Every climber has a project.
Whether it is a hard route in the gym that won’t quite go, or that elusive dream climb outside that keeps them going through tough training blocs, there is nothing like having that goal to work towards.
Livvy Gent is no exception. After several trips to the magical forest of Fontainebleau, she has already sent a handful of 7A’s and 7B’s and one 7C. But there was one climb she has had her eye on for several trips, Le Lot du Boudins, a 7C classic. A low, crimpy traverse that requires precise foot placement and patience.
First, the work had to go in back home. Training sessions, fun climbs to keep morale up, finger boarding, as much time on the sandstone as possible. Strength and conditioning. Sometimes, if a climb requires a certain kind of move, training can be focussed to a great extent, other times it is just about being in the best all round shape as possible.
Working on a project is about mental strength and resilience as much as physical. The wiliness to try the same move, over and over. To accept that some days you’ll come off before the crux, that it just isn’t quite there. To not get too disheartened when a move just won’t go. To remember that climbing is and always should be fun.
Livvy was in Font in September, working Le Lot du Boudins but it just wouldn’t go. There was one move, pulling off a tiny crimp that was proving tricky to work. The heel hook wouldn’t hold, no matter how precise she was in placing it. But the absolute key to projecting to accepting defeat with good grace. Livvy went and tried several other climbs, sending most of them. The trip could still be regarded as a success. Lessons were learned.
Roll on October and she was back to it. But this time the weather didn’t want to play ball. This of course is the other side to projecting – external factors that you can’t control. It is hard to focus and accept the reality when you have planned and prepared for one eventuality, only to have it stolen from you by chance.
But that is what makes the send that bit sweeter. Knowing you’ve worked for it. Trained for it. That feeling when you go for the elusive move and land it, and realise you’re over the crux. The ability to stay focused and not take the rest of the climb for granted. The elation when you start to top out, and realise it is finally going to happen.
Livvy’s project hasn’t gone quite yet. Hopefully it will. But if it doesn’t there is always another day, another climb. Laughs to be had. Memories to make and to treasure. Since going to Font regularly, Livvy has become a better, all-rounded climber which in itself is a huge achievement that can’t be underestimated. Projecting 7C outdoors at the age of 12 is testament to that.
And sadly, fairy tales don’t always come true. For every Dawn Wall, there are many, many climbers who accept defeat, sometimes with good grace, sometimes not. But if a project doesn’t ever go, there is always the silver lining that by trying, you’ve already achieved the goal of improving as a climber. And there is always another route, another bloc to entice you back in.
Some projects are week-long goals, some take a lifetime. But send them or not, all of them will teach you something.
All Images by Will Gent