26. März | 2014

Caving in Papua New Guinea


10003671_10152361252764892_262249059_o“Iowa 2014″ was a national expedition led by the French Caving Federation (FFS) and part of an overall effort to explore the Nakanai Mountains in Papua New Guinea. Led by a highly experienced team, cave exploration in the region’s virgin equatorial forest has resulted in the discovery of several legendary deep caves and sinkholes such as Nare, Kavakuna, Minyé, Wowo, and Muruk. Back from the depths and into the daylight, Phil Bence talks about this adventure, between fantasy and reality, and how patience allowed for the discovery of new caves in the heart of the equatorial forest.


Read the full report about Cédric’s adventure on the Petzl official webpage:


IOWA 2014



A free mind




These past weeks, my way of approaching life has immensely changed. In fact, I think it all started when Cédric started to seriously plan his caving expedition to Papua New Guinea. I was nervous to see him go. Not that I was especially worried about him getting hurt or anything like that, but I felt strangely frightened about being confronted with myself while he was gone. Living as a couple, in particular with a man as active as Cédric, is easy. We are constantly on the move, following a never-ending stream of projects. We deal swiftly and efficiently with things, in a manner that is sometimes too radical, even. This fear that I felt was thus related to the sudden necessity to deal alone with my time. It’s strange to say that, because it makes me sound so old.

On the other hand, I have always cherished my freedom.

I had the greatest feeling of freedom when I got my first car, with the help of a dear friend, and then drove to France with it. After that, I encountered great people and, progressively, built my life around them. These past years Cédric’s importance to me grew, as my love for him grew and because we have accomplished many important things together.

I don’t like to admit it, but I believe I have lost my original freedom. And with it, I have lost some passion, some sparks of folly. My life is rich, complex, still interesting… but not driven by folly anymore. I think it shows in the way I now behave, in my climbing, in my desire to settle down.

So, Cédric has been gone nearly six weeks now and, however corny this might sound, its the best thing that could have happened. Because of his total absence (they only have a satellite phone in case of an emergency), I have re-learned to empty, and free my mind.

The first week, I went to Spain with my good friend Mike Fuselier. It was the turning point. We discussed many subjects, but in particular my way of relating to others. He made me realize that I don’t always express myself properly, that I can be hurtful to others. When I first came to live in France, I lacked vocabulary in this strange and foreign language. Now that I speak French fluently, I have no excuse for not saying things in a nice way. I know that I can sometimes lack empathy, speaking too harshly and ending up saying very hurtful things. Mike also pointed out that, since I’ve become a well known climber, everything I say has much more impact than before. Mike’s words shook me up, but he knew I needed it that. He clearly opened my eyes on some aspects of my personality and it depressed me a little. But, after feeling rather low for a week, I took this as an opportunity for change thus suddenly freeing my heart and mind.

On the 5th of February I left for Andorra in my van to attend a conference and -after that- to let myself go with the wind, as a free women ! For about eight hours I sang at the top of my lungs to my new cd from the French band « la rue kétanou », until I ended up driving right into a big rock ; -one hour before the conference. Instead of panicking, I calmly changed the broken wheel and was able to make it on time for my talk. The next day, totally wrecked, I went to Montserrat to meet Marc le Menestrel, a man I knew mainly from our common passion for good wine. The time was ripe for me to stay with Marc and his two girls : for the next eight days I was in the right mood to feed from his wisdom. Thanks to Mike I was more sensitive, able to listen and learn from others. I discovered here a whole different world, the world of words, of poetry, in which it is important to say things in the right way.

At the beginning of my stay with Marc, I was different from my usual self. I was calm, a little scared to say anything stupid. More into action than big talk. « Los locos » de Barcelona took me on every one of their crags and gave me an opportunity to meet many great people. I was just so open and curious about others’ ways and views on life ! I have seldom seen such beautiful crags. So mysterious, so exceptional. I had the best routes of Montserrat served on a plater, I only had to climb and enjoy. I felt an intense and growing happiness, everything was going beautifully, simple things gained great value, I was living the moment at its best.

Marc also made me conscious about some aspects of me, as a climber. He pointed out that I often underestimate myself, and that I have lost the ambition to accomplish big climbing goals. Indeed, since I made the first female ascent of Silbergeier, I’ve been leading an easier life ; only climbing routes that suit me and that I can swiftly send. I still have a yearning to feel the excitement I felt working on Silbergeier, but can’t seem to get it anymore. There is less « dream » in my recent projects : once done, I move-on without much satisfaction or pride. I know I demand a lot of myself, but I truly think that I’m starting to loose faith in my capacity to accomplish big -crazy- things. My easy-going side has taken over these past two years and it took the right time and the right person to make me realize that.

Let us be mad and live the dream !

With this mindset I then went to Siurana and, as life demanded, I found a true and insane project : « La reina Mora », a hard classic of El Pati sector. On my first time on it, I felt exactly like when trying Silbergeier. I was hyped-up (I still am) : like a kid before Christmas, eager to discover the route’s character, and make progress on it. After spending four intense days working on it, I now feel blessed and I’m counting the hours before I can get back on the route.

Life is really something, it’s crazy how one can be so low and two weeks later so high… Whatever comes next, I’m looking forward to it !

IMG_1778Thank’s Jeff Arnoldi for the authentic translation in english!

Vive le sud!


“Tic-tac, tic-tac…l’heure du départ de Cédric pour son expédition en Papouasie (spéléologie) approche. On profite donc à fond de nos derniers instants ensemble et pour cela, quoi de plus judicieux que de les passer sur les belles falaises ensoleillées du sud.

IMG_1655Quelques mots clefs pour expliquer notre choix de destination à Roquevaire dans un premier temps : Sud, voies dures et tartiflette promise par Gé Pouvreau, notre hôte du moment et coach de premier choix avec Florence Pinet.

Vue que Gérome et Flo venaient juste de rentrer de leur long trip de trois mois aux U.S., les deux étaient plus en mode “remise en forme”, que “torcher des projets durs en falaise”. Notre ami Mike Fuselier , qui faisait également parti de l’équipe de choque, se retrouvait un peu dans la même catégorie. Il lui a fallu quelques jours pour retrouver ses sensations en falaise…Mais cela ne les empêchaient pas de venir avec nous pour nous montrer les belles voies à faire sur leurs falaises.

IMG_2542IMG_2514On altère donc entre la falaise à petites prises de Roquevaire et la belle falaise à côté de leur maison avec du gros dévers et mouvements plutôt dynamiques. Dans un premier temps, j’ai pu torcher un joli 8b+ là-dessus, “l’intégrale de ni Dieu ni Maitre”.

Les jours d’après on change de style et on va à Roquevaire. La voie qu’a choisi Cédric avant son départ s’appelle DTN. Jusqu’à ce que Cédric s’y attèle, seul Rémy Bergasse l’avait enchainé, et on sait pourquoi : les prises de ce 9a ressemblent plus à des lames de rasoir qu’à des vrais prises d’escalade. Les montées de travail se passent plutôt bien malgré la petite forme de mon petit suisse. La seule chose qui lui pose réellement problème, c’est la perte de peau intempestive sur ces petites prises.

IMG_2153Mais comme je l’entends beaucoup se plaindre et pour le calmer un peu, je choisis aussi une voie sur prises minuscules. Ainsi, je me lance dans “Symbiose“, le 8b+ classique de la falaise. Comme ça, on verra bien lequel de nous deux pourra râler le plus fort…

IMG_2426Finalement l’affaire DTN est rapidement expédiée, et il aura fallu autant de temps à Cédric pour enchaîner cette voie, qu’à nous autres pour digérer la fameuse « Tartiflette Gégé », soit trois séances ! Merci Gé. Malgré une enclume dans le ventre j’arriverais aussi à clipper le relais de “Symbiose“.

IMG_2494Un petit séjour bien sympathique vient de se terminer et je peux vous assurer que les copains, les bons moments en falaise ou à la maison autour d’un bon petit plat, sont quand-même des bases dans ma vie…

Un grand grand merci aussi à Mike Fuselier qui nous a encore fait bien bien rire avec ses conneries pendant tout long du trip et bravo pour sa belle coche en 8c+ qu’il a pu faire le dernier jour.


Guère d’usure

Nina "Guerre d'usure" (9 sur 15)

After several weeks packed full with film festivals and presentations, I was really glad to go back to climbing on real rock.
November is not a good time to be in Grenoble; the weather is wet, humid and cold. For a little escape, I went south to Claret, a nice cliff north of Montpellier.
While it was snowing everywhere else, we climbed in shorts and tank tops, and even then, it was almost too warm for climbing.

The king line ‘guère d’Usure’ picked me and looked directly into my eyes. It is an achievement to be proud of and I really wanted to climb this 8c. The first try did not feel so hard, due to the good betas the local guys gave me, and I thought that I would be able to do a quick send.

But in fact, the route was harder to climb than I thought. Especially for a couple moves on the upper part, I needed to have steady controlled movements using full body tension on very physical and compression moves. In the end, I needed 4 days to complete this route. With each attempt, I felt better and stronger so my motivation increased more and more.

For the send I needed to fight hard and I love that feeling…the fight with your mental hat and you can only hold the next hold because your head wanted it….climbing is a fantastic and strange thing…

During my last days in Claret, I climbed a few more five stars routes. For example, the fantastic diedre of ‘ Catalepsie’, a really bouldery 8a+ on my third go and two other classics; ‘Double Nelson’ 8a flash and the big roof of ‘Makossa’ 7c+, on-sight.
I loved Claret, not only for the climbing, but also for the great atmosphere on the cliff, the good vibes and nice people. A good place to be….

Thank’s Seb Richard for the good betas in Guère d’usure and for the nice pictures.


şerefe…je l’ai fait!‏


I have been back home now for a week from an incredible trip to Eastern Europe. The first destination was Greece, Kalymnos for the North Face Climbing Festival. The idea of this festival was to invite the best rockclimbers in the world to participate in a friendly competition on amazing rock. For me it was a great opportunity to go rockclimbing with my friends on the beautiful island of Kalymnos and to share my passion with 16 other invited people.

I have to say that being in Kalymnos is just FUN! Riding like a kid on a scooter, eating as much fish and fresh greek yogourt as you can and climbing with the sea in the background…….What else do we need to be happy? In general, I don’t like competitions very much. But in fact it can be really cool, it all depends on the atmosphere between the competitors. Together with my friends Mélissa Le Nevé, Anna Stöhr, Sabine Bacher, Sasha Digiulian, Babsi Zangerl and Johanna Ernst, we had great times during the whole festival and we helped each other so much…great vibes…happy times! We had four routes to climb in two days. I was able to complete the 8a, 8a+ and 8b+ on the second go. I almost flashed the 8b+ with big help and great betas from Mélissa, but I struggled too much in the end and I failed. The 4th route graded 8b, nobody was able to complete because the route was in the sun all day long. The routes were super super cool and I would like to give huge THANKS! to the route setters: Jacopo, Siebe, the Pou brothers and Hansjörg. I finished second after Caroline Ciavaldini with one more try on my list.

The next day after the great finale party, I took the ferry to Bodrum with Mélissa and Erwan. The spring of this year was the first time I visited Turkey and for the second time, I have fallen in love with this country again. The people are so friendly and helpful. I wish to be able to import these nice touches back to Europe… After a few hours of driving with our perfect guide Mümin Karabas, we arrived in Antalya to pick up the rest of the team. From there we drove straight to the mountains to reach our little basecamp. During the next 10 days, life was how it should be. We were living in kind of an old alp house, surrounded by sheeps, goats, dogs, cats and chickens. In the morning we had breakfast in the turkish sun eating feta, olives, cucumber and tomatoes. Then we went out on the cliff to bolt new routes (like hell) till the night. Tired and dusty, we enjoyed the evening with the whole Turkish-French group, around a nice campfire. Because we had no shower, on our rest days, we drove to Antalya and visited the Hammam, shower, Barber and of course, we visited all kinds of turkish Bazaars. Honestly, for me, this rhythm was everything I was looking for from the busy life I have here in Europe. I felt so good in my skin, was smiling all the time and also I was proud and happy to drill so many cool new routes. After 10 days ‘Heidi’ style, we moved for some relaxing days to the famous climbing spot ‘Olympus’. We had the chance to sleep at Kadir’s Tree house, super nice camping, where all the bungalows are made with only reused wood. Beside bolting some more new routes there, life was super tranquillo. One day we went for Deep Water Soloing and another we went out to sail on a little boat. For me this trip was one of the best I’ve ever had in my life and this is with great gratitude to Mümin who showed us the real Turkey, guided us to visit so many special places and who made us a part of his life, friends and heart of his country. More precise details about the area where we went for bolting, climbing pictures etc….. will be coming out later. Stay tuned!

Credit photos: Laurent Lafouche and Periklis Ripis



The last month I spent more or less in the german part of Europe, Austria, Germany and Switzerland. Mostly for work but also for some nice family affaires (brothers wedding). During these time I was training a lot for my open project Era Vella and also I’ve had enough time to think about a new multipitch project for next summer. Since a while I was thinking about a route called Orbayu, a 520 meter high one, situaded in the Picos de Europa, Spain.
After my brothers beautiful marriage, I told Cédric about this eventuel project for next summer and he was directly super psyched for that one. 24 hours later, after 12 hours of driving, we were in the middle of the Picos, ready to have a look on route.

This route has been mostly created by the Pou brothers ( it’s a combination of a new bolted route and the free climb of an aid route) and the grade is quiet ‘hard core’:

8a+, 8a, 8a, 7a, 8c+/9a, 8a+, 6b+, 6a and five more easy pitches to the summit.

For Cédric and myself, a huge challenge…and this challenge starded already in the approach: three hours of walking with all the bivouac equipment, hard for our little legs!;-)

Charged like two donkey’s, we starded our little adventure…

I have to say that we are not hiking machines and that we were super happy once we reached the impressive wall and our place to put up the tent.

We spent a nice night at this beautiful place and as soon as the sun was coming out the next morning, we were ready to climb.

Before leaving, the Pou brothers gave us some informations and also a hand made topo. After the inscriptions, the route should be protected by some bolts, but also you have to place some gear by yourself.

Cédric felt super confident, after all his experiences he made in the Yosemite, but the higher he climbed, the more he realised that trad climbing in limestone is not the same as in granit…Funnily enough, we found no only bolt and Cédric climbed the two first pitches with his bad placed friends. I was super happy to follow in toprope, but every time I did a fall, all his protections were flying as well!

Once we reached pitch three, the route changed completly his style: pure climbing in best grey limestone, well protected by bolts. A little bit bizarre, but anyways, we were just happy to climb on good bolts.

After a short 7a, we finally reached the key pitch. This one has been an aid pitch and the Pou brothers has been able to befree this one. You climb on old aid material and it’s not really allowed to make some big falls. At some place, there are new bolts, but mostly you will not take the risk to make a fall. Once more, Cédric was leading and I was happy to work the moves in toprope.

I quickly found some good betas for the crux in the vertical part, but I had a lot of difficultys on the upper part; physical climb on monos and two finger pockets. For Cédric it has been the opposite: he had a lot of problems in the vertical part, but felt super solide in the rest.

When we did the abseil down straight to the ground, we finally realised that we were not in the right route, at least during the first two pitches. We discovered a perfect line, well protected by bolts in perfect rock! Ah, this happens all the time…we were climbing in the wrong route during the first two pitches, stupid!

Next day, the weather changed already and there was a freezy wind and some little raindrops. We jumared on our ropes we fixed the day before to reach pitch five. Once more we were working on that one to make shure that all the moves would be possible.

Out goal was accomplished: we felt in love with the line, the place and the difficultys of Orbayu. Unfortunalety we had to leave because of the cold winter weather, but we will be back next summer to crush this line!;-)

We think that the grade of the crux pitch is turning around 8c/8c+, but this is only a speculation. We will see!

Happy but completly freezed we reached the ground and now we can’t wait next summer…

Big respect to the Pou brothers, Nico and Adam for their redpoints and a huge thank’s for their investement.

Now I have some more climbing days left in the southern of France before I will leave to Kalymnos, for the North Face Climing festival and then further to Antalya for another Petzl bolting trip.