Wednesday, 16 November 2016

Reel Rock 11 Review

The last week I saw the eleventh edition of the “Reel Rock” climbing video compilation at a pretty full auditorium in Stanford.

Last year Big Up/Sender film's compilation got a bit of a stick for being a complete sausage-fest, and I was happy to see that the gender balance is a bit more representative of the climbing community this year.

The first film was about Kai Lightner and Ashima Shiraishi traveling to Flatanger to do some totally amazing groundbreaking accents, which didn't happen. And which would have been a stupid storyline anyway. Kai Lightner and his mother came off very well from this segment, especially his mother who seemed to be a wise woman and whose thoughts I would have liked to hear more of. Shirashi wants to be the best climber in the world, whatever that means. In particular it seems to mean that a pointless addition of some “success” in Kyushu had to be tagged on to the end of the segment.

The best-climber-in-the-world thing made me depressed and very uncomfortable, even more as the entire Flatanger trip jarred with false notes, so it was great that the next segment “Boys in the bugs” offered comic relief.

Boys in the bugs has some very old-fashioned story telling about a team (Matt Segal and Will Stanhope) trying to free a horrendously hard fingercrack in the middle of a big shield of alpine granite in the Bugaboos. The segment really celebrates the pointlessness of it all, where our heroes sacrifice relationships, comfort and money to reach some ill-defined vague notion of success. Edited to show lots of hard drinking and funny dialogue. This was the best segment out of the five.

The third segment was about some Canadian local hero. I didn't catch her name, but some time after I lost interest in the clip and was checking my twitter feed she soloed some 6b+ thing in Patagonia and talked about being completely alone on the wall, except for the camera team one supposes? Sorry, but I would have looked if I was payed instead of paying to see this. (Addendum: The climber is called Brette Harrington, she's from south of the border and you should read her account in Alpinist instead. It's amazing.)

The fourth film was called “Rad Dad” and showed a dude called Mike dancing in spectacular locations wearing funny animal masques. So that was funny. The film should have concentrated on that part. Instead, the story of the film was about Mike being mostly absent from his family while concentrating on his self realisation, which was OK because he volunteered for a lot of PTA meetings when he was home. Alas, I couldn't connect with him and his struggles at all as he seemed basically clueless. Actually, to Mike there seemed to be no struggle at all.

The conflict between realising selfish climbing goals and responsibilities as a partner or a parent has of course been unsuccessfully covered by several climbing films, e.g. “A Line Across the Sky” from last year's Reel Rock, and equally as unsuccessful by climbing literature like “Psychovertical” by Andy Kirkpatrick. There is however a large corpus of excellent literature, theatre and film by authors who have been neglected by their loved ones.

The final film was by far the funniest. “Dodo's delight” showcases Belgian humour and lots of really shitty rock on Baffin Island. Narrated by Sean Villanueva O'Driscoll, who's genuinely funny, it was full of an unenforced sense of adventure in the true sense of the word. I'm not sure it is different from the web-episodes though? I saw those a while ago so I cannot really remember.

Rating: 3/5. Wait until it appears on your local torrent so you can skip segments 3 & 4. Segment 1 is probably quite good, so if you're less uncomfortable then I am by hard pressure from sponsors, choaches & parents on a 14-year old I'm sure it's quite OK

Thursday, 3 November 2016

Keep cool Raoul and La 7ème Leffe in Gorge de la Jonte.

My partner has been gone since mid September, and I have had a horribly full schedule of teaching, so apart from a half-day visit to Auzat in September I have not climbed outside since August. Just a bit of bouldering in the gym, with some attempts to keep a bit of endurance by doing a few fifteen-minutes sessions on the hang board.

Just about when I was about to have a break-down I got Thursday-Tuesday free from teaching. Luckily my friends Erik & Paulina was in Gorge du Tarn for a two week trip. Unfortunately, they are both injured. Paulina so bad that she cannot climb, and Erik bad enough that he has decided not to climb anything above 6c or so.

After a short visit to the sector Zebra in Gorge du Tarn, Erik decided that it's more fun to climb easy multi-pitch routes than single-pitch moderates. I had no objections.
Keep cool. Erik on the second belay, vulture below.

Keep cool Raoul, 6c+>6b (5 pitches, 150m)

Despite having climbed quite a bit in Gorge du Tarn, this is the first route for me in the neighbouring Gorge de la Jonte. It takes a pretty direct line on the left side of the big vertical face of sector Fusée, one of the taller walls in Jonte. The route is well equipped with plenty of glue-in bolts, giving the route a low mandatory grade. On the other hand, the pitch-grades are not at all generous, and the climbing is very sustained and technical.
  1. 6c. Start on a bit crumbly rock up to a vague grove that is climbed at surprisingly great difficulty using all available techniques for thin face climbing. Not to be underestimated. Take your time.
  2. 6b. Another sustained pitch. No fluff.
  3. 6c+. A short and difficult boulder problem followed by very nice climbing up and across a grove. Belay out to the right of the line after about 35m. I had maybe 13 draws or so, and had to skip two bolts to get to the belay, so bring plenty of draws for this slightly meandering pitch.
  4. 6c. Good climbing on terrain similar to the very best pitches in Tarn. Up the overhang and the arête to a reasonably comfortable belay. This pitch is also sustained.
  5. 6b+. Start easy on a juggy traverse leading rightwards up to an overhanging grove with a short but pumpy crux. After the steep groove, there should be a belay up and to the left, according to the topo.
  6. 2. A short pitch of easy climbing leads to the top.
I did not pay much attention to the topo and missed the bit after the crux on the fifth pitch, and all of sixth pitch. Instead I went straight up after the crux, climbing about 15-20m of crumbly rock at around 5a or so, directly up to the top ledge. Not at all recommended.

Descend by rappel. There is a rap-route on the left side of the face. You have to lean out to clip the first rap, then three fairly long raps lead to the ground (we had 2x60m of rope). According to camp-to-camp it is possible to rap the route on a single 80m, using intermediate belays.
Erik close to the end of the third pitch of Keep cool Raoul.
As both members of the team were in pretty bad shape for long routes our opinions probably don't count for much, but the route took much longer to climb than expected judging from the pitch-by-pitch grades. This was down to the route being incredibly sustained and technical thorough. Well worth doing.

Lesson learned: check the topo even if the route is fully bolted. Failing that, “Do nothing in haste; look well to each step; and from the beginning think what may be the end”

La 7ème Leffe 7a+>6b+/A0 (5 pitches, 120m)

The second route we did was another three star choice. La 7ème Leffe (The seventh Leffe), wrongly called La 8ème Leffe in the Rockfax guidebook, climbs the steep Roch Decollée. Good bolts all the way. Very generously bolted also. More sport-climbing over several pitches then multi-pitch that is on fixed gear, if you get my drift.

Erik on the second pitch of La Septième Leffe

  1. 5+. Start on a detached black pillar to the left of a big crack line, via a bolt to a crack leading up to a niche above a roof. Quite polished at the crux.
  2. 7a+ Climb the right-slanting crack with increasing difficulties, very cool climbing in a good position on slightly overhanging but not totally bullet rock. At least 15 draws, if you for some reason want to clip every bolt.
  3. 6a+. A fantastic pitch up black rock. Still steep.
  4. 6c. Would be a three star classic on any single-pitch crag in the world. Steep and very sustained. Technical as well.
  5. 6b+. Another magnificent pitch. Traverse right, around the arête and out in space... Exposure straight out of Verdon. Some tricky crack-climbing finish off this spectacular pitch and route.
Descend by walking across to the north face and rap down from a big tree with slings. A 20m rap takes you down to a ledge, where a path with fixed ropes takes you down to a second rap. I doubt thee second rap is more than 32-33 m, and quite possible to do on a 60m rope with some easy down climbing (we had a single 80m). 
On top of the third pitch of La 7ème Leffe


Spring and autumn. Most of the climbing is on south facing or south-west facing walls.

Getting there

Gorge de la Jonte is found north of Millau within walking distance from Rozier. If you get to Rozier by public transport you can probably do quite well without a car, but then you wouldn't be able to visit the close by climbing areas like Gorge du Tarn, Boffi, Cantobre etc.


The local guidebook is quite expensive, considering the low production values, but some of the proceeds goes toward bolting. Gorge de la Jonte is also covered by the Rockfax Languedoc-Roussillon guide. On the two routes we did, the Rockfax was an obvious copy of the local guidebook, with some novel errors. So the Rockfax has better photos but showed the belays in the wrong place for the first route we did, and was totally wrong on the rap for the second route. None of the guidebooks has descriptions of individual pitches.