Times of change by Mayan Smith-Gobat

The last two months have slipped past incredibly quickly... I have been enjoying having a house and the structure of a training program for a bit. It is amazingly nice to add a touch of routine to my otherwise transient and unpredictable life. Winter in the desert has been amazing this year, with beautiful sun-filled days and perfect temperatures for climbing in the sun. A nice change from hiding in the shade, as we climbers generally do to get good conditions for most of the year. Esacalante

Ben, racking up and enjoying the sunshine!

Training has been pretty exhausting, however, I have been climbing as much as possible. Mainly on the beautiful and abundant sandstone around here, trying to finally become comfortable on these splitter cracks...  I spent a fair bit of time out at Escalante, Indian Creek and even a weekend in Zion! Achieving a small degree of success - climbing has been going well, I am managing to on-sight some mid-twelves and even climbed a few of Rob's harder trad routes. But I am still far from really feeling comfortable on this terrain.

Monkey Finger, 5.12b - My first route in Zion, thanks Sean! Fun times...

After almost two years of completing a couple six to eight week cycles of training throughout the year, I am staring to feel my body morphing and becoming much stronger. My core no longer sags, shoulders feel strong and even my dynamic movement is much better! This time I feel ready for another stint on the road... Travel is an integral part of my lifestyle, and I love to see new places, meet new friends and climbing on a huge variety of rock! However, being on the road constantly quickly becomes tiring and I often find myself dreaming of a home, with a garden, maybe a dog and horse - a place which I never have to leave...

Ah Yeah! Those are dreams for later... Right now this is where I want to be, and I really do love my life! I feel extremely lucky to be supported by such amazing companies and have great friends all over the world.

Climbing near Moab, this place really is stunning!

Change promotes growth and is often very positive, however, it can also be very difficult. The last month has been one of these times for me - I was presented with an offer to join the Black Diamond team, and after much thought, I accepted. As a climber I am moving more in the traditional, big-wall direction, therefore I feel that Black Diamond is a better fit for me. BD aligns much better with my goals as a climber and I believe that I will be able to represent them more completely. This said, I am still very sorry to part ways with Petzl, I really appreciate everything they have done for me and am very thankful for their support over the time I have been with them. However, though sad to leave Petzl, I am very excited for this new opportunity and happy to be part of the Black Diamond team. Bring on the adventures!

New gear... Ready for Brazil!

Stories from Down-under... by Mayan Smith-Gobat

All my faithful followers! Sorry about my long absence from my blog... This year has been off to a flying start, somehow it is already a week into February and I do not know where the time has gone... At this rate the year will be over before I know it! The fox fence... Just down the road from our cabin. Complete with a Pink Panther!

The last week in the Grampians was a whirlwind, unsettled weather, far too many projects to finish and a photo-mog (Andrew Burr) to keep happy made for a hectic and ridiculously fun week! Because of the terrible weather, it came to the last few days in the Grampians and we still had not managed to make it out to the infamous Passport to Insanity, one of our main objectives. The weather did not improve and finally on our very last day we decided to hike out, despite not being able to even see the cliff because of low cloud. After a long wet hike through foggy rain, we arrived under the imposing Fortress - We could still barely see the roof through the clouds.

The Fortress, when the clouds finally parted. Passport to Insanity is the roof on the right tower.

Andrew, Ben and I huddled, wearing every piece of clothing, vainly attempting to stay warm and hoping that the sun would burn through the clouds at some point. Finally, late in the afternoon the clouds began to disperse and I headed up the first pitch. Luck was with us, and as I climbed through the roof the setting sun popped out below the clouds - I beautiful finale to our time in the Grampians!

Sea stacks on the wild Tasmanian coast. This was our first adventure, on day one in Tasi!

The next morning we were on a plane to Tasmania, to climb sea stacks! Our main objective was the Totem Pole, yet we also wanted to spend some time exploring other towers on the beautiful Tasmanian coast. Again, we were plagued  by consistently unsettled weather. It was cold, windy and not a single day passed without rain of some sort. However, we managed to make the most of it and climb nearly every day. The Tote did not disappoint! Fantastic climbing on a stunning feature in a wild and incredibly beautiful location, though only two pitches it feels very exposed!

Ben on the Tyrollean traverse, off of the Totem Pole!

Keep an eye out for the next Adidas Outdoor Magazine/Catalog for a more in depth account of Ben and I's adventures!

Ben and Andrew Burr having fun in the salt lake!

For Ben and I the fun did not stop there though, after a week in Tasmania we headed to my NZ. Where I proceeded to give Ben a whirlwind tour of the best climbing areas my home land has to offer. We drove straight out to Castle Hill, where we were meet by a film crew from TVNZ and proceeded to get destroyed on the round featureless boulders for the next few days. The climbing here is weird and involves more pushing and footwork than pulling - Stay posted for the TVNZ morning feature!

Ben climbing above Diamond Lake, Wanaka. Photo: Judith Spanken

After a few days, we somehow managed to fit my dear mother, Ben and I into my tiny 3 door Mazda and headed South - Darrans bound! On our way down we stopped in Wanaka, where I lived just after high school and learnt my first real lessons in climbing. In the last ten years, since I had lived there, a huge amount of new crags have been discovered and developed, so Ben and I spent a few days exploring these and waiting for a storm to pass through from the West.

One of the classic Wanaka crimp test-pieces! Photo: Judith Spanken

A few days later, in the driving rain, we drove the long windy road further south, to the Darrans - My favorite place to climb in NZ. It is always exciting driving back into those wild remote mountains, stacked with huge imposing granite walls. This time we only had a couple days of once again unsettled weather, so we spent them sport climbing on the most classic lines!

The time passed very quickly and soon it was Christmas eve and I dropped Ben off at the airport to head home. After which I had another few weeks in NZ, enjoying some relaxed time with my family and old friends. Though it was difficult, I actually managed to survive an entire week without climbing at all. A well deserved and necessary break from climbing!

Ben and I chilling out at the Chasm in the Darrans. It was great to show a good friend this special place! Photo: Judith Spanken

Now, I am finally back in Grand Junction, settling into the winter and the amazing brutality of another training cycle with Rob Pizem! Thanks Rob for helping me prepare for another year packed full of incredible adventures! And thanks once again to all my sponsors for helping me achieve my dreams and adventures!

Happy New Year from Downunder! by Mayan Smith-Gobat

Hope you all had a great Christmas and wish you all the best for 2014! Can believe another year has past already... Sorry I have kind of dropped off the radar for the last while... Internet access  and time to use it do seem to be super easy to come by down here! Ben and I have spent the last 6 weeks in Australia, Tasmania and most recently a whirlwind tour of NZ. Before heading out of the USA, I spent a couple weeks in Colorado training and trying to get my body to remember how to hold onto small edges and pull again... This took a little while, after weeks of jamming my hands kind of forget how to hold downward pulling holds. My focus was on keeping on going for hours at a time, not doing hard individual movements. But our bodies are amazing, it always surprises me how little strength I actually loose and how quickly everything comes back!

However, two weeks sped by, and soon Ben and I found ourselves driving over Vail Pass in a heavy snow storm, with cars and trucks sliding all over the road - terrifying! But, we made it to Denver airport in time to catch our flight to LA... Then after a couple days, a sales meeting, some fun times with the US Adidas crew and an afternoon on Manhattan beach with my dear friend Ronny, we found ourselves back on a plane with a ridiculous amount of gear - Headed back down under...

Ben and Ronny... Need I say more?!

Manhattan Beach

Australia is a strange, flat land of Kangaroos, every possible poisonous creature and yet amidst the barren plains there is incredible climbing to be found. I had previously spent very little time in the Grampians, so Ben and I spent most of our time there... generally getting crushed on the spectacular, yet very unforgiving Taipan wall! It took a while to get used to the climbing down here - At best, the bolts are spaced, at worst ridiculously runout - It took some adjustment before being able to relax enough while a long way above a bolt to climb anywhere near our potential...

The incredible Taipan Wall!

I focused on the classics of the wall - The Invisible Fist, Snake Flake and Serpentine, then moved onto the crazy cool weirdness of Tourniquet 30 (5.13c) - Powerful climbing on sideways slopers up the side of a huge runnel. My initial idea for coming down here was to attempt something harder on Taipan wall, however on arriving here I realized that I wanted to just climb and enjoy without constantly focusing on one goal... It has been a lot of fun, there is some amazing climbing down here!

Roo's in the regrowth

After a couple weeks on Taipan wall, Ben and I decided it was time to go on an adventure... Our goal was to find HB's epic roof route - Welcome to Barbados, 50 meters of near horizontal climbing through a cave, grade 29 and all on traditional protection! After an hour of bush-bashing through a crazy burnt out forest we arrived at the cave, and it really was everything people said... EPIC!!!

The first half of "Welcome to Barbados"...

I was super intimidated - Heading up a hard trad route is nothing new for me, but heading up a horizontal roof with only pockets, where you never have any idea where the next piece might be, let alone where the actual route goes, was a whole new experience... I was terrified! The climbing was super committing, with big runout sections between most of the pieces of protection and no prior information about the route. However, I finally made it to the end and experienced an amazing sense of satisfaction and achievement when I struggled out through the hole at the end of the route!

Ben emerging from the  epic roof of "Welcome to Barbados"

I rested for a bit then desperately managed to fight my way through the entire cave - Sending it second attempt! The day was then topped off by Ben's successful send - first go! Thanks Malcom for establishing an amazing visionary route... Keep cranking!

Ben and the Stumpy!

That's enough for this year... Stay posted for more updates on our Australian adventures! Happy New year!

Moving on... by Mayan Smith-Gobat

I love having so many amazing opportunities in my life... But sometimes it can also be a little frustrating not having as flexible a schedule as I used to have! If anything it is just a good motivation to get better though... El Capitan and Half Dome

As I mentioned previously, my trip to Yosemite Valley was rudely interrupted by the US government - What was meant to be five week trip turned into just over two weeks. My time in the Valley was super productive, but I had to leave and returned just as the Park was reopened to the public. Unfortunately, this did not leave me with enough time to achieve my goals and still be prepared and ready for my next trip... In a few days I head off to Australia! So, rather than try to fit everything in and not really have enough time for any of my goals, I chose to spend a couple days enjoying Yosemite in it's quiet Fall beauty, then move on to preparing myself for the next challenge... Sport climbing in the Grampians!

Crystal clear water and perfect granite domes

On my way out of Yosemite I spent a day in Tuolumne Meadows, enjoying the silence and stunning beauty of this place. There was still banks of snow from a storm a few weeks ago, yet it was a beautiful sunny day. I hiked through the alpine meadows, played on boulders, ran up the smooth granite domes and even went for an icy dip in the crystal clear river. Sometimes I forget how nice it is to just relax and enjoy life without trying to achieve any particular goal or push my body to it's limits...

Enjoying Tuolumne Meadows

Now I have had a couple weeks back in Colorado, training and trying to get fit for sport climbing again. I love all the different aspects of climbing, but it can be hard to switch back and forth in between sport and trad... For the first while my fingers simply hurt when I tried to hold small crimpers again and my body was shocked by having to actually pull hard moves again - In Yosemite most of what I did was long endurance climbing, where none of the moves were anywhere near my limit!

Sunrise and moonset on my way through Nevada

However, it all came back super quickly... It turns out that I have not lost any strength or power, just forgotten how to recruit it! So, now I am off to spend five weeks climbing in the Grampians and Tasmania - Two places I have been wanting to spend time at for a very long time!

The desert... I do love the wide expanses of nothingness

I intend to return to Yosemite in May/June next year to attempt to complete my goals. Once again I would like to thank my sponsors, friends and Sport NZ for supporting me and helping me achieve my wildest dreams!

On the road with the super Stealth van... Thanks 5.10!

 

 

National Park Closure?!? by Mayan Smith-Gobat

"What the... ?!? The government can't actually do that, can they..." But it turns out they can... And they have!

The first I heard about the National Parks (including Yosemite) being shutdown was from some fellow climbers on the Nose, while Sean and I were simul-climbing past them... And this was just a  several second snippet of conversation - I just laughed and definitely did not believe would ever happen. However, we passed 11 other parties of climbers on the Nose that day - Way more that either of us had ever seen on one route ever before! Everyone had heard the rumor of Yosemite closing and scrambled to at least climb one last big wall before they had to leave...  And when we got back down to the Valley floor several hours later, the rumors were confirmed - The park was going to be closed due to a government shutdown!

Niels... Having just made the hair-raising traverse along "Thank God Ledge" Near the top of Half Dome

I still laughed it off and did not believe it would actually happen, until 48 hours had passed... On the 3rd October suddenly there were rangers stationed at the entrance and exit points of the Yosemite stopping anyone who was not a resident or employee in Yosemite entering. By that evening the park was very quiet and empty... I managed to stay for a couple of extra days as I was visiting a friend who actually lived permanently  in the Park. So my birthday present this year was experiencing Yosemite Valley with no one else around. It was incredible to see the legendary Camp 4 deserted, all the facilities closed, parking lots empty, no cars on the road and most of all no constant sound of people...

Sunset in the deserted Valley

However, this has also meant that my time in Yosemite has been cut short/or at least postponed, as recreating in the Park is currently not allowed. This is very disappointing and I am finding it difficult to know what to do, as no one knows when the park is likely to open again...

Yet, I am still very happy to have managed to have a couple of fantastic weeks of climbing on El Capitan - In the space of a week I climbed the Nose four times! Setting a new female record of 5.39 hours with Libby Sauter, and a male/female record of 3.30 hours with Sean Leary!

Near the top of Half Dome

A spur of the moment decision on my part has landed me back in Colorado for a week or so, visiting friends, training with the crew here in Grand Junction, climbing and hoping that the government comes to an agreement soon! On a positive note - It is really nice to see my friends here, training a little, relax and rebuild my motivation again!

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Roctrip - Gorge du Tarn by Mayan Smith-Gobat

My life seems to continue to make me run like crazy just to try to keep up with myself... This hectic lifestyle is normal right now, but I still find myself struggling to adjust quick enough to maximize each new situation...

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Within a couple days of arriving back in France, I found myself driving to Gorge du Tarn for the 2013 Roctrip, with the Petzl team - always a fun and crazy time. In comparison to the last couple years, this years Roctrip was relatively low key... It was a pleasant change to go to an established area in France, rather than in the middle of nowhere, and just have a really fun few days climbing and hanging with Team Petzl. 

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We all stayed in “Saint Rome De Dolan”, a tiny village (if you can even call it a village), on the upper rim of the gorge - A stunningly beautiful location looking out over the Tarn. And spent each long summers day climbing till nightfall, enjoying everything from short steep power test-pieces, to epic adventures of over 60m. I spent most of my time on these long routes, making the most of having 200m ropes and fixed quickdraws - I rediscovered how much I love long resistance routes, where it is not uncommon to spend an hour on each attempt. We even started referring to the 40m routes as “short”! Unfortunately the three days I had to climb were not nearly enough. However, it is always inspirational and humbling climbing with these incredible climbers... Watching Clement onsight a 70m 8b+, and Chis, Dani many others literally run up 8a’s (onsight) like they were nothing! 

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This was the third Rocktrip I have been to, I am beginning to know the team a little better and really enjoy the time I get to spend with this incredibly talented and fun loving team. Flashback... A few years back, while still based in NZ, I remember watching Petzl movies about roctrips and dreaming about one day attending one of these events! Now, this seems like an entire lifetime ago... This year I struggled to fit in a few days at the Roctrip in between China (Adidas Rockstars) and Colorado, where I am now headed for the Rock & Ice Photocamp! 

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Ahhh, how quickly life and your entire perception can change, it really is an intense... I am so busy, flitting between incredibly different experiences, that I have to really focus on enjoying the moment. It is easy to get caught up in constantly thinking about the next step and not fully enjoying the now, let alone reflecting on the past. Yet, I believe this is the key to enjoying life - There is no point to living if you cannot appreciate where you are right now! I am also realizing how good it is to take a few moments to reflect on the past, every now and then... and be amazed by life!

Thanks Petzl for welcoming me onto the team and for a really fun Roctrip at the Tarn... I am inspired to return!  

Adidas Basecamp to China Rockstars by Mayan Smith-Gobat

I am extremely happy to have had the opportunity to participate in the first (and hopefully not the last) ever Adidas Outdoor athlete meeting... Focused on the climbers, Basecamp, was held in the heart of the Frankenjura - One of the birthplaces for Sport climbing and Wolfgang Güllichs stomping ground. Visiting a stunning cave on our first evening at Basecamp.

True to their slogan.... Adidas "was all in" and created an amazing event for their athletes. For three days we all stayed in an ancient Castle (now converted into a very nice hotel) built on top of a limestone cliff, which is now a small, but very nice climbing area.  It was an informative, fun trip and a great chance to get to know the Adidas Outdoor family a little better.

A formal meeting in the weapons room!

After Basecamp Ben and I had 10 days of time to climb... We had all sorts of plans, but were thwarted by the horrendously wet spring that Europe had been having. After much debate, we decided to bite the bullet and go where we had the best chances of getting some sun - South France! So, one and a half days later, after an epic drive, we found ourselves at St. Leger. A beautiful crag located above a small river and surrounded by ancient French villages, vineyards and olive groves. It was definitely far from summer weather, we were still wearing down jackets most days, but it was great to have some time to just climb, swim in the freezing cold river, visit markets and simply enjoy France.

Ben, lost in a market in South France

Beautiful little fishing village on the Mediterranean

However, the week few by and soon I found myself back at the airport - Headed for China, for the Adidas Rocstars comp in Shanghai! It was a hectic week, including two over 20 hour flights, hundreds of signatures, countless photos and many translated interviews... I will never know whether what I said was what they heard or vise versa. It is always interesting being in China.

The semi final of the first Adidas Rocstars event in China

Adidas put on an amazing outdoor event in the middle of the most popular and busy shopping street in Shanghai. It was incredible to see climbing (a very small sport in China) exposed to the general public like this, and welcomed with such a positive attitude by everyone. I was there with Dean Potter and Thomas Huber, and once again the Chinese looked after us like royalty. We had a personal guide "Marco" who accompanied us everywhere and made sure we had everything we might possibly need. In the mornings when we were not at the event he showed us the highlights of Shanghai, and took us to the tastiest restaurants.

Axel, Thomas, Dean and I in Shanghai

It was great to have a few days with Axel, Dean and Thomas. Thanks Adidas for inviting me to come to this event!

Back in Europe by Mayan Smith-Gobat

I do not know where to start... So much has happened, there is also so much to tell and there has been so little time to write! I find it hard to remember yesterday morning, let alone a few weeks ago. Sometimes it all feels hard to handle, but I really feel very lucky to live the life that I am leading. My home at Smith Rocks... Thanks 5.10! Photgrapher: Tyler Roemer

Because of various different obligations, my 3 week trip up at Smith Rocks was reduced to 10 days - Just enough time to actually relearn to climb rather than just pulling my way through the moves! I had big goals to try two historic routes Just do It and/To Bolt, but I quickly decided to spend my time climbing the Smith Rock classics, rather than working on a project. I spent most of my time in the Dihedrals, climbing Chain Reaction, Darkness and many others...

On Rude Boys, Smith Rocks. Photographer: Tyler Roemer

It great fun but the trip was over far too quickly and then it was back to Colorado - A place which has (in some sense) become a home for me. After one hectic week of packing up my life, I boarded a plane to Germany - my other home! This place is very near to my heart and the only place which has stayed the same throughout my life. Hence, it was very nice to spend a week there , chilling with my Aunt (second mum) and cousins (almost siblings).

Of course the week flew by, and before I knew it, I was joined by Ben and driving down to Italy... Where I was presenting a slideshow for Stile Alpino! With a touch of luck and a bit of stress, we just made it in time, even though traffic jams and getting lost were working against me. Fabio and the rest of Stile Alpino team made us feel very welcome, showed us some of the local climbing and even invited Ben and I to join their annual fish dinner. This was an unexpected treat and we were honored to meet many of the most famous Italian climbers.

Arco! Photographer: Ben Rueck

Unfortunately the next week was spent trying to find dry rock in an epicly wet May. First stop was Arco, where we had a few beautiful days climbing and enjoying the craziness of the Italian lifestyle. However, just when we were starting to adjust to the climbing style a torrential rainstorm hit and we fled northwards... Toward the Frankenjura.

Ben hiking to Voraplsee

We stopped off for a day at the stunningly beautiful Swiss mountain crag - Voralpsee, the home to Speed (one of the first 8c+'s) an extremely sustained and crazily technical climb. I was hoping to get a few days climbing here, however, once again we woke to rain and freezing temperatures. Part of my motivation to go here was to try Speed, but I am starting to realize that finding motivation to climb hard routes is kind of like finding love... If you are actively looking for it, you will never find it... Yet, when least expected it finds you.

A nice quote from Cafe Kraft

Next stop was Frankenjura, one of the most historic sport climbing areas, located deep in the woods of Bayern. This is a place I am keen to spend some time climbing climb at, but this time I was there for the first ever Adidas "Basecamp". Stay posted for more on this soon! But in the meantime... Thanks to Adidas for inviting us all and organizing an amazing athlete meeting!

The Adidas team! Photographer: Ben Rueck

Getting Gnarly! by Mayan Smith-Gobat

Like I mentioned... My focus over the last few months has been on training. My goal for this winter was to learn how to train. I felt that this would make the biggest difference to my climbing, because power is my greatest weakness and I have never really dedicated any time to training... Thanks to my amazing friend and climbing/training partner, Ben Rueck who welcomed me into his world, I have had the chance to get to know and train with Rob Pizem and the crew at Grand Junction Climbing Center. This time spent here in Grand Junction has opened my eyes to another way to approach climbing.

Trying to learn to climb again at Rifle... Photo: Randyl Neilson

I have dedicated time to training and improving my overall strength with the goal of then being able to climb routes in a shorter period of time, rather than dedicating a large amount of time to working on a route and gaining strength on the climb itself. In the end that total time invested may be the same, but the gain seems to be much more rounded and I am feeling much better overall than ever before! I have not yet truly tested how the last few months of training have really effected my overall climbing ability, however, I do know that I have gained a huge amount of strength, power and core tension. Now I just have to relearn the subtleties of climbing. I found over the last few days climbing that I was pulling way too hard and not really "climbing"... This was a rather amusing realization - I never thought that I would have an issue with forgetting to use technique, but definitely noticed myself  simply pulling at first.

A week at Smith Rocks fixed that pretty quickly though - There is no way you can get up anything there without using technique...

Beautiful, technical faces of Smith Rocks

I really appreciate the amount of help and support Rob and Ben have given me over the last few months. Having a coach is something I have always dreamt of, and over the last few months Rob has filled this role. He has written training programs for me and helped me decided how much and what to do. This really has been a treat for me - even if it hurt like hell most of the time! I completed two cycles which were designed to make me suffer and push myself to my limits. I am used to pushing myself both physically and mentally, but not over such a long period of time... This took a new level of mental grit just to keep going week after week!

Finding inspiration in the desert...

My first cycle went well, but ended a week early, due to the worst flu I have ever had - I was bed-ridden for almost a week... Which may have had something to do with being over-tired all the time and maybe not getting the right nutrients. So, for the second cycle I tried to be extra careful to take proper care of myself and coincidentally right at the beginning of the cycle I received a batch of Gnarly Nutrition products to test. There are many things that have an effect on my training, and it is always hard to know exactly what makes a difference... However, I made huge improvements over this last cycle. It is amazing how much power I have gained, and I am sure that using Gnarly religiously before, during and after training has helped a lot!

Check out Gnarly Nutrition!

Now I am happy to have be officially part of the Gnarly team and am excited to continue working with Gnarly and testing the products in the real world of climbing...

Thanks for reading my rambles... Stay posted for an updates from my time at Smith Rocks and fast approaching trip to Europe!

Changing seasons... by Mayan Smith-Gobat

And motivations... It has been a long, cold and  difficult winter. However, although it was often very hard it has actually been a very positive experience and rewarding time - A winter of challenge, learning and change in my approach to life and climbing. I believe I have not only learned a huge amount about how to further myself as a climber, but have also discovered much more of who I really am and what I want from life...

Desert towers at sunset...

I am currently in the final weeks of my second training cycle, and over the last month I have seen huge improvements in all of my weaknesses - I have been permanently tired from trying to climb and keep up with my heavy training load, and yet my strength, power and dynamic movement have been increasing in leaps and bounds.

At the end of last year I tried Just Do It at Smith Rocks, in Baltic conditions and I had the feeling that, though it was a long way off, it was something I could do with time, effort and training... Therefore, throughout the last 3 months of training I have kept that in my mind as a goal and motivator during those long hard training sessions.

On my way to the Monkey Face, Smith Rocks. Photo: Dana Bartus

Now, that the time has come to leave and test how much I really have gained where it really counts, I am finding that I do not really want to... That, because of a particularly cold winter I have barely even seen the desert climbing around here, which was a large reason why I chose to spend the Winter here. The sun has finally come out and temperatures are perfect in the desert right now, it seems a shame to leave when there is so much to do right here!

Getting Ben scared again... Descending from the Ivory Tower, Castleton

Also, over the last few months I have spent any half-reasonable day climbing at the Puoux, where my main climbing partner Ben Rueck, has been trying Gutless, a 5.14b/8c. This climb is up the hill from the majority of the routes, so out of convenience I ended playing on Fault Line 5.13d/8b - A relatively long climb with two distinct sections; the lower part which is totally anti-me, all jumps and big powerful moves between good holds. Then an amazing rest, leading to an extremely technical headwall with tiny holds. Until last week I could not even come close to doing the moves on the lower section, but the top was fun climbing and it was good training, so I kept playing on it, but never even thought I had a chance of doing it...

Fault Line, the Puoux. Photo: Peter Rueck

In my brain it was just training, until a few days ago, when I finally managed to do the moves on the lower section, and get good linkage on the top part! Suddenly my mindset changed and now I really want to do this route, that I have unknowingly invested a lot of time into...

Pulling onto the headwall of Fault Line...Photo: Peter Rueck

After stressing about what to do for the last little while, I realized that Smith Rocks is not going anywhere, and so, even if I do not make it up there now, I will in Fall. My plans for April are still a little flexible, but regards what happens - It will be something good! Bring on Spring!!!

The Fault wall... A nice winter sun trap

Adios America by Mayan Smith-Gobat

El Capitan, Astroman and battling with cracks in Yosemite feel like distant memories, in a different world. The last few weeks have been rather relaxing. I have tried to chill and enjoy some time without pushing myself to my limit. My partner,  Max and I have been traveling around, seeing a little of the USA in true "American style", with a HUGE motor home (RV)... Quite a different way to travel for us, we even had a shower and toilet in the RV. 20091026-_MG_1708_35

After climbing Astroman we headed southwards, to meet some friends at Joshua Tree. Joshua Tree is as different from Yosemite as you can get. It is an almost alien landscape... Warped, gnarled Joshua trees, rounded boulders precariously stacked on top of each other, spiky plants of every kind and large, wide, open spaces. The climbing great, but after Yosemite everything felt very small and insignificant. I loved spending time with some good friends in this environment, but found it hard to be motivated by short routes.

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After a week  we headed north, to Zion National Park, with a brief stop to experience the craziness of Las Vegas on the way. We did not have enough time to do a big wall in Zion, but we did stumble across one of the most amazing sport crags in the USA... Deep inside Kolob Canyon is a beautiful,  steep wall covered in perfect lines of huecos. There are only five routes, but they are totally incredible, super fun and different to anywhere else I have climbed!

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These routes inspired us to find some more sport climbing, so we spent the next couple of days at Cathedral Rock, near St George... apparently one of the best Limestone crags in the USA. It was not quite like French Limestone, but it was really solid, with a great concentration of superb lines. We also stopped past Red Rocks for a handful of short sandstone gems which was a great way to end our trip and prepare my body and mind for a training period back in NZ.

Astroman, no, Astrogirl! by Mayan Smith-Gobat

In 1957 Astroman was first climbed (using about 225 aid placements), in 1975 it was first free climbed, becoming the most continuously difficult free climb in the world, and in 1987 Peter Croft made the first free solo ascent. Today this steep 400m route still holds it's status as one of the most famous and challenging Yosemite test-pieces. My beta map... This is all the information I had on the climb!

Yesterday, I summoned up my courage to test my three week old crack climbing skills on this legendary climb. The result was better than I had dared to imagine. I succeeded in climbing Astroman in the best style... ground up, in one day, leading every pitch on-sight without a single fall. 

About halfway up the 400m of overhung granite.

Astroman has not gained it's fame for no reason, it is amazingly sustained, every pitch was challenging and unforgiving. Its relentless, and testing in every way... from very thin face moves and mantels, to lay-backs, unprotected off-widths and with flaring bottomless chimneys. This is definitely the most sustained and incredible traditional climb I have freed.

Destroyed and content... Relaxing in the RV the next morning.

Free Rider by Mayan Smith-Gobat

The big stone has left its mark.... We were on the wall for a mere three days, and yet it feels as though a life time has passt. I feel as though it has changed me, I have grown and aged in those three days. This huge piece of stone has a presence that dominates me and has left its mark on my life.... I understand now why people return endlessly to the valley, and spend huge amounts of time living in the vertical world.  Partners in crime, Max and I under El Capitan. Photographer: Mark Watson

I decided not to even attempt Golden Gate because it was getting near the end of the season, storms were becoming more frequent and the weather windows shorter. Choosing rather to attempt Free Rider 5.12d (27) instead, which is a little shorter and not quite as hard, therefore hopefully achievable in three days... giving us one day to spare before the next storm hit.

Sorting gear in preparation for Free Rider. Photographer: Mark Watson

This plan did not leave us much time for error, and also allowed me very little time to work and red-point any pitches that I did not manage to do first shot, but I was more in favor of this, than not climbing El Capitan at all. So, we spent the next next day sorting our gear and then to lighten the load on Max and I, we hauled the bags up to heart ledges in the dark.

Gear... Em's Power Bars were a vital ingredient for our success. Photographer: Max Farr

The first day went really well, we were up by 4am, by midday we had blasted out the "Free Blast" (the first 11 pitches of the Salathe Wall), and arrived at the Mamoth terraces. The down-climb was interesting, but went smoothly, leaving us at the base of the Hollow flake; where unfortunately we were held up for about an hour by a slower team. This gave me a much welcomed rest, but unfortunately meant that I ran out of daylight before attempting the "Monster", a 50m off-width which takes a number 6 Camalot nearly all the way up. Even though the "Monster" is only graded 5.11b, most climbers find it one of the crux pitches, and most attempt this pitch with full-body armor. So, once again at that moment I was happy to have a good excuse not to have to climb it right then, but in retrospect this hugely reduced my chances of free climbing the route.

Me, near the end of our first day on Free Rider, just below the "Monster". Photographer: Mark Watson

The following morning I gathered my tiered body together and threw myself at the pitch repetitively, but the rock was slightly damp and already too warm for me to succeed in doing the powerful and friction dependent downwards traverse which leads into the "Monster". With precious time ticking and a storm brewing, I was forced to accept that this time I would not be able to achieve my goal of freeing climbing El Capitan. I was faced with a choice between pushing on for the summit in whatever style I could or  try to work out the crux pitches and then return to the ground. It was a very hard call to make, and in the end we fixed a few more pitches that day, but left the decision open. I desperately wanted the top, it is something I have dreamed of all my life, but I also wanted to achieve it in a particular style... My goal is free climbing, and I found it very difficult to accept that this time I might have to use some aid if I wanted to get to the top in the amount of time we had available.... The "storm of the  century" was brewing!

Finally we decided to charge for the top. That last day on the headwall of El Capitan was mind blowing. We were up 5am, jugging our fixed lines by 6am and climbing by 7am. I lead 14 pitches that day, free climbing (on-sight) the majority of the route, but resorting to pulling on gear through the crux sections to save time. At dusk we were in a crazily exposed position halfway up the headwall, hanging on a couple of fixed wires in a splitter hand crack, 800m above the valley floor with another five pitches to climb. My energy levels had crashed and I almost lost it when I rounded a corner to what I expected to be a ledge and was confronted with another epic off-width. With Max's undying support, I managed to pull my wasted body together, and succeeded to on-sight the last three pitches to the summit, including a 5.11a roof-crack! We reached the summit at midnight, after 18 hours of climbing, to a much welcomed greeting from our friends, Mark and Hanah, who had thankfully not given up on us.

Tiered, but happy... sorting gear at the top of El Capitan. Photographer: Mark Watson

The next morning we slowly made our way back down to the valley floor, and with the weather becoming more and more threatening we decided to bail with our friends that afternoon. The clouds were pouring into the valley as we drove out, and half an hour after we crossed Tioga Pass it was closed due to heavy snow fall... Perfect timing!

I did not achieve my goal of freeing El Capitan, but I did lead every pitch (other than the monster off-width). Even though my body still hurts with every movement and my hands are so swollen that I can barely type this update, three days later, I have a burning desire to return to the valley and complete my goal of freeing El Capitan. I have learned a huge amount during the three days on the wall, and feel much better equipped for my next attempt. This experience has given me confidence that I can complete this goal, and has fueled fire in my heart and my love for these huge vertical expanses.

Max and I at the summit, ready for the long desent back to the insanity of the valley floor. Photographer: Mark Watson

Yosemite Valley by Mayan Smith-Gobat

Finally I have arrived back in Yosemite.... My first experience in this amazing valley of granite, was when I was three years old, with my parents. Ever since then I have dreamed of spending some time learning to climb these incredible walls with endless splitter cracks. As expected, my first week here has been a humbling (and at times humiliating) experience. Nearly everyday I have come back frustrated, with my tail between my legs, cursing the cracks and the crazy amount of gear necessary for trad climbing. Yet, I am also amazingly psyched to learn, improve and broaden my skills.  Dagmar (my mother) and I under El Capitan

This trip here has also been enriched by returning here with my Mother, cooking wonderful meals and telling stories of Yosemite in the the 1960's. In addition I have enjoyed the presence of a great crew of fellow Kiwis, who have provided endless amounts of support, inspiration, beta and laughs.

Matt Everad on the incredible finger crack "Butter Balls" 5.11c

The last few days have been divided between cragging with my friends and familiarizing myself with the lower part of El Capitan, trying to get my head around the mammoth task of free climbing this huge face, learning the necessary skills and building up my fitness for this style of climbing. The temperatures are dropping and it feels as though winter is on its way, therefore our time is limited and El Capitan is calling my name.

A Parting Gift by Mayan Smith-Gobat

Our time at Ceuse has come to an end, and unfortunately this also marks the end of our time in this wonderful country (France). However, for me the last couple of days here could not have been more perfect. I achieved one of my life goals: to climb 8c (33) before my 30th birthday. It happened at my favourite place, and at one of the most beautiful, atmospheric crags in the world! Locking down the first crux of L'arcademicien 8c

Today (5 Sept) I made the first female ascent of “L’arcademicien”, a real 8c, during a stunning sunset. I clipped the chains with an incredible felling of elation and relief, just as the full moon was rising!

Mincing on the tiny crimpers on real crux of L'arcademicien 8c

“L’arcademicien” is a relatively new route, yet is very typical “Ceuse-style” climbing. It follows a grey streak up 25 meters of very sustained, technical climbing on micro holds, interrupted by the occasional long lock to a reasonable hold. Not only is this the hardest route I have climbed, but also the first time a Kiwi woman has climbed 8c, and the second NZ ascent of an 8c outside of New Zealand.

Reaching...

I have dedicated the last two weeks at Ceuse to this route, carefully considering every attempt, yet always approaching it with passion and commitment. I believe this focus combined with a myriad of other factors, lead to my success on “L’arcademicien”. The route suited my climbing style, I was well rested (two rest days payed off, yet again!), the conditions were finally good. I managed to let go of my expectations and desire for success, which freed me to truly focus on climbing. In addition, I had an unwavering source of support and belief from my partner. This support helped me maintain high, but balanced levels of self-belief and confidence that were necessary for me to give every attempt my absolute best, yet realistic enough so that failures would not result in disappointment or frustration.

Does the crimping ever finish... One of the last hard moves on L'arcademicien 8c

The timing was perfect; I only had one more climbing day at Ceuse before heading back up to Germany and preparing for the next challenge: In mid-September we fly to the USA, where my partner and I intend to spend two months learning to climb cracks in Yosemite Valley.

Girl Power! by Mayan Smith-Gobat

How many times have we all thought that it would be great to see more strong girls out at the crag? Until this summer, my mind had often been occupied by thoughts like this...  However, at Ceuse this summer there seems to be almost more females climbing hard routes than men! I have definitely witnessed more impressive sends by women this summer than ever before. I have often wished to be surrounded by more females climbing around my level (or stronger), but had almost given up hope that it would ever happen! Therefore, I have found this influx of strong women climbers very inspiring and motivating.

Mid crux on "Le Chirurgien du Crepscule" 8b, Ceuse

 

Yes, I am still at Ceuse, plans have changed a little due to the fact that I have to get some dentistry work done.... Grrrr 

But on the up-side, is there a better place to be stuck in European summer than Ceuse? I do not think that I could ever get sick of this atmospheric place, or run out of climbs to try here. My latest achievement was "Le Chirurgien du Crepscule" 8b, a technical and fingery master piece, on another blank and beautiful piece of Ceuse limestone.

Just another dead-point to a tiny pocket on "Le Chirurgien du Crepscule"

Resting by Mayan Smith-Gobat

I have just returned to Ceuse after spending the last ten days with my family, at their house near the West coast of France. It has been refreshing for me to be totally removed from my climbing life, and beautiful to see them all relaxing in the sun, enjoying a quiet, little oasis in the middle of rural France. Climbing is my passion in life, but after three months of living on the road and climbing at a high level, it can become a bit of a routine. My body still felt fine, but my temper and patience were starting to become strained. Therefore, this has been a welcome and necessary break.

Before leaving Ceuse, I summoned up the courage to join the hoards of holiday climbers on the slabs to get to the impressive roof above. “Radote Joli Pepere” 8b took me several days, as the last boulder was very hard for me. While my quick-draws were on I witnessed eight ascents of this route, most of which were within three attempts, and included on onsight by a Swiss woman… Very impressive!

On the crux move of Radote Joli Pepere 8b

This is the third summer I have spent a period of time a Ceuse. Every year the level of climbing rises, but this year I have found it most striking. There seems to be an endless stream of strong climbers kicking ass on most of the hard routes around. This year I am also thrilled to see a large increase in the amount of strong females and  young climbers.

Berlin Wall by Mayan Smith-Gobat

This gently overhanging wall, with a large concentration of beautiful, sustained routes between 7c and 8a+, is one of my favourite, and it is possibly the sector I have climbed at most in Ceuse. On each of my trips here (over the last few years) I have climbed a few routes on this sector, slowly working my way along the wall from left to right. It is one of my goals is to climb every route on is sector! My latest send, and the most difficult for me so far, was Dolce Vita 8a+, this route is much more bouldery than the others on this wall, with long, powerful moves on small holds.

 

Mayan climbing the first part of the crux of Dolce Vita 8a+

 

This trip I have been really enjoying the social aspect and positive vibes created by sharing information with other climbers. A striking and inspiring encounter I have had was with Alexander, a 14-year-old Polish boy who is on a three-month climbing trip alone. He is tiny for his age, but that is not stopping him from crushing 8a’s. He insists that grades do not mater to him, and climbs simply for the fun of it, always with a smile.

 

Alex sending his first 8a "Petit Tom", third attempt