Monday, November 26, 2012

The Big Stone with the Big Guy

The Big Stone and The Big Guy
It is day 1 on Freerider. I am attempting this 35 pitch free route on El Cap with my husband Evan. Things are going well so far. I have successfully sent the 5.11 down climb and traverse into the Hollow Flake, a 5.8 offwidth. The bottom of the offwidth goes smoothly, but as I climb higher , the #6 BD Camalot that I am walking with me no longer fits and I am looking at my rope going sideways for 50'. No problem. It's 5.8. I can just dig my body in a little deeper, use my own flesh as protection. Now I am dug in so deep I can't move upwards. I am sweating, it is really hot. I loosen myself from the gaping crack to smear and scrape flesh as I scrabble a few inches summitward. Knees are bleeding. Elbows are bleeding. I may or may not bellow with effort (OK I do... ungirlishly, primally, I only wish I could forget). Evan calls up from the belay, wants to know how it's going. I may or may not have moved in the last 15 minutes. I discover a technique that involves pinching the flake between my thighs. It really hurts my pubic bone but I do it anyway. I just want to be done. I am really hating this. I am covered in dried tears and blood. I pull onto the ledge, haul the pack, put Evan on belay. No celebrating this send. It is 5.8 and the first offwidth of the Freerider. Things are not looking good.

Thoughts of THE MONSTER threaten to trundle my calm over the brink. THE MONSTER is a 5.11 offwidth looming a few pitches above us and is the only hard pitch we haven't sussed out on TR. I try to focus on the pitches at hand. All 5.10 and easily dispatched, before you know it we are at THE MONSTER. We have decided for fairness that we would each lead a section of THE MONSTER, utilizing the optional bolted belay half way up it to tag each other out. Evan gets the first pitch and floats it, even though he's more nauseous with nerves than I've ever seen him. I'm so proud watching him that it hurts. Soon enough I'm hurting in a much less enjoyable way as I follow the pitch. Cool and pumpy underclings traverse you into the crack and then it's chickenwings galore, armbars for dessert. No fancy stacks. No pretty butterflies. No jamming your knee in this gaping maw. I shimmy up, try to wedge my butt in. It sticks enough. I reach the belay happy and bleeding and desperately grateful for my Anasazi Velcro Hi-tops protecting my ankle bones and a neoprene knee pad my friend Jesse Huey donated for our ascent. Now it is my turn. There are moments of progress. A tough spot slows me down and I seem to be climbing in circles: wiggle up, slide down, wiggle up, slide down. I swear I am greasing the inside of the crack with sweat and blood. I focus on the stance rest above me and somehow get there. Meters above, I am stopped in my tracks. I climb up, desperately, determinedly, but as soon as I stop struggling my body slithers back down the crack. I am not scared but I CAN NOT seem to get past this spot. After trying and trying I give up. Pull on gear. Get to the top and belay Evan up. He struggles on TR but sends. We do the final pitch to The Alcove, the ledge where we will stay for the next 3 nights while we climb the rest of the route. I am exhausted and bonking. My obsession with drinking water eclipses any disappointment I have in myself. I am so thirsty, so done. Food helps and I sleep like a log. Early the next morning I go back down and reclimb the second pitch of the Monster by headlamp. The cool temps, rested muscles and a pair of Patagonia stretchy corduroy pants seem to help. It doesn't feel easy but it feels solid. We can move upwards.

Following Evan up the first half of the Monster, wishing my knees were fatter or my ass was skinnier. 
First night at the Alcove, before food and water raised my spirits.
If I included every struggle, every tear, every success and failure of our journey up Freerider this would be a really long, really boring, really humiliating post. This adventure had all the elements that makes climbing an El Cap route such an amazing experience: sleeping on the edge of a 2000' drop, shitting into a bag mere meters away from your partner while they try to focus on something else, anything else, wearing your harness for days on end and slowly becoming immune to exposure. The climbing on the route (even the offwidths) is super high-quality and Evan and I found ourselves to be a great team. I excelled on the technical slab and flared crack pitches, Evan charged on the big moves and wide cracks, and we both revelled in the sections of crack-climber's dream of steep, exposed cracks way off the deck. When one of us was struggling, the other took the lead and we both inspired the other to try harder at various points during the climb.

Sweaty chickenwings on the Monster and desperate palm pressing on the Teflon Corner leaves it's mark. 
Modelling my El Cap(ilene) leisure suit for Walker and Elliot at the Alcove.  We got to share lots of laughs with these two guys who were climbing the route at the same time. 
Elliot and Waker brought travel scrabble, so Evan and I had a match at the Alcove.  For a guy who favours cell phone video games over books he sure can lay down a mean scrabble turn. 

Every evening this magic orange glow would hit El Cap right before dark.

Life on a ledge. 
After a month of not climbing before I headed to the valley, my ambitions for sending Freerider were pretty low. I was psyched for the experience of climbing on El Cap but intimidated enough by the wide cracks and valley climbing in general that I was unattached to the outcome. When we began our efforts to climb the route, which began days before starting up the climb, I was truly relishing the experience of it. It felt great to get a cardio workout hiking to the top of El Cap with a heavy pack to bring food and water we needed for the climb to the Alcove. Sleeping in the warm California air on the granite slabs up there with no one around and a sky full of stars was unbelievably perfect.

Hiking food and water to the top of El Cap was actually really fun (when I was high on exercise induced endorphins) and an awesome workout (oh great, my legs muscles grew)
My Scotty Burke Crack (a 5.10 offwidth near the top) practice outfit. 
Pretty grand place for a late-evening toprope session (almost as good as Penny Lane in the Smoke Bluffs)
Hanging out on top of El Cap while we sussed out the upper part of the route was blissful -  more like being in the Bugaboos than Yosemite! 
Full moon, campfire, suddenly this is seeming like a "REAL" vacation!
Our motto for our time in the valley was "one day at a time", and once we began up Freerider it morphed into "one pitch at a time". After a hectic and stressful month of work at our backcountry lodge we were determined to have fun and not let climbing ambitions, ego or bickering get in the way of what we desperately needed - some fresh air, hard exercise and pure fun together. We got what we needed and we were overall pretty happy with how we climbed too, which was a bonus. I would love to do the route in better style - after we fell leading the crux pitch and one other pitch on the route we both toproped them clean but things didn't work out for us to get back on them and lead them clean. I really want a chance to get back on the route and do it again in a few less days and in better style, but as a great poet once said, "you can't always get what you want, but if you try sometimes, you get what you need". I definitely got what I needed out of my time on El Cap with Evan this fall. When we pulled our bruised and tired bodies over the rim at around 1PM on day 4, we snapped a couple of pics and just sat there for a good 20 minutes. As we snacked and watched the ravens play in the wind I was stunned by gratitude for the amazing life I have and the fact I can share adventures with someone who simultaneously pushes and supports me. All too soon it was time to begin the huge rappel back down El Cap to collect our bivi gear and empty water bottles. As I dropped over the edge I had the distinct feeling that I wasn't going to be staying away from the top of El Cap for long.

On the top! We are REALLY PSYCHED! 
Sorting gear and dumping the poop tube... it's all a part of the Big Wall fun!

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Thoughts of winter creeping in...

My friends and fellow Squamish residents Tobin Seagel and Chris Christie visited us at Valhalla Mountain Touring for some turns last January. Tobin is a rippin' skier and Chris is a talented outdoor adventure photographer, and neither of them let the fact that they have real jobs get in the way.
Giving Tobin the tour of my winter back yard. 

Tobin wrote an article about his time with us... read it here:

Friday, October 5, 2012

Squamish linkup and peeing like a girl

I have been working with Innate Gear lately. They make some great clean and functionally designed products that make life for the vagabond climber/guide much easier. I especially love their Caravan Compartments, Cha thermoses and Mentor Organizer Sacs. The Doppio mug makes a great, classy, easy to clean and unbreakable wine glass for on the road consumption.

I just finished a blog post for the Innate Gear blog about a big day of climbing I had in Squamish a few weeks ago. Check it out:

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

Dropping prunes in the Wadd

Sunrise on Mt. Waddington
“Hey Jas, are you going to drop your prunes here?” I did a double take… how did Chris know I had been counting down the steps until we were off the glacier so I could untie from the rope and dash away to the broken talus to relieve myself. And the more important question: why should he care? Did he want to take an alpine shitting lifestyle shot? Come on, I thought grumpily, this is taking the pose-down thing WAY too far! I took a deep breath and explained that I was going to head behind some rocks before his quizzical expression prompted my realization that he was asking where I was going to leave my POONS! AKA crampons.

Chris Christie, adventure photographer and Vancouver fireman extraordinaire had abandoned the comforts of Squamish with it’s cheap and delicious sushi, flat surfaces to sleep on and cool lakes to dip in for two weeks of lumpy tent sites, crevasse dodging on a treacherous glacier and so much estrogen that I wouldn’t be surprised if Tiedemann Creek was running red by the time we left the range.  Chris had opted to join Squamish climbers Sarah Hart, Kinley Aitken and myself, Jasmin Caton on our trip to the Waddington Range as team photographer. By the end of the trip Chris had seen a lot. The things he might have expected –laughter, sunbathing, reading Vogue Magazine, boulder-top dance parties and some other things he might not have – tears, farting, shitting in close quarters at a tight bivi spot, verbal promises to quit alpine climbing forever in favor of returning home to have babies. Let’s just say Chris may never be the same.
Probably the fullest heli I have ever been in.

Basecamp kicks enjoying the view from Sunny Knob.
Bikini season wasn't waiting until we got home to Squamish... Kinley had to stay on top of her tan!

The first tears of the trip were mine. I admit it freely. We had flown in late in the evening, set up camp at Sunny Knob, a rocky ridge like feature a few hundred meters above the Tiedemann Glacier sandwiched between two active serac fall zones. The unsettling crashing at intervals throughout the night kept my dreams full of landslides and avalanches. On our first morning, Sarah, Kinley and I went on a glacier walk reconnaissance up the Tiedemann Glacier, feeling smaller and more squishable with each step as Waddington, Combatant, Tiedemann and Asperity towered above us. A huge and somewhat fresh looking avalanche deposit had covered most of the upper reaches of the glacier and the roars of repeated serac falls off Waddington kept my heart in my throat as we wandered upwards, trying to get a look at some of our possible objectives. Suddenly, a huge roar came from the direction of Waddington and a massive powdercloud raced down the face. I was terrified and began backing away from the mountain, even as logic told me that we were likely safe where we were, and if we weren’t, running wouldn’t do me much good. As the dust settled, tears ran down my face as I wondered why the hell I left the relatively safe and fun playground of Squamish for this scary and intimidating venue. I didn’t necessarily feel like I was in over my head, just that my head wasn’t into these kinds of hazards.

After a few warm-up routes on Tiedemann Tower and Claw peak, we were ready for our main objective. We hoped to climb a new route on The Grand Cappuccino. Naturally, being coffee fiends, we were drawn to the name of this 3300m spire, but the lack of serac fall threatening its vicinity, and the fine-looking steep headwall comprising the east face made this objective even more tempting than an expertly poured, extra foamy, dark-chocolate sprinkled, biscotti accompanied beverage. 

Sarah and Kinley in the early morning en route to Tiedemann Tower, Combatant Col in the background
Kinley and Sarah soloing on the bottom of Tiedemann Tower
Climbing in tanks on Tiedemann Tower, Mt. Waddinton behind
The intent was to climb Serra Two (3605m) via it’s 1500m South Ridge (TD 5.9 45°) but to travel with enough gear to stop partway up and attempt a new route on the Grand Cappuccino, which branches off of the south ridge of Serra Two just over half way up. We convinced Chris to join us, thinking he could chill at our bivi and possibly even take photos while we climbed the Grand Cappuccino.

On our first day we covered 1000m of ground on rock and snow, with some tricky sections of loose rock and deep snow wallowing interspersed with sections of beautiful rock climbing. As we climbed evidence of a “dirty high” was mounting. Before you get too excited, I should explain there were no impure drugs or sexual behavior involved. “Dirty high” is a legitimate meteorological term for “a high pressure that has clouds and/or precipitation within its domain”. Optimists that we are, we kept climbing up despite the lenticulars, mares tails and other ominous cloud forms building in the sky.We bivied in an unsavory jumble of blocks, with the Grand Cappuccino towering above us, and awoke to a nightmarish sight of fresh snow coating everything, and no sign of improving weather.
Sarah looking thrilled at the snowy state of things.
Chris Christie, revelling in the glamour of being an adventure photographer
Where's the pink bikini and Vogue magazine now?
The team, mid chew, getting packed up to go climbing. 
So began a truly epic day in the mountains. At least to my Squamish softie, wimpy girl standards. I am sure that all you real alpinists out there who plunge your bare hands into snow before ice climbing and deprive yourself of water and food so your body gets used to starving on multiday sufferfests would not even put this into the mini-epic category. It's true, I didn't lose any limbs, not even the tiniest tip of my nose succumbed to frostbite, I didn't run out of oxygen and become drunkenly disoriented, and I didn't have to drag my broken carcass out of a crevasse and down the mountain alone. But there was some thigh deep snow wallowing up a 45 degree slope, slippery wet-lichen encrusted rock climbing up to 5.9, and frozen fingers and toes as the snow continued to fall. My personal low point of the day was when I led up a steep and burly crack that dead-ended. I slung a horn and lowered down, but the rope wouldn’t pull. Rookie move! I jumared up, reset the anchor to a better position, rapped down, pulled the rope easily but it fell into a crack and got stuck. I climbed up for a third time, freed the stuck rope and began down climbing but the rope I was getting belayed on jammed in a crack and I had to solo down to free it. Cursing a blue streak and frustrated that my hour of effort had progressed us exactly nowhere, I was bumped to the back of the bus so Kinley and Sarah could have their fun on the sharp end.
Kinley loving life on the snowy, licheny rock, with Phantom Tower behind
Conditions are prime.
The final portion of the climb was a never-ending super exposed and esthetic knife-edge, made slightly more complicated by intermittent snow sections. We simulclimbed as quickly as we could, barely even pausing to take in the extreme beauty of where we were as occasional shafts of sun penetrated the thick clouds around us, highlighting the stark shapes and contrasts in the rock and snow on the ridge. The day was flying by as false summits and tricky buttresses of low fifth-class climbing, sometimes on very loose blocks, continued to present themselves. The fact that we were all carrying bivi gear and extra stuff for our planned ascent of the Grand Cappuccino, including a bolt kit, pins, a hammer and a sizeable rack, did not help our speed.
Trying to hustle on the snow rock snow rock of the final ridge section of Serra Two

Finally, as night was falling, we gained the top of the south ridge and were able to begin rapping down the Hidden Couloir onto the Tellot Glacier. Our fourth rap took us over the bergrschrund just as dark was truly upon us. We roped up and began descending the broken glacier with icy mist collecting on our clothes and hair, silently wondering how the hell we were going to navigate several kms down the glacier to the warmth and shelter of the Plumber Hut. Just as we began to need our headlamps to see, the clouds dissipated for the first time all day and the full moon illuminated the glacier. My whoop of relief echoed across the surreal landscape of spires, snow and ice, and as if in response, a bright meteor flashed overhead. As we stumbled in a sinuous path over the unpredictable breakable crust of the glacier, I marveled in the beauty around us and felt overwhelmed by gratitude that this amazing adventure had concluded safely.
One of the last raps onto the Tellot. It's getting dark and I am ready to be done. 
The next morning, we spent several indescribably pleasant hours lounging about in the sun outside the hut, drinking instant coffee, eating the last of our food and reminiscing about the crazy climb it had been. I could hardly believe my eyes when Kinley pulled out a pink compact mirror and tweezers from her pack and began preening. I love these seemingly incongruous moments when strong, competent women do very stereotypically girly things in the mountains. Personally, I had no desire to look in a mirror when I could feel my sunburned and chapped lips flaking off in leprous chunks. 
Kinley the mountain princess in her natural habitat
The team. Alive, well and extra bonded after our long climb.
Eventually we marched back to our Sunny Knob basecamp and de-rigged from our Serra Two epic. A small infection in Kinley’s elbow had producing a kiwi-fruit sized lump during the climb, and a sat phone call to a nurse confirmed that she needed to get to an ER. As we packed up, my disappointment at leaving without even getting a sip of the Grand Cappuccino was dwarfed by my satisfaction of completing three safe and classic ascents in this stunning range. I am certain I don’t have the necessary cahones to pursue most of the big-mountain objectives the Waddington Range is full of, but my caffeine and granite spire addiction is giving me a craving for a second round of Grand Cappuccino next summer…

Mountains and mountains of gratitude to MEC Expedition Support and Patagonia for giving us financial help with the pricy heli flight to go on this trip. Black Diamond Equipment supplied a ton of sweet gear including my new fave small pack - the Speed 22, and some super light and comfy Vector Helmets. Sterling Ropes supplied us with some super durable and awesome handling Velocity 9.8mm ropes. 5.10 set me up with my extra comfy super-sized Galileos which I wore socks under on every pitch. PRObar and Vega hooked us up with some tasty food that kept us going (climbing and #2). These companies ROCK and make going on trips like this possible for those of us lucky enough to have the time and desire to make them happen.

Tuesday, August 7, 2012

University Wall upper cut!

A new kind of climbing injury for me yesterday! A hot and sweaty redpoint attempt on University Wall with Senja Palonen... no redpoint and a slip on the second pitch left me with a big fat bruise on my chin! Chris Christie was there to document...

U-Wall from Chris Christie on Vimeo.

Tuesday, July 3, 2012

Embracing the steeps

Rob Owens photo. 
I haven't been the quickest to warm up to overhanging climbing. My first steep limestone climbing experience was in Thailand, and it was definitely frustrating. Although when I visited Thailand I had climbed a mitfull of Squamish 5.12- cracks, routes I still find difficult to this day, at Tonsai I found myself getting schooled on the 5.11- warmups. The ones that you climb metal ladders to get to the start of and have to endure the impatient stares from a line of waiting muscly hard men and women while you flail, sweat and curse your way up. Back then, 5.12 in this terrain seemed like a very distant dream. I figured I just didn't have the pipes or the abs or whatever it took to haul my way up steeply overhanging rock. At the end of my two week trip to Thailand, however, whether I knew it or not I had picked up some of the fundamentals on how to move around on steep ground. Nowadays I enjoy the deep pump I get from climbing on the steeps, the ability to turn off my head and climb, the simplicity of clipping bolts and not being afraid to take big whippers when there's nothing to hit but air.

A few days ago I sent my first 5.13a sport climb. It was a super steep and wild line up a beautiful limestone cave on Vancouver Island. I employed all the trickery I could: some soft downturned shoes (5.10 Arrowheads), double knee bar pads which I taped onto my pants with duct tape to minimize bruising of my thighs on the numerous knee-bar rests on the route. I even found a double knee bar bat hang that was comfortable and hilarious! Trust me, there's no better way to shake off the red point jitters than to hang upside down and laugh at the ridiculous position you are in.

Rob Owens photo. On the first of several knee bar rests. 

It's been awhile since I redpointed something that I had worked really hard for, so when I finally thrutched through the last hard moves and climbed to the chains I had the sweet, sweet feeling of endorphins coursing through my veins as I hollered with joy. On this particular climb, it's customary to skip the last bolt and then take a victory whip from the chains - a solid 30 foot fall. Even with the happy send juices flowing, as I clutched the clipping jug I had to yell down to my friends at the base, "should I take the whip?". They responded with a resounding, "yeah!" and so I jumped off, doing a midair kicking and flailing jig as I screamed like a happy banshee. 

A few days later the endorphin rush is gone and my mind has already moved ahead to my next climbing obsession here in Squamish, projects that I hope will be helped by the muscles and endurance I built up on the steeps this month. And on the flip side, the bruises on my legs and the scabs all over my ankles, hands and shoulders remind me that trad climbing skills can also work for me on the steeps. 

Friday, June 22, 2012

Nature, Culture and Pleasure in Corsica

Corsica is a mountainous French island in the Mediterranean, and according the The Lonely Planet Guide, "it's hard to find a better combination of nature, culture and pleasure". With a description like that, it's pretty hard not to want to make a trip there! But as I was planning my annual spring Euro climbing vacation, I found it hard to get a sense of the quality and quantity of the climbing in Corsica, and after visiting many of the ultra-classic French climbing zones like Ceuse, the Gorges du Verdon, Presles and the Gorges du Tarn, all of which I could easily revisit, I wondered if Corsica was going to stand up to my high standards of French stone.

I shouldn't have worried...

I travel a lot and when I arrive in a new place that really inspires me I feel energized by the new smells and tastes and seeing new landscapes and combinations of colours. I run around taking a million photos of weeds and trees and bugs. Through my "fresh" eyes all of these commonplace things are national-geographic worthy spectacles, although a few weeks later when I am home and wading through all of my mediocre-at-best shots, I wonder what the hell I was thinking. A few years ago near the Verdon Gorge in France I went for a long solo hike on a rest day and witnessed the a parade of nose to ass caterpillars that was so long I couldn't even see the end of it. I took 50 photos and several movies, which is pretty funny considering that I took almost no photos while climbing up the steep and exposed walls of the beautiful Gorges du Verdon. "Ho hum, just another multi pitch rock climb, yawn. But these bugs are so cool!"

Caterpillar train near the Gorges du Verdon, France
Showing up in Corsica brought on a flurry of that feeling of excitement, wonder and super-energy. The landscape was beautiful, rugged and very different from what we had just experienced the previous week on the neighbouring island of Sardinia. It sounds silly to say that a certain rock type has special meaning to me, but there's something about granite that I completely love. Perhaps it is the fact many of my formative dirt-bag adventures were played out on the granite walls of Squamish and Yosemite. 

After driving off the ferry in the town of Bonifacio on the southern tip of Corsica, we bought a map and made our way towards one of the main climbing areas - the Col de Bavedda. 
We bought this map of Corsica in a gas station, not knowing that it was an actual-size representation of the island. Trying to navigate with it from the passenger seat of our teeny Fiat 500 usually resulted in me blocking the entire windshield, and Evan's view of the narrow and winding road. Folding this map was pretty much the crux of our week in Corsica. 
We bought the only guide book we could find - a beautiful french guide book called "Bavedda - Auguilles entre ciel et torrents by Jean-Louis Fenouil and Jen-Paul Quilici". The route topos were all done on exquisitely detailed watercolour paintings, and although I loved the uniquely artistic appearance of the guide book, it turns out a photo or a detailed route topo is actually pretty helpful when you are figuring out an area for the first time. We spent two days attempting to find, then climb our chosen warm-up route, Esperanza, on Punta Rosso. It's a 6 pitch, 7a+ route with a steep 1.5 hour approach, which we got thunder stormed off part way up on both days. Although we weren't able to complete the route, from these pitches and some single pitch sport routes we did closer to the road we got a sense of the high-quality and mind-bending geometry of the Corsican granite.

Watercolour image of the Punta Rosso from the Bavedda guidebook
Sunrise on some of the spires at the Col de Bavedda
Climbing up steep and wild features on Esparanza
No energy bars in sight, this was a fresh, pine-nut studded almond tart from the Boulangerie in Zonza. 
Post-thunderstorm sunshine on the beautiful scenery at the Col de Bavedda
Huge flowers on the hike up to Esperanza

A crappy weather forecast drove us out of the Col de Bavedda and towards the town of Ajaccio on Corsica's west coast. Descriptions of 7-9 pitch lines on the Rocher des Gozzi in the Falaise de Corse guidebook had caught our interest, but we had nothing in the way of first hand information on the climbing and hadn't run into any other climbers in Corsica so far. Thanks to the awesome details in the guidebook, which was in english as well as french, we easily found our way to the climbing, and spent our day climbing up a well bolted 9 pitch route called Gozzilla, 7b (6b+ obligatory). The climbing was technical through the lower and upper sections, with edges and huecos. The middle section climbed out a wildly overhanging cave which would have been amazing to send, but the cave was entirely moist either due to seepage or condensation on the rock. Thanks to the close bolting, we could pull through a few of the greasy moves and enjoy the rest of the climbing.

Evan and the base of Gozzi, figuring out what's what
The lower pitches on Gozzila were surrounded by these giant cacti, which were thankfully thorn-free
Starting up the steep and damp cave section of the route. By the appearance of the rock, I expected it to be crumbly kitty litter, but it was completely solid!
Evan in the fog on the summit of Gozzi
Beautiful plants and flowers on the descent
Evan hiking past a ruin on the decent
After all this climbing, it was time for some replenishment, and this is one area where Corsica will not disappoint. A rich local cuisine filled with amazingly fresh cheeses like Brocciu, a signature Corsican product made from sheep and or goat's milk, dishes made from wild boar and the addition of chestnuts to everything from stew to ice cream, to beer to tiramisu. With all those steep approaches, we had a significant appetite for refuelling. A sport climbing trip this was not, and we feasted like alpine climbers who had just starved for days in the mountains.

Salade de chevre chaud with some organic Corsican wine. I'd say the dirt-bagging days are officially over. 
Me getting cosy with the wild boar... the stewed wild boar with chestnuts at this auberge in the town of Zonza was amazing.
It's hard to beat wood fired pizza on the beach, with some frosty Pietra (a Corsican Beer) or refreshing rose.
Next we made a quick visit to the cultural and geographical centre of Corsica, Corte. Our main draw was the Vallee de Restonica, a beautiful valley next to Corte surrounded by Corsica's highest peaks with numerous long and short route possibilities. When I return to Corsica I will definitely schedule in a good week or two to climb in the Restonica, but on this trip we didn't have the time or the weather to do much more than drive up the valley and get a few roadside sport climbs in between thunder showers. But if the amount of rock and the quality of what we sampled is any indication, there is a lot of potential for great climbing on existing routes, as well as lots of new route potential with relatively easy access. 

We did a few pitches of 5.11+ to 5.12 at this crag called Frassetta in the Restonica. The climbing was up cracks, edges, and crazy round-features that almost felt like Maple cobbles. 
With only one climbing day left in Corsica, we really wanted to climb Jeef (7b, 14 pitches) at the Col de Bavedda. The weather was calling for afternoon thunder storms, and bailing from this climb isn't really feasible before the top of the 8th pitch, where it joins the easier and popular route "Dos d'elephant". We got an alpine start and managed to climb the route, which completely exceeded our expectations, which is saying something for a couple of rock snobs who didn't get enough sleep, had not taken a rest day in a week and got in a giant fight about whether to keep going to the top despite the menacing clouds (me) or bail from the top of the 9th pitch (Evan). Even better, our rappel route took us down the route Delicatessen (8b), which along with Jeef was established by French hardman and Arnaud Petit. Delicatessen looked hard but so good... those of you capable of that grade who like granite climbing should check it out! By the time we hit the ground, the sun was again shining and my day was taken to the next level of awesomeness when I took an icy dip in the beautifully sculpted smooth pool in the creek at the valley bottom.

I was worried I shouldn't use this for pro...
But then Evan gave it the MOG test
Evan on the 3rd pitch of Jeef
Climbing up through crazy huecos on the wild 7th pitch of Jeef.
The cave pitch.
Thunder-storm-aphobe Evan preparing to rap down as I basked on the summit, refusing to be rushed off our last summit in Corsica.
A profile view of the climb, taken from the descent raps down Delicatessen
With guiding work commitments drawing us home to rainy Squamish, our trip to Corsica had come to an end. Despite the fact that we experienced fairly unsettled weather, we managed to climb at least a few pitches every day we spent on the island. As with all of my favourite climbing trips, this one finished with me hungry for more and scheming for an opportunity to return.