Good progress on Kalea Borroka in between the rain in Spain!

7th Apr 2009

Kalea Borroka

16th March 2009 - 23rd March 2009

It’s been a few weeks since my last blog, quite a bit has happened but no major news. I had a great coaching weekend at Craggy and met some good people. It was actually quite strange being back in blighty, I couldn’t work out how to drive out of the car hire place on the left and it was hard work just being in built up places. But it was good to have the contrast; I was ready for a change. I had been finding things a bit monotonous leading up to before I left, just because everything had become a routine; in the same way when you’re at home you get into routines. If I hadn’t gone back to the UK a change of venue and faces would’ve been on the agenda.

Kodo had a great time in Albarracin with Ali and Xav, she’d met lots of new friends and sounded like she’d had a few extra sandwiches tossed her way too; it was nice to see her again all happy. I had effectively had 4 days off, although I’d done some easy stuff while I was coaching, so kind of an active rest period. Then when I got up to Siurana nobody was climbing the day after I got back so that was another rest day, I was a bit frustrated but it probably wasn’t a bad thing at this stage of the game. The weather had been surprisingly nice back home and fortunately it had held out in Siurana, so I was happy about that. My plan from here on in was to concentrate on Kalea Borroka (KB) until I got it done but having not climbed for a few days, I knew I needed to get on something easier first. Also my body wasn’t feeling great after being UK’d! My diet hadn’t been the best, I’d had to rely on more convenience foods which my body isn’t used to and I probably ate more chocolate than I should’ve!! So I was feeling a bit lethargic and blob-like, I knew it wouldn’t last but anticipated it taking a few days for my body to get used to hard climbing again.

I was right, I did feel a bit rubbish. Wednesday and Thurs were spent onsighting a couple of f7b+’s at El Pati I hadn’t done, then having a play on KB. It was the first time I’d been on it since the one time in January (or was it the start of Feb?). There was good news and bad news…the good news was that it was in awesome condition now, such a contrast to the time before, when every hold had been wet. But the bad news was that it felt utterly desperate. I knew I didn’t feel awesome but even so. How had I managed to get to where I had before when all the holds had been wet? I couldn’t even climb them this time when they were dry. In fact I didn’t even get as high as I had on that first go. It was quite depressing and I also took a nasty (potentially ankle breaking) fall from a hard move on a wet undercut. My belay was too hard and I really smacked into the wall and didn’t feel like going back up after that.

Thurs was slightly better though, somehow the moves felt a bit better and I actually did a pretty good link. Hmmm maybe KB was possible after all.

The plan was for me, Ali and Xav to go to Margalef for the weekend. I can’t remember why, I think we had a feeling that El Pati was going to be very busy and wanted to try our chances in Margalef.

It was really nice to be back there, I hadn’t spent much time there in 2009 and it kind of felt like going home. Unfortunately, it was probably the busiest we’d ever seen it, really rammed, just people and cars/vans everywhere. It was almost like going to a climbing wall! My quiet little sleeping spot was now more like a scene from a festival campsite but the sun was out and I was still happy.

Saturday, Ali and I felt like having an easier day, I think we were both tired from working our routes for a couple of days, so it was quite nice going to crags we hadn’t been to before and doing some lower stress routes. I was starting to feel more like a climber again and knew I would be quite keen on Sunday. That evening, good friend of mine Ben Heason arrived with a couple of other Brits -Bob and Tash- there were also two N Irish lads there -Eddie and Andy- so we became a right little encampment. It was great having new faces around and to be able to show them round the cool area of Margalef.

The next day we went up to a higher crag -El Balco de l’ermita- that I hadn’t been to before and was very keen for. It gets the sun from lunchtime, has fantastic views and the routes looked great; tufa or pockets. I climbed pretty well, I onsighted a f7b+, a f7c and came very very close to flashing an f8a. It was a bit annoying that I didn’t do it but I still climbed well and compared to how I’d felt a few days earlier, things were looking up.

I decided to rest on Monday and climb back at Siurana Tues and Wed with Ali at El Pati, he’s got a project there too, the classic f8b ‘Zona Zero’. I had a lovely day in the sun, doing some washing, washing my hair in the river and just general bits and bobs. I found a nice walk round to the crag that Ben H and the others were at, so Kodo and I went and hung out there for a while, then drove back over to Siurana later in the evening.

Tuesday 24th March 2009 (Day 3 on KB)

As soon as I pulled onto the rock, I knew I felt good- the wonders of a rest day and a bit of powerful pulling in Margalef to beef up the muscles. I had a couple of goes on KB and felt stronger than the week before and got the lower hard section a bit more wired. Although, I did work out a second sequence for it, which is never a great thing, as I was now going to have to decide which one to go with. They both involved jamming various fingers in a slot and neither felt great. But this wasn’t my main problem, the reality was that I’d nearly onsighted through the upper crux on my first wet day foray but I’d never bothered going back up. My rope wasn’t long enough to get back down for a start, so I’d decided to get the first half wired. This plan seemed to be working as I was making it to the mid height rest already- this being my third day on it- so questing to the belay and checking out the top of the route seemed like a good plan for tomorrow.

Feeling happy I was psyched for another go the next day. Although, my sleep was starting to get erratic again and I seemed to be getting less and less each night. I find it very frustrating when I get these insomniac phases because it obviously really affects how you feel physically; it’s very hard to fire on all cylinders. I think I was starting to build up a nervous excitement about the prospect of redpointing KB, it was feeling like a case of ‘when I do it’ rather than ‘if’. So I think this was affecting my ability to switch off at night. I’d shut my eyes and just start going through all the moves and didn’t seem able to calm my mind.

Annoying but also it shows just how awesome KB is. It’s one of the most inspiring lines I’ve ever seen. It’s an incredibly steep crackline (no jams though!!) that peters out into a crimpy crux. It’s 40 metres long and has hard sections interspersed with fantastic rests- my ideal route. The moves are amazing and even if it takes me 10 days, I won’t mind just because it’s so fun to climb.

Wednesday 25th March 2009 (4th day on KB)

Anyway, the next day dawned after another sleepless night- maybe the three beers didn’t help either, oh well!

Kalea Borroka is such a long route and the crux is very near the top; it’s been bolted in such a way that you have to climb through it rather than on some routes you can pull past the crux on bolts, so reaching the belay and checking out the top of the route wasn’t super easy but fairly essential!

So off I went. After warming up I had an amazing attempt. I got up to and almost through the top crux from the ground- wow, things were looking up. It felt like if I’d actually known what I was doing up there I could possibly have done it, this gave me a big boost. The crux is a powerful section on edges and crimps, with a hard match on a very small crimp. It gets slightly less steep here but being as high as it is on the route, it was going to prove quite tricky to blast through in one go. Also, there were still a couple of pulls after this hard match but then…jug- phew!

I was very pleased to finally get through the crux and find that it felt doable and the climbing after it wasn’t too desperate, still some powerful moves but if the juice was in the arms, this last section shouldn’t prove too bad- I hoped!

At the end of today, I felt like I’d achieved a lot. I’d finally reached the belay without too much incident and I’d inadvertently almost redpointed through the crux. Also, the route was in fantastic condition after the three weeks of dry weather we’d had, in fact I was getting quite a nice tan. I was now very psyched and just wanted to get back on it after a rest day…but it wasn’t to be…

The next four days were to be spent in a wet, dank Margalef. My housemate, Alicia, wanted to come and climb in Margalef for a few days and I’d agreed to go over there with her, obviously not realising that the timing of her trip would coincide with me trying to redpoint KB. I rested on Thursday and picked her up from the airport, then a troupe of us headed over to Marg. Friday was a nice day and I onsighted a f7c (La corva de la felicitat) on Tenebres that I’d wanted to do for a while but I think my lack of sleep finally caught up with me and I flaked out and didn’t do much for the rest of the day- or the next two days. Firstly the weather turned really bad, rain and cold, I felt sorry for Alicia as she only got one nice day in her 3 days of climbing! And secondly I think I was only psyched for KB, so anything else in the rain just wasn’t inspiring. Consequently, we spent a bit of time in the bars trying to keep warm and dry and I found myself drinking a bit more red wine than was healthy (whoops), this bad weather was messing with my head. Also, I had a sinking feeling that Kalea was now going to be wet again and I was going to have to spent who knew how long waiting for it to dry out- ahhh! Why weren’t things simpler? It seemed like I just wasn’t destined to be able to get on KB when I wanted. I had subsequently found out that it is very hard to get good conditions on KB and the fact that we weren’t getting great weather was just making things worse.

Monday 30th March 2009

I had an early start what with Alicia heading for Reus airport and the clocks going forward. It was about 5.40am, not my ideal time to start the day, especially the day I was going to try and redpoint my hardest route to date. Oh well, what can you do? I’d got to the point where I was just ignoring feeling tired from lack of sleep and just trying to get on with it. My psyche for the route was helping in this department but the psyche was having a serious challenge. The weather had now been bad since Saturday and was showing no signs of improving; I was getting to the end of my tether. Looking up at KB, I knew it wasn’t dry but decided to get on it anyway. To be honest there was nothing else to do and I was starting to realise that I was actually resting more than I was climbing and if I didn’t do something I was going to lose form.

So I got on it and although it was wet, to my surprise, I redpointed to the match move at the end of the crux- twice! This was very pleasing but also extremely frustrating. I was managing to get this high with some crucial resting holds being almost unhangable. This meant the end was in sight, in fact I felt like I could definitely have redpointed it today. If only I had been able to get the essential little bit back on the wet holds that I now had to grip too tight just to hang on.

The next three days continued with bad weather and my mood (and others around me) became fairly low. I was coming very close to redpointing an awesome route that I’d had my eye on for two months, only to start working it in perfect conditions for it to promptly get wet again. Oh the agony, ha ha. I think Kodo and I really need a change of scene too. Nice as Siurana is, we have spent a fair amount of time here waiting for good conditions and not getting loads done. Poor Kodo, the walk to El Pati isn’t exactly long or exciting, she must have sniffed every bush and inspected every interesting smell many times over. When we rock up in the mornings in the van and I let her out, I can almost see her visibly slump when she realises we are back at El Pati- AGAIN!

Oh well, the good news is that the weather forecast indicates that Friday (3rd April) things should improve again for the weekend. We live in hope…

Saturday 4th April 2009.

Yesterday was a nicer day and Ben and I had pottered around on some easier stuff just to get back into climbing mode. Things weren’t helped by the fact that we’d had a very late night on Thursday due to celebrating the fact that Ali had managed to redpoint Zona Zero, he was unbelievably pleased and we all helped him celebrate his success. I’d belayed him and had had a little play on the bottom of KB and probably through boredom, changed my sequence on the bottom hard bit yet again! I don’t normally fiddle this much with routes but I just wanted to climb. In fact it felt surprisingly sticky (i.e. climbable) and I felt surprisingly good, Ali had to go to work, so I decided to go and get Ben for a belay. And guess what happened? Yes, it started raining again, absolutely pissing down! So when Ali came back to celebrate, my resolve was low and a few drinks seemed a good idea.

Hence, the easy routes on Friday with Ben.

Then today the weather was nice again. But I had to go to Barcelona to pick up Tim from the airport, so I had one quick play on KB in the morning but had to shoot off and I’m praying that the sun shines all afternoon and dries the last of the dampness off. Tomorrow could be the day…