gebiedsbeschrijving over Adlitzgräben gepubliceerd. Daarnaast was er ook nog ruimte voor enkele foto’s uit Sella.

Op vlak van Belgisch boulderen staan er ook nog twee kanonnen in: Jan De Smit en Yannick Marchand.

Verder staat er ook nog een foto in van Rotterdammer Michiel Nieuwenhuijsen, maar dat zal wel een drukfout zijn.

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IMG_0002Voor klimnieuws en abonnementen kan je terecht op: bladoverklimmen.nl

Arschkalt*

-5,5°C en sneeuw. Dat waren de condities in Adlitzgräben gisteren. Net nu ik dacht dat het routeseizoen hier begon. Het deed me een beetje denken aan eind vorig jaar, toen Nina, Thomas en ik gingen klimmen op Hohe Wand. Die dag -26 oktober 2010- kregen we de eerste Oostenrijkse sneeuw op ons dak. Op de sector Hochkogel klom ik toen één van de betere 8a’s “Nobodi”. Alle foto’s zijn gemaakt door Thomas en de laatste is een panorama van Hohe Wand in de zon… dat het maar snel lente wordt! Morgen terug met de crashpad op pad.

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* ”Wreed koud” in de Oostenrijkse volksmond

Bouldering & Words of wisdom

Sinds ik terug ben van Spanje heb ik niet zoveel geklommen. De eerste tweeënhalve weken zelfs helemaal niet. Toen deed ik vooral aan geestelijke ontwikkeling: veel lezen en veel soulfood in de letterlijke betekenis van het woord.

Ondertussen is het destructieve alcoholbevattende tij stilaan gekeerd en probeer ik terug wat klimgericht bezig te zijn… klinkt best vaag, niet? Dat is omdat ik eigenlijk niet goed weet hoe ik terug fit moet worden, daarnaast wil ik ook een stuk sterker worden (eerder noodzaak). Motivatie om in de hal te gaan klimmen heb ik niet, laat staan om binnen te boulderen.

Daarom werd ik vorige zondag (20/2) op sleeptouw genomen door Jakob Schrödel. Hij nam me mee naar een bouldergebiedje ten westen van Wenen. Omdat het gebied met sluiting bedreigd is en het op privéterrein ligt zwier ik liever geen verdere details op het WWW. Wel dat de graniet van goeie (uitstekende?) kwaliteit is en dat de concentratie aan harde problemen hoog is. Hier zal ik wel een stukje sterker worden.

Ik moet zeggen: het viel me zwaar, -2°C en geen spatje zon waren ook geen ideale condities, maar toch… Boulderen is zo moeilijk, zo zwaar! Onwaarschijnlijk! Het voelt aan als een compleet andere sport voor me. Op het einde van de dag ben ik dan toch op een 7B-blok kunnen rollen.

Gisteren (25/2): blauwe lucht, winterse zon, +1°C of zo, ging het me beter af. Boulders die ik vijf dagen eerder niet kon gingen relatief snel. Daar is dan ook alles mee gezegd wat mij betrof. Wie wél niet stil zat was -Sterkste der Belgen- John Smith. Iedereen zat erbij en keek ernaar… de ijsberen incluis.

Morgen (27/2) schijnt de zon ook weer, dan ga ik terug. Liever buiten in de kou en minder zwaar klimmen dan binnen in de hal. Ik heb er een mooi 7C-project gevonden en wie weet lukt het wel (volgens Jakob is boulderen vooral een kwestie van bewegingen herhalen en herhalen). Als ik tenminste hersteld ben, want ik lig hier na gisteren helemaal brak op de zetel… stuk, kapot, wasted.

Oh ja, de “Words of wisdom” … zie foto.

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Sella

Aan allen: een voorspoedig en gezond 2011! Weliswaar een maand na dato, maar beter laat dan nooit.

Terug thuis! Na een tweedaagse tussenstop in België, Nederland en Duitsland ben ik sinds gisteren terug in Wenen.

Het is de eerste keer in dit nieuwe jaar dat ik in Oostenrijk ben en hoewel Nina en ik hier pas wonen sinds begin oktober begint de stad aardig aan ons te “groeien”.

De afgelopen maand zat ik in Spanje samen met Nina en Thomas (maat en fotograaf) Na drie weken moest Nina terug aan het werk dus zij vloog de 20ste naar huis. Thomas die pas de 14de was aangekomen ging de 28ste naar huis. Ik reed naar huis met een kapotte wagen, de eerste duizend kilometer vluchtend van de Spaanse Guardia Civil. Je moet er iets voorover hebben.

Januari in Sella: ups en downs…

Ik denk dat ik nog nooit zo fit was voor een klimtrip. Meestal gaat het beter naarmate de vakantie vordert, en wanneer je top bent ga je naar huis. Dit keer niet. Hoewel ik nog steeds bijna niets weet over “hoe trainen”, slaagde ik er toch in een zekere basisconditie op te bouwen. Met dank aan de trage werking van Kletterhalle Wien. Daar stonden nog steeds de wedstrijdroutes voor het Europese Jeugdkampioenschap. Tenslotte staat een wedstrijdroute gelijk aan een weerstandsroute, net wat ik nodig had. Deze routes proberen te klimmen bleek een goede voorbereiding te zijn. Ideaal? Verre van, maar nu deed ik tenminste iets met regelmaat in plaats van eender wat om een biertje achteraf te vergoelijken. Ah, en lokale heldin Andrea Maruna heeft me enkele oefeningen uitgelegd op het campusbord. Veel bak ik er nog niet van maar dat komt wel goed.

Soit, ik zat fit vanaf de start van de vakantie en de schade na 2500km in de wagen (Wenen-Alicante) bleef beperkt. En vooral: mentaal stond ik sterk. Het Spaanse klimmersgezegde: “het is beter je sterk te voelen, dan sterk te zijn” werd dan ook voor mij uitgevonden. Deze trip wou ik voor kwaliteit gaan, en niet voor kwantiteit. Zoals Alexander Huber zegt: “wat is het verschil tussen 50 8a’s of 60?”. Precies, geen flikker. (Dat zei hij dan ook speciaal voor mij).

De eerste twee weken gingen dan ook uitstekend. Elke twee klimdagen nam ik een dag rust (soms actieve rust), dat had ik vorige zomer afgekeken van Mathieu Pauwels (merci Math!). Ieder zijn lichaam reageert anders, maar de formule 2-1-2-… werkte bijzonder goed. Dankzij deze methode klom ik de vierde klimdag mijn droomroute: “El Club de la Lucha”. Deze route had ik al enkele jaren zitten bekijken, maar ik durfde er niet in te gaan. Toen ik een paar jaar geleden Patxi Usobiaga er boven uit zag komen tijdens zijn onsight-poging (kwaad dat hij was!) wist ik: die route wil ik ooit klimmen. Vier keer ben ik erin gegaan om alles uit te werken, twee effectieve pogingen had ik nodig. Ik kreeg er zelfs applaus voor, iets wat ik nog nooit had gehad.

Vanaf toen ging het alleen maar beter, mentaal kreeg ik een enorme boost en twee dagen later lukte wat vorig jaar in april nét niet lukte: “Espacio Tiempo” in de derde poging van de dag en slechts de vijfde van deze trip. Vier dagen later (11/1) gingen we terug naar Gandia, heel impulsief beslist. Daar ligt de route “Malsoñando” die ik op twee januari voor de eerste keer had uitgewerkt. Omdat het meer als een week geleden was wilde ik de route terug rustig proberen. Ik blokte even aan het eerste setje, en vandaar klom ik de route uit… ‘doeme was ik maar van op de grond begonnen! Een uur rust, inbinden, vloeibare magnesium, nieuw paar Pontas en vlam…

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De downs: …

De dag na “Malsoñando” was ik ziek: fikse verkoudheid, pijnlijke slijmen en lichte koorts. Het zat er dan ook aan te komen: Nina was al enkele dagen ziek en mijn gewicht bleef zakken. Eenmaal 65kg kan ik er vergif op innemen dat ik ziek word. Nu was het niet anders en de rest van de trip was het knokken om terug te genezen. De hele apotheek in Sella heb ik leeggeslikt. Twee dagen nietsdoen, één dag goed klimmen en dan weer een opflakkering. De prestaties waren geleverd, veel maakte het niet meer uit.

Alleen jammer dat ik “Pintoreta” niet meer kon afwerken. Zo mooi en totaal verschillend van “Espacio Tiempo” en net daarom niet mijn stijl. Maar routes lopen niet weg.

De laatste dagen maakte Thomas nog enkele beelden van me in “Espacio Tiempo” en heel innovatieve beelden van “Pintoreta”. Op dit moment zitten ze in post-productie, maar ze komen er spoedig aan.

Nu m’n welverdiende rust, een maand lekker niets doen en genieten van alles wat Wenen te bieden heeft (hoofdzakelijk chocoladetaart en koffie).

Hasta luego