Wake from your sleep. Pack and get dressed. Let's give Frank (the weatherman) the laugh 🙈 and sally forth to the hazy rocks of Moha’s castle, 65 kilometers south. Already expect shrill birthing noises. Today novice climbing buddies come out of the safe womb of the indoor hall.
Flash forward. Sun is out and snow is on the roofs. No one’s crying on their first day of rock school. Now topropes will take LUAK's brave neophytes along in a few short rock lines. Instruction is clear. Lift your feet off the ground and disappear in a cloud of chalk.. like a cormorant that dives deep into the water, to be a bird and to reach this other world.
The day is ending when we find ourselves floundering in mud and the right ear electrifies an instant, picking up sudden squeeking and trumpeteering high in the sky. Look up! Like an army from a far away land, heading to a distant place we've never been, they roll over, but peaceful. Can’t see the first and last crane simultaneously. We sense the wind change, feel like the sun could eclipse. Moments later it’s like they had never been here. Gone. Forth in the still melting snow they know, spring is coming. The newspaper will say they were thirty thousand.
A week later we’re heading southward to Freyr.. If the weather isn’t going to kill us all. It’s early morning in Leuven and the rain still falls. We see no one from/for big Hungaria club’s rockday. But shimmering rainpants appear, one after the other: warrie, bère, vinniespinnie (you don’t get to choose your own name :/), the initianten of last week, plus someone new.
Dinant passes. The Maas shows up. In Freyr we jump out of the Van. Ready! First time? There, look, Al'legne (totally black from the wet). And, tada, this path!.. Later the rock will turn out to be soaked. Overhangs are dripping. We scramble up through the forest to the high natural cave with the big three-circle window. Even the cave turns out to be sappy. Not even unicornhornchalk would help. Later we walk along the Maas. Raindrops form thousands of little circles on the river.
Just like in the Alps you can only wonder: “Will the mountains and the rocks be mean? Or will they welcome and accept us?” I don’t know how or when but we’re suddenly in the sunshine. Blue skies appear as if they are summoned by Italian opera divas. Waterdrops separate ready to take off and lift up as one cloud. Ward requests the holy Maas rolls. I already have my spellbook on the pages of Cinq Ânes.
At the Maas a group of non-climber men left a lot of junk. Only Homo Sapiens can make a river a sad place. At Cinq Ânes, I meet an “oude bekende”, Naomie from The Netherlands, from Berdorf. We install topropes and I start a way up in the foreboding legendary Pilier Cromwell.
Suddenly we are in the dark and it’s very late under the strange colored night sky. Rain softly hits through the forest when we’re walking on top and look over the edge of Al'legne, through trees captivated by winter. Later follow mountains of fries. By midnight we arrive home.
Life hacks with LUAK: check and interpret many weathermodel’s different scenarios on the Swiss app MeteoBlue and choose the one you like most. Not that we have to play the weatherprofessor this time to guess what next weekend will bring in Freyr. Me and Hans climb already in drizzle the day before. A dozen of forecasts is sure for the next day. Rain will stop and temperatures will drop below freezing point with icily cutting wind gusts. Winter’s swan song.
The opportunity for initiants tomorrow provokes a storm. If experienced sportclimbers come in the otherwise quiet on-line discussion platform like a fireball through the chimney, declaring LUAK’s crazy, you know it's a good idea. I meet another guy in the early morning on the street. Baffled, almost as if he’s insulted he nods. “Is there no common sense anymore?!… Come on.. you’ll just get sick.. You may think you know what you're dealing with, but, believe me, you don't.."
They’re afraid I’ll be king of Wallonia someday, declare downgrading irrelevant. What can I say? On Belclimb, by Pilier Cromwell, LUAK’s rock crushing Bart Dendas commented Pilier proved a sweaty struggle when the battle reached higher. Hmm, what can we do about that?..
So wake up, while the stars are still shining, oh momma I wanna go climbin’. The initiants are with us. Boom, Freyr, here we are. I warm up running on the slopes and then my burning fingers clasp the steep first holds up the unbolted starting pillar. It's a hard knock life but soon I may be running through the high grass of the fields and hills of sendland. I keep falling and falling. Falling in love. First time I went in, back down, I remembered nothing. Now the fourth, soon after, I scribble down the sections and beta throughout my odyssey on a serviette.
The absolute beginner goes on a freezing cold expedition in a fourth grade opened by Xavier de Hemricourt de Grunne. Or a route opened by pioneering climbers calling themselves the five donkeys. The initiants who are climbing for some time can try several classic routes around the 5c range which are an introduction to challenging climbs and which are unreachable hidden gems for the loud large NSAC's access-grade-polishing anti climbing ethics militia operating from 14 Dutch cities.
Codenames of routes where we prepared a toprope are flipperkast; the full rope one on the wall of legends; the full rope one where an owl hit me (not after the owl of course, the early nest is reported for protection); the long undercling alpine crack traverse; one continuous straight to a cave (and out) just by the water; the long and lonesome corner crack with the little roof and spatious bolts... In the freezing winter cold we even unlock a new chapter: Pucelles.(Paul L.)
Non-initiation tail.. Two nights later. The morning is dark and stays very dark. Raindrops run down the windows. When it’s midday I’m taking a break. The sun suddenly appears, wind is soft. Couldn’t have guessed it this morning. Text. Hans. Climb? Huh.. I’m working.. runsayyescheckcalendarmovemeeting-lightburststhroughthewindowsconstantblastthroughthedeskswherei’mpassingsaybyerunoh-C-130landing-overmyheadretrieveropepasshomeshirtseveryoneisstillinwintermodetshirtisabitcoldohnonotanymoreha-jumpinthecar.
An instant later.. It’s like all the trees on the highway go flat in a timewarp. Anseremme's mainstreet thrills in the sun. The Maas sparkles. The road bends and goes up. All unimaginable this morning. Today it’s vernal equinox. No time for the pidgeon's life, no time to have wings but be trampled for breadcrumbs they throw at you. It's only a dark cocoon before I get my gorgeous wings and fly away.
Follow me, reader! Who told you love is a losing game, laughed at by the gods?.. Pilier Cromwell! Hans sends the 40m pillar with the help of some sending wine/chai tea (on placing the draws!). Days later I send this wet nightmare too (draws on the harness, woow). This is the send, beautiful friend, the send (The Doors). Hans will later send (and no longer skydive) Question d’Honnêteté (a route to make you suddenly turn a switch or die from a heartattack) and Cocaïne Fingers.
Today looks white and light green from willows. Tomorrow different. Little plants show themselves from the cracks. Thick leafs, small leafs, another one from a hold, all veering up.. In Al'legne bushes of yellow flowers.. White anemones on the flat parts under the trees.. Willow catkins.. Singing.. Mad of love, poor birds. We’re amidst a wildfire of light. From cracks, just last week looking quite dead, now a variety of plants jostle out to bud into readiness for their D-day. The day makes place. Birds, invisible, all around us, must very well know spring is coming. Birds sing, on how they hate humans, would they? After eating in Dinant, in the night we take exit 8 to Leuven, not onsight, as with Hans earlier we just missed it, with five exits. Three days later it's the last LUAK initiation weekend.(unknown)
Climbers don't always eat eagle's eggs. Sometimes they're just as happy with koffiekoeken. And around Fontainebleau they have some very special ones. So we'll take the last initiation there. As a nice extra you can boulder in the majestic fairytale forest encircling the city. Now forecasts don’t promise popular weather. I like to believe Yr.no which primarily notes "svak vind" and "flau vind". After Seb's house party the Van is set ready. "Oh trouble-free transmission help your oil's flow." The roadbook is thrown in with maps to an ancient tower sticking up in the forest, and the magic roads to bypass the peripherique of Paris.
Aaaasebinja..... bagithibabaaa.. sithi uhm ingonyamaaa... (Here comes a lion). One by one me, my successor Daan, Hendrik, and initianten, wake up. These days we climb at Cul de Chien, and at Bois Rond and Canche Aux Merciers. We put a shiny rescue blanket on the crashpad to see our footholds under overhangs. Later we use belay glasses to see the stars.
The first evening we search for a parking spot in Fontainebleau’s center. It's very crowdy. In a random street I find exactly one free spot. We get out and make our way through the streets. We must be passing hundreds of varying shops past closing time. ”Tiens, they were also replacing the parquet last year..” Hendrik shares while staring deep into a dark empty one.
We're here for bouldering officially. A mighty strange thing. But you teach me and I teach you and maybe we make it through the ending mantles. We wished we practiced 5c Le Chauffage in our club house just a bit more. Each of us snaps back to reality. There goes gravity. “You’re not tired, you think tired..”, Daan encourages someone who's considering surrender. On the tunes of quite an altered Jolene-version we head home.