Friday 30 November 2007

Every day, a little more ‘A Muerte’

Climbing A Muerte 9a, Siurana. All photos: Hot Aches Productions

So Dave Graham said. Here’s to that. The Spanish phrase ‘a muerte’ translates as ‘to the death’. So where the Scots shout ‘Gaun big man!’ at people wobbling on routes, in England it’s ‘ave itttttt-ah’, in France it’s ‘allezallezallezallez!’ (If you haven’t experienced this, it’s a little off putting) and in Spain they shout ‘Benga! A muerte!’ Basically it means go for it. Graham’s attitude of going for it a little more every day is kind of infectious.

Back in March I spent some days trying the famous 9a ‘A Muerte’. It had already been given the name before Richard Simpson muscled his way up the first ascent a couple of years ago. After I did the neighbouring L’odi Social 8c+ earlier this year, Richard emailed me to suggest I try a ‘real’ hard route, like his one. So I did.

Since I am not so strong, I made a three-and-a-half- week space in my diary to travel back to Siurana and get a good spell trying the climb. Unfortunately, attempts to clear all my necessary work before I left meant I had almost two weeks of detraining before I left.

I had dismissed the standard sequence for the crux as being two ‘body strength’ dependent for my frame, slapping at nearly full span for two finger pockets out to each side. Bad tactics, MacLeod. After wasting nearly two weeks trying a crazy alternative sequence matching a finger slicing sharp pocket and waiting for my torn fingers to heal, I reverted. Once I gave the standard sequence a chance (like for 10 minutes!), I found it was actually quite easy (for a 9a crux you understand). Immediately I could redpoint to the last move.

The daily routine was to warm up with a 7c-8a, climb to the 5th bolt on A Muerte (an 8b link) and reverse to the ground. Then, wait…

Once the bitter evening winds blew and the sun dropped low, I blasted onto my redpoint - 20 moves in 30 seconds of bang, bang, bang from hold to hold before my strength gave out in spitting distance of the finishing jug.

All that was needed was another moves’ worth of juice in my arms to make it happen. Two days complete rest while working in Torello was just the ticket, and on our return I arrived back at the rockover and had the strength leftover to grab that big undercut and scream from the top of my lungs “COME ONNNNNN!!!”

It was kind of nerve wracking to hang on that undercut and shake out, just a formality 8a crux to go… or would it be? I passed Diff, hanging beside me filming. Him silent and motionless, me panting and shaking – strange. So, the first step of my preparation for Echo Wall is complete.

On my last day, after Patxi had dispatched Le Rambla 9a+ 3rd go (my head shakes in disbelief), I did the moves on La Rambla. Hmmmm…


  1. Congratulations Dave, a great effort, very inspiring!

  2. Awesome post, awesome climb, awesome blog. Makes me feel more than a little inadequate :-)

    Excellent stuff Dave. Keep it coming.


  3. "G'wan yeh Jessie!" (another foreign motivational shout for your list) - Well done!!

  4. Fantastic, Dave!! Just watched your Hell's Lum documentary. Very inspiring (even though frighteningly so)!

  5. nice job :)
    congrats from the german rasta. the last day I slipped out of the undercut... (and you're finally calling it a 9a?)

  6. Hey Pirmin, Argh! Next time definitely, if you are psyched to go back. Hmmm not sure - Spanish 9a LOL!

  7. Did you know you even scored mention at! Now you're getting somewhere! ;)

  8. Dave,
    One of the things I enjoy most about following your climbing is how self-deprecating you are. It's like your accomplishments are always a surprise to you...but they're never a surprise to anyone else. Congrats on A Muerte and it looks like you might be getting close to the fitness required for the mountain project eh? I'll be eagerly awaiting some more info on that.

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