Niccolò Ceria Returns to Rocklands

Italian boulderer Niccolò Ceria always hated football for being tied with rules and all that bulls*** that comes with it. I am of the same opinion if you ask. Instead of joining his schoolmates on the footbal pitch, young Niccolò chooses rather different path; climbing. To be precise bouldering as Niky doesn't climb anything else. He quickly developed strong skills and today, he might just be the best boulderer around. His passion has always led him to explore more and more spots not just in Italy, where he grew up, but round the world. This fall he traveled to South Africa to sample some world-class bouldering in the area of Rocklands. And this is his story.
9. 12. 2015 Comments: 0

Words by Niccolò Ceria: Two seasons have elapsed since the last time I was in Rocklands, the renowned area in the Western Cape region of South Africa. That trip was actually my first time out of Europe and was also a good reaching point for my first year as a full-time climber. I was excited the day I left and the trip was brilliant for different aspects. Despite I didn’t like some sides of the area, like the low quality below the V9 frontier, I remember a lot of positive things: some good boulders in the highest difficulty range, the climate which was often perfect, the breathtaking landscapes and the cost of life which was cheap for us. These things made me keen to come back as soon as possible, even because the potential for new stuff is probably bigger than anywhere else.

The climbing style in Rocklands is anyway really simple. It is way simpler than in every other place I have ever climbed. Nothing is difficult. The only thing you do is to grab a hold, which most of the time is a good crimp, and pull it as strong as you can. Rarely you have to figure out something technical or the climbing seldom offers brilliant moves like spicy arêtes or sequences where minimal details are the key. Everything is basic and repeated over and over. This is something I like and I don’t at the sometime. I guess in some cases is really fun and nice. Even the hardest problems are of course difficult for the strength, but super simple for the reading and for their interpretation. After a while, I miss the true bouldering and the gym style of the area start to get me bored; this is the negative side.

Max trying "Pinotage"

"Purple Nipple Clan" 8A, Rocklands (SA). Photo: © Max Buvoli

This year I booked my flight really late, like one month before or maybe even less. I and Max, a friend of mine, opted to come down in July and just after booking I immediately planned a program which worked well. I went to Silvretta for a bunch of days before my trip and I could text myself after those 2 weeks training. I felt positive, light and in a good shape. Skin was perfect and this meant a lot to me. I just had troubles on the endurance and some specific moves made my shoulders feel weak; the time between Silvretta and Rocklands was anyway enough to recover this lack.  We landed on the 11st of August and we only have 20 days of climbing ahead. It was short, but it was definitely better than spend another full month in the terrible Italian summer. 

Everything started well  like I desired: I felt light, I got tough skin and I kept going into a positive flow. The first 4 days were brilliant. We first went to 8 days rain sector where I finished the classic “Golden Virginia” 8A and flashed “Monkey Buisiness” 8A+/B.  Everything seemed to promise for a joyful trip. The days after I jumped on some classics I left in 2013 and I briefly tried one of my favorite problem ever i.e. “Black Eagle”. I wanted to check it out to see if coming back later or not. Unfortunately this never happened. After the first 4 days on, I took a day off; I wanted to start working on something harder and to look for some new projects. I had many things I wanted to do and I knew the time was pretty short.

Roadside, Rocklands (SA)

Since the first day of rest, everything started to go wrong; or better I couldn’t fix my problems properly. I started to be sick for five days and I felt weak in some moments; In the same period I seriously split my medium tip, for an Anthyidral bad use. I started to be stressed at that stage, probably because I knew I was wasting some of the few days I had. I should have simply looked after myself in the coldest nights and use the Antihydral better. Good things for the future! I anyway started working on “Speed of Sound”, a problem rated 8B+ and freed by Jimmy Webb. This problem sadly took me all the trip long.

"Speed of Sound" 8B+, Rocklands (SA). Photo: © Giulia Agatea

At the first session I still had two weeks ahead; all of them have been spent working on “Speed of sound”.  It took me 4 full days of effort in which I exclusively tried that line for 6 or 7 hours per day. The first session I had tape on, while during the second day I also split my index. I kept working with double tape, but I knew I had to stop and recover my fingers properly if I wanted to climb it. I had already spent two precious days, so I wanted to finish it before the end of the trip. The routine was like: intensive session on “Speed of Sound”, climbing on easier lines with tape the day after, resting 3 days and then repeat this loop again. Everything was mentally frustrating for me. I knew that after the resting time I could have 5 or 6 goes on the boulder, and then I had to work the sequences with tape on. The third session went good, falling at the very end before starting bleeding. I put tape on my tips again and I could try the end for a while. I figured out a smarter way to climb the upper moves and I knew that if I could have reached that point again, I wouldn’t have fallen anymore. I removed the tape off, I looked at my fingers, I looked at the boulder and I set my mind off until the next session, trying to keep the positivity. I started another resting loop; it was really long to sit on the pads all day, waiting for a bit of skin. The game started to stress my mind more than what I expected: I was in Rocklands and I had spent lot of time on a single problem. I still had time ahead to  check some other stuff; but at the same time I would have not recovered enough to work properly “Speed of Sound”, so I would have thrown away one week of hard effort. I opted to choose the hardest way for myself: keeping on resting and keeping on believing in that ascent. I had no chance: I would have climbed it or I would have basically wasted the whole trip. I got a risk put 1700 €, three weeks trip, 20.000 km on a single boulder problem. A boulder problem that at the end I didn’t like so much, but at the point it was more like a personal game between me and my mind.

Max trying "Cedar Spine"

The third session was on Monday the 24th. Then the day after we went to Campground where I climbed on easier stuff before another resting period. The plan was simple: resting Wednesday and Thursday, try hard on Friday, then resting on Saturday to have the last possible chance on Sunday, before leaving. Doing this I would have had 5 total sessions for Speed of sound, 2 of them still ahead. I honestly thought that one would have been enough, but knowing about another possibility made me more relaxed and positive. Unfortunately the forecast damaged my plans. On Thursday the weather forecasted rain for Friday and Sunday, while Saturday was supposed to be a sunny day with temps between 14 and 24. I knew I only had a couple of shots before starting bleeding and then with tape the sending would have been much harder for me. I hence rested on Friday as well and the pressure started to make me bad. Saturday was the day. I woke up and I immediately went at the window to see if the rain of the previous night passed by. I wasn’t worried, I trusted in the forecast. I wouldn’t have. It was desperately foggy and quite wet outside. I felt nervous.

"Time Out" 8A+, Rocklands (SA). Photo: © Giulia Agatea

We had our usual breakfast and we drove to the pass. Going to the Saddle, the sector where speed of sound is, the path takes like an hour. The fog was thick. The rhino was visible at 5 meters only. I have never seen Rocklands in that scenario. I opted to postpone my warm up, praying to see blue sky soon. After a couple of hours I was warming and the fog started to fade off. We went to Roadside to finish my warm up on “Sunset Arete”. Max climbed “Pinch of herb” 7C+, while the sky was fully azure; his send and the clear air made me much more positive than the early morning. We hiked to the saddle in our silence. Beyond how the result would have been, that was my last time on the way. I got under the boulder and I cooled down my temperatures; I sheltered in the shade of the overhang and my skin started to be colder. I made a quick warm up for the exit, re-climbing the new way I checked the session before. I didn’t want to check the other moves to save skin; but I would have liked. Everything seemed anyway good, just the skin was more moist than the last time. I wondered why, but an answer would have not made any difference. Pressure was high and I decided to break it with the first go. I climbed so bad and roughly, missing the middle crux. I rested and I started again. I felt too nervous and my feet slightly shake in the sequence. I grabbed the heinous crack and I got into the hardest move but I quickly hit the pad. My mind was not following my body. I had to stop and set it off. After 45 minutes I sat again under the boulder and the anxiety passed by. I felt my mind was searching for the positive stream and it miraculously found it. I was on, I felt a turning point and I began once more. I had a really bad go, with a quick finger snap in the easy section. I fall down, but I was much happier than ever, because I reached a good flow with my head. I rested few minutes and I started with a even better focus. I reached the crux, I went over and I got in the changing feet. I felt stronger; I was climbing into the flow and the flow lead me to the lip. I did the mantle at half past 4 PM, with only a bunch of hours before leaving. I was happy about all the process. All the resting days have been paid off with a single shot and an intense moment.  At the beginning of the trip I had totally other expectations, definitively much more positive. But the things roll differently many times and I had to change my plans. This experience will make me stronger on the red point mode; and since it is one of my weakest point, it is what I actually needed.

"Ulan Bator" 7B, Rocklands (SA). Photo: © Giulia Agatea

Giulia trying "Demi Lune", Rocklands (SA). Photo: © Max Buvoli

Trip is over now and it has been good to live this “bad” events and to overcome some mental problems. It has been curios to me to see how some aspects has changed between 2013 until and now. I would have never been able to work so intensively on a single problem in the previous seasons and this is definitively a good point. I am pretty excited for the fall in Europe now. I have many projects to do, things to develop and test pieces to repeat.

You can follow Niky's adventures on his blog or vimeo here.


9. 12. 2015 Comments: 0
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