I say we went to train in Switzerland, really it was a convenient excuse to go visit my great old friend Gemma and her husband at the chalet they run in Gryon, Chalet Martin. I reckon they’ve got a pretty good thing going on there…
Gemma and Merlin took our mention of training quite seriously and as a result worked us pretty hard. We had four days, and in that time packed in a lot of climbing, which was amazing because we all know it’s been hard to get the weather for it here. Out there, it was hitting the 40℃ mark which for me is a bit excessive but I didn’t feel I could complain after the rain we left behind.
On day one we cycled (there was a lot of cycling as Merlin crashed their car – not his fault-) down the mountain to a local crag for some single pitch limestone sport climbing. I haven’t done much on limestone, other than at Limekilns but I gather that’s not normal limestone. Anyway it was great – crimps and pockets everywhere! We were pointed at some very nice routes, from 6a to 7a+, and Jackie and I were both psyched to flash 6c+ after almost a year of bouldering.
So once we were a bit more familiar with the rock, Gemma, Jackie and I got all excited about doing a thing called Remix, 6a, on The Mirror. There being three of us and it being a 14 pitch route, we thought we’d get up early, really early so we could finish it before the sun got there. So that meant a 3.30am wake up, a steep walk through a forest (lost the path) then up a load of scree (found the path) so we were at the base of the route by 5.30am. By 6am we were climbing and by 1pm we were at the top just as the sun was starting to roast the slab. That was my first experience of limestone slab and I have to say it was pretty awesome – a few technical friction moves then there’d be a jug or a pocket! And it being bolted was also rather fun. Despite being sent too far left and losing my favourite chalk bag half way up, it was a special day of climbing with those gals. Even the long hot walk off was broken up with a cafe half way down the mountain! Gotta love Switzerland.
The next day we were all a bit knackered so we rested. Well, Gemma and Merlin went to work and Jackie and I went swimming.
And then our last day all of a sudden. We hopped on our (uncomfortable) bikes again, cycled down the mountain and got lost on a hillside made of dust for a bit before coming to the bottom of a route called the peeing goat, or something like that. It was a 9 pitch 6b and the climbing was amazing, but we made a few mistakes: we started at 1pm so it was already in the sun; none of us took enough water for the hot hot heat; Jackie and I also made a poor decision on which back pack to climb with, choosing one that didn’t allow the second to lift their head. At all. We got to the top of pitch 6, finished our water, tried hauling our backpack which was more annoying than climbing with it, thought about making a dash for the top, realised how thirsty we were (even the rock was boiling to touch) and decided to bail. Now under regular circumstances I’d see that as a bad thing, but for a relatively new team who want to do a big wall, I saw it as ace experience. We were dehydrated, cranky and hot, we hadn’t been able to hear each other all day because of the wind, and we had 6 pitches to abseil. And the good thing was we just got on with it, made it to a stream, thought about drinking it as we waited for Gem and Merls to appear, thankfully didn’t drink from it, and cycled to a swimming pool to drink about two litres of juice and water each. And we still felt thirsty the next day. Lesson learned – don’t scrimp on water!!!
So all in all it was a great trip – I got to see old friends, soak up some sunshine and we feel a lot more prepared for getting on big rocks now. Just two weeks until departure… thanks Gem and Merlin for everything!