Words by Katharina Habermann. Photos by Sam Bié.
After several weeks of cold and rain in the Picos de Europa (Spain), Nina returned home to Grenoble, France. She was happy because her partner Cédric did the route, happy because she free climbed all pitches of her dream project: Orbayu. Happy to be able to have captured it all on film and in photos. And finally, happy because the whole team safely returned without any injuries. One thing Nina realized was how much extra energy, stress and effort was created by having the camera man and photographer on the wall in extreme conditions.
The bottom part of Orbayu was not a big problem for the couple till they got to pitch 5, the crux pitch (8c). “It took us three days to become conditioned to the climbing. You need mega finger power and bicep strength. I was at my limit - not even able to do single moves,” Nina explains. While they were working the route the weather got worse and worse. On the only day without rain, Cédric gave it a try and was able to free the 550 meter long route. Nina tells: “I could climb the whole thing on top rope – except the crux moves. It was a great feeling to stand on top together with Cédric!”
Fed up with cold and rainy conditions, bad soup and snoring people in the hut, they decided to go back home to France and recharge their bodies. After two weeks of warmth, good food and sleep Nina felt rested and powerful enough to head back to Picos de Europa. She felt so good that she gave it a try right on the first day. There was no problem until she arrived at the fifth pitch: “I could not even do a move!” She thought that after her fuel tanks got filled, everything would be much easier - she really had to work on the crux pitch. “This was the start of the battle. I could not figure it out, the cameras were bugging me and I focused too much on Cédrics tips.” She tried and tried but got upset and frustrated. “After three days I came to a point where I asked myself why I was so stressed. Orbayu is a route that I wanted to climb! F*ck the cameras and the movie! I have to focus on my project!” From this moment onwards, Nina got back her positive attitude and confidence. She worked out the moves and soon she could climb the whole pitch cleanly. “I gave all I had and was so concentrated that I almost had to puke! I gave my very everything and am happy even if I was not able to climb Orbayu in one go (yet).”
“When I think of the time Orbayu, I feel like all of it was just a big movie,” says Nina. “If I had known what first ascent and filming at the same time means, I probably would not have done it. I can free my mind completely when I climb with Cédric because I have absolute trust in him.” To have a camera man and photographer at all times, working on fixed ropes on a limestone multi pitch without bolts took a lot more energy than expected. “But in the end it was worth it – we have some great footage."
Of course, there is one last question – Is Orbayu finished or is it a project for Nina to return and free climb it all in one go. “Who knows? All I need now is a long break from climbing and from awful soups!” Nina responds.
MORE ABOUT ORBAYU:
Orbayu is a route by the Pou brothers (many thanks from Nina for setting up such a great piece!) and first repeated byNico Favresse and Adam Pustelnik. It is a combination of a new bolted route and the free climb of an aid route. Orbayu is situated in Naranjo de Bulnes, Picos de Europa, Spain. The crux pitch has been originally graded 8c+/9a and the route had been hailed as the world´s hardest big wall free climb.Nico Favresse and Adam Pustelnik graded it as8b+/8c. Nina and Cédric graded it as 8c - the whole climb in their eyes is: 8a, 8a, 7c, 7a, 8c, 7c+, 6b+, 6a and five more easy pitches to the top. The footage will be released soon!