Sunday 4 February 2018

Catalan Witness the Fitness

Last night I climbed Catalan Witness the Fitness in Cova De l’ Ocell, Catalunya, first climbed by Chris Sharma. In my last post I talked about doing one of the 8B variations on it and how I felt uninhibited by worry about my shoulder on a very aggressive iron-cross move and how this felt like a big recovery milestone. For sure I feel like I can try hard without worrying now. But the final milestone in a recovery would obviously be to climb something as hard as I’d done before.

Catalan Witness the Fitness has been confirmed at Font 8C several times, although after Jakob Schubert’s amazing ascent recently, he suggested a downgrade to 8B+. I don’t have the same experience at this level of bouldering as those other guys, but given what I do have, I think I would concur with 8B+.

It would really be a dream come true to climb this line, not just because its a great climb super hard, but also because going from a pretty serious shoulder injury to 8B+ in just over 6 months would be a very satisfying endorsement of my approach to recovering from this injury and all the decisions I’ve made to steer the course along the way.

After finishing the other two 8Bs in the cave, I’ve been focusing on CWTF for the past four or five sessions, although they all converge on the ‘iron cross’ section in the second half of the cave. I was initially struggling with one move in the crux section that seemed too reachy for me. But eventually I found a method that worked (Solutions seemed to work better on the toe-hook). Still, I couldn’t quite link it through the jump to the good rail which is the crux for most folks. 

I also was struggling with the iron cross and had a sinking feeling that were I able to ever link up to it from the start, that move would likely become a stopper. I eventually found (as I always seem to) a completely non-standard way to do the move involving spinning round, going feet first and doing the move ‘La Rose’ style. Even then, I still lacked the shoulder strength to do it consistently and spent more time on faff mode until I got a little left foot heel-toe that stayed in just long enough to do it more in control.

With sequence sleep/nutrition routine dialled in, together with several training type sessions on it when conditions were on the warm side (and so it becomes more about getting strong on it than actually trying to send), I saw the north wind forecast. When I woke up I noted to myself that I felt really good and well rested with plenty of energy. The long drive there was always a little bit of a challenge in that I always felt a little sluggish warming up after it. But I learned how to take my time warming up body and mind. When I arrived, there was a little fresh snow on the ground and the sandstone looked extra pale and dry. Excellent. Warming up I felt the effects of my taper routine. The holds felt bigger.

On the second try, I felt really strong and got to the rail for the first time and onto the 8A+ second part. Gangling across this towards the iron cross, I was really curious to see if the pump/power out would hit me, but noted feeling relaxed and fresh. I could feel some power-out arriving as I spun the feet round, but to my surprise hit the ‘Rose’ move perfectly (with some luck I think) and before I knew it was on the shake out. I had estimated I could only stay on this very steep rest for two chalks before I’d lose any recovery. This also tallied with videos of the other ascents. However, I felt super relaxed and ended up staying for 50 seconds and still feeling my breathing continuing to settle.

Inevitably, I sensed the possibility of success and this became a potential source of anxiety. The exit moves are only about 6C+, but pumped climbers have fallen off here. However, I thought about the initial days after my shoulder injury when it was so painful it took me half an hour to sit up in bed (6 months ago!) and how heavy, weak and timid I felt on the rock even two months ago. I reasoned that if I could go from that, to this, in that time, I would surely be able to reproduce this effort again if I were to fumble the finishing crimps. 

I was still re-running this thought in my mind as I got moving and grunted through the finish, going for broke. Before I knew it, the massive finishing jug was in my hands and it was over.

Were it not for the fact that my climbing partner for this (supposed to be sport climbing) trip broke her foot and was unable to climb, I’d almost certainly not have dared to travel specifically to try this climb. I should be less scared. Especially as I’ve explicitly resolved before to take an utterly fearless approach to life given previous experiences. Life is certainly too short to worry about failing. However, on the plus side, at least I did focus on making some key decisions in my training to give myself a chance. They turned out to be good calls and it is great when that happens.

This will certainly not be the last bouldering I do this winter. In fact I view it as excellent preparation for a couple of harder projects back in Scotland. However, I’m also psyched to think about some other climbing disciplines soon.