Friday 9 February 2007

First 8c+!

I’m heading home from Spain now, worn out and sore from an intense few days of sport climbing. It was my third week long visit to Siurana during the past year. On the first trip I was really just cooling off after having just finished Rhapsody. At the time I was curious to find out if Rhapsody was 8c+ for physical difficulty, so I dogged up a beautiful 8c+ called L’odi Social, which was a similar length and angle. I got on pretty well (and confirmed Rhapsody at 8c+ in my own mind), but I couldn’t finish it by the end of the week. After I returned home, the idea that 8c+ on bolts, and on limestone could be possible for me galvanised it as a clear goal in my head, and I decided to come back to Siurana at the next opportunity.

8c+ is by no means cutting edge in world terms these days, within sport climbing at least. But there are still not many all-round climbers who have managed it I suppose. In my earlier years of climbing, this level was still extremely rare, and only the most dedicated of athletes had reached it. So, although it’s just a meaningless number, it represents something that was inspirational to me when I started climbing and training furiously in my late teens. The idea that I could actually complete one myself was most definitely worth working through the final hurdle and booking more time in Toni’s refugi Siurana.

I spent five more days on L’odi in November, but I paid the price of having tried to do too much in 2006. After taking a year of avoiding work and training for Rhapsody I had little choice but to take on stack loads of work to get on a financial even keel again during the summer and autumn. So my fitness was just not good enough and I had to settle for getting just past the crux.

This time I was back with Claire. I knew the moves, the conditions were favourable for the Scots temperament (we don’t get on with the heat very well), and I had nine days climbing. Time enough to get used to the limestone, top up fitness, and hopefully get to the belay. Those sneaked in ice factor sessions sorted me right out, and on day two I made the last hard move, and couple of days later, wobbled through and clipped the belay.

Here are a few video stills by Hot Aches of me climbing L'odi Social 8c+, Siurana, Spain. This one is just composing on an awkward undercut just before the crux section.

Setting up for the crux (well, it was the crux for me anyway).
Trying to keep it together on the wobbly upper wall...

The sting in the tail...
As always when I get the opportunity to climb in famous sport climbing venues, I was both humbled and inspired by the performances of the world class sport climbers also out there. Of course, I am never satisfied, and breaking a new grade always leads to thoughts and plans of breaking the next one! With every grade higher you get, it becomes clearer that you are only limited by your desire to see if you can go further. I think that I have the motivation and possibly the resources to hand to work towards 9a. I am under no illusion that it will take some very significant changes in my habits to make it happen. I am psyched to have a go and see how I get on. I have to be careful though because my goals in winter climbing, trad climbing and bouldering are also high and will need work of a similar magnitude. But certain things should be easier for me in 2007 than in 2006 that should help me manage the physical workload.

But for a brief moment before launching into all of this, I will be contented with nine good days with Claire in a lovely place, recharging batteries and doing 8c+.

Claire starting up a 5+ in Siurana, I did start belaying after she clipped it!

Claire, me and a chilly Siurana sunset.


  1. congratulations! that's an impressive success and Siurana is such an amazing place...

  2. congratulations.