Eliot Stephens has returned from a successful month-long trip to Switzerland where amongst an excessive amount of hard climbing, he managed a Fred Nicole Font 8C and 3 Font 8B+s.
Having climbed New Base Line (Font 8B+) in Magic Wood on a previous trip to Switzerland, despite never being fully fit, Eliot went into this trip with an air of confidence. His goal was an 8B+ called Heritage which was first climbed by Carlo Traversi in 2012. Eliot told UKC:
'It's an incredible line on perfect rock, with some really subtle and powerful movement. Once I climbed this one on the 2nd week of the trip, I really felt the pressure lift and was just excited to try more boulders. It's probably one of the best overall boulders I've climbed.'
After climbing Heritage, Eliot had a short weather window at Chironico and on the last day of good weather, he climbed Deliverance, a one move 8A+, and then rested until later in the day. At 3pm, he climbed another 8A+ called Second Life which he had attempted before and managed not to get too pumped on the 16 move sequence, firing it off on his first attempt of the day. After this, Eliot was joined by local beast Giani Clement and they made their way to the Boogalagga/Big Paw boulder.
Eliot climbed Boogalagga (8B) in 2016 and had tried the sit start (Big Paw 8B+) several times since:
'After being unable to really function on the hard first move of the stand start on my last trip, I wasn't confident and simply joined in with Giani with the aim of refreshing myself with the moves a little and helping him out with the beta that had worked for me. I was surprised to find the stand start move doable again, and re-climbed Boogalagga in a few goes.'
Moving onto Big Paw, Eliot attempted the problem from a move in and quickly found himself at the hard moves. He reworked these and then pulled on from the floor:
'I pulled on with the aim of linking to the stand. Suddenly I found myself stood on the top of the boulder. A pretty surreal experience. Anyone who's done a bit of projecting will know the mental game that comes along with it. To have this totally eliminated from my experience during the session of the send was something pretty rare, but made for my best climbing experience to date.'
Not wanting to end the day there, they drove down to Cresciano where Eliot managed to climb the stand start to Dreamtime (8A+). Not a bad day in anyone's book!
As predicted, the weather turned 'guff,' so they drove two hours to Murgtal where more Fred Nicole test pieces lay in wait. Entlinge was the first on the list, a Nicole problem which was flashed by Daniel Woods in 2011. It used to get Font 8C but seems to have settled at 8B+. Eliot managed to climb the problem in a single session:
'I proved to myself that in the right style and with the right mindset I can stay focussed and execute on something quickly.'
On one of the last days of his trip, Eliot had a few speculative attempts at another Fred Nicole 8C called Arzak. He made swift progress, although poor skin was limiting his attempts:
'I wasn't sure if it would be possible on this trip due to the coarse nature of some of the holds but I was lucky enough to be able to finish it off right at the end of a session on one of the last days of our trip.'
'This trip was a really good end to a weird year for me. I've climbed harder boulders for me, but they've mainly been first ascents, with 3 in South Wales at 8B+/V14, one of which felt significantly harder than anything I did on this trip. So, going away in shape and repeating things at this level was good, as it's often easy to get blinkered with first ascents.'
Below is a Eliot's full ticklist from his month-long trip:
- Arzak 8C
- Big Paw 8B+
- Entlinge 8B+
- Heritage 8B+
- Netsuke 8B/+
- Flash Flood 8B
- Fred's Shield Assis 8A+
- Dreamtime Stand 8A+
- Extreme Ironing 8A+
- Second Life 8A+
- Deliverance 8A+
- Soilwork 8A+
- Feeling the Wind 8A
- Blochx Addiction 8A
- Kirk Windstein 8A
- Fred's Shield 8A
- Deep Red 8A
- Taurus 8A