The typical year of every competition climber is full of events. Usually, you train hard indoors for the whole winter to start competing in spring and do it all the way until the end of autumn. Under the current circumstances, with a global pandemic, this routine changed quite a bit.
Not only did we have cancelled competitions, but also lockdowns and travel restrictions. As much as everyone is trying to get back to a normal life in 2021, it is still different. My competition season ended in September. And that meant only one thing, I can go rock climbing for the rest of the year!
My life is full of amazing people. I am lucky enough to have a few close friends, one of them, Alise, is a person with whom I have gone through a lot, including moving to Germany together. I've known Alise for a long time, we connected through climbing, and became very close.
As grateful as I am for the people in my life, it’s not possible to build any kind of relationship without trying. It is always hard work, and you can’t maintain any friendship without putting in time and effort. As we weren’t living together anymore, it was even harder to stay connected to Alise. So, we did what any friends should do. Organise a girls trip.
Alise is the biggest fan of the Fontainebleau climbing. I am telling you, if she could stay there forever, she probably would. On the other hand, as competition climber, I had very mixed feelings about Bleau. That place is definitely special, but as a comp climber who goes outside wanting to perform as I do in competitions, it was always frustrating to come to Bleau and get my ass kicked!
That needed to change.
I didn’t like the idea of going bouldering outside. The concept of “if you don’t climb something hard – you've failed” contradicted everything I knew. It would require me to put my ego aside and go there with an open mind, no expectations, and with only one goal: to learn how to enjoy bouldering outside.
The trip didn’t start well. On the first day climbing, I had massive period cramps. That feeling of not wanting to stand, sit or lay. When everything is achy, and you don’t want to do anything at all. The good thing about having your girlfriend around is that she not only understands what you are going through but can also relate to it. Can you even imagine how much chocolate gets consumed when you and your bestie have your period at the same time?
There is a lot of unity in this. We have each other. Even if our experiences are very individual and different, we are all made the same. Therefore, taking care of each other and genuinely wondering how the other person is, is very important in my eyes.
Luckily, over the next few days we spent quality time together. I was psyched to do all the boulders that looked nice without even wondering about the grade. I can’t even tell you how many 4’s, 5’s and 6’s we did. We would just walk around and be like: “Oh, this looks awesome! Do you want to try it with me?”
On top of that, it was my first outdoor bouldering trip after my severe elbow injury. It was nice and enjoyable to do easy stuff without judging myself for not trying harder. Bleau opened up for me from a very different perspective. Being in the forest, connecting with nature and close people, finding small textures on the rock that I couldn’t imagine I would be able to hold and tiny footholds that make all the difference. Fontainebleau blocs teach you a lot, you just have to stay open minded, because sometimes the solution is as small as moving your foot 2cm to the left.
We visited a number of areas during the time we were there. By the end of the trip, we needed to tape our fingers and rest our elbows from all the slopers. We also gathered trash in the forest a couple of times when it was raining. Which made me think that we should and can take much better care of wild places around us. Let’s take care not only of ourselves, but also of nature and rocks. If we don’t, what will those places look like in the future?
A gentle reminder: Try to not leave any trace of your stay, pick up not only your trash, but also any trash you can find, brush the holds after you climbed, don’t climb on wet holds and only walk on designated paths.
The icing on the cake, on top of an already amazing trip, was on our last day, we decided to visit “Duel” again. I had tried this boulder once at the beginning of 2019, and once more during this trip. If you know me, you probably know that I absolutely love slab climbing. Trusting your feet and keeping your hips close to the wall. That is my thing. I was keen to try this boulder again, so we went on the day of our departure. We had only half a day and, amazingly, on my first try I reached a high point, realising it was totally possible. Half an hour later I was squeaking on top of the boulder, after “walking” up my first ever 8A boulder.
It is funny, how the first time you try a boulder, it seems so hard. Maybe you can’t do all the moves, or can barely make some links, then on the send go it seems easy and effortless.
Whatever I have achieved in my life, I did not do alone. The power of people supporting you, and who are there for you in all moments (good and bad) is a huge part of anyone’s success.
This trip helped me to let go of my expectations around performance. To play on the rock outside, and to just enjoy spending time climbing with one of my closest friends.
My point is this, climbing achievements are a part of every climber’s life, but being a happy person with great people around me is what really matters. This trip helped Alise and I connect on a deeper level and raise our friendship to a stronger level than it was before.
Afterall, what is happiness if you don’t have someone to share it with?
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Words by | Jenya Kazbekova
A world-class competition climber, Jenya is pushing her boundaries both in comps and outdoors. Jenya is a professional athlete from Ukraine with a passion for competition and outdoor climbing. She's currently the best female competition climber from Ukraine, ranking 7th in the 2019 Boulder world ranking.
Read more about Jenya here