September 30 05:55am. The alarm sounds, shocking me from a slumber cut short. We have to drive two and a half hours to reach Albenga from our base in Asti to partake in our very first 24 hour climbing marathon, the 24H SufferFest and, for us, it seems more like 36 hours with all the road time!
11:00am: The horn sounds and each of the 20 teams rush off in their own directions to begin the marathon. Our strategy: climb right to left, ticking as many pitches as we can on the way. Seems like a sound plan to close as many pitches as we possibly can, right?
12:30pm: After realizing that the first four pitches we climbed – 6c’s and 7a’s – are not on the competition list, we are chastened and revise our strategy accordingly. Time to get moving!
19:00pm: Night falls upon us. We’ve eaten about 5 paninis each, a bag of cookies, bananas, litres of water, hydration crystals and we’re off, walking up the road, to close a crag with 24 pitches.
03:00am: Panini number 10 goes down. Delicious! We’ve closed the Telematica crag and are taking a break to meet the 04:00am check-in time, on our way to a new crag.
04:30am: Emisfero. We’ve resorted to communicating in shrugs and grunts. Climbing sounds like whimpering kittens, it’s so painful to touch the rock. Alas, we’d set a goal of 5o pitches each and 50 pitches must be achieved! Through the pain Read sends his 50th, a 7a challenge issued by Alex and just in time. We had to run to Reunion crag for Alex to tick off his 47th through 50th pitches.
10:00am: Alex forgot his shoes in Emisfero and still has three pitches to climb. It seems a laughing matter – Read had a laugh at least – but Alex has suboptimal footwear to climb. Bearing down, grabbing hard and grunting through the pain, Alex basically campuses and smears his way to 50 pitches. Time to call it a “day”!
11:00am: the buzzer sounds and we’re all done. 20 teams laughing and climbing through the day and night arrive to the finish. Giddy, shaking with sugar, caffeine and fatigue, we assemble for a celebratory beer and wait the awards.
We are asleep on our feet when Mauro calls Read’s name – 3rd in Advanced men. He stumbled on to the stage and then Team Explore Climbing is called, also 3rd overall. What a surprise!
The 24H Sufferfest is a fantastic event, run by wonderful folks and hosted in an amazing location. Check them out and start preparing for next year. See you there!
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