A DREAM CROSS-OVER

La Rose et Le Vampire. A story of the first 8b

26 September 2008 <!-- /* Style Definitions */ p.MsoNormal, li.MsoNormal, div.MsoNormal {mso-style-parent:""; margin:0cm; margin-bottom:.0001pt; mso-pagination:widow-orphan; font-size:12.0pt; font-family:"Times New Roman"; mso-fareast-font-family:"Times New Roman";} @page Section1 {size:595.3pt 841.9pt; margin:70.85pt 2.0cm 2.0cm 2.0cm; mso-header-margin:35.4pt; mso-footer-margin:35.4pt; mso-paper-source:0;} div.Section1 {page:Section1;} --> by Antoine Le Menestrel LA ROSE ET LE VAMPIRE First ascent: 1986 Route opener:Antoine Le Menestrel Grade: 8b (one of the first 8b's, if not the first) Text written between 1986 and 2007 PRESENTATION The crag of Buoux is filled with history, from the first routes opened by aid climbing with  pitons to the most difficult routes. Among the many stories, I will tell you about my Buoux and its famous route, "La rose et le vampire". Climbing is the story we experience. Life is one pitch. Climbing shows us, through the mirror of the ascent, our own different facets. Height generates a challenge, our climbing partner belays our life. At the foot of the rock lies the choice of a pitch making a wish come true. I choose a universe, a difficulty, an effort, the beauty of a "line", its story. It is with these needs that my desire to climb is expressed, almost a primitive hunger.Buoux is a magical place. If the wish grows inside of me it means that a story experienced will emerge to the surface of my being, just like champagne bubbles in a little corner of paradise where the Aiguebrun runs all year round. HISTORY Life in Buoux began in the Stone Age, 125,000 years ago. The Neanderthals lived here for a period lasting roughly 90,000 years. In the Neolithic period, roughly 6,000 BC, after Wurm's last glaciation, caves were used as burial places: almost 200 tombs have been dug out directly from the rock. During medieval times the Aiguebrun valley was without a doubt an area for hermits, definitely influenced by a form of ascetism originating in Syria: stilitism (from the Greek stylos: column). These "athletes of God" lived on top of high columns absolutely immobile. The basins, staircases, holes for supporting beams and the water channels could be attributed to them. After scientific studies it is thought that those carvings in the rock were made in the 8th century (era of Charlemagne), during periods of overpopulation. ROCK The rock is formed from urgonian molasse which dates back to the Miocene period (between 12 and 25 million years ago). It is a sedimentary rock, made from the succession of stratified marine deposits: by climbing a metre of rock one crosses about twenty million years worth of the earth's history. Buoux's rock is unique and special: without cracks, it resists freezing and consequently time. Its Latin name is mola and is derived from its use for carving out mill-stones from the rock. The crag's shape is round and warm, voluptuous and coloured. ITS OPENING In 1985 Laurent Jacob, Jean Baptiste Tribout, my brother Marc and I, were in search of the most extreme lines achievable. It was Laurent Jacob with an inexhaustible passion for opening routes who introduced us to the joys of equipping; discovering a line, equipping it in the best possible way in order to let other climbers repeat it, finally having the honour of leaving one's name at the foot of the route after having freed it. He continuously perfected his equipment; etrieres, hand perforator and he would bring pitons with him which were available to all the other equippers. We did not want to force a move creating a route to be done over again just for the sake of it, instead we tried to adapt to the rock following the path towards which the mineral score led us along. It was not about exploiting a piece of rock, but following the allure of a beautiful line. It is an honour for us as equippers to be in contact with a virgin area. There are very few in the world: they are precious. Our job as equippers is to tame the naked rock and to continue nature's creation by transforming it. This is what I mean by being creative in adapting to the rockŠ While we abseiled down, one question tormented us: would there be enough holds? This was the biggest uncertainty. The day I descended for the first time, what a marvel, there were holds, but they were too small to climb the route at the time. In spite of everything, the will to climb pushed me to consolidate a few holds and improve other ones; nonetheless there is no hold chipped which comes from nowhere; the rock dictated my work, but I added a creative part to the moves. There was no limit between improving the holds and the size of them! I could only judge from my own personal appreciation. When I equipped this pitch I gave it a direction, vertical, and already in this sense I was the one to intervene. Successively I worked on the holds till they no longer hurt. Before the advent of sports climbing this practice did not exist, rarely did one intervene on holds simply because there was no red pointing, but with sports climbing it is inconceivable to repeat a movement on a sharp hold. For me, the action of improving holds represented a lack of respect for future generations. I would open routes for the line, the movements, the challenge. I then moved on from an individual dimension to a cultural dimension because I linked "La rose et le vampire" to the climbing community. The wish to express myself chipping a pitch would have revealed itself as an end in itself. You cannot have everything. After this experience I thought that I had forced the rock too much: I was no longer creative in adapting to the rock but I became a creator of routes. It has been with the advent of climbing gyms that I have been able to channel this creativity; in the crags I would have continued to open routes respecting the playing field. I started creating moves on the campus board, which became a clean slate to work on, a support which gave vent to my unfulfilled dreams regarding original routes. I thus became creator of artificial routes and the first international competition route setter. This represented a second revelation, because while I created a route on an artificial structure I arranged the holds writing a script with gestures whose drama would be interpreted by the athletes. This brought me to rank the sequences depending on the type of difficulty which I would encounter. I thus discovered that I was a choreographer! AVOIDING CHIPPED HOLDS What I like about free climbing in the environment is having an intimate relationship with the rock. The less human intervention there is, the fewer voluntary acts of creating holds on the rock, the more my soul can feel in communion with the spirit of the rock. Instead chipped holds presuppose a relationship with whoever opened the route. From then I started to eliminate holds that I had chipped. I became intrigued by the game of eliminating chipped holds at least as much as colouring pitons yellow and using only natural holds. Eliminating chipped holds means: making the rock symbolically more similar to its initial state; enjoying this purification; becoming elated by the gestures of a natural movement; giving birth within us to a creative rushŠ When sports climbing began we enjoyed painting the pitons yellow that were no longer needed in aid climbing. In parallel I realized that I could no longer stand climbing on chipped holds, I no longer perceived the pleasure of movement and its relationship with this mineral. From this supposition, I started the game of repeating all the routes of Buoux without using chipped holds and I wrote a guide from this game. I ascertained that there are pitches which are easier without using chipped holds and that one can even catalogue the styles of chipping! I added "La rose et le vampire" to the guide of the re-climbed routes without using chipped holds because I had intentionally widened a bi-doigt to make it possible for even short people to try the route. By intervening on a hold we act irreparably. This was a real and true realisation: holds are the Achilles heel of climbing. A hold is as precious as a stone, "the precious hold" connects us with the universe: we go back in time climbing on limestone. When we start to climb a pitch we go back thousands of years, and as we slowly reach the top we get closer to the present. I find it just as beautiful that this activity is undertaken on a few square centimetres of mineral. If a crazy man or terrorist should ruin a hold this would be irreparable. After all climbing is based on tacit consent, nobody has ever put in writing the ethics of climbing. A silence which makes our activity exist for ever. A DREAM CROSS-OVER This creative attitude allowed me discover the "Rose's cross-over", a movement which did not exist in climbing vocabulary: the left arm moves to reach a hold which is very far away to the right, so much so that it forces one's head underneath the right arm; this movement widened my vision over space and on the world that surrounds me, creating a relationship between the belayer and the climber. Thanks to this new movement I discovered a new dimension in the world of climbing, which made me foresee the fact that I would become a climbing artist. It is a fundamental movement because it allows me to be up high and to create nonetheless a relationship with the audience. This movement has become inseparable from my vertical dance, therefore I exported it onto the stages and walls of the cities. As you have probably understood, this pitch has been very important for me; it transformed me and changed the course of my life. The practice of climbing evolves incessantly and the richness found in our activity lies in the differences in our approach, each to his own pitch. ELEGY TO THE HOLD The climbing hold is the basis on which our practice lies, climbing is born with the first hold and then dies with the last. Without holds there would be no climbers, we live climbing between two holds. Each hold is unique and is part of our mineral patrimony just like climbing's patrimony of movement. At the same time it represents the weak point of this discipline, we can voluntarily break it, enlarge it, cover it up, chip it, cover it up again, chip it againŠ Holds are at the mercy of our will as route setters and climbers. They have their own life, they wear away with time, they break off due to our continuous pulling and just after it rains they become especially fragile. The tendency of a pitch is to become increasingly difficult and polished. A hold wears away due to repetitive moves, it is constantly a victim of its own success. It is the life of the pitches and therefore we should be well-mannered to it, accept it for what it is, clean our feet and climb delicately. A hold has its own shape, dimension, orienteering, its colour, it is a note on a mineral score and we are dancers who interpret this choreography. We are like stones that bounce off the holds. Each hold has its own nearby. The "excluded" holds do not exist in climbing. A hold connects all climbers, it is our point of contact on which we leave sweat and blood, rubber, mud, chalk and resin. The hold is a carrier of the unknown, of movement which generates. A hold is a carrier of surprises. LE BOUT DU MONDE The first time I discovered this place was after having cut down a tree to free the start of "Fissure Serge". We borrowed a sloping boulder, almost a launching pad which allowed us to discover "Bout du monde". A magical place! Imposing rock boulders inundated by sunshine decorated the bottom of the pitch which emanated from their pores a sandy perfume of desert colours! I still remember: the sun was setting slowly, the last luminous rays intertwined. I popped out from a wooded ledge which opened up on to that corner of the world, theatre of numerous battles; I was there to climb. All the liveliness and energy accumulated during the course of the day projected themselves onto the pitch. During the different attempts I battled hard with the same tenacity and anger, with the wish to succeed in making movement after movement. Before each attempt I officiated a favourable ritual. I cleaned the holds. I held them in my hands, I massaged them with my fingers to tame them and prepare them for the effort that was about to happen. I let them gain confidence till the influx was ready to flow. I prepared myself on the ground, above me the sloping boulder was balanced. The equipment was neatly arranged in a way that did not interfere with the ascent. I tied myself to my belayer who held my life in his hands. During my ascent he unthreaded the rope to his human kite. With a sharp move I made the rubber on my climbing shoes weep. All I had to do was to put aside that cerebral mumbling and go back to being in symbiosis with the elements: mineral score, the air, the void and my breath. Every time I fell a few metres from the ground. I asked myself what pushed me to try again without a break. Was I born to free this pitch? I had no choice, the route was part of me but in any case a lifetime could not summarize one movement. I felt tiny. After the first difficult lock-offs, I quickly reached the crux move holds, a dream cross-over on an ochre slab which had the conformation of a painting or of a cinema screen. I tried to fuse into it keeping my hands on the edge of the painting. I lacked the feeling of belonging to a "great day", a state of grace which I incessantly tried to arouse. Gradually the shadows grew, only the last ray of sun remained, the spectacle was reaching its finale and the actors were exhausted, frustrated. We would return tomorrow or further on, for a few days we would leave the pitch to rest. At the foot of "La rose et le vampire" a cloud of midges flew over the green chestnut trees lit by the last rays of light. I could see against the light, a goat behind a tree just above the crag; this was a good sign. The difficult section was overcome in an instant, I had made a break-through. On top of the rose the sun disappeared behind the crag, this was another good sign. This was only a stage: the route continued without me. "La rose et le vampire" is one of the most famous routes in the world, I am proud of this. As an artist/climber I consider it a masterpiece created through the alchemy of a crag, an author and a movement: "free climbing". Apart from its climbing this pitch has its own story, enriched by those who have climbed it. The vampire is the route, the rose is for you.  
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