A rather long (oops) summary of my second trip to Catalunya

9th Nov 2012

L Argenteria  Collegats Tim enjoying breakfast Lu f6c One of the locals

20 Oct - 30 Oct 2012.

I just love Catalunya, you can’t go wrong with the place. The weather’s nice, the climbing’s great and there’s just a general good vibe going on over there.

Tim and I got back last Tuesday after a ten great days. The idea was to get away while he recuperated from an operation for Dupuytrens contracture on his right hand. I wasn’t expecting to climb that much, as we didn’t know whether he’d be able to belay or not. Also, I had a brand new ‘Prodigy’ rope from DMM and was a little concerned as to whether he’d be able to control the slickness in the Grigri. But after a couple of days there, his hand was less sore and he seemed to be able to belay just fine with gloves on. So lucky me got another six days Spanish climbing done.

The weather was a little mixed over the period, there was plenty of sun but there was also some rain, some wind and some cold temps. This meant we visited a few different venues and chose crags that suited the prevailing weather. One of the best bits about being away is that I love going to new places and sampling different styles and rock.

The first climbing day saw us at a Collegats crag called L'Argenteria. This place is opposite a wall of dripping tufa that apparently Gaudi (the architect) saw and it inspired his radical designs- you can definitely envisage how (see picture). This was a good crag and I just eased back in with mileage on f6’s and I accidentally onsighted a f6c, thinking I was on a f6b, it’s nice when that happens. I thought it was a bit tricky!

Next day was a visit back to the Football crag at Santa Linya. I had visited this place with Alex and really liked it but we’d had to leave early as it got the sun in the afternoon and we were collapsing with the heat. This time Tim and I were relishing the heat and spent a fair amount of time prostate on the floor, in between routes. I was still getting back into climbing mode, as I was struggling with the chest infection that had been lingering rather too long. Although as the week progressed, my symptoms improved and my coughing fits at night became more intermittent (I only had to move bedrooms three times instead of what had been every night). I put this down to the healing effects of the gorgeous Spanish sun. Anyway, although small, this crag has some great routes at most grades and I enjoyed a good day of onsighting routes up to f6c+ and keeping a route I’d spotted in mind for later on.

The evenings were a lot colder, so the cosiness of Casa Mauri (our temporary home) was lovely. As I was the only climber in the party and with not much endurance at the moment, our days out weren’t massively long so we’d get back and have time to cook up some real feasts. We certainly didn’t go hungry this trip!

A rest day was in order, so we decided to head North to a beautiful alpine area- “Aigüestortes i Estany de Sant Maurici National Park”. It was a lovely place to spend our rest day; we went for a pleasant walk to a waterfall, took lots of pictures and checked out the granite climbing. Luckily we weren’t there two days later, as it got snowed in- that could’ve been an interesting drive with the hire car!

The forecast wasn’t great with cold rain for the next few days but I was keen to climb, so we headed to a steeper crag that I thought might provide some dry rock- Tres Pons. Phew what a place, some very steep hard routes. I obviously avoided them and still managed to find some other stuff to climb. I was tempted to find a project, as it may have been that we came the next day too, so after warming up, got on an amazing looking long f7b+. My goodness!! I know I’m not climbing fit or strong at the moment but I should still be able to get to the top of a f7b+ fairly ok in between rests on the bolts. Well not this one!! It seemed very hard and sustained. What you expect when a route is long, is that there will be a hard section somewhere and then quite a lot of easier climbing too. Not this route, it almost felt like a few f7b+’s on top of each other with no particularly good rests in between. Needless to say, when I eventually got to the belay in a weary bedraggled heap about an hour and a half after starting the thing, I swiftly took all my clips out, swearing to never go near it again. Bottom very severely spanked!

Suitably tired, it seemed appropriate to have a rest day next day, as the weather was very wet and it wasn’t an appealing option to have another soggy day at the crag if we didn’t really have to. So we spent the day doing bits and bobs, mainly learning how to use the macro lens on my camera and editing photos.

With three days to go, the sun dutifully came out again and it seemed like a good day to sample new places. So we did a bit of driving and went up to Villanova de Meia. Another beautiful place with a multi-pitch wall that looks fun for another time but we were there to look at the single pitch crag. Unfortunately, our crag was littered with wet streaks and small waterfalls. So we had to bail and decided to drive to Abella de la Conca. This venue had what looked like a steeper crag in the sun, perfect. We arrived to find a funny village perched on a mountainside, quite picturesque…unfortunately the same couldn’t be said for the climbing. There is probably some good vertical/slabby stuff at different crags at Abella but the routes I did were unfortunately not on the best quality rock. I onsighted a f7a that felt like a bad route at Gogarth, then tried another f7a, that felt about three grades harder- hey ho. Not the best climbing day ever but it was nice to get out and about and see more of the countryside.

Our last two days were spent at firm favourite, the football crag, Santa Linya. Penultimate day, we had a pretty violent wind storm and cold temps going on, so I guessed and hoped that this venue would be sheltered and get any sun going- BINGO!! It was amazing. We arrived in the hot sun and the biting cold wind had been pretty much left behind. It was absolutely lovely and just what the doctor ordered after some slightly frustrating days. I was very keen to get a project for my last two days and there was one f7c here, so that seemed like a good candidate. After a warm up, I headed up it to get my clips in. Near the top, came a very fingery crux section. I found this extremely challenging to

  1. Work out a sequence for it and
  2. Get to the next clip!

 

It felt very hard to me and I wasn’t sure whether I was going to be able to find a way to climb it. I spent about twenty minutes trying different sequences and right at the end, when I was almost too tired to hold on, I started to use holds that didn’t have chalk on. Suddenly a sequence unfolded under my fingers and I found myself getting to some better holds and the next clip. I love it when this happens. You get on something that’s at your limit and initially it feels utterly desperate, almost out of the question. But through perseverance and just plugging away, a solution becomes apparent. And it turns into what seemed impossible to completely doable. So after a rest I had one more go and the crux now seemed feasible. But…the thought of actually being able to tie the whole route together seemed way off. There was a technical start to get to a ledge, which I found pumpy, but you had a hands off rest. Then the next section kicked in and got progressively harder until you found yourself at the start of the vicious crux. For me in my present state, I could see no way of getting any rest before the crux and this just put the kybosh on it for me. I was finding the crux very hard just doing it from the bolts, so to do it with a load of climbing beforehand, seemed more than unlikely. But I was kind of committed to the route now and it seemed logical to give it try next day.

Our last day was another sunny special. After doing a very pleasant f6b+ warm up, I wandered over to the f7c, Opium. There were three French people on the f7a+ next to it but just as I got to the bottom of the routes, they had finished on the f7a+ and were just starting up the f7c- hrrumph! I was a little frustrated but still felt bizarrely determined to get on the route instead of try something else. So in my broken French managed to ask if I could go on the route after them. That was fine, so Tim and I spent the next hour and a half sunbathing and taking some pictures. It was pleasant and although I wanted to get as much climbing done as poss, as it was our last day, I was also trying to enjoy the moment and relish the nice weather and the feeling of sun soaking into my skin.

Finally it was my go and the silver lining after the wait, was that I didn’t have to put my clips in again- bonus.

I knew the sequences from the day before and as my endurance reserves are rock bottom, I thought it prudent just to give it a proper redpoint attempt straightaway. I felt very on show and a little self conscious, as this team of older frenchies were top notch climbers and seemed like they were going to dispatch the route next go. I just prayed I wasn’t going to spend too long on it flailing around, hanging on bolts while they watched on.

Anyway, I needn’t have worried. Somehow I climbed like a demon on it. It was absolutely great but very shocking, I got to the crux feeling tired but I could kind of tell that if I didn’t mess any moves up and ploughed on quickly, there was a good chance I was going to get to the resting hold at the end of the sequence. And that’s what happened. But there was still a real danger of me coming off on the next twenty foot section to reach the belay, as it wasn’t that straightforward and the arms were starting to feel dangerously pumped. But with some judicious footwork and a level head, I managed to climb calmly to the belay- what a brilliant feeling and completely out of the blue.

The day before I had said to Tim, “ Look I know I always say this but I’ve got no chance of redpointing this route tomorrow. It’s just beyond me at the moment. The crux feels so hard that I just can’t see how I will get through it after all the previous climbing”. He just looked at me and said “ Yeah, whatever”. And I was like, “ No you don’t get it, this is REALLY hard, you should see the holds, they’re tiny”. SILENCE.

But it proved that he knows me better than I do sometimes! We all use reverse psychology on occasion to allow ourselves to get on something without pushing the expectations too high, you kind of lull yourself. And it does work. But with this route, I was frankly just being realistic.

But again, it just shows you how you can really surprise yourself if you put yourself into these challenging situations. I genuinely didn’t expect to do the route but again (the same happened on the f7c I did on the previous week with Alex) my experience and ability at piecing routes together seemed to pay off- it certainly wasn’t down to the incredible endurance and finger strength I have at the moment!

After this shocking redpoint, I went on to onsight a f7b, which was another good milestone to achieve. I did some easier routes to warm down, so all in all it was a brilliant last day to another great Catalunyan climbing extravaganza.

Now back to shivering out in the Peak, I’m not sure how psyched I am for that and also my shoulder has really noticed the damp and temp change. It is aching quite a lot but I hope that will subside with time. I think I’m going to be mainly getting fitness from going indoors and just dreaming about the sun abroad from now on.

Next stop Kendal Mountain Festival and a week spent in a dark room watching films as a judge- can’t wait!