Poem of the G.G.M
The G.G.M. poem
The Groupe des Grimpeurs Marseillais was created by 'The Greek', Georges Livanos following the example of the G.H.M.
The poem was published in the 1961 G.G.M. bulletin. Its author, André Tête, was a climber with whom I did in 1960, at 18, the North face of the Vignemale in the Pyrenees in a week-end. We left Marseille early Saturday morning, on a small motorbike (mine. My mother bitterly regretted to having let my father buy it for me and sold it off when I went studying in the UK the following year!), drove the 650 km to the foot of the face, reached late afternoon, bivouacked at the foot, climbed the route on the Sunday and were back in Marseille late the same day. Quite a trip, particularly since André was a very tall fellow, near 6 feet 4 and not that light. With our climbing gear, it was quite a test for my small motorbike and our maximum speed never exceeded 90/Km an hour!.
New WaveNew Wave
G.G.M. 1961 Bulletin
NEW WAVE by George Livanos
If the Greek has not yet reached the shores, I was going to say the « last shore », it is quite obvious that he is nearing it little by little (as everyone!) and it seemed that the utmost quietness would see him approach the golden sands, underneath verticality, (preferably nearby Tahiti and with the accessory assistance of some Tahitian girls for the local picture…) yet young bubblings of a new wave were appearing over the horizon.
That the Greek is overswelled is indisputable as the start of a tale in such a sea atmosphere from someone who does not even know how to swim (in the proper sense), it is like climbing the Eiger, solo, eyes blinded and wearing boxing gloves.
But let us come back to this new wave of which Eric Vola (with such a name as far as I am concerned I would be careful…) is one of his brilliant representatives. I know that there are some others but hazard and liking made me one day propose to him to go and do « something » together. This “something” was the « Flake » route at la Mounine. I had done it already twice, the last one ten years back, so I was curious to see it again.
Therefore we had an apointment on a Thursday morning (yes, the new wave representatives and representatives as such have those opportunities!) at the pub of the Grotte Roland. During our walk to the climb I recorded that Eric is a very nice boy, indeed he seemed to know thoroughly one of the most resounding masterpiece of the mountaineering literature… or was it that the same morning he had rapidly learned some bits judiciously placed afterwards in our conversation*.
To reach the foot of the wall, we went to its top, a sluggard way to cut short our return. Our harnesses filled with pegs and, for Eric, his stomach and his pocket with varied provisions, we plunged to the start.
Small addubing ceremony and the new wave dashes off. It climbed with much ease but would it push the respect towards the old celebrities so much to fear imposing them the humble task assigned to the depegger? The leader being already twenty meters above the ground, I advised him sharply not to be embarassed and so he condescended to put a peg in. Another a bit higher up and he reached the first belay. Obviously two pegs for those thirty meters in which the fifth grade abounded was not luxury! My turn now! The first peg is of the tough type: it cost me a liter of sweat ! If they are all of this calibre… I will not take long to change opinion! Oh yes!
I joined Eric on the belay. The chocolate tablet which he had put in one of his pockets is quietly melting, no less quietly he swallows it in one gulp and he goes up again the next pitch which he shoots up it with the same casualness. All go like clockwork, I get up to him, overtake him and here we are on the ledges at the foot of the upper part of the wall. Normally, we would get up a chimney, a “little grade IV” a bit further, but I had always looked at a great crack which would make the route more stylish. Why not offering ourselves a variant? Eric, of course, agrees, yes, but who will go first? We played it heads or tails and spell designated my comrade. It was so hot that I was not unhappy with it. Eric, him, was delighted, however: “If you still want to go…? (always this respect for old celebrities) “If you continue using you, I will then go and screw a serie of pegs which will make you sweat!” This time no need to repeat it!
Several meters of free climbing and the pegs get into action. Obviously Eric does not have the same ease with pegs as artificial climbing is a sort of manual work which you can only learn little by little, even if it is easier than free climbing.
One hour of effort, a good ten or so pegs and it is my turn to come into play. For me, it is a piece of cake, it is depegging “using the swing of a cap”, no need of a hammer, and if you miss the peg, the wind of the cap swing is good enough! The pegs slow me so little that I climb at the speed of free climbing! Blasted Eric! He is doing A3 in A1, him! (But poor fool, it is the reverse that one should do!)
I take the lead and soon we reached the ledge below the crux. It is a tricky pitch, varied and ending onto an exposed belay, so I reserved it to myself as my seventy little kilos of 'Greece' would make a sure enough nice cap swing on belay pegs signed Eric!
The white rock releases a suffocating heat, it is like being in an oven! The first meters are laborious but I took a grip on myself and, stimulated by the presence of the new wave, I executed a recital of free climbing with which I was not too unhappy (the old guard is not yet completely shrivelled…).
Unpleasant surprise : the pine tree used for belaying has disappeared and we must belay on etriers. I put the pegs in consequently, it is an installation… very much ‘The Greek’, and one needs say no more.
Eric comes up now, with no much depegging problem. In fact, several had been left in place and if I don’t insist that he takes them out, he doen’t insist himself… The comfort of the belay forces him to stay suspended on his etriers below me. The last pitch is without any problem, beyond the fact that it starts with a most tricky turn on the side of a flake which it would be a shame to send down on such a promising partner. The future of the so-called partner darkens sharply when he attempts to take out the first peg of the “Greek installation”. Twenty minutes to extract this peg (and in which state…), ten minutes to break the second, no hesitation to leave the third, and soon after we were at the top.
To the rucksacks, and « drinks »! For Eric, it was rather “to eat!” and he swallowed a camembert as others would with an aspirin pill!
Our first climb went well. There will be many others as if Eric ignores many things, I am starting to forget quite a number. At his contact I learn again that one must dare, Eric on his side, learns that sometimes it is good to hesitate. In other words if we climbed together I would improve and him get worse? Climbing is a question of equilibrium… motorbike also, isn’it Eric?
* this refers to his book "Au delà de la Verticale"
The Greek my master and friend
Dedication of Georges Livanos, "The Greek" on his second book 'CASSIN Once upon a Time the Sixth Grade'
To: Eric Vola
Friend (from long ago and faithful which is rare)
Eater (not bad, hide out glasses and ties!)
Troublemaker (most honourable)
and also, as things ending with 'er' are many, and then, no... I don't want to have his charming wife Esther getting at me!