This is the first feature in a series from the NI youth climbing team. The team was set up to help young people develop their climbing skills and to give them access to good coaching and to enable them to climb and boulder in world-class areas in Europe and Britain.
As their competence develops it is hoped that they will be able to enter competitions over the water, in addition to the competitions in Ireland. The age range is currently 13-19 with a good mix of girls and boys.
The team head to Chateauvert in France to sample the delights of clean, bolted limestone. Anja Jones aged 19, reports:
Sport climbing is something I’ve always wanted to try, mainly because in theory, you can just happily get on with moving heavenwards without the worry of placing gear. Just spot the bolt, clip the draw, clip the rope and simply glide on past. This last statement sounding rather like the straightforward safety briefing from the flight hostess on the way over… ‘Your exits are located here and here, in the unlikely event of an emergency….blah blah blah.’ As I suspected it was never that simple; when you are hurtling to earth at said-thousand mph with a calculated impact of goodness knows what, the standard flight evacuation procedure goes down the pan- showing remarkably similar characteristics to my first few climbing experiences in Chateauvert. My safety card showed a short figure, clipping easily with an expressionless face, when in reality; I had Elvis leg, was over gripping and down climbing rather than just going for it and risking a short fall. So maybe saying ‘simply glide on past’ isn’t the best way to describe my first experience of climbing in Chateauvert. To tell the honest truth, I was on the brink of tears on more than one occasion - in my defence this was partially to do with frustration as well as a totally irrational and incomprehensible ‘Fear’ of climbing that I seemed to have developed.
For the group of young climbers on this trip it wasn’t their first visit to the steep limestone area, having been the previous Halloween. They included Jenny Wright, Katie Maxwell, Tim McGlinchey, Rachel Cooper and Andrew Colligan - all awesome climbers with as much, if not more guts than most adults I’ve met! Rarely showing any fear or reluctance to back down from a climb they were great individuals to climb with. These lads and ladies gave it 110% every day, an encouraging attitude which definitely helped me get over ‘The Fear’.
We had been in the bouldering bliss, more commonly known as Fontainebleau for a few days prior to travelling down south and the transition from climbing on abrasive sandstone in Font to sharp limestone defiantly threw me for a few days. In Font I would trust my feet on edges the thickness of a one pound piece, in CV, a 4 foot jug would not satisfy my nervous feet! But that was all part of the challenge. The group climbed really well, waltzing up a range of climbs grading from 4a to 6b+ and each member had a personal aim that I believe were mostly all achieved.
For me there are 4 routes in particular that stood out on this trip, the first being Therese Troika. This was only because this is where I realised I had developed ‘The Fear’, no joke, I sat on a ledge about 20m up with only 7m to go, but I just couldn’t muster the courage to hang off the more than generously sized hand holds. Luckily my trusty belayer had patience as I was sitting there going up a bit then climbing down for at least the time it takes to grow and harvest a small crop off coco beans.
The second route, coincidentally being called Indiana Jones, was an amazing 25m 6a+ slab… my favourite type of rock to try to conquer and my favourite route of the whole trip. All the moves were of the ‘stick your tongue out and knit your eyebrows together’ level of concentration; painstakingly slow and balancey up until the last few metres.
Number 3- the gentle yet tiring Le Colibri, at 42m long by the time you got top the top the belayer looked like a very small polly pocket or lego man, if that’s more relevant to the higher majority of male readers! And judging by the photo the camerawoman would have needed a lens the size of her arm to zoom in enough to see my exhausted face! Being graded a comfortable 5c due to its need for endurance and relentless rope drag; it was quite a mellow climb that is a must for any visitor to CV. But remember to take the time at the top to pause and admire the stunning view of the river and vegetation down the valley, not to mention the adjacent climbs!
Finally number four, the last route my boots and draws touched on the trip. It was the last day and everyone was on fire, flying up things with such determination in the search for that grade that’s just starting to touch at that extreme end of our limits. Etranger aux Verites Premieres fell nicely into this category; being a 20m 6b+, with some crazy reaches to stingy holds. There was determination all round to flash the hardest route we could and this was the one that caused the most aggression amongst the group. Katie shredded her finger on a finger lock near the top, so literally blood and tears went into this trip! So this was the closing climb for me, my first visit to CV was over, but I truly hope it won’t be the last. If it wasn’t for Eddie Cooper and his kindness and genuine enthusiasm towards young climbers, I do not think the trip would have been worth even contemplating. So I would like to show my appreciation to the adults who drove us, belayed us, cooked, shopped for us and made this possible.
Thankyou to Eddie Cooper, Margi Maxwell, Cheryl Jones and Stephen Colligan.
This article has been read
Click on the tags to explore more