Note: This is a post I'm writing mostly so that I will always be able to look back and remember the second of March 2013 - The day I climbed Duel.
It was the day I moved out of Neil's gite. A gite in which I had been sitting looking out through the window on rain and snow falling almost solidly for two months. It was also the first day I started feeling well again, after coming down with stomach-flu earlier that week. I was still feeling frail and tired, and when I went out climbing the day before, I wanted to try something not so powerful. I ended up following a friend to Duel in Franchard Cusiniere. I had tried this renowned slab briefly a couple of years earlier, without getting further off the ground than a couple of moves. This time things felt better, maybe because I had been doing some easier slabs the week before (not that any of the slabs in Fontainebleau are easy), and started to get a feel for it.
Thanks to help from Padde with powerspotting me half way through the climb, I could work the moves higher up, and managed to figure how to get quite far up the climb. However, to me this thing isn't over until you are stood on top of it, and by the time my feet and fingers had gone too cold to keep going, there were still a couple of moves I could not do. I had however reached those moves going from the ground, and with that I was very happy and feeling full of hope. Psyched to be able to work one of the dreamclimbs on my Font-ticklist, even though I felt weak as anything, I decided to go back the very next day.
All through that night, I kept waking up, thinking about the moves, eager to get back out there to see if I could figure out a way to do the top. Around lunchtime the next day, I returned followed by Neil and his film-crew, who had come along to do some testshots for Neil's upcoming movie-project.
I had done some deadhangs back at Neil's hangboard, and was warmed up enough to go straight on the climb. Pretty much right away, I split my finger on one of the holds. Feeling frustrated and disappointed, thinking that I wouldn't be able to keep going, I taped my finger really tight to see if I could maybe work out the last moves anyways. To my big surprise, I was still able to hold the crimp I'm grabbing to do the part of the climb which I had yet not done. Off course I didn't get as much purchase off it as before, and when I kept falling due to feet slipping and not being able to figure out a working sequence, I was on the border to leaving it for another day.
As long as I can remember, my dad has been saying that I am stubborn as a dog with a bone. I suppose that this is true in some ways. Even though things felt hopeless, I didn't want to leave without having done the top part. I thought that it would be so much easier to come back knowing that I could do all the moves, and even more important, how to do them. I kept trying, thinking before each go that it would definitely be my last, and eventually I climbed the top.
As I walked back down from the top of the boulder, a hawk was circling over us. This was noted by my friend Jan and his wife, who had just arrived from Belgium. They said it was a sign that I would climb the problem today. I thought they where being stupidly optimistic, but Jan, who probably is the calmest person I've ever met, just looked at me and said I had to believe. "When you believe you will climb it, you will do it no matter what". I suppose what he said had some truth to it, and in that moment a spark of hope lithe up inside me, together with an idea. Maybe the tape on my finger wouldn't matter on the lower holds. The split was in the center of the tip, and since the holds lower down are so small, perhaps I could place the tape so that the very tip would still be free. I had already proven to myself that I could climb the top with it, and if what I'd just figured out would work, that would mean I could do the problem today. It was definitely worth a shot, so I put my shoes back on, and after having fallen of the top crux, I took a ten minute rest, now knowing it could go.
Half way through the crux sequence again, my hand slipped. Thinking I was off, I managed to save my self by grabbing the next hold. This however meant I had to do the sequence slightly different from how I'd done it before. Lucky for me it worked just as well, if not better! As I mantled over the top I didn't know what to think or do. Neil and Haroun, who were the only ones left, just looked at me. Normally I feel relief and happiness when sending something, but this was just too big to know what to feel. Off course I was exploding with happiness inside, but there was more to it. That moment alone was worth the two months of being sat waiting for dry weather.
Neil met me as I once again walked down from the boulder and gave me "a well-deserved hug". "It´s going to take some time for you to sink this in I think. It´s a great achievement for any climber to do an 8A slab in the forrest. THE 8a slab...". Those are words I will remember, along with the day that I climbed Duel.