Wednesday, 7 September 2011

Finally an UPDATE! by Greg

My videos: - Supernova 7c, Magic Wood         
         - Tricky 7a+, Magic Wood
         - Stressman 7a,MagicWood        
         - bungee jump, Verzasca

It feels like an age has passed since our last update. So much has happened; so many amazing people and experiences have affected our lives. I could write pages describing the events of a single day. A comprehensive account would be a massive undertaking, and whilst I have the time to sit and construct this I doubt that it would make for easy reading.
To allow for this post to be made before our return to the UK "in December" I have taken the a bullet point approach. I will attempt to make this as chronologically accurate as possible, but all of this is from memory so there may be the odd mistake. Hopefully this will provide a more flowing narrative of the last few months from my perspective that won't bore you to tears. 
Leaving Austria
·         Leave for Switzerland. Drive along beautifully scenic mountain roads in the St Moritz and Davos areas. Such a shame I wasn't driving something that would better appreciate the road, a Lambo perhaps! The experience from the interior of the van was not too bad however. The brakes hold up on some of the steep downhill sections and we survive to continue towards Magic wood.
·         Get pulled over by the Swizz Police. Two stern looking officers present themselves at the passenger side window (sorry Chris), one with hand on his gun holster, the other with gun already drawn! Strong orders given to raise our hands in the air. Definite brown trouser moment. Questions are asked why foreigners are using the rarely used “backroads” to get to San Bernadito. We respond by saying that we are a bit cheap and have programmed the sat nav to avoid the extortionate toll roads. The ever favourite “we are travelling climbers” catchphrase is used. Police realise that we aren’t drugs runners and become friendlier. We even get a picture of the cop car pulled up alongside the beastmobile. Feeling slightly shaken we continue towards MW.
·         Arrive in Magic Wood in the early hours of the morning. Park up in the car park near Bodhi Camping. Get head down after a rather challenging journey.
Magic Wood
·         Wake up for the first time in MW. The car park is crammed with camping cars. Go exploring. Jaw drops closer to the ground with every boulder we look at. Think to myself, “I’m going to like it here” (and wasn’t wrong). Meet up with Mo and friends; peeps we met in Austria. Also think to myself that it’s a good job there is a bridge across the river into Magic Wood. Previously you could only get in by “shimming” across a rope, later this was replaced with a metal footbridge that unfortunately was too narrow for crash pad laden boulderers to cross comfortably. A wooden (wider) bridge now stands proudly on top of the previous bridge, marvellous.
·         Have no topo/boulder guide for MW. Friends hook us up with a basic topo that they e-mail to us. No internet access at campsite so drive to nearest big town, Chur. After wondering around we find a climbing/outdoors shop that sells the full MW and Switzerland climbing guide, cost – 60 swizz francs, way too expensive for impoverished climbers. Chris heroically asks the staff if we can print our e-mailed topo off using their computer and printer. Amazed by generosity of staff. They print off 2 copies free of charge!
·         Back to MW car park. We meet “nails strong” climber Geir and his sister Nana from Sweden (sorry guys if I have spelt your names wrong, I jumped in the river with the paper containing your details... Idiot.  If your reading this drop us a line, would be great to see how you are getting on). Get on well with them so spend many days climbing together. Almost witness Geir send the “Riverbed” boulder 8b... ANIMAL!
·         Find out that we can’t stay in the car park free of charge. Informed that parking area is part of the campsite and not just public parking. Realisation that all surrounding areas are fiercely anti wild camping. Punishment for disobeying the rules is DEATH! Well maybe not but surely a hefty fine. Don’t want to be nailed by fine so approach the owner of the campsite (Thomas) and explain our situation. Thomas hears us out and understanding our limited budget he comes up with a fair deal for us to stay with a reduced cost. Condition of agreement is that we assist with “chores” around the camp-site. We gladly agree to conditions.
·         Brief list of chores. 1 Spread wood chippings around camping ground using spade and rake (make good exercise for abdominal obliques). 2 Change bin bags when full and throw into main rubbish disposal. 3 Clean toilets (porta-loos). Replenish toilet rolls and stir the contents of the toilets (6 in total) with large “poo stick”. I later name this gondoleering duty. "When the moon hit your eye like a big pizza pie"...erm, yeah. You could easily let your mind disappear to the Venetian waterways. 4 Fill crater in camp ground with rocks from around campsite.
·         Become fully immersed in the bouldering. Meet loads of cool, likeminded people (Olivier, Clemence, Anna, Danny, Byron, Marco, Petra and more). Confidence in own ability and recovered hand injury grows and start to tick off the 7a’s in the wood. Feeling stronger, got a long way to go but climbing with and watching “crushers” opens my eyes to what is possible.
·         Tick first 7a+ of the wood (Morgenlatte). Spend morning thrashing away at a difficult deadpoint move. Later with the help of Geir and Nana it gets dispatched. Geir and Nana also tick it off. Nana is psyched as this is her hardest climb at this point.
·         Weather in the mountains is “unpredictable”. Water starts to fall from the sky and doesn’t stop. The start of a deluge or the coming of the second "great flood". Geir and Nana join us for a Burger Monday before leaving for better conditions and a drier Frankenjurra.
·         Rain continues. Front of van times reading books and staring into space. Not much to do up a mountain when bad weather hits. There’s maybe more to do if you have a girl with you, I have Chris... Bleak times.
·         Rain finally relents. Abandoning my plans to build an ark I go for a walk through a saturated bouldering area. The mountain river is an impressive sight. Masses of water pumping through, wouldn’t want to fall in. Later find out that a huge log has settled at the bottom of the riverside “Bruno bloc”. The area classic “Never ending story part 1” isn’t climbable... Not for long though as the following day a local comes equipped with a chainsaw and saws that mo-fo in half. Ha ha, love it.
·         Get introduced to my Nemesis. Have initial goes on the boulder problem called Supernova. Amazing compression line. Instantly become drawn in. Marco provides some good beta. I then watch Byron destroy it after working it with me. Get a sense that I could climb it if I were in just a bit better condition (less fat)... Project?
·         Danny and Byron leave. They head off to settle some scores in Fontainebleau after having a European climbing trip of their own. Promises made to meet up with them and check out the bouldering in the Lake District when our epic trip comes to an end.
·         Shopping at Aldi. Continue to do our weekly shop at our favourite/cheapest supermarket in the nearby Thusis. Food is of a premium in Switzerland! Especially meat. Our burger allocation for the week is reduced to a measly two burgers each.
·         Making more friends. Andy, Mark, Sam and Rob join us for Burger Monday. Wake up with a numb head after sampling Robs Special Reserve Whiskey. Sam and Rob don’t stay long and have to get back to the real world. We exchange our details and add to the list some more cool people that we will have to stay in touch with. We say our goodbyes. IT...NEVER...GETS...ANY...EASIER! People touch our lives man and then they just leave us with the memories. Sob sob. Lol. I then sit back and contemplate life.
·         Meet northern “crushers” Rich and Sam. Rich demonstrates the “Aeropress” coffee/penis pump for us. Think I have met two people who take my “coffee Duke” title away from me. I can’t argue with someone who brings a coffee grinder with them on a climbing trip (Rich). Well done mate, I’m not worthy ;) Rich’s girlfriend Laura arrives some time later.
·         Bridge Jumping. Felt heaps higher but probably was only about 4-5 meters to the water. Mark makes my perfectly executed “back splash” look amateur with his “American backflip”. Probably good training for Mallorca though.
·         Sam falls victim to the motivator. With “eyes bigger than his biceps” he states that he will send Nothing Changes (8a). Sam comes close but fails and suffers the wrath of the Motivator. Punishment is to eat an aeropress coffee cake. Video coming soon.
·         First 7b crushed in MW (19/06/11). Sweet-as prow problem called Blindfisch gets sent after a session. I use a crazy high heel hook move and bust through the crux move statically. A convincing send.
·         On a roll. My first ever 7b+/7c goes (21/06/11). A big landmark for me as I had never climbed a problem of this difficulty before. The line is called “Jack the chipper” and is quite appropriate as it illustrates my hunger for self progression; constantly chipping away towards that ultimate goal... except my name isn’t Jack! Our new friends Dan, Tom, Ben, Greg and John arrive at the base of the boulder just in time to see me topping out with a big smile on my face.
·         My next notable ascent. Blown Away 7b. My favourite line of the wood. Absolutely beautiful. It’s a highball with a scary, exposed top out with the crux moves lower down. After some perfect climbing through a right to left rising traverse you hit a section where you need to do a big rock over move to a distant gastone. Amazing problem in breathtaking surroundings. I remember the day well as I had previously worked some of the moves on the problem and had recruited Andy to help “siege” it on this day. We both encouraged one another and after a few close attempts I sent it. I didn’t think about the danger of the top out in the end. I guess I was fully in the zone. It only dawned on me how precarious it was when I was holding the finish holds. The walk off the bloc was the craziest part and I gave real consideration to launching myself onto a distant tree before seeing sense and trusted my feet on a slab traverse out to the side. Hectic! No sooner had I got to the bottom Andy was making his way up to the top also. A great day climbing.
·         Chris smashes into the 8 grade problems. He starts off with Bodycount 8a+ no less! Initially I find Chris stuck on top of the boulder after having “tested” the top out. I was trying another problem in a different area of the wood and came to check on him as I knew he was close to getting it. He says from the top of the rock in a shaky voice “Dude I’ve been up here for about 10 minutes”. Just as well I was passing through, ha ha. I spot for him as he gingerly makes his way down off the boulder. He later goes on to send the problem and emits a beast scream. We get the whole climb filmed as well as his reaction to achieving such a longed for milestone. I couldn’t be happier for him as I know all too well the blood, sweat and tears that are shed pursuing this passion of bouldering. It’s difficult to do the moment justice. Check out the video as it illustrates the point better. Chris takes the momentum of this to send 2 more 8 grade problems.
·         A close shave. I work the Magic Wood classic Hohenrausch 7b+. This is a superb slightly overhanging wall that has big moves on progressively thinner holds. It’s also highball and feels incredibly exposed due to a horribly placed rubble pile where you would most likely land. I make good progress and get to the final move very quickly. With plenty of mats and spotters I give it a full bore attempt. I get to the thin crimps and transfer my right heel into a toe. Just one thing to do now and that is commit to the final move. I give it some beans but don’t quite have the body position to fall onto the final hold correctly. I miss the final hold completely and my face previously etched with a determined countenance instantly changes to a look of terror (Oh Sh!!!!tttt!). I begin my descent and my spotters do a good job of keeping my fall controlled but I have projected too far off the wall. I miss the mats completely. My feet land heavily on the rocks below. My left leg gets stuck between two blocks that pin it at mid shin height. My body still has momentum at this point and I think quickly and kick my right foot out towards the flat edge of another block, kicking a big chunk of granite out of it in the process. Ultimately I managed to slow my fall and prevent a possibly serious injury to my left leg. I considered myself incredibly lucky afterwards and had to walk off alone for some time of self reflection (and so my friends wouldn't see my tears of pain lol). I now have quite a nice scar on my left leg that serves as a reminder. I got back onto the problem some ten minutes later and get to the same high move but the problem has won its psychological advantage over me and so I drop down in control. I don’t try the problem again. Sometimes you just need to know when to say no.
·         Theo, Bob, Tash, Chris and Alex arrive. Our friends from back home arrive in Magic Wood. It’s a great surprise as we weren’t certain that they were going to visit. Unfortunately they bring the crappy British weather with them. More deluge. Front of van times and book reading are replaced with playing cards (sh!thead) and “tarp raving” (amazing what can be constructed with a tarpaulin, flourescent jackets, 3 vehicles with their hazard lights flashing and some banging tunes playing). I look at the calendar and the ominous black clouds overhead and consider if my “project” will ever get sent. It isn’t long before I get the answer...
·         D-Day; operation crush “Supernova” (sorry). A break in the bad weather allows for good conditions to jump back on my nemesis. I had been giving the problem a wide berth up till this point, showing it a bit of respect. It was time to take the gloves off. With my body and skin feeling good I began to warm up by working from the halfway point to the top out. The rock felt good and I had the moves pretty wired. After warming up properly I gathered my thoughts and zoned in. It’s game time! I sat down, took a deep breath and sent the problem first attempt! It went in a far from perfect fashion. I forgot all my beta and my feet were always close to peeling off. It was a battle but sometimes they go like that and you feel more deserving of it afterwards (despite climbing like a twit). When I went for the final match I made it seemingly in slow motion. I had seen too many people fall off at the last move to mess it up there. I couldn’t muster any celebratory noise at the end because I was so “boxed”, regardless I was psyched out of my mind. I was so happy to get my first ever 7c graded problem and it was great to have Theo there to witness my ascent. Fist dabs all round. The beers in the evening tasted that bit better.
·         The gang leaves. Theo, Bob, Tash, Chris and Alex leave for warmer and drier climes. They head off for some of the sport routes that France has to offer. We wish them farewell and watch them drive off. Unfortunately we weren’t to know at this point but they had left something behind with us... the rain. Ta very much.
·          Invited to have dinner at Thomas’ house. During our stay at MW we were completely humbled by the campsite owner’s generosity. On this occasion they invited us to their house for a meal. The chance of a home cooked meal almost turned me into a salivating mess. Of course we accepted and after visiting the guitar shop with Science (Thomas’ wife) we went to their house. Science made us some amazing homemade pizzas which were almost inhaled by us both. Neither of us passed on the opportunity to use their shower. I couldn’t remember the last time I was that clean.
·         Back to bathing in the mountain rivers and say goodbye to Magic Wood.

There is way too much stuff from the Magic Wood part to condense into this entry but I think I have managed to cover some of the memorable moments in this summary. There are so many bullet holes it looks like someone has rather accurately unleashed an UZI over the page! Below is a list of my most notable ascents:

Jenny 6c -yes a boulder
Heb da Arsch 6c+
Bosna Genial  7a
Dropzone 7a
Zilliman 7a
Mr Kreatin 7a
Stressman 7a
Enterprice 7a
Tricky 7a+
Gulliver Kante 7a+
Morgenlatte 7a+
Blindfisch 7b
Blown Away 7b
Morgenlatte (low) 7b
Jack the chipper 7b+
Supernova 7c

At this point it seems like a good time to put into words how grateful I am for Thomas and Science’s help. There is no way we would have been able to spend as long in Magic Wood would it not have been for them. They helped us charge our camera batteries and continually wowed me with their generosity. It was a pleasure meeting their children Bamboo and Alecia. Absolutely gorgeous girls and it looks like baby Alecia has a future as a professional climber, amazing crimp strength! Thanks so much guys, Bodhi Camping couldn’t be run by nicer people.
Next up was the small matter of versasca dam. Chris and I had always had the dark shadow of Versasca dam looming in the back of our minds. From the outset we had decided to do the dam jump and also partake in the “running of the bulls” in Pamplona, Spain. Unfortunately the bull running was missed as we wanted to make the most of Magic Wood. There was no side stepping Versasca dam though. We travelled the short journey to Brione from Magic Wood and arrived late in the evening. Neither of us saw the huge feat of engineering as we drove past it in the dark. We woke up the following morning and found the dam. It was not too difficult to find as the screams echoing through the valley were an obvious trial to follow.
The walk in from the side of the dam was impressive. I took a long time to summon the strength to look over the railings. When I did, the sheer drop and height made me feel dizzy and almost sick. Then when I looked across to the jump platform I got to see people throwing themselves off the edge. After an age of walking back and forth from the main stand and enrolment box, I had a rush of insight (or perhaps insanity). I realised that the longer I took to decide whether or not to jump the less likely I would jump. It was time to “just do it”. I walked over to Chris and left him with my phone, keys etc. and took the long walk over to pay for the bungee jump. After parting with a non-refundable 160 Euros and signing a disclaimer I was weighed for the bungee rope. 80 kilograms... 80 KILOGRAMS! (great, so with all the climbing I haven’t lost an ounce of weight!). I then spent a good hour waiting in the line. I thought it would have been a quicker process and evidently so did my bladder as I was starting to need the toilet, desperately. The time arrived and I was harnessed up and pushed forward a number of places in the queue as some people “bottled” it at the last minute. As I got to the jump platform one of the jump masters took one look at me and encouragingly said “You’re not going to jump are you?”.  Cheeky B@s!ard. He actually did me a favour because before I wasn’t sure if I could go ahead with the jump but that was enough to make my mind up. Nobody tells me what I can’t do!
 I have written a short descriptive account of the sensations and feelings of the jump from my perspective. Hopefully it makes for interesting reading and better describes what was going through my mind, humour me, I've had a lot of free time to be a bit creative. Please check the video out also as, after all, a picture speaks a thousand words.

The Jump by Greg Pinnell
Perched high on the edge of a man made precipice, there is no time to marvel at the scale of engineering undertaken here. The only thing of importance is that this towering behemoth accommodates the sheer face which you now stand above.
Once you have summoned the courage to look down, the realisation of the concrete oblivion below is all too obvious. Between which is the void that countless thrill seekers have thrown their shaking forms into, time and time again.
Now it’s your turn...
There is no more time to consider the consequences. You have come too far. Besides, the last hour waiting in line has provided an aeon to contemplate the universe, for self reflection, meditation and to decide if it’s as safe as they say it is.
Pride or perhaps insanity welds your feet fixed to the spot. Through the din of your mind screaming at you to cease the self torture you hear the muted commands of the jump master.
3..2..1.. BUNGEE!
Focus becomes pin sharp. Nothing else exists except you and the dam, and that drop. Hopefully the bungee cord attached to your feet is still of the material world also! All external distractions dissolve. Your reality is now a six foot sphere. You can almost “feel” how far the drop below is.
A determination to conquer and not acquiesce to defeat kicks in. Legs previously glued to the platform now become limber, although their jelly-like state remains.
A strong push forward sends a ghost of yourself over the edge. But wait this is no phantom of the brain, this is you, flesh and blood. A moment of weightlessness barely has time to register before the inescapable claws of gravity take hold.
And so the ride has started. Air and the ever present dam rushes by at a dizzying pace, enough to make your ears redundant and your eyes stream. Attempts to focus on something comforting and familiar fail miserably.
Am I falling or floating?
The encroaching ground below smashes this ambiguity. No opportunity is given to comprehend the impending doom, a tug felt from your feet and the rapid deceleration courtesy of a stretching bungee rope is enough to inspire jubilation.
Screams of exhilaration explode from starved lungs. Your victory cry reverberates around the precipitous amphitheatre for all and sundry to hear. Bodily organs that were previously gathering in your legs now u-turn and head for your throat. This, you deduce correctly, is a characteristic of being thrust skywards back to the starting point.
After gaining brief insight into what it is like to be a bird, the plummeting feeling takes over again. This time it is expected and short lived. Confidence in the equipment is beginning to grow. The up and down movement starts to relent. As if taking a cue from this your heart beat slows from a chest bursting “prest-o” to a healthier “largo”.
The carabineer descending from above is the most wondrous sight. Snatching for it impetuously you “clip in”, breathe a sigh of relief and enjoy the astonishing view.
Drowned in adrenaline and no end of other hormones you reflect on what you have achieved. With renewed pride and self respect you feel yourself being hauled back onto the platform from which you started this personal journey, ready to embrace the next challenge.
The end.
Bungee video:

Since arriving in Hossegor I have celebrated my birthday by buying a bodyboard (which upon arriving in Mallorca I drove over with the van, there are no bounds to my stupidity at times) and devouring an English breakfast with a French twist. We continue to meet amazing people where ever we go. Chris and Emma, our friends from the UK met up with us in Hossegor and spent a few days with us. It was great to see them and catch up. We enjoyed plenty of memorable surfing days, Moules et frites and a night out in the centre.
 I was completely new to the world of bodyboarding and had a crash course in learning the technique courtesy of Chris. It wasn’t long before I was able to catch decent waves and start “trimming” across the face of the waves. I even managed to catch some “barrels” on days when there were good swells. I LOVE TAKING THE SELLING IN THE BARRELS! There is nothing better than the feeling of getting smashed up in a collapsing wave, incredible... Possibly escaping out the other end would be, but I haven’t experienced that yet! More practice first.
 Although we have had a couple of big days where the surf was perhaps 4-5 feet high, unfortunately the waves haven’t been overly consistent from day to day and sometimes we have seen “lake-like” conditions... not good. Still the bad days surf have been brightened up by the people we have met. Gaz and Sarah from Bournemouth, our new “film club” friends were so nice to us and we got on so well. I remember on one day we spent the whole day talking. Gaz, you hooked me up with some fins that allowed me to enjoy bodyboarding more (my previous “fins” or flippers were too tight on my feet and caused a lot of pain), cheers bro can’t wait to see you guys again.
The craze that is Burger Monday continues as strong as ever and we continue to keep alive and popularise our favourite tradition. Many burgers have been cooked up on the beach and good friends have been made as a result. Seriously if you’re not celebrating Burger Monday you need to, it’s life changing lol.
Off to Mallorca
Now we head to Mallorca for some deep water soloing. My fingertips are in pristine condition although probably a bit softened from the sea water. No excuses though for not crushing those DWS routes! I’m feeling really psyched to get stuck into the rock again, it’s time to de-stroy. We will be meeting up with our good friend Martyn “betamax” in Mallorca. It will be good to catch up and climb with him... He better have brought his strength!
Chris and I have literally "slaved" over the editing software for hours to bring you some new videos. I hope you enjoy them.
Well that's about it for now. I wish everyone the best. Until next time :)

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