This was my first piece of published writing from Climber magazine, August 2011.
I am sat here in the Climbing Works, the cold dampness of a February morning surrounds me. A hot, wake-me up coffee and the surprisingly melodic beat of techno as my company. I am puzzling over the link between climbing and coffee! Does one exist?! In terms of performance I would argue no but I suspect most climbers will have a cup or two a day!
One my climbing heroes, Wolfgang Gullich, summed it up nicely-
“A man doesn’t go to drink coffee after climbing, coffee is integral part of the climbing.”
I love coffee; the aroma, the rich syrupy texture and the idea of sharing time with friends or ones owns thoughts.
I was asked to write a short piece interlacing coffee with my climbing; I drink coffee most mornings so picking a day that stood out proved to be difficult. In the end an October day last year in the Valais region of Switzerland stood out above others. This area is relatively unknown compared to Ticino; Fred Nicole spent time here during the 90’s establishing lines such as Radja, Joyeux Leon and Future Eaters. Years later Dave Graham added to the quality of the area with additions such as Scarred for Life, Katcha and Permanent Midnight.
A friend and I decided to depart from a hot, sweaty Fontainebleau and spend a week in the cooler temperatures of Valais. Number one on both our lists: Permanent Midnight. The name comes from a Jerry Stahl book; I imagine both author and first ascentionist enjoy time out with a strong coffee!
Fast forwarding as my word count runs short; I managed to climb this steep, imposing arête of grey granite. Now the coffee link! Mornings were cold; first up gets the coffee on, the smell raising us from our stupor, our sloth-like selves stumbling around in the chill of the mountain air. Coffee and porridge to fuel us for the day ahead. In a short session two days ago I figured the beta, today was sending time; butterflies fill my stomach in anticipation. On my third go from the bottom I am lucky enough to get everything right and reach the top! Elation courses through me at climbing this stunning boulder. Mick is resting for the day and so by 11:00 we are cafe bound for our second coffee of the day and the suns warmth; lizards basking in the heat!
Permanent Midnight 8B in Valais, Switzerland. Photo: Micky Page.