Catalunya Part 2 and a bit of a surprise!

19th Oct 2012

Ridge Camarasa Chuffed with my f7c redpoint Strange visitor The F6b  crack The F6a crack Sunset from our terrace

Usually my rest days will consist of some form of activity, as I’m not great at sitting around for long periods. But I think this holiday, my body was glad to be let off the hook. We had climbed for three days and it was a bit of a shock, so essentially Alex and I didn’t do much apart from take full advantage of the sun on our terrace (I didn’t quite burn!) and wander round the village and surrounding hills in the evening. My cold was starting to turn into a cough and Alex was getting some cold symptoms, so we went to a pharmacy and they (quite scarily) stocked us up with armfuls of drugs, their idea of dosages seem to be way over ours. But all in all it was a nice relaxing day that was good for the sore feet, good for the body that wasn’t used to any climbing whatsoever and good for the tan!

For the rest of the trip I had no aspirations in terms of grades I wanted to climb. I was just so happy to be climbing on rock again in the warmth and was testing all my injured bits out and seeing what they could or wouldn’t do. Up to this midweek point, I was very very pleased with my operated shoulder. I was having no pain at all and felt like I could start to up the intensity slightly. I was a little nervous about lobbing off with my fixed leg but thankfully that didn’t get tested.

Alex about to start up the impressive 'Viagra' f6b+, Camarasa on our second day

Alex had expressed an interest in trying to redpoint something harder; she’s more of a trad girl and doesn’t get an opportunity to try out harder routes. So for our next climbing day we went for a crag that was shady and had a f7b+ to try.

Santa Ana was the venue; it has a lot of different sectors to choose from and is right at the mouth of a dam, it was a nice place. Our little crag called ‘Agulles Cara Nord’ didn’t have many routes to choose from, so after warming up on a few f6’s, Alex went up the f7b+ to get the clips in. From the ground it looked like the crux was a series of dynos between good holds but thankfully when she got there, they were just powerful moves with no jumping to be had. With a couple of small holds at the end of the burly sequence, it was looking like this route was a goer. I had a play on it too, as there wasn’t much else to do. It was a significant rise in grade but I didn’t feel too bad. Unfortunately both the burly moves were on my left arm and were very strenuous undercut moves where I was very stretched out by the lack of feet. So I felt nervous on these moves and didn’t really give my all, as I was afraid of doing some damage. Surprisingly, I managed to climb on the small holds at the end of the crux sequence to get to the juggy flake and this showed me that I am still a climber and can move and use rock; it was actually quite fun. Although, I was fairly dismayed to find that the surgeon hadn’t manage to enhance my power levels whatsoever, in fact they were obviously down on what they used to be, which was a fairly low starting point; it’ll be back to the gym for me.

Alex gave this route three good redpoint attempts but unfortunately it eluded her. I was impressed with the way she was dispatching the burl (with arms like hers, I guess that shouldn’t have been a surprise) but literally at the last move every time, she just couldn’t quite hang on. It was a bit of a shame but all good practice as they say. After this we visited another sector and as typical Brits found ourselves on two bolted cracks (see pictures of the f6a+ and f6b+). The other climbers at the crag stared in wonder as we merrily hung off jams and grunted our way up these gritstone-esque sport routes; they were a fine way to end the day.

As the temperature seemed to be ever rising, more shade was required. After spending a pleasant morning chatting with Jane (the owner of Casamauri) in the sun, we headed for the shade at La Terrasetta, Collegats. After having a fairly relaxed and gentle start, this days climbing turned out to be a real shocker for me.

La Terrastta is nestled in a picturesque gorge and only has a handful of routes to choose from. I started on a f6b+ (to be honest not a great route) and then a f6c. This was the hardest thing I’d tried to onsight up to this point and I was pleased with how I felt on it, things were improving. Then we had a couple of f7’s and a f7c to choose from. Alex was still keen to redpoint something harder, so feeling quite good, I said I’d go up the f7c and put some of the clips in. This felt like a massive move up the grades and as soon as I got on the route, I was quickly reminded what harder climbing feels like. But my body still knew what to do, so although the juice wasn’t there in the arms, the brain and movement skills were, so I really enjoyed the feeling of this more intense style. I got to the belay having had numerous rests all the way up but I managed to do all the moves and really enjoyed myself. The route, ‘Foc Pels Queixals’ (see pic of it on the left), couldn’t have suited me more. It was overhanging but not a roof, it was very featured rock so loads of footholds to choose from and it didn’t have any horrendous burly/massive moves; right up my street. Anyway, Alex had a play on it and agreed that it was a fab route. So then it was me again, I thought I might as well lead my way up it again. So guess what?? I managed to climb the whole thing clean and redpointed it!! I could not believe it when I reached the belay, I was in shock. I kept expecting my arms to give out the whole way up but with plenty of resting places, I somehow managed to shakeout and cling on, get through the crux and claw my way to the top. It was great and so unexpected, there was no way I had anticipated climbing anything as hard as this within practically my first week back climbing. It really shows you how experience and good movement on rock can take you a long way. Unfortunately, Alex didn’t quite manage it, her arms were pooped; the intensity of sport climbing is so different from trad routes.

We had one more day left and did a two crag hit. Heading to Santa Linya (not the cave, the football crag) first before it came in the sun, as the temps just seemed to be heading ever upwards, it felt about 28 degs. This was a great crag to crank out some mileage and I onsighted a f7a+, which again was a bit astounding especially as we had climbed for six days and only had one rest day. This was a fairly intense period of exercise to enter into from nine months of practically nothing but my body seemed to be coping well. We then went to Tartareu which was nearby but we weren’t quite so psyched about this place. We climbed on some funky rock but I think the tiredness was setting into the mind and body, so we called it a day after a couple of routes.

That evening was spent with new arrivals to Casamauri, Naomi and Jordan Buys and Jane the owner. It was a nice chilled out gathering but a little late, as we had an early start. We had to set off at 6am. Unfortunately, up to this point my sleep seemed to be getting worse and worse and this last night it was terrible. I literally slept for an hour (no exaggeration) and then coughed the rest of the time. I had to move rooms as poor Alex can sleep for England but I don’t think even she could sleep through that! I lay on the sofa and coughed my way through the early hours. On the drive to the airport, I was quite worried. I felt very unsafe, the accumulation of lack of sleep meant that I was really struggling to concentrate Now driving is something I’m quite good at but I was finding it very hard and also I felt extremely ill. Whatever this cold thing had started as, it was morphing into something sinister. By the time we got to Liverpool, I had barely stopped coughing and felt like I was close to dying (ok that is an exaggeration). I stopped at various pharmacies on the way back to try to combat this thing but nothing could touch it, except NIGHT NURSE!! I went to bed around nine and was literally unconscious by about 9.10pm, literally unheard of for me. It was incredible and I felt like a different person the next day. I did go to the Dr’s though and was given antibiotics, which I really didn’t want to take, as they don’t react well with my body. So, I resisted taking them and kept thinking I was getting better but annoyingly (and tellingly) was unable to do anything. I had been laid up feeling very poorly for nearly two weeks, had a little relapse so finally gave in and started the antibiotics. Hindsight is a wonderful thing but I just didn’t realise how ill I was and that this thing just wasn’t shifting. I haven’t felt this rough for a long time and am annoyed that I didn’t take the drugs earlier- hey ho.

I am now three days into the course and feel marginally better but I wouldn’t say it’s a wonder cure yet. The random yet good news is (very last minute again) that Tim and I are off to Catalunya tomorrow. It is exciting and we are very happy about it, although I don’t think we are going to get quite the weather that Alex and I were lucky enough to experience. I just hope that the antibiotics do work and I can actually start climbing and don’t set myself back, as all I have been able to do is walk Buis and that’s it. V frustrating after such an amazing trip and getting back feeling very psyched.

Anyway, I am certainly not complaining as I am very lucky to be heading out again and I’m sure the warmer climate will help things clear up.

My next blog will be another post Spain one and hopefully less about illness and more about good climbing and fun times.

The lovely Santa Engracia, near Tremp Catalunya.