10 févr. 2014

Warm heart of Africa

When I was a child, I dreamed about travels, freedom and emancipation. Exploring the world is something I have aspired to from an early age and my passion for climbing gave me this opportunity. When we travel, we find ourselves in a different environment unique to each place. We learn to interact with the people we meet and get accustomed to their values and local means of communication. In fact adapting and learning is what travelling is all about for me. For a few years now I have traveled the world with this craving for discovery and I must admit that my trip to Malawi profoundly changed me. This is my story.

It all started last year, with the dream of a friend who wanted to film an exploratory trip to Southern Africa. He located a huge amount of rock in Malawi which seem to hold a lot of potential. After discussing with him and looking at the place on Google Earth, I decided to accepted joining the adventure: a year later we are a team of passionate including two camera operators: Benjamin Rueck (USA), Scott Noy (GER/South Africa), Haroun Souirji (BEL), Julie La Guigne an me (both from FRA). Coming from all around the world we met in Malawi's capital city: Lilongwe. The trip started in a great way: Ben had no luggage and no crash pad, lost during the transit... Like they say... This is Africa. We decided to leave the capital and head south towards Mount Mulanje.

When we arrived at destination, we were first impressed by the thousand meter high Chambe face, looking even more impressive with the endless flat lands at its bottom. Lying under the face... thousands and thousands of boulders. Unanimously we decided that this would be the first boulder field we would explore. It is a very special feeling to visit a place where no boulderer has been. A massive playground, beautiful lines, tall ones... day after day we discover and develop a tiny portion of an expanding potential. But what really touched us was being confronted to the extremely poor local population. We hired a guide to help and explain to us the local situation in a nearly perfect English. Dozens of orphan kids, some sick, would follow us everywhere we would go. Round and deep blacks eyes, like little coffee beans telling us "What are they doing?". We once walked down just me and ben and at each humble brick house 10 more kids would start following us. When we reached the car, we lost count and the kids were asking us for help... "give me bottle", "give me money"... they would eachother for a bottle... this is when we fully realized the extreme level of poverty they were living in.

A week running from one boulder to another, brushing, removing loose rock and climbing gorgeous lines that were chosen among many others. Ben chose to project a vertical seam and I fell in love with an 8m high orange face. Crimpy and very technical (check the video!).

After a week making fun of Ben's brown t-shirt "Ben is still all in", we head to the capital to get his stuff then meet the rest of the crew at the second stop of our exploration. Complete change of setting: Mangochi lies on the shore of the giant lake. The population seems much more surprised to see us as we are some of the very rare non Malawians to visit the town. Unlike in Mount Mulanje where we were obviously seen as tourists, in Mangochi were the people really wondering what was the reason of our visit.
The actual boulder field lied behind a boy's catholic seminary. As we got closer, a hill covered with an overwhelming amount of rock started to appear. In no time, I was ecstatic with only one thing in mind: run everywhere! We all looked at each other and we obviously all feeling the same way. So we asked for the permission to enter the land and started to wander in this granite labyrinth. What first surprised us by the state of the vegetation around us. The locals burnt the ground to hunt rodents. The rock was a beautiful orange granite but unfortunately some of it was burnt and made crumbly. This made for some intense cleaning. But honestly there is a real potential to develop a beautiful area. Easy access, thousands of boulders and beautiful lines. Did we just reach a nature's gem? I think so! And we not alone to think that. Dozens of baboons occupied the place and shared the playground with us.

Ben was still in luck and after the first hour... cut his index deeply when grabbing a leaf while walking... shouting "what else nature? what else?!". There were boulders everywhere and everything was climbable. We started developing but I was looking for a special line, a 5 star line. After a few days, Ben set his sights on a spider filed crack inside a cave and I walked further in the bush in search of the gem. Walking south of the seminary I stumbled on the line I was looking for: a beautiful boulder shaped like a wave and standing on another boulder, like sitting on it's throne. I brushed it and quickly saw it was possible... the moves were beautiful and the holds were small... very small... like tiny shark teeth! After trying it I realized it would be very hard with the conditions. I tried everything but one move would go.

Ben was fighting bravely on his project, despite the deep cut in his finger, and ended also being one move away from sending it ... Ben and his hydrogen peroxide bottle left the cave with no luck. This leads me to an anecdote: Scott and me were at home and he was very thirsty. He took the nearest water bottle and drank what was left in it in one go... which was actually hydrogen peroxide. He came near me and told me with big eyes "what did I do?". Each new day came with a surprise in this incredible place. We discussed about social issues with a surprisingly open minded priest or competed at coconut harvesting with neighborhood kids. After a week full of surprises it was time to head to our third and last destination, feeling a bit disappointing leaving so much unfinished business. We had a rendez-vous with someone living in Cape Maclear and we did not want to be late... The kids came for goodbyes and I left with a big smile on my face.

Through our eyes it was only a giant boulder, 10m high at its lowest point. It has a perfect feature in the middle where we instantly saw a possible line! We grab the kayaks and I go first. The rock was infested with little black spiders. I climbed carefully but unfortunately a first hold broke. As we tried we would get higher and higher but I broke the last hold that would allow us to reach the top... I had to jump down. We ended up only 1.5m from the top. I did not want to abandon the line and tried other potential holds but there was no solution.

This is my story. But it's not an easy thing to put in words such an intense and long trip. This journey touched me deeply... the exchanges and the things we witnessed. In a time in my life when I am rethinking many things I faced a reality in Malawi, that of people living with barely nothing. One of my most beautiful trips in a wild Africa but also an Africa of kind and generous people

23 sept. 2013

summer expedition in Malawi !

"Sometimes when you predict for a long time that a big storm in your life is coming to you.. don't go to a shelter and wait that the storm will end. Just go outside and feel the rain on your skin and the wind blowing on your face.. feel the cold inside of your bones..."
That was my mentality this summer to have the chance to face a life experience and I think it gave me the opportunity to learn and grow up as a person.

My inspiration in life in general is based on this common sentence : "do and share what you love ; love and share what you do". My passion for climbing has given me a lot of opportunities to travel around the world, meet a lot of people who share the same passion as me but also be confronted to other ways of thinking and other civilizations. 

This Summer I went to a "new climbing destination" where nobody has ever really developed climbing over there : Malawi ! It was more than developing a new area with an incredible amount of rocks, it was an absolutely incredible life experience ! It's really exciting to go on a place where actually nobody were really for climbing ! Such an overflow of rocks and the recurrent questions : which area you will explore tomorrow and which nice lines you will brush and climb next. Add to the exciting part of discovering a new place for climbing, there is all the adventure : being in a total different country with totally an other way of living. TIA : This Is Africa !

About the climbing aspect and the different locations we went, I can't really reveal it because articles should go out in magazines and the movie beginning of next year. But I give you a clue : 3 locations in the south of the country ! ;)

Anyway it was the nicest and most crazy climbing trip i have made so far yet. A country where everything over there is a new thing to resolve and the communication with the local population is tricky.

But I understand now this expression : "the warm heart of Africa". When you see a smile shining, huge bright smile on children even if they conditions of life aren't easy at all. When they share everything they have even if it's almost nothing.. So many poor people.. so many disease..

So.. stay tuned !! you will here more about Malawi soon !
And for waiting, some general pictures about the trip.

20 mai 2013

Keep smiling and enjoy climbing !

How to start the 2 past weeks I have lived ?! Just maybe with this sentence which give a sens in what I live in this period of my life : "keep smiling and enjoy climbing".
So two weeks ago I had to come back in France, in aix en provence, to pass my exams. There I really realized how much I like my actual life and how I was just lucky to live all this.

Then I went to Fontainebleau for an event organize by the FFCAM and in partnership with Petzl : CAMP 4. About 60 teenagers from all the country came with their club to participate at this event. It was all about to discover more about the bouldering, the prevention, how to spot, the respect of the forest and of course meeting new passionate people and share our passion. I had an amazing day in the forest!
Sharing and enjoying climbing with this really motivated climber, was a great experience ! They have so much energy ! :) That was also really nice to meet again all the Petzl team : tony, Florence, Loic, Christophe and Alex !

So after that my batteries wer full recharged in Energy and i was really motivated to take part at the Boulder world cup in Slovenia. A mix between a lot of motivation, energy, challenge, fun and happy to express myself ! I have done there my first podium of the year : a lot of fun and a great fight !! 2nd place !! :)

I think I get a clue of the way I like to express myself in competition : just a conception of the competition more based on the pleasure, the fun and the show. Like that I just appreciate the comp so much whatever is the result and I allow me to only be focus on the action ! 

It was also a lot of fun this week end in front of an home/friend crew. And i enjoy a lot climbing in final in the innsbruck world cup with my friend jule and anna! big congrats for Jule for her first victory !! :)

A special thing with this move on the first boulder problem in the final. I lived this thing in slow motion ... it was unreal... I slided at the same time right hand and foot... i was thinking oh oh ... shit... and fighting so hard on my left hand to stay in the wall.... hearding the crowd screaming an low hooooooo... and i just stayed in the wall.... !!! WOW :)

18 avr. 2013

The Tierra Boulder Battle 2013 : Stokholm, for ever !

Enjoy this nice video made by sandstone media, a good show, a nice week end... what else ?

11 mars 2013

Hueco that's rock

The first time I have heard about this place it was long time ago when I started climbing. At this time, It appeared being the best place in the world so far for bouldering. When I started to travel to discover some amazing place, this one was in my mind but for a couple of years I wasn't so motivated to go cause of the mountains of restrictions around climbing in the park which make you feel not so free...

This time was definitively perfect with a "gewaltig" team (left to right) : Hannes alias Spielberg, Elias, Kilian, Anna, me and Jacopo..

Three months before, Anna spent hours and hours in the phone to book and organize all our climbing days in the park. And without that it will have been really more complicated... We have been waiting only two times at the gate and that was way enough ! Elias was in the middle of the closed road, tried to film this epic moment and the ranger just came and said "get out of the road, it's dangerous ! If you don't move I call the police ! !" Achtung, you go to jail ! ;) So just a really big thanks to Anna !

El Paso is one of the biggest pass to go to the US from Mexico. Juarez for one part and El Paso for the American part. It really appears like this city has been built by all the Mexican who got into the US. It's a huge city but just build with the closest services as it's possible : mexican or american fast food each hundred meter, Walmart and Compagnie ! A gold medal to Karl's Jr with the best guacamole burger ever ! ;)

So there was not so much to do for the rest days but way enough to climb! 3 mountains of high concentration of boulder problem : "free" entrance for north mountain and guided tour for east and east spur

2 and half week of bouldering in the middle of the desert with a high motivation of our team, going everywhere and trying to climb everything! Our rhythm was an intensive concentration of burrito : for breakfirst, to take away and at el pasito (mythic Mexican restaurant).
I really enjoyed to climb with Anna, the way how we were supporting each other, the motivation we created and how we shared and expressed it. It's definitely hard to express it in English for me but there is just a simple word : friendship. For one point, it's for this kind of moment I love climbing. Sharing that with people you care.

Unfortunately, Jacopo injured once again his finger... I hope he will recover it pretty soon...

After a really stressed flight back to France, I stayed one week in Paris to compet for the French selection and the french championship. "Chose faite !" I'm really happy to come back at innsbruck and start the international competition !

Couple of picture to show you a bit the ambiance in the desert !

5 déc. 2012

Petzl Roc trip in Argentinia !

After a loooong time on the road/plane/rock, browsing some incredible place, I finally land in France and have the time to tell you a bit about the last incredible adventure rich in experience I lived in Argentinia during the Petzl Roc Trip !
After a month spent in RRG, where I was really happy to rich some of my goals (50 words for pumps / Southern Smoke ) but left some others.... I took the plane direction South America : Buenos Aires. Typical city of south America, hudge, cosmopolite but at the same time poor, dangerous. I have heard some hard story about drugs corruptions and theft   "Entonces siempre mirar a su mochilla !!" fortunetly nothing happened the few hours we were there. 

So we had the time to hang out in the center and have a global view of colonials monuments like the famous "casa Rosa".
Argentines are living an hard time in this period... after the fall of the dictatorship 20 years ago, a big economic crisis following the devaluation of their currency (peso) in 2002 and the presidente who decide to change of politic and tends towards a conservative liberalism .... And when you feel positive vibe around you and always smiling face to deal with this, that make me happy ! happy to see that humane relation is always more important than this stuff. 
The distance seems really far in Argentinia ! 2 hours in the plane direction Puerto Madryn, then 13 hours driving in the bus.... looooonnnggg drive to Piedra Parada ! The tent throw to the sand in the early morning and the dark hide everything around us !

When I woke up, I was choked about the beauty of this place : both desertic and mountainous. The river, this Rock towel alone in the middle of the field : la Piedra Parada ; and a canyon full of rock ! 

In total, I was 6 days there, "ambiance Woodstock" in the middle of nowhere, where everything was really unique ! Thank you very much at all the team Petzl who worked really hard to make it real ! It was a big event as always ! "Viva los Petzl Roc Trip"
Sometimes the pictures are more easy to transmit the atmosphere...  "place aux images" !