Best trip ever...?
I’ve just got back from three weeks of climbing in Catalunya and to describe myself as being on a high would be an understatement! I think I can safely say, it was one of the best shorter sport climbing trips that I’ve ever had. The stars must have been aligned or something because all the ingredients that go together to create a great trip just fell into place, some of which are; a great crag, congenial friends, good climbing weather and me being on form. And this is what happens when it all goes right...(fast forward to geeky bit at the bottom, if you can’t be bothered to read my ramblings).
Climbing-wise I started the trip with red pointing. I normally go away and generally onsight but thought seeing as we were going to be mainly climbing at Bruixes wall, Terradets, getting a project could work well. Especially as I had been ‘bouldering on a rope’ at Raven Tor beforehand, the chances were that I would be just about strong enough to get an f8b done; I was very psyched to try and put some time into it.
During the first week, I’d redpointed Flix Flax f8a+ and Golpe de Gas f8b (had witnessed Ste Mac onsight this 12 years ago, unbelievable effort)-result! (Nick Bullock also redpointed Bon Viatge, his first f8a-nice one Nick!) I hadn’t quite bargained for things to happen so quickly, so I was in a great position to mix it up with onsighting and a bit more red pointing the rest of the time.
In the middle of the second week, I had a very successful day; I started by retro-flashing (had onsighted five years ago) Orient f7c/+, then I did something I don’t normally do, I went for a flash attempt at something. The reason I generally don’t flash, is because I tend to do things very differently to most people, probably due to being vertically challenged (and relatively weak) and so getting beta off others doesn’t really help. In fact, it can actually be completely bogus, so I like to just go for a pure onsight. But at this stage of the trip, I wasn’t sure where my standard was and as Tommy had the clips in Formula Weekend f8a and it looked pretty tough, I thought it would be sensible to go for a flash. Even though Tommy is 6’1”, his beta was great! I felt like I climbed really well on it and could feel I was starting to go well, getting through some tough sections. Unfortunately, there is a tricky crimp move at the top (guess that’s why it’s f8a!) and I had to go up and down a few times here and then try REALLY hard to get the move. It was incredibly satisfying. I love it when you try really hard and you don’t blow it, it’s one of the most rewarding feelings in climbing. And I’m pleased to say, this happened quite a few times in my 14 days of climbing on this trip.
(left) Nick redpointing 'Orient' f7c/+
I felt so good after flashing Formula Weekend, that I decided to give another f8a, Maneras de Vivir an onsight attempt. Well, this went awesomely too and I managed to get it by seeing moves quick enough and keeping myself moving. This is something I have had to work on over the years, not to faff about and just keep the momentum going. To say I was proud of myself would be a fairly accurate description but also a little surprised. Having come from Raven Tor where I was failing to redpoint a f7c+ (Green Alternative), suddenly onsighting and flashing f8a’s, seemed a tad mad.
The knowledge is that Bruixes wall has probably got the most appropriate climbing style for me. Long endurance routes with plenty of rests, loads of footholds (that’s the crucial bit if you’re short) and not that many hard moves. Sounds easy!
Anyway, after some great onsighting, I was mentally fatigued, so I decided to take a look at a tough f8a+, L'Anarkista, towards the top of the crag. I was up for getting another redpoint project and this route looked way more burly than the usual Bruixes style, so I thought it would be useful for me to get on. Well, I certainly come back to earth with a bump after dogging up that baby! It felt pretty damn hard and I was definitely ambivalent as to whether I wanted to put time and effort into it.
(left) Lucy onsighting Per Tutti l'anno, Collegats. Image: Nick Bullock
At this point in the trip, we were getting slightly jaded/knackered, so a change of venue seemed appropriate. We ended up at La Pedrera, Collegats for 2-3 days and I definitely enjoyed the change in angle, holds and environment. You have to cross the river via a metal tyrollean which was fun, especially as Lee (fireman/montain-man) set it all up and did the burly pulling people across on pulleys. It was blooming baltic though, so we built a fire which was a life saver but didn’t go down particularly well with some of the other Brits at the crag-oops. It might’ve have had something to do with with a giant plume of smoke that engulfed them while they were climbing at the other end of the crag-double oops! Nice one Lloyd, haha.
Our mint tyrolean courtesy of Lee. Image: Nick Bullock
Anyway, I did some great routes, onsighting up to f7c+ but after a couple of days of shivering in front of the fire, I regained my psyche for Bruixes.
This last period of the trip was spent with more morning onsighting and then having a play on L’Anarkista. In fact with only two days left I went up it to take the clips out, as I didn’t want to waste the rest of my trip on it but ended up doing a massive link on it and it suddenly seemed possible. And after about the equivalent of three days on it, I power screamed my way up it and was very determined not to let go. It was mega. It totally didn’t suit me but I had managed to break it down until it became possible, it was a really satisfying ascent and kind of showed me that if I spent much longer on something harder, there’s a chance I’d be able to get something pretty tricky (for me) redpointed.
(left) one of the many cold, foggy starts we had at Bruixes.
After doing this, I came very close to onsighting a hard f7c+ called Red Bull. There is a sequency move at the top which I obviously didn’t know about and I got the wrong hand in the crucial pocket. It was a shame, as it was one of the only routes I fell off onsight/flash and kind of marred the trip for me. Does that show what a fragile line my ego is balanced on, that after loads of great climbing, that one thing brought me down...
So I had one day to redeem myself. Now, what I haven’t mentioned is that as the trip progressed, I developed a ridiculous insomnia habit. The way it went was I would go to bed, read a bit, then fall asleep-all good! But the catch was that I always need a wee in the night, so whatever time I woke up for this, would be the time I would stay awake from. It started off around 6-6.45am but it steadily became earlier. I was at the point where I was getting 4-5 hrs sleep a night, it was grim. I’m not actually sure how I was managing to climb, let alone climb so well. It was an interesting lesson in what the human body is capable of, when you don’t expect it. Some days I would get to the crag and be practically hallucinating with tiredness but once I started climbing, I would start to feel fine. Very weird.
(left) Oz Matt pulling on burly tufas at the top of Occident f7c. Image: Nick Bullock.
So, on the last day, I think it all caught up with me and I felt utterly rubbish, nauseous and tired. This probably wasn’t helped by the fact that I had had a few beers the night before-my body is a temple but only on sundays! So I ended up belaying for Lucy Ellis and stumbling about for a few hours listening to music. But then I got on a f6b+ just to gauge how I felt. I managed to climb it without falling off, so things were looking up.
She then got on Orient, so I decided to go a few clips up that to warm up more but somehow managed to get to the top without being sick or falling off, bonus. I guess I was feeling marginally better, as Red Bull was starting to play on my mind. It would be nice to redpoint it but if I fell off it again, I would definitely feel a bit rubbish. But the pull was too strong, so I decided to give it a go and somehow try to work out while I was up there, how I was going to get the correct hand in the pocket this time. Well, luckily, I didn’t get too pumped and managed to wing it and get the sequence right, it felt pretty good to have actually ticked something, after a very dubious start to the day. By this point, time was ticking away and the dusk light was starting to fall, it was my last day and I could feel a glimmer of psyche building again. I was belaying Lucy on Orient again and could feel the light fading, so I asked Lloyd to take over for me. The route I decided to try was Mallorca es Funky f7c+, which fortunately had Joe’s quickdraws in. It looked such a fantastic line, that I just couldn’t resist giving it an onsight attempt.
(left) the Spanish certainly know how to get a message across!
This was definitely one of the best climbs I did...for many reasons. It certainly managed to salvage my last day, as I onsighted it. But again, I felt I climbed really well on it. Doing a pretty hard sequence low down to get to a bulge then forging through this and getting to a horrific match that I just about pulled off, to finally making it to the top roof in fading light; Where, I was shocked to find the holds disappeared again. The rope drag was appalling and was making the slopers I had grabbed feel even worse. My arms were fading with the light and it was going downhill very fast. Until in the gloom I spied a poor undercut and somehow pulled into it, got my feet up and rocked over to clip the chain-hooray. I felt completely elated (still do), I can’t imagine finishing the trip in a better way.
Our last night group meal, thanks to Lucy and Matt for the recommendation. Clockwise from left:
Nick, Lucy C, Tommy, Joe, Lloyd, Ben Stiller and Lucy.
(left) Retro-flashing Occident f7c. Image: Steve Crowe.
Thanks to Tommy, Lee (Ben Stiller in disguise), Nick, Lloyd and Joe for letting a girl (especially one you didn’t really know) gatecrash a lads holiday. The banter and support that was a feature of our trip really helped the time to pass in a fun way, in fact it was such good fun that it seemed to fly by way too quickly. Also, it made my day every time one of you lot got your projects done, nice one.
So all in all, a very long winded way of saying: Mega trip, when’s the next one?
Back in Sheff now, time to knuckle down to some power training, hope I don’t injure myself and we’ll see what the New Year brings...
Oh one last thing, here’s the geeky bit. I don’t normally go in for tick lists but can now see why they are useful, wish I’d done them over the last 20 years, hey ho. Not bad for an old fogey and 14 days of climbing, even though I say so myself, haha.
‘Maneras de Vivir’ f8a. Bruixes.
‘Mallorca es Funky’ f7c+. Bruixes.
‘Happy Flowers’ f7c+. La Pedrera, Collegats.
‘Avant Match’ f7c. Bruixes.
‘Tita Bullida’ f7c. La Pedrera, Collegats.
‘Per tutti l’anno’ f7b+. La Pedrera, Collegats.
‘Tarambana’ f7b+. Bruixes.
‘Formula Weekend’ f8a. Bruixes.
‘Golpe de Gas’ f8b. Bruixes.
‘L’Anarkista’ f8a+. Bruixes.
‘Flix Flax’ f8a+. Bruixes.
‘Bon Viatge’ f8a. Bruixes.
‘Red Bull’ f7c+. Bruixes.
Retro-flash (all onsighted 5 and half years ago):
‘Energia Positiva’ f7c+. Bruixes.
‘Orient’ f7c/+. Bruixes.
‘Occident’ f7c. Bruixes.
‘Derribos Arrias’ f7b+. Bruixes.
The impressive Bruixes wall, climbing doesn't get much better!