We have just spent the last 2 months cruising around in our new van, visiting some of the best climbing areas in Europe. We left the UK in our van at the end of June packed full of climbing gear, clothes, cooking stuff, food and four people squeezed into the Bongo. The destination was the climbing Mecca that is Ceuse. It took us 2 days to drive down, with a slight detour into the middle of Paris (which was decidedly sketchy) to drop our sister off for her journalism internship and a long section across mid-France. However, we arrived safely at the campsite Les Guernis at the foot of this glorious crag. We then spent the whole of July climbing solely at Ceuse. The crag really is as good as it gets in sport climbing terms, actually it's even better than that. Every route we did apart from the odd tottery warm-up, was a three star Ceuse classic. The routes really were that awesome and we almost began taking the quality for granted after we had done so many. The climbing conditions were perfect for sending and everyone was out in force, psyched to crush. The crag is famed for its long walk in, roughly 45mins to an hour. And yeah it is long and slightly annoying every day but then again it got us so fit and was worth it when you saw what lay on top of that big hill. We worked out that in the time we spent there we walked up and down Ceuse 50 times, now that is keen. Route highlights (of which there were many) were Cent Patates 7b+, Vagabond 7c, Berlin 7c, Privalege du serpent 7c+, Mirage 7c+, Bourinator 8a, Carte Blanche 8a, La Femme Blanche 8a+, Dolce Vita 8a+, Encore 8a+, L'ami de tout le Monde 8b and Ratdote joli pepere 8b. In reality they were all amazing.
Sam Hamer on L'Ami Caouette 8a+
Towards the end of July, Ed flew off to Bulgaria for a European competition with the British team, achieving his best position of 4th place which was awesome. During that time I drove over to Arco for a few days, getting hot and bothered on some steep pump-fest at Massone. Then I continued into Austria where I picked Ed up in Innsbruck and drove into the Zillertal Valley. We then spent a few wet days climbing at some of the crags as well as a few sessions down at the Innsbruck wall for Ed to keep in shape for his next competitions. These included the IFSC European and the World Youth Championships in Imst, Austria. The first competition was a great event, with loads of psyched climbers from all over Europe competing against each other. It was also the first major competition that I had seen Ed climb in. He came a credible 10th place but screwed up a bit in the final and knew he could have done better. After that we then had 10 days to chill and climb back in the Zillertal, Neiderthai and Nasserith, just before heading back to Imst for the World cup. In that time we climbed some great routes with Ed in particular nailing a number of short, bouldery test pieces that suited his climbing style perfectly. Some of our favourite lines were: Rain Man 8a, Electric Avenue 8a, Scientist 8a, Little Sister 8a+, Ares 8a+, Uranus 8a+, Simirilian 8b and Caramello 8b. It was then time for the main event, the World Youth Climbing Cup. This was again held at the awesome Imst wall. It was a fantastic competition with over 600 competitors from 6 continents, all psyched and raring to go, Ed was up against some stiff competition with a number of the guys having climbed 9a.
Ed Hamer at the European Youth Cup
Ed: ‘On the first and 2nd route I climbed ok but felt I could have gone further. I was pleased to qualify in 22nd place (26 in the semi-final). My aim was to improve on my 17th place from last year's World Cup at Ratho. I shocked myself by climbing really well on the semi-final route beating a lot of strong climbers, which meant I made it into the final in 8th place (8 places in the final). On the last route I just came out to have as much fun as possible. I knew I had beaten my previous year's position so there were no expectations and I felt very relaxed and excited. I managed 2nd place in the final for a silver medal. VERY PSYCHED! This is by far the best competition result I have ever had. Before this my best World Cup placing was 17th and before that 42nd in Valence.'
Ed Hamer flashing Carte Blanche 8a
After the World Cup we headed back down to the South of France, where we had a few days at the brilliant crag Orpierre ticking off a number of classics, including Ed boshing out his hardest route of the trip being Je suis une Hyene 8b+. He also came very close on Mission Impossible 8c, which I am sure would go down fine next trip. We just ran out of time. From there we went further south to the classic, old-school crag of the 90's, Volx. We had a heard a few mixed stories about the crag, but wanted to check it out for ourselves. So yeah it's polished, pretty old-school and not Ceuse, but it's still freaking awesome. We had a great couple of days there, cranking out some steep routes that never get wet. It's a brilliant venue. Highlights were Heuco 7b+, Shoashing 8a and Ed fighting his way up Grotesque 8a+. After Volx our final destination was up in the mountains of Briancon where we hooked up with a great guy that we had met at Ceuse, David Falt. He kindly let us stay at his place for the last few days of the trip and gave us a tour of all the best crags in the area. We checked out three very different crags all around Briancon. Firstly Tournoux, then Roche du Brume and the last day at Entregue. We managed to send some wicked routes at each crag with the best being Direct du Coeur 7c+, Cost of Freedom 8a, Espoir Karsherise 8a, La Cour des grands 7c and La Tordeuse de Melezes 8a. It was such a great end to our trip, we will be back for sure.
Sam Hamer on Maman Je Vais Mourir 7c
All that was left for us was the long drive back up to Calais, catch the ferry across to Dover and then head home to sunny Derbyshire and the winter grit.
Here are a few interesting stats from our trip:
• I drove our amazing van over 5000km through 3 countries!
• We walked up the hill to Ceuse about 25 times
• We climbed at more than 15 different crags
• Clipped the chains on around 300 routes, 65 of grade 8 and above
• Used up 11 350g Mega sized chalk bags
• Swam in 8 different pools/rivers/lakes
• And of course we ate many baguettes, quite a few pizza's and drunk a hell of a lot of ‘Brewskys' (tea)
Ed Hamer takes on Maman Je Vais Mourir 7c
A massive big up must go out to James and Richie at Wild Country / Red Chili for providing us with all the amazing gear and shoes for our trip. The kit helped us out hugely with all our sends outside, as well as Ed's competitions.
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