Thursday 27 November 2008

Climbing time in Margalef

Climbing Sin Domseticar 8c+, Margalef, Catalunya

For the past three weeks or so, I have been just climbing and not doing anything else for the first time in a looooong time. I’ve been soaking up the rest time and starting to get back to feeling normal after the whirlwind of the last few months.

I’m in Siurana (Spain) right now, climbing limestone. It always takes some time for mind and body (mostly the skin on my middle two fingers!) to adjust to this alien rock type again. On the first couple of days I just took in some classics like Kalea Borroka 8b+, Migranya 8b and a flash of La Cara no Miente 8a+. Since then I have been heading over to Margalef and soon found myself staring the belay of an 8c+ in the face on redpoint. But I hesitated, feeling I was out of gas and came off. That was a shame since heavy rain the next day flooded the river and made the crag inaccessible for several more days.

Always after climbing big projects like Echo Wall, I have to take quite some time to figure out if I still want to be climbing at all. That’s not to say I’ve ever felt that I don’t want to, but after such a big experience I think it’s normal to have some months of figuring out where you stand and what you want to do next.

After I did Rhapsody in 2006 I got pretty psyched to do a lot of training and increase my level a bit. I already had Echo Wall in the back of my head, but the main reason was just because I enjoy training. I am feeling that again right now, especially as the last month’s training seems to have had a good effect on my level.

I have hard projects on my list in bouldering, and winter climbing already, but not really any in trad or sport climbing. In these disciplines I’ll need to travel a bit, and see what comes my way. That will be fun! As soon as I’m back, the ice tools will be out and I’ll be in the cave getting strong on axes for the big yin.

After the flood

The dam at Margalef having it’s work cut out

We made an impressive dam across the swollen river with a bit of Scottish caber tossing from Michael and myself and got back to Cova Soliada for another shot at the 8c+, Sin Domesticar (a Dani Andrada route from earlier this year). After two flood enforced days rest, I was feeling in good shape and dispatched this on my first try, with possibly over a minute on the bat hang at the lip of the roof. My toes are getting stronger. Here is a wee youtube of this:

After that I spent some time tussling with another 8c, L’Espiadonis, which I tried to redpoint with a totally duff sequence several times. Once I gave it some respect and worked out a decent method, it only slapped me one more time with a fall tickling the finishing jug before allowing me to climb it:

It’s been good so far to spend time consolidating 8c and 8c+ and doing some more routes quickly, for a while. I needed to do this just to see what it was like again. I don’t get a chance to do that in Scotland at all because I’ve done all the hard routes and the projects are all sick hard. But perhaps out of habit or more probably personality, I have confirmed for myself once again that I am happiest in long term project mode, on proper hard routes.

Alicia climbing with the aid of the car’s full beam

So I had gone back to trying things in the 9th level for the rest of my time, but when Dave Redpath left without finishing an unbelievable roof at Margalef that he had bolted earlier in the trip, it was time to back onto seek and destroy mode. Dave reckoned it would go for me but sounded hard above the lip of the cave. After a couple of hurried work sessions I set off and swung through the roof to arrive at an uncomfortable bat hang in a great position on the lip. The hang was a toe-torque rather than passive jam, so after a minute I found that my feet were too tired to let me pull back up to the holds. Doh! What the hell am I going to do now? After a few sets of crunches and pathetic swings at the pockets, I resorted to clambering up my own legs to regain upper body contact and get on with the crux. Happily the unintended extra stay in upsidedown land, and extra arm swinging helped shift the pump in my arms and a grunt around the lip got me quickly to the belay and my first Spanish first ascent – Knuckleduster 8b.

Imitating the bats that live in the roof crack of Knuckleduster 8b, during the first ascent.

Monday 17 November 2008

Committed II DVD

The hotly anticipated new DVD from the Hot Aches guys will be with us soon - pre-orders are being taken in the shop now. It showcases five of Britain's best climbers on a spectacular array of hard routes; the terrifying Walk of Life (E12), one of Scotland's toughest winter routes, gritstone's best 'last great problem', the youngest female ascent of an E7 and the world's maddest mantel; it's all there.

Dave is still in Spain just now, happily clipping bolts in the sunshine but he'll back in time for Kendal at the weekend.