When Trying Is Everything

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Words by Piotr Drożdż 
Photos by Sam 
Challéat

In wintertime, for many climbers, there is no other way to escape frosty conditions and head in the direction of the Spanish sun. Despite the fact that even in Spain weather can be quite fickle, starting each year in November, Cornudella de Montsant becomes a meeting place for those who want to keep their training momentum going and for anyone yearning for a moment of active peace. Sooner or later, every climber finds out that all roads lead to Catalonia.

Last winter, Nina Caprez was one of the climbers beckoned by the huge faces of El Pati. After a pre-planned and well thought-out 2014, the Swiss could finally catch her breath, “My last year was really organized, I knew exactly when I wanted to be where, and at the foot of which climb. I became very tired and it made me think that I should just live my life and see where it would take me… it took me to Spain.” Nina believes that it is projects that look for her, one can say that La Reina Mora decided to send her a Remembrall. After the Arc’teryx athlete brushed up on all the sequences, fought with the cruxes and still dod not succeeded, she was ready to admit that one of the gems in El Pati’s crown was the first really hard route she’d ever tried, excluding Orbayu.

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Nina’s huge project last year did not worked out the way she’d planned – the 510-metre 8c by Pou brothers made it clear that it was the mountain the determined the eventual success, not climbers. For a radical individual like Nina with a pure concept of ascents, such a manifesto appeared hard to swallow, “Orbayu taught me one thing: if I want to continue climbing the way I do, I need to be a little more open and friendly with myself. Until Orbayu, everything in my climbing career was easy, I never really had to struggle, I made quick ascents a little below my limit. Now I perceive climbing differently.”

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Super crazy, weird and outstanding to climb – is how Nina describes La Reina Mora. The entire process behind consecutive attempts might be referred to in a similar way. Frustrating as it was at the beginning, Nina realized that the failure was eventually part of the game. The new “not-ascent” challenge turned out to be a mind-opening experience, “You start adjusting mentally to the fact that you try the thing at the same time accepting the risk that maybe you’ll never be able to climb it.”

But there’s also another dimension to it; a personal history and life choices in the background. For the first time, it became crystal clear that in order to do something extraordinary, every climber needs a good deal of mental support from somebody else; from “people who give you energy, perspective and lots of support in these little moments when you need it most.” For Nina, one of them was definitely Marc Le Menestrel, a dear friend living in Catalonia. The exchange of experience and the opportunity to step back from the climbing scene to put things into perspective combined with world class routes made the Swiss athlete shift down a gear and enjoy relaxing evenings around the fire.

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And, La Reina Mora? The mere act of trying and giving one’s best became more important than the eventual success, which knowing Nina’s determination, will come sooner or later. It is not only the weather conditions at the sector that often make La Reina so difficult but also the unpredictability of the route itself and, above all, the head of the climber that needs to enter the right mindset, “Last winter I was just traveling, not being sure where I wanted to be and it made climbing harder. I didn’t feel well with myself and my body. It’s about the feeling you have within you that both climbing and everything else you do in your life make sense. I had to find that balance again and probably that’s why I wasn’t able to really perform and be strong over the last months. I had to breathe a little, I had to feel where I wanted to be and what I wanted to do. And once I feel what I want to do and where I want to be, I can completely focus on my goal with my head and heart wide open.”

Ca avance

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Je suis en train de regarder mon Blog et je vois que ça faisait longtemps que je n’avais plus donné des nouvelles. Parfois il y a tellement de choses qui se passent dans ma vie que j’ai du mal à écrire une phrase parce que je ne trouve pas les bonnes paroles pour.

J’ai quitté l’Espagne fin mars pour rentrer en Suisse et m’occuper un peu de ma petite maman. Je suis rentrée sans avoir “coché” mon projet ce qui m’a provoqué en premier lieu une sensation d’échec. On n’est jamais trop content sur le moment quand on s’investit beaucoup dans un projet qu’on ne réalise pas à la fin mais avec du recul je suis vraiment contente de ce que j’ai fait là bas. J’ai grimpé avec le cœur grand ouvert et j’ai énormément progressé dedans. A la fin j’ai réussi à faire la voie avec un arrêt ce qui me donne bon espoir pour l’année prochaine.

Pour être honnête, je ne sais pas ce que ça vaut la Reina Mora. Comme la cotation officielle n’est « que » 8c+/9a, je me demande si c’est juste un compte perso à régler et qu’en réalité la voie n’est pas si dure. Pour moi en tout cas, elle est importante. Je m’y suis mise l’an dernier car j’ai eu un grand coup de cœur et elle représente la première réelle voie dure que j’ai travaillée dans ma vie. Mais bon, peut-être faudra juste que je me prépare un peu plus correctement l’année prochaine et que j’arrête de me chatouiller!

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Rentrer en Suisse chez ma famille est toujours un challenge pour moi. J’adore ma mère, elle m’a tout appri dans ma vie : les valeurs qui comptent, le respect, vivre l’instant présent. Bref, elle est fantastique!

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Après de nombreuses années d’arthrose à la hanche, elle a enfin pris la décision de se faire opérer et je lui avait proposé de m’occuper d’elle pendant la période “béquille”. On habite dans la campagne donc ce n’est pas évident pour une femme seule de se déplacer. Alors j’ai fait ma petite fille qui s’occupe d’elle et vous ne pouvez pas vous imaginez comme ça m’a remplie de joie d’être là pour elle et de lui donner un coup de main pendant cette période difficile. Avec mon frère on lui a même organisé une fête surprise pour ses 60 ans. C’était énorme !

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Mais à part l’amour que j’ai pour ma famille, la Suisse n’est plus l’endroit ou je vis réellement, donc très vite je me sens un peu seul. Je me suis créée ma vie pendant ces six dernières années en France à Grenoble et cet endroit commençait vraiment à me manquer.

Depuis novembre passé j’avais une vie de gitane car j’avais besoin de me détacher un peu de tout. Quand je prends une décision je suis assez radicale pour la mise en place et je l’assume complètement. Ce qui est horrible pour moi c’est quand je plane et quand je ne sais pas exactement ce que je veux.
J’ai eu beaucoup de temps pour grimper ces dernières semaines, comme jamais presque, mais au fond de moi je ne suis pas faite pour grimper 100%. Ca ne donne pas assez de sens pour moi et ça ne me comble pas totalement. C’est étrange de dire ça car je vis de ça . Je m’ennuie quand je ne fais que grimper et j’ai beaucoup du mal à définir mes objectifs et je ne sais pas trop si je suis vraiment prête à faire les investissements nécessaires pour atteindre un but.

L’idée et la grande envie de revenir sur Grenoble étaient comme un éclair pour moi. J’étais de nouveau capable de mettre des paroles claires sur mes rêves et mes envies et je trouve que c’est la plus belle sensation du monde quand on est capable de dire ça à haute voix. Mon rêve a toujours été d’avoir un appart sous les combles au vieux centre ville de Grenoble. Je suis en train de mettre ça en place et depuis je suis aux anges !

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C’est rigolo, mais les ojectives en escalade suivent naturellement depuis et j’ai de nouveau le feu en moi et l’envie de me dépasser dans une voie d’escalade.

Je crois que ma période de planage prend enfin fin et c’est une sensation très très agréable. Il va suivre une belle période de travaux/grimpe. Je kiffe déjà !
Bon, faut quand même que j’ajoute un truc: ça fait une semaine que je suis plaquée au lit à cause d’un virus très persistant. J’ai plus été malade depuis 4 ans, fallait bien que ça me rattrape un jour! Je pense que je le traine déjà depuis plusieurs semaine, ce qui explique un peu ma grosse fatigue et fragilité. Mais j’ai pas peur, je fais confiance dans la vie.

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Searching for a deep satisfaction

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I feel like a real rockclimber right now. Since I quit my ordered and setteled life, a lot of things have changed. I was reflecting a lot about how I want to be a single person and what my daily life should look like. I became much smoother and nicer with myself and with other people since my brutal cut in life. I think it’s because I’m more sensible than before and my heart and mind is completly open. I can follow the movement of life and this feels like the right thing to me at this point of life.

This movement took me to Spain at the beginning of Feburary after some crazy experiences earlier this year in the middle east. I landed here because I felt in love with a route called « Reina Mora »  a year ago. I had only one wish in mind since, going back and climbing in it again.

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It’s a good feeling to climb on a route we really love and also super interesting to see the lessons it teaches us.

I came to Spain because of some deep friendships I made last year and I missed my friends. Climbing has always had a big sense of sharing to me and I simply like to be surrounded by persons I feel connected to. For me, life makes only sense if I feel love and compassion. This makes me vibrate and feeling alive !

 

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Last year I fell in love with the route and I tried it a lot. By the end of the season I felt frustrated because I failed. I hadn’t had the right attitude ; I was kind of naive because everything  was so new for me. I  was used to finishing routes really fast and then passing to something else. It was the first time I seriously attacked a route with such a big ample and with such a high difficulty.

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This year life brought me back to her, naturally. I’m really enjoying the progression, but also the regression, the joy I feel while doing great links, the suffering when I’m  loosing a lot of skin on sharp holds and the bad night I’m spending somethimes because my muscles are burning so much. I love the physical and mental battles while I’m climbing (I’m having a hard time in the really beginning of the route in an awkward crack). I’m dealing with the little sacrifices I have to make to feel in shape and all the unexpected emotions which are coming up.

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But one thing has always first rang to me : I feel in love and peace with the route. I choose this route because it feels like the right to me to climb and also I feel that I can fully express myself while trying.

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Honestly, I have no idea where this story will takes me and how and when  it will end. I know that I’m giving my best and that I fully live this great experience. I feel unstressed and free and really don’t care about the moment when I will clip the chains. I know that it will be one of the greatest moments in my life and that I will feel something that I’ve been searching for. I’m convinced that the more time it takes, the more I will feel this deep satisfaction I’m looking for. It’s kind of a cool feeling to see things like that…. ;-)

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Beside my experiences in route, life feels great here in Spain! I put up my basecamp in Barcelona at my best friends house where I feel such a warm welcome by his entire family. I have an advanced camp here in Cornudella the Montsant where I’m sharing a flat with my buddies Jonathan Siegrist and James Lucas. The town is full of nice people which mostly have a healthy and good spirit! I slowly start to understand some Spanish and Catalan and due to the big American influence here I’m improving my English a lot which is also a good thing. I feel lucky and privileged. Thank’s to all the people which making my life so unique and rich.

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Photo credit: Sam Challéat, Raph Fourau and Paolo Sartori

Voeux pour 2015

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“Je vous souhaite des rêves à n’en plus finir et l’envie furieuse d’en réaliser quelques uns. Je vous souhaite d’aimer ce qu’il faut aimer et d’oublier ce qu’il faut oublier. Je vous souhaite des passions, je vous souhaite des silences. Je vous souhaite des chants d’oiseaux au réveil et des rires d’enfants. Je vous souhaite de respecter les différences des autres, parce que le mérite et la valeur de chacun sont souvent à découvrir. Je vous souhaite de résister à l’enlisement, à l’indifférence et aux vertus négatives de notre époque. Je vous souhaite enfin de ne jamais renoncer à la recherche, à l’aventure, à la vie, à l’amour, car la vie est une magnifique aventure et nul de raisonnable ne doit y renoncer sans livrer une rude bataille. Je vous souhaite surtout d’être vous, fier de l’être et heureux, car le bonheur est notre destin véritable.”
Jacques Brel

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Photo: Sam Challéat

The Folly

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Life, to me, is passionate with changes, colour and movement. When I can embrace and live with this flow, I feel alive, light and limitless.

Since the end of the summer, I was searching and asking myself why the adventurousness of life and excitement of climbing was lost. There seemed to be too much action with too little intent during a busy and hectic year, which followed with over exertion of energy on the route Orbayu. I was beginning to feel confused with movement and progress.

At the beginning of the long journey with the Petzl Roc Trip, I did not feel in my « shoes ». With time, as we moved south with the whole caravan, I started to feel my eyes brighten with the colours of life moving around me again. I felt comfortable with the new and different people we travelled with. I was able to share a lot of time with friends. And most of all, I really appreciated the « non-structured » life. Life was not chaotic at all, but to appreciate this kind of travel, it is good to be open for any situation, for every unanticipated challenge and to have an open heart to go out of my little « cocoon » and be involved with the life of the people that are around me.

After these two months, I realized that the « dream » life I had built during the last years was not right for me. The routine of daily life with a stable home and material goods was taking away my “joie de vivre”. I love the life that does not follow a structure and stays open to allow me to follow my feelings. This may seem chaotic to some. To me this feels completely free…..to be able to follow my heart.

The time has come to make a change, and radically I did. I left the security of my home I helped to build and a stable relationship.

This took a lot of my courage and once I made the move, my gut let me know that I made the right decision. I packed my few belongings into my little blue car and drove away. I knew that it would not be easy for some people and I tried to be respectful as possible, but in the end I did it for my own happiness.

At this moment now, I feel a deep happiness within myself, even when I pass moments alone. There is a deep freedom of ease inside of me.

My eyes can see colours so bright and my mind feels so open. I feel so much gratitude to be able to see the beauty in each moment and the beauty in all the people.

I’m sitting now on the train from Fontainbleau to Zürich where I had spent a week in the forest with some of my best friends. It was a magical time. With this new open mind, I was able to bring down some important barriers……no limits….

I permitted the « folly » to come back in my life so I can fully express myself. I feel Nina again.

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