vrijdag 8 september 2017

European University Championships 2017 - Split (Croatia)

The European Student Championships are a big event organized every 2 years for pretty much all sports, combining topsport with parties through deep in the night. In multiple cities are different sports, and in July I headed to Split (Croatia) for the student championships Sport Climbing. It became a bit of a long read, but it was also quite an extraordinary competition. Read below why :-)

Together with old good training partner Pieter, we represented Wageningen University (although Pieter is actually studying in Eindhoven. Long story short: you could only participate in a team of the same university, not as individuals of two universities). At the same event also the sports basketball and volleybal where taking place, giving a total number of 400 participants. I felt like a small puppy, not just because all those basketballers and volleyballers are so tall that I felt small, but even more because all the experiences kept on surprising and amazing me. This was maybe the best but definitely the weirdest competition I've ever had so far. I had a great time.

Hungry I arrived in the late evening in Split, where Pieter already waited for me. All day I had been looking forward to a good dinner, so we made our way to the canteen. For vegetarians, they didn't had a lot, but I was very pleased with the vegetables even though they looked more like pig-food. Breakfast, lunch and dinner was all included in the competition and served by this canteen, so we hoped the food would get better as soon when the competition starts.

After dinner we had to wait for quite some time for our accreditation, nothing more than just checking our passport and student card but they really needed some special person for this. It was already late when we could finally go to bed. The next morning I had to wake up early, as the bouldering qualifications started in the early morning. Happy not to have to climb in the biggest heat of the day and excited to start I went to breakfast. They had white bread, some cornflakes, milk and cheese. It just felt completely in line with everything else: the big boring concrete buildings, the endless phone calls when you asked a volunteer a question (after waiting several minutes and at least 5 phone calls later the conclusion often was that they didn't knew and it would become clear later on), the lack of airconditioning, ... . From the outside the whole event looked perfect and gave it the feeling of the Olympics with a lot of glitter and glamour, from the inside it sometimes felt a bit amateuristic. Somehow it gave me a bit a Eurovisie Songfestival idea, I still couldn't really explain why.

There were 8 boulders, for which you had two hours time to climb them. For each boulder you had a maximum of 5 attempts. You could choose yourself when you wanted to try which boulder, and this freedom made it a very relaxed and fun start of the competition. I was happy to top 3 boulders and managed to get 5 bonuses, putting me in a 13th place. Not enough for finals, but that was also not what I expected to reach.
I supported Pieter a bit, who had his qualifications right after. Then I went back to the canteen at the campus and I was surprised to see a big warm lunch, that was definitely better than dinner the day before. If they keep this improvement-line up, we'll end this week with haute-cuisine! In the afternoon we went back to the boulder gym to watch the finals and then we had to hurry to be in time for the opening ceremony, maybe the best example of the glitter and glamour outside of the event.

We were brought to the middle of the city centre, and dumped between thousands of tourists (it is high season now). each country got a flag, and then we had to wait. We waited for a while, then we started to joke around when things were taking long before starting and just when we got some beer in our hands they told us that the ceremony would start. In a hurry we all had to make a big line of countries and then we marched via a small street into a big square. There was a podium we had to pass and while passing they said the name of the countries and the universities. The complete square was filled with curious tourists.

The next day were the lead qualifications and we took the bus to get at the gym. Unfortunately the busdriver didn't knew where to go to, so we ended up somewhere else. "No stress people, we have google maps and will figure something out" was the reaction of the organization. Just in time for Pieters first route we arrived at the gym. Fortunately he was not so affected by this and climbed both his quali's very well. Also my routes went pretty good, and with a surprising 4th place I placed myself for the finals the next day!

In the evening the speed competition took place, and I was curious how slow I'd be. It turned out to be very slow, the fastest girls took about 7 seconds, I needed 18 seconds. Surprisingly enough I still made it to the final, which is a kick-off system: the winner goes to the next round. I lost without any chance, and headed back to the campus to prepare myself for the official dinner. This took place in a romantic villa located in a forest just next to the sea. Instead of pig-food we got luxurous tapas and it all felt like we were movie stars. I feel more at my place like a dirtbag climber, but experiencing this was definately super funny.

On the picture with the officials - they went on the picture with everyone

There was one big thing I was really missing in Split, and that was climbing outside or at least swimming in the sea a bit. Fortunately a plan was made to do some deep water soloing the next day in the morning before finals. I couldn't imagine a better warming-up and it was great to do some deep water soloing! Relaxed and full with psyche I was well-prepared for the finals. The climbing went good, and I managed to fight my way up until the crimps got really small just before the top, and I fell off. Happy with my performance I watched the other girls, and saw them falling of before me. Only Jessica from the UK managed to get as far, and due to countback she took the first place. Super surprised I received the silver medal.

zaterdag 15 juli 2017

Update: Blåmann

Back in Tromsø the winter slowly came to an end. We got some good weather periods, in which we could finally go climbing outdoors in the rocks. The quality of the granite is superb and the variety big: you can enjoy some well-bolted sportsclimbing, multipitching on your own pro to even big wall like climbing on Blåmann. The rock features flakes and cracks in all sizes, as well as small crimps. Some late snowfall in the end of May made it at a certain point hard to decide whether to go climbing or skiing. Bad weather periods were sometimes badly needed to catch up with uni. In this period of the year there is also the midnight sun, messing up all your orientation about day and night but giving you all the time you have to play outside as it never gets dark anyway.

The midnight sun, just above the clouds

Slowly more and more snow disappeared and the climbing season was definitely on, spending every single day with good weather (meaning: no heavy rainfall) outside. Also on Blåmann the snow was melting, and at a certain point the wall looked free of snow and free of ice (as far as you can see that). Only a stable good weather window was lacking. With less than a week of time left in Tromsø before leaving for the summer holidays, Patrick and me decided to give it a shot. The weather forecast said that it might rain a bit in the night, but for the rest there was only little wind and not too cold. We packed our gear and hiked up to the base of the wall. We started climbing around midnight and climbed through the night, fixing the first 70 meters of rope. In the morning we were done with that and took a nap on the base. The next day we jumared up the fixed rope, with the goal to go in one push to the summit.

The first pitch, as the wall is north facing, you have only sun during midnight. Happy with the midnight sun! Picture by Patrick

The first pitch (the one we climbed during the night) was the most difficult one, and some (potentially?) loose rocks made it a bit sketchy. Small cracks were leading up, but without ice in them we could make much faster progress than in winter. The second pitch was a rather short one, and actually a bit harder then I remembered it to be. The aid climbing process sometimes felt frustratingly slow: finding a place to put some gear, do a good bang-test to see if the gear your placed is solid, put the aiders in the gear, walk them up without getting everything tangled and highstep as high as possible. I started skipping a proper bang-test, especially when I could see a nut or cam was good, and slowly but steadily we continued climbing up. Patrick took the third pitch, climbing about 45 meter to a stance. I jumared up with the backpack, and what a hell of a job that was! Completely exhausted I reached the belay.

Jumaring, what a struggle! Picture by Patrick

Happy to be climbing instead of jumaring I climbed the fourth pitch, again about 45 meters and again to a hanging belay (don’t expect luxurious ledges in the first part of the route, bring a belay seat instead to make it yourself comfy). The next pitch should lead us to a big ledge, and oooh we were looking so much forward to it. Patrick speeded up the pitch, climbing almost a full 80 meter, but no ledge became in sight. Instead of a comfy ledge, he had to belay from a dripping overhang. I continued, and about 25meter further there was a dream ledge. It felt big, it was in the sunshine and it was flat. We enjoyed the ledge for a moment, after which I continued climbing up. The aid climbing was not so difficult now anymore, and after another 40 meters I reached again a ledge. With the knowledge that the summit was within reach now and having the comfort of the ledge and the sunshine, I forgot already about the suffering I faced while jumaring. Patrick climbed the last 10 meters, after which we could scramble the last part to the summit. We made it! After 26 hours of climbing, Ultima Thule is down!

As the description of the route is quite marginal we decided to make a updated description of the route (in which we put some belays different then how we made them to have a bit more comfy belays and more logic pitches). Hopefully this will motivate more people to accept the challenge of Ultima Thule!

The complete route, open in a new tab to view it (wanted to upload the highest quality here)

Ultima Thule – 315 m
First ascent: Marten Blixt, Geir Andersen and Mikael Nilsen, July 1995
Gear: Triple to quadruple rack from small cams to #1. Double #2 and #3, one time # 4. Lots of small and medium sized nuts. One pecker might come in handy, but try to avoid it. In winter you’ll be happy with a lot of peckers and less cams.

Pitch 1: 55m (Different start than Kvaløya archives 2007 due to rock fall)
Start right of the big overhang 20 meters above the ground, under a small overhang. Pass the overhang on the right to a thin crack in a dihedral. Climb up the dihedral until you can traverse on big jugs to a dihedral on the left. Climb up this dihedral and continue straight up passing a small roof until you reach a belay under another small roof.

Pitch 2: 30 m
Traverse under the roof out to the right and climb up via thin cracks just right of the nose. Make a belay on top of the nose.

Pitch 3: 25 m (could be combined with pitch 2)
Traverse out right to a crack, climb up this crag and follow the easiest line to a slab with a portaledge bolt. In winter with icy conditions going straight up from the belay through a thin crack and traverse right later might be easier.

Pitch 4: 50 m
Climb up low-angled narrow dihedral, becoming steeper and wider. Follow the crag till you reach a small slab at the bottom of the ship.

Pitch 5: 40 m
Climb the dihedral right of the ship until you reach a small bulge in the dihedral.

Pitch 6: 60 m
Continue through the dihedral. Climb out on the left wall through cracks, passing a small roof and following zig-zag cracks. After these head for the crag a bit right to lower-angled terrain until you reach the master ledge. Enjoy the view.

Pitch 7: 55 m
Climb up the right-leaning crack from the middle of the ledge. Traverse out right on jugs to a big crack. Follow this up, passing a wide crag (# 4 cam) until you reach a ledge. Climb up the dihedral on the left side of the ledge for another 10 meter and traverse out left to a big ledge. From here you can scramble out to the left and up to the summit.

Update: Chamonix

In April we all met in the big playground of Chamonix, for a week training in especially classic alpine terrain. Together with Noël I arrived a few days earlier, so that we can already make some tours to get used to the height. We were very lucky with the weather and climbed the Cosmique ridge and the Chéré Couloir in the sunshine.

Line in the Chéré couloir

After this warmup we went to do the Migot Spur with the group, a classic line in varied terrain, and my first north face in the alps! When we got back in the valley, it started raining, and it wouldn’t stop for the coming week.

Bas in de Migot Spur

The high mountains became inaccessible, and we had to think about alternatives. One day enjoyed ourselves drytooling in the valley, but after this we decided to go to the Sudpfaltz in Germany. I felt sorry for leaving such a place of Chamonix, to go to do some sports climbing 5 hours further north. This is not where I came all the way from Tromsø for! Staying in the rain and doing nothing however is even worse, and fortunately the nature in the Pfaltz is really beautiful. Being in the sunshine and in a green forestry area was also a real pleasure, after not having seen anything green in Tromsø since my arrival there. I honestly never knew that so many different colors of green existed!

I am already looking forward to the next meeting with the expedition academy, hopefully then with better weather!

Update: Tromsø

It almost becomes normal that I start a blogpost with stating that it has been a while ago since my last blogpost, and to after that come up with some excuses (that usually have to do something with that I was too busy climbing). No excuses this time, just the promise that I’ll try to update this blog more frequently.

In January I was welcomed by a snowstorm in Tromsø. It was dark, cold and wet, everything I expected from a place that high north was true. The roads were fully snow-covered, and for a moment the bus from the airport to the student housing didn’t manage to get up the hill. Fortunately the bus driver was used to these conditions and after some trying he made it. The next few days it was only clouded and snowing, and I found it beautiful! Immediately in the first week there was the polar cup organized in the local gym. I helped doing some routesetting and already got to meet many nice climbers and enjoy some Norwegian waffles. I couldn’t have wished for a better start!

Climbing through the big roof to the first place at the Polar Cup

Later, the weather turned out that it could be good as well, making the famous aora’s (northern lights) visible and making Tromsø look even more beautiful. After two months without any sunlight, I woke up one day with the sun visible on the mountain, a few hours later my face was warmed by the first sun since what felt ages. I just couldn’t stop grinning and jumping around in the sunshine, the sun is back!

Hiking in the winter sun

Besides studying, winter life in Tromsø is full with cross-country skiing, ice climbing and randonnee skiing. Cross-country skiing became like a way of transportation for me, and especially after some fresh snowfall you can get literally everywhere on the island on ski’s. When the weather was bad, the climbing gym is close by university so many hours were spent there too.

But the presence of many great opportunities for outdoor climbing couldn’t make me stay just inside, even though it’s cold, snowy and icy on the rocks. Together with Patrick and Steven we decided to try the northface of Blåmann, the highest mountain on Kvaløya. It is a steep wall (85-95 degrees) and all the routes on it are aid. We planned to stay on the wall with a portaledge and took a lot of food and gear with us. And clothes, dressed like colourful fat polar bears we started off. After 4 days of hammering through icy splittercracks we made it halfway the wall. We were stuck there for several hours already on a single move, and decided to go back. It was lots of learning and a true adventure that I will never forget.

After Blåmann it was time to leave Tromsø for a week to go to Chamonix with the Expedition Academy! Next blogpost more…

zaterdag 7 januari 2017

Dutch Championships Sport and Ice Climbing

Completely forgot to write something about the two main Dutch competitions for me of the year: the Dutch Championships Sportclimbing and the Dutch Championships ice climbing. Hereby a small recap.

Fridaynight I arrived back in the Netherlands after three months living in Vienna. Just in time for the National sportclimbing championships! I was tensed, feeling fit after all training in Vienna and very eager to show everyone what I was capable of. Also I was stressed, because moving all my stuff and finishing my internship in Vienna took more energy than I expected. When I woke up Saturday I had musclepain due to carrying the luggage, but fortunately the stress was less. Later that day, in the isolation, most stress was gone and I mostly wanted to climb a nice route and enjoy it. But when I saw the route we had to climb, doubts came into my head: a bouldery route, starting with a jump was set; completely my antistyle. I tried to talk to myself: "you are prepared for this, this is exactly where you trained on in Vienna, you can do this!". It seemed to help and when it was my turn to climb, I smashed the jump, continued climbing, every move felt terrible as if I was doing the move wrong, but I kept on climbing til the middle of the route, where I really didn't saw the sequence. After some up- and downclimbing and wasting a lot of energy, I finally saw what to do and fighted for another couple of moves before I fell.

Photo by Sytse van Slooten

Disappointed about that I was not able to show my skills and strength and happy that I manage to continue climbing this high despite that it was completely not my style I went back to the ground. It turned out to be enough for the third place. It was impressive to see Nikki van Bergen dealing with the high expectations of the public and taking gold again, and it was even greater to see the progression of Tiba Vroom, cruising through the final route to the second place!

Photo by Zout Photography

The National ice climbing championships where hold one week later. This was for me the first time this season I was holding ice axes in my hands again, but I knew I am strong and I think that is one of the most important things for ice climbing. Very happy I was to top both qualification routes, making my expectations for the finals high. Unfortunately, a long move already in the beginning of the route I did not controlled enough, after which the final was over for me. A disappointing 4ht place was the result. Hopefully I can improve my skills in Tromso!

Photo by Sytse van Slooten

Geyikbayiri, Turkey 2016/17

I just came back from a well-deserved 2 weeks holiday in Turkey. After the internship in Vienna and a (too) busy week in the Netherlands with 2 Dutch Championships and meeting up with many friends and family, it was time to relax in Turkey.

The last few months Turkey was often in the news for attacks and the regime of president Erdogan. However, I remembered Turkey from my last trips as a beautiful country with some of the friendliest people I ever met. During this trip the friendliness of the people struck me even more. Turks are always happy to share everything they have with you, they smile at everything you say (even though they couldn't speak a single English word) and are always there to help you out if you are having any problems. Hopefully this country and its people will keep their smiles and hope during this period!

Together with Noël I flew to Antalya, from where we went to the village Geyikbayiri. The quality of the rocks and the great number of routes here is astonishing. The walls are futuring big tufa's, pockets, slabs, crimps, slopers, overhangs, everything a climber can wish for. Together with the weekly market on Sunday on which you can eat delicious gozleme and buy all fruits and vegetables you want, this place is a paradise.

The first two days the weather was fantastic; a clear blue sky and a warm sun made the beginning of the holiday a dream. But the next day we woke up in the middle of the night because our tent was collapsed, and a thick pack of snow blocked the opening of the tent. Good excuse for a rest day! The rest of the holiday it stayed cold and clouded, making the sportsclimbing a real wintersport!
The first week climbing went great, I felt strong and hard routes went down easily. Then, tiredness hit me and I decided to focus on climbing easier routes. In the end, I am very happy with my ticklist and feeling ready for the cold climbing in Norway!

Pictures are coming, for my ticklist please visit my 8a.nu account.