A Brand New World

Change is hard. I’m usually pretty good at adapting to changes but sometimes I can be a bit resistant. When the change required quitting my job and moving from South Africa to Austria, I expected it to be challenging. I also knew that it would be an adventure that I would never regret.

I landed in Austria on the 13th of March and I have been adapting quite well. It was great to be able to keep on working for my old company in South Africa as a contractor, very helpful in relieving the stress of not having a job. It gave me plenty of time to acclimate to the new country, while giving me the flexibility to have fun at the same time.

The language has been a bit challenging at times but I’m definitely learning and enjoying speaking German, granted I speak mainly English at home. At the crags and while I’m travelling, it’s often a mix of the two languages but I’m feeling like I can at least express myself well enough to get by.

My Travels in Europe

So far, so good. The people here are brilliant and the countries surrounding me are beautiful. Claudia and I have been climbing in Arco, Germany and Austria. We have been to Vienna for a walk around the parliament buildings and gardens, which are beautiful! I even managed to catch concert in München!

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Claudia having a little fun in Vienna

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Parkway Drive performing in München

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Catching up on rest in Verona

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A short hike ended up a 11km, 5 hour 1600 vertical meter journey. What an amazing day out with Claudia!

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It’s important to relax

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Catching a tan at the Taugl, a nearby river

Photo shoots with Claudia

I had the pleasure of assisting Claudia on some photo jobs this year. I helped build a training area in the barn for La Sportiva’s summer clothing. Was fantastic to meet Stefano Gisolfi and Sylvio Reffo, along with their two lovely ladies! Matteo Pavana was also on the shoot to make a training film for La Sportiva.

 

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Matteo, Stefano, Sara, Sylvio and Fransesca chilling on our couch. Photo by Claudia Ziegler

One such job took us to Gröden for a shoot with Leki where I even got to be in a few of the pictures. It really caught me off guard when I saw the photos on the wall at the Outdoor Trade Show in Friedrichshafen!

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Sunrise in the mountains… Big hike in the dark to start off the day

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Relaxing in the sunset

New Sponsors

One of the most important events that I’ve attended so far was the Outdoor Trade Show. It was there that I met with DMM and La Sportiva, which brings me to some great news. I have been offered a sponsorship deal for equipment from DMM and a clothing / shoe deal with La Sportiva for 2018. I am beyond excited to be able to continue to work with the two brands from Austria after having parted ways upon leaving South Africa.

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La Sportiva shared a great selection of clothing with me. Photo by Claudia Ziegler

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I’m so happy to be able to work with these two brands.

 

Training and Climbing

Anyone who knows me, knows how much I love to train! I have been keeping very fit since I’ve been here. Running, climbing, hangboarding, the works and I’m in pretty much the best shape of my life. I feel strong, I feel fit and I am healthy.

 

It’s been a godsend that I have a hangboard in my bedroom, though I have not had to use it that much this summer. Why hangboard when you can climb till 9:30 at night?

 

Arco has some fantastic climbing! That’s for sure. Admittedly, the ice cream is to die for!! Every day we were there we had to have ice cream!! and sometimes pizza too.

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The Koloseum at Maltatal! So much fun!

Without a doubt, my favourite area so far is the Barmstein. I have spent more time there than anywhere else, and for good reason! The routes are long and sustained, making them so much fun because it is really easy to progress on them.

I climbed the Elefant Trio (as I like to call them): an 8a+, 8b and 8b+. All are 45m long and completely amazing climbing! Here are two pics from Stenofant (8b) that Claudia took on a sunrise shoot.

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The author on Stenofant (8b) Photo by Claudia Ziegler

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Spot the climber… Sunrise at the Barmstein Photo by Claudia Ziegler

After I climbed Elefantenspatziergang (8b+) Claudia and I went back for a second photo shoot. What came out of it was really quite special. Thank you La Sportiva for the clothing for the shoot!

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Setting off in the dark

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Focused on the slopers

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Keeping the core

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Power through the crimps

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Hold the cut

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Take a deep breath

 

My Fortress of Solitude 

 

Life, love, the universe. So many distractions to pull me around. Sometimes, I need to find a way to channel my focus; I need an incentive to drive me toward. I returned from an amazing two weeks in Austria with Claudia primarily being there for the holidays with her but also having climbed some superb routes. 7b+ onsight, near 7c+ flash. Great fun.

Sharing a day on the ledge at Wilhelmswand

Approach to Wilhelmswand

-5C in the shade, belaying out of the snow. BRILLIANT

Walking around in Salzburg, Claudia saw this. I guess you could say the writing is on the wall (photo by Claudia Ziegler)

My time in South Africa is coming to an end, I’m leaving for Austria on the 13th of March. It left me thinking about what I still want to achieve in the time here. My biggest goal is Shear Force and it will be my first 8c. It’s been the hardest line I’ve worked and been an absolute pleasure to climb. But it is seriously hard. I’ve watched Andrew, my mentor and friend, fall off the crux move repeatedly. I’ve seen him struggle and even get hurt by the line.

How am I supposed to climb a line that Andrew couldn’t?

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Andrew setting up for the last move in the crux — Photo by Zele Angelides

Andrew Pedley on Shear Force (8c)

Andrew Pedley on Shear Force (8c) — Photo by Zele Angelides

Well, I guess you could say I have to walk my own path. My time is precious and limited. I work all day and I have 2.5 hours of lectures for German on Mondays and Wednesdays. I also want to have a Skype date with Claudia at least once a week for a few hours in the evening.

So what do I need to do?

I chose to compete in the National Boulder League on a Monday. Normally,  competitors have two hours but I can only arrive at 9 and the gym closes at 10. So, I need to race through the problems, 12 in an hour. Perfect quiet day after two days in rock over the weekend (holds up sarcasm sign).

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Focusing on the tricky balance problem during the NBL (Photo by Allister Fenton)

Tuesday became my big day. 30 minutes bouldering to warm up, 30 minutes campus training, about 2 hours on the Beastmaker 2000 then 45 minutes core and legs. This is my definition of a hard training session.

My hangboard sessions include two major exercises at the moment. Beastmaker has an amazing training app, I use the 7B program as a benchmark. I struggled severely to complete the 7A at first. This cycle I was able to start at 7B.

A month later, I’m doing the 7B with 9 repeats of 7 on 3 rest with 4 kg extra weight followed by the 7C+ program shortly after. This focuses on power endurance and fiber strength.

If my fingers aren’t too sore afterwards, I do the Chris Webb Parsons program which one discussed in detail previously. This focuses on lock off strength while building crimp strength.

Wednesday I have class again so I either get in a quick session with 15 minutes bouldering for warmup, then 45 minutes on the hangboard and campus board. This session is normally designed to be a bit easier than the past few days so that I can move freely on the wall or work slightly different muscles than the previous day’s training.

Thursday became either a really light session or a fantastic, long Skype session. I’ve been preferring to take 2 days of rest before the weekend to let the body fully recover before the project.

Friday is rest. Saturday and Sunday of on rock, hitting Shear Force. Every weekend has been a high point. It’s been four weeks of close calls and I think it could go any try. I held the hold for about a second on Sunday before my core crumpled and that was the end of Brian.

Hmm. Reading this makes me think about how crazy this schedule actually is. But this is actually only half of the story.

The other half is how I’ve changed my habits. I haven’t had any alcohol or meat since I’ve been back. I really enjoy my wine and I usually would have a portion of meat at least once a day, so this is really a big deal. This means passing up that burger and beer after training, or the glass of wine I’m offered, and trading it for a bit more rest and some sleep.

Between my training schedule and my diet, I’ve dropped a few kgs and I feel lighter and stronger than I’ve felt in the last two years. I’m finally feeling like I’ve moved away from being injured back to feeling like I’m peaking.

The view I’m going to have from home soon – – thanks for the reminder Claudia

I find myself walking my path, alone. There is no one pushing me, or pulling me forward. I have my goal, I have a time limit and I feel like this route is one of the biggest goals I’ve ever set for myself. I find myself in my own personal Fortress of Solitud where the connections to my past are structuring my goals and my future.
Will I do my first 8c? Time will tell.

The author on Shear Force (photo by Claudia Ziegler)

Well, it really doesn't get much closer than that… Final boulder crux of Shear Force (8c)

A post shared by Brian Weaver (@brianmweaver) on

Ticking the Projects

Sometimes it takes a long time to do something you expect to be easy. I’ve experienced this on a few lines over the years but one that stands out heavily is Stormwatch in Fernkloof. When I climbed the original line, it took me ages! But I did it in a season and was happy.

It took me considerably longer to climb the direct version. There were some other factors that played a role in this, such as psych and injuries, but all in all, it took me a really long time.  I remember the day that everything started to go pear-shaped, it was last March. I warmed up on Stormwatch Direct and fell a move from the chains, above the last hard move. That was the first time I really dorked a project. Grivin sent the original version after that. He and I went up to Aqualung, where I fell above the crux — Griv sent. STRONG!

After that day, my confidence seemed to disappear and life got in the way. I had to watch all my friends tick it Direct before me. First was Ivan

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Photo by Zele Angelides

Then it was Ebert

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Photo by Eraine van Schalkwyk

 

Then Grivin

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Grivin on Hoodlum (7b+). Photo by Leslie McNicol

Then James

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All these guys started working the route after I did and all of them ticked it before me. It was awesome to see the progression happening around me but a bit hard at the same time. I’d lose my psych and then it would come back, then it would be gone again.

In the end, I just needed a bit of focus and a lot of strength. What finally did it for me was walking away so I could put in a few weekends on Sheer Force in Boven. I was getting to the last move. It motivated me to train hard and eat right, well, maybe eat a little less at least.

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Taking a step back and enjoying the view from the top of Sheer Force — Photo by Claudia Ziegler

I had not been on Stormwatch in months and when I wen to Fernkloof for a day trip with James, I did not have any expectations. James sent and it was glorious!! And that was when I dorked it, again. I made it through the pinch moves I struggle with so severely and fell off with my hand wrapped around the jug underneath the first roof. I felt really stupid but was sure it would go next try. But it didn’t.

I came back the next weekend with James and fell in the same spot on the Saturday. I woke up the Sunday morning feeling sick. I trudged into the kloof and felt weak on my first try, didn’t even manage Faberge (7c) — my standard warm up. My second try I slipped. But then, in the midst of the weird euphoria, and slightly dissociative state from being sick, I pulled myself together and made to the rest. I could hear James cheering me on from below! The psych was contagious! I sat in the kneebar for a few moments before cruising up to the chains without a pump.

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Setting up for some of the hard moves on Stormwatch Direct (8b) Photo by Michelle van Aswegen

It’s funny sometimes how ticking one route can put you into the right state of mind… I found focus again, trained hard and stayed psyched. Went on an amazing trip around the country (more on that next time). Even dusted off the trad rack for a climb or two.

Alex

Alex Bester opening Fear and Loathing (7c+) Photo by Michelle van Aswegen

I’d been psyched to do Fear and Loathing (7c+) in Mhlabatini for a long time. In fact, it was the first route I tried after my knee op! Granted, I tried it on top rope with Andrew and Ebert, but I made me excited. The second time I tried it, I was with Ebert. We got OWNED! Neither of us could make it to the chains. Embarrassingly, we had to cheat out way up, using a long stick and a nut taped to it. Not a proud moment.

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Setting up for the crux — Photo by Ockert Joubert

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Thankfully, Andrew got a hold of me a few weeks back and was keen to try it with me. We made our way through the icy water and found ourselves at the base of the climb.I went up first and found some simpler gear placements but still couldn’t get to the top. Good thing Andrew was there, he figured it out in no time at all. This got me thinking that I needed to climb the route my own way, rather than relying on Alex and Andrew’s jumping sequence.

So I shook things up, I found the kneebar that I pointed out the second I saw the route for the first time. It took a bit of effort to work it out without a pad, but it went easily enough for sure. Didn’t mean that the route was easy. It took me 4 tries the next weekend before it finally went and the send was pretty desperate. Pretty solid at the grade 7c+, that’s for sure.

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Fear and Loathing (7+) It’s pretty steep!

The next week, I went back to get some footage. Was pretty cool to be there with Alex

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Alex and me — checking out my placements and looking at the project that will go up the face right of Fear and Loathing

All in all, I really loved the line… We shot a pretty cool sequence. Hope you like it!

Nostalgia

It’s been about 6 weeks since I got back from my amazing trip to Spain. I was going through some of my pics and came across a little video that I had shot while I was climbing a really cool 7c+ in the L’Olla sector and I thought I needed to share it. Was the first 7c+ I tried there and I managed it 3rd try. It’s completely my antistyle, short and bouldery and culminates in a big dyno and then a mantle onto a slab at the top, which you can’t quite see.

The Prodigy Lives up to its Name

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Trust me! I’m an expert!

IMG_20151213_201237I picked up my DMM Prodigy when I landed in Spain and I was instantly impressed. At 61g/m it is lighter than most of its competition. It is the same weight as the Beal Diablo 9.8, 1g/m lighter than the Edelrid Heron and 3g/m lighter than the Mammut Eternity range of ropes. The thing that impressed me the most was that the rope does not feel heavy when you’re tied in! The finish makes it glide through quick draws like its not even there!

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Brand new! How pretty is that?!?

The majority of the lines I was climbing in Spain were 40m+ and I never battled with the rope. I onsighted several 7cs that were really long and steep. Each of them left me feeling really pumped but when the time came to clip the weight of the rope was never an issue!

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The author onsighting Kameleon (7c) in Montsant. A 50m climb on tenuous pockets.

The sheath of the rope is durable! Next level durable! For a month, 4 guys climbed on my rope almost every day on every type of climbing. We thrashed the Prodigy and it put us in our places. I have a lot of respect for the engineering of this beauty!

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The crew! We put it to the test…

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Trust me, I climbed a lot

Between the 4 of us, we logged over 220 attempts on the rope, varying from really short, harsh falls to 15m+ whippers! We dogged routes. We projected. We fought through endless battles with the Prodigy and at the end of the month, all we had to show for it was a little fluff on the one end. That’s it. A little fluff.

In conclusion, I would like the thank DMM for making it possible for me to climb all the beautiful long routes in Siurana! Without the Prodigy, it just would not have been possible!

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Getting ready to try Photo Shot (8b) in Margalef

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Photo Shot (8b)

 

 

Living the Life…

I’ve been living in a tent for the last 3 weeks in Camping Siurana. The journey up to this point has been a very interesting one. Before the trip began I was in Cape Town with Yvette for a week.

It was really special to be at two of my really good friends’ weddings so close together. I felt very privileged to be able to spend the time with Yvette and witness two unforgettable occasions!

 

I worked out of the Cape Town office during the week but thanks to the long days was able to get in some bouldering up in Echo Valley.

 

I got back to Joburg after the time in the Cape feeling a bit stressed. Things weren’t quite where I needed them to be before going off for a month. With some sort of a miracle, I managed to fix everything that needed to be fixed before saying good bye to Yvette and starting the journey to Spain.

Grivin and I flew to Abu Dhabi, where we had one of the longest layovers in history. This was my fault, but I couldn’t do anything about it. 19 hours in the airport really was unpleasant. By the time we finally arrived in Barcelona, I’d been up from Thursday morning till Saturday afternoon. I was starting to fall asleep on the drive and I was driving.

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Hmmm, I’m in the airport and this is all I can think about!

It really was a full on epic to arrive but we are finally here. We found the ultimate campsite and poached as many chairs as we could find so that we could be awesome. Besides, no one else was here.

Grivin and I started our climbing bright and early on the Sunday morning, neither of us were capable of climbing on the day we arrived. We started off climbing some easy stuff, up to 7a+. Then we got to check out this awesome sunset!

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It was fun to be able to onsight a whole bunch of new stuff. I quickly found my rhythm and was onsighting 7b+ and 7c in no time at all. There have been a bunch of close calls on 7c+ onsights but nothing just yet.

I have met a bunch of cool guys in Spain, one of which is an 18 year old Scotsman on a gap year. Callum, is onsighting 8a and 8a+ on the pocketed rock at Montsant and is quite a beast.

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Expert belay skills coming through

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He was there when Grivin gave us the fright of a lifetime. I think he took a few years off my life when he reached up to that first draw and came tumbling down to the ledge and then rolled off it. I thought he was simply dead, but then he started screaming violently. By the time Callum and I reached him, I feared the worst. He was laying in a very contorted position with his arms and legs twisted behind his back. I rushed off to get my phone and call for a rescue. He had just fallen 12m and done a backflip off the ledge in the process, the madness!!!

 

Some of the locals came around and were amazing in the assist. The Catalonia Fire Department came in a blazing and very dexterously dealt with Grivin, who was now sitting upright and joking with us. He was carried out in a basket and rushed to the hospital for x-rays. 

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After a ride in the ambulance and a scintillating time at the St Joan Hospital in Reus, I drove Grivin back to the campsite where we drank beer and celebrated life with no major injuries for the Grasshopper, now known only as FIRST DRAW. The legend of first draw has spread far and everyone now thinks of the young blond guy before removing their draw from anything they climb. The legend even reached South Africa where people are now saying, “Don’t do a Grivin, be careful at that first draw.” I’m just glad he’s ok. The only thing that is still bothering him is his heel, but it’s ok, we’ve got an Ausie to help with that!

20151231_132151Enter Les McNicol, a very cool climber who’s spent the last two years working in the UK. Never have my sides been so sore from the hysterics in the campsite. He’s the stuff that legends are made of, and he brings the psych with him! Talented photographer and all-around good guy. Fantastic to keep the psych high on a trip like this. 12486103_10153847575416613_4843680125270005195_o

It’s been fantastic to be based in one area, we have spent a few days in Montsant as well and I find it very challenging. A sea of pockets on 60m walls on which one can drown in waves of pump before sinking on to your ropes, screaming. I tried to onsight an 8a and 8a+ there and found myself way out of my element. The technical 50m 7c on the other hand was right up my alley and Les was there with the lens to capture the moment and the sunset.

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Kamaleon (7c) — 50m of technical pockets and slab at sunset

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Falconetti (8a+) – Burly!

This brings us to the New Year, it was strange indeed for us foreigners — not a single bar or restaurant opened till after midnight. Fortunately for us Camping Siurana was open and leading the way for the celebration. At midnight we ate 12 grapes and shared in sparkling wine to toast in 2016. I started to feel absolutely rotten that night, I think I caught the plague from our Ausie friend! Fortunately, the beer and huge shot of warm tequila killed the plague and brought me back from the brink!

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This is how we prepared for the new year!

I met a few awesome people at the party! Great contacts that I really hope to host in South Africa someday! Got to love Facebook! Well, now I’m about to wrap up my post and go try one of Toni’s new projects with him — So much for resting. Psych is just too high to handle the down time.

 

 

A Question of Ethics

It’s been almost exactly 1 year since my knee op. It was the 2nd of October last year when I went under the knife. I have been training hard and going through loads of rehab to get back to my former self. I hit quite a high point with my send of Rolihlahla, but since then I’ve been fighting quite an uphill battle. Been spending a great deal of time at Chosspile, working on finalizing Shadowfax (8b+) but due to the early onset of summer, I abandoned it for the season.

As a result, I started heading through to Boven a bunch. Jumped on Backcountry Butcher (8b) and was getting really close to the send when I broke the key hold. The result of this was that I had to abandon the climb for the weekend. It did inspire me to get back on Rodan and I’ve been obsessed ever since.

I did head back there and fix the hold at least. Now this is where the ethic issue, should I have fixed it or left it as it became?

The broken hold

The broken hold

The absent hold

The absent hold

The tiny gaston that was revealed

The tiny gaston that was revealed. It feels much worse than it looks and it looks small and slopey

I tried the move a few times and it felt pretty impossible to me. As it is, the boulder problem is in the vicinity of 7B+/7C and that is with the butcher’s hook in place. The butcher’s hook is a sharp, nasty little pocket that is pretty tough to hold on to and left me with a huge blood blister last time I was on it.

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My poor finger tip

So this was the result. I had the hold in my hand and I was asked by the first ascentionist to glue it back.

The back of the hold

The back of the hold

A little bit of sica and a lot of of effort later, the hold was back in place pretty much as close to perfect as I could get it.

The fixed hold

The fixed hold

The tiny butcher's hook

The tiny butcher’s hook

Last weekend I was able to capitalize on my effort. I got the third ascent. The thing feels seriously hard still and I really can’t imagine doing to climb without the hold. My conscience is clear, but the peanut gallery sure has a lot to say… A group of guys who have never tried the climb or shown any interest in the climb, until I’m fixing it.

Oh well, what’s done is done.

On to the next big thing!

David Wade snapped a few shots of my on my current obsession. Just need one good day on it and I should be able to wrap up my long-term nemesis: Rodan (8b+).

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The awkward gaston cross

A little snatch

A little snatch

The butterknife crimp

The butterknife crimp

Crossed over

Crossed over

Snatching the intermediate

Snatching the intermediate

Ready to launch for the final hold

Ready to launch for the final hold–I just need to get here!!!

On a side note, got to hang out with DMM UK athletes Mina Leslie-Wujastyk and Katy Whittaker. The two of them are in Boven and then heading to Wow Prow. Mina climbed Monster, flashed Lotter’s and then flashed Snapdragon on the same day. Not bad for a boulder! She’s pretty damn awesome. Hoping to get back there this weekend and hear how she did on Godzilla! The psych with the British team was unbelievable!

Mina on Monster (7c+) photo by Nick Brown

Mina on Monster (7c+) photo by Nick Brown