Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Steve Mcclure - A fine Wine!

photo taken by John Evans. On the redpoint "Cruz Diablo"

As a fine wine gains in taste and quality, so do the Petzl Rock Trips! There have been some pretty good ones; Red River, Kalymnos and Squarmish; all fantastic and each a trip of a life-time, but this year Petzl really extended themselves with a rollercoaster ride to Mexico!

Four months ago I trashed a ligament in my finger. Since then I barely climbed, and the concept of mixing it with the Petzl heroes didn’t appeal. But how could I not go, how often would I get a chance like this? I figured I could muddle by in British style. So after 40 hours of travel I arrived at Taxco, a crazy town 4 hours South West of Mexico City. This was a big trip with some serious crankers; Enzo Oddo, Mike Fuselier, Gerome Pouvreau, Joe Kinder, Said Belhaj, Liv Sansoz, Martina Cufar, Nina Caprez, Daniel Woods and Dave Graham to name just a few. My good buddy Aid Baxter was also there with girlfriend Tanya, passing through on part of a 6 month trip. Climbing with these dudes is a privilege; to be hanging with them and soaking up some of their psyche. These guys are just mad for it; no whining about poxy injuries; Tony Lamiche had a bust rib, Martina a broken finger and just months ago Liv smashed her pelvis which has more screws in it than a DIY store. And I’m moaning about a sketchy finger?

This trip was spread over 10 days in two venues. The first near the town of Taxco was a massive cave, the biggest I’ve ever seen, I’m talking like 5 x Kalymnos Grande Grotte! El Chonta is an awe inspiring natural feature covered in tufas and stalactites. Some of the routes are like climbing trees with horizontal stalactites, their growth blown outwards by thousands of years of winds. This is the domain of the endurance climber and the sneaky rest finding climber. This is where I climb best. I came to the conclusion that my weakness is actually my strength, as it forces me to find an easier way to pull the moves compared to strong people. Then overall the combined effect of lots of easier moves on a weaker climber is better than a load of harder moves stacked up even if you are strong! That’s the theory anyway, but it seemed to pay off! After Mike Fuselier redpointed the crazy 300 foot 8b+ ultimate route I managed to get the flash despite doing sod all for ages (but its only 8b).

Three days later we were over at the climbing area of Jilotepec, trading sweaty nights, comfy beds, mosquitoes and tarantulas for sub zero temperatures, duvet jackets and tents. We also swapped ultra complex limestone for technical conglomerate. This stuff was different to the norm, with the rock being made up of bits of rough volcanic rock of every size imaginable all mixed up and glued together. Pretty edgy in general, but with lots of chicken head style climbing and potato pulling. Temperatures were Baltic, like minus 5 degrees at night, but they had to be to even attempt to hang the holds. Most of the routes are vertical face, super tech with multiple footholds and intermediates, but the steeper stuff is there, with 40 metre routes blasting up the monstrous main wall. This was the scene of the action with Petzl highlighting a bunch of routes to try varying from 8c+ to 8a, some already climbed, some not!

The truly great thing about the Petzl rock trips is that they are about a gathering of climbers going climbing. The whole philosophy keeps true to the roots of why most of us started, and continue to love the sport. There is usually a competition of sorts, but relaxed and informal and with no losers. This year was even more relaxed with no competition at all, just climb and enjoy. For me, perfect, my comp days are over allowing me to compete even harder with the rock itself. Between us the Petzl team did pretty well in sorting out the projects, with most of them getting sent. For a day I had the hardest route in Mexico with a redpoint of Cruz Diablo on my 2nd day, before Mike and Gerome sent Las Chicas on their last day at the same 8c+ grade. The last few days I was in flash mode, too much climbing here to get on another project, with a bunch of 8’s and an unbelievable 8b/+ to finish the trip.

But Petzl rock trips are not just about the climbing, they are far bigger than that. And this year was the biggest yet, with visits to Aztec Pyramids, saunas, town visits, traditional dances, fantastic food, slide shows and presentations, all topped with the best party ever with the techno banging out to the hundreds of crazy Mexicans all dancing till really really late! A huge big up to the organisers! For me this was the best rock trip ever, but not just because it was so damn good, but because it felt like I was back in the game, my passion flooding back in and I was becoming one with the movement again. The dodgy finger had knocked my drive sideways, but maybe I needed it, a break and a re-focus. It’s still dodgy, but not as dodgy as I feel about whinging so much about it and then busting out a load of hard routes! I learnt a little about the Mexican philosophy, for them its not about collecting things, because when you die you take nothing; all that counts is what you leave behind. The impressions we leave and the things we have done. Best make them good ones I guess!

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