Dave

1st Nov 2015

Question:

I am 65, climb several times a week and do many trips. I am currently into sport climbing, on sight 7a -7b and redpoint up to 7c. I am off to Terradets in six weeks and would like to try some harder ( for me ) projects e.g. Energia Positiva... I heard that you did loads of stuff on Bruixes and wonder if you could let me know what training you did prior to your trip?

Answer:

Firstly; if there are any hard core onsighters about to read this and you don't want any info on routes at Bruixes, then stop reading at the "Recommendations and Beta" section near the bottom.

My ‘training’ for the Nov 2014 trip was unorthodox, mainly because I only found out I was going on the trip 2-3 weeks prior to leaving. This didn’t leave much time to make many gains...so how did I climb so well?
Predominantly, I had spent most of spring/summer 2014 redpointing on Peak Limestone, which essentially means bouldering on a rope. This meant my power endurance was actually pretty good.
But the long, overhanging routes on Bruixes Wall require awesome endurance, the ingenuity to find and utilise rests and the ability to climb when pumped and not get phased by it. So where did my endurance come from?
Luckily for me, this has always been my forte and although I hadn’t specifically worked on it that year, I had been climbing a lot and with a few sessions down at Awesome Walls, Sheffield (which has very long steep routes), I was able to tap back into my endurance reserves and wake them up.
This meant that I arrived at Terradets in pretty good physical shape and with a couple of days reacquainting myself with the nature and style of the climbing, I was able to get stuck in at quite a high level straight away. The crux moves on f7c+’s and f8a’s at Bruixes felt about the same as cruxes on f7b/7b+’s in The Peak, so I had strength in reserve which was why the onsighting (and redpointing) went so well.

You will need:

  • The obvious; loads of endurance and recovery skills! There are big holds all over the roughly 15 degree overhanging routes and most are about 30 metres long. You will need to climb for a long time and recover as you climb. Stop bouldering and just climb loads of routes from now on. Try to climb a lot in the 50-70% of your limit, with as many pitches as possible. Long sessions will reap the most rewards.
  • Good pinch strength. Bruixes routes are mainly tufas, there are very few edges and crimps! Train on anything open handed.
  • The knowledge and skill to use drop knees/egyptians. Without this, the routes will feel a lot harder; climbing front on does not work well here.
  • To do the classics first! They are three stars for a reason and there are many of them. Some of the lesser known routes can have more bouldery cruxes. If this is your bag, maybe try one of those as a project.
  • The ability to knee-bar effectively. A sneaky knee-bar can make a so-so 30 sec rest, turn into a 5 min full on recovery-fest. A knee-pad could be useful if you are repeatedly trying the same route.
  • To get used to warming up on your redpoint project. There are not many warm ups at all, ‘Modroño’ f6b+ is one of the better (only) ones. There is a f7a+ called ‘Pasta sin Agua’ which can become a warm up if you get to know it well enough!
  • The mental fortitude to push yourself when the going gets tough and the arms are screaming; many of the routes have high cruxes.
  • An up-to-date topo. There are some wild grade ranges at Bruixes Wall and there have been many topos created over the years, I’m still not completely sure I agree with all the grades (as always, it’s very subjective here) but It’s best to use the most recent information.
  • Work out what weather conditions you want. It is cold in the mornings (and can be very misty due to the Tremp fog) and if there is heat in the sun, it can be too hot in the afternoons. Optimum conditions can be tricky to get at times.

Some recommendations and beta:

  • ‘Energia Positiva’, 7c+. A brilliant route and deserves the grade as the crux is getting to the belay. Although not a hard sequence, in reality V3 max, when you’re pumped it’ll feel harder. There are a probably three other tricky bits on the way up, so this route really requires you to rest well. If you can’t find a good rest before the top, you will probably take quite a long time to redpoint the route. A regular sight is people falling repeatedly at the last bolt! If you do find a great rest (there are a few, you have to find the right one for you), success will come quickly.
  • ‘Orient’, f7c/+. A more sustained first half than Energia, with the crux sequence coming around bolt 6 (not sure if memory absolutely correct on the specific number) and lasting another bolt or two. There are no good rests before you enter the crux sequence. You can either go right to an obvious sticking out blob, not great holds for a few moves, then you are resting near a bolt. Or you can head more up and left, not using the blob and do some tricky moves on more positive holds before getting to the rest. A few bolts after this you get a complete knee bar hands off rest. The top is very steep but the climbing is relatively easy. Another fantastic route.
  • ‘Occident’, f7c. One of the classics, again, sees many onsighters falling at the top. Pumpy, fun climbing to get 3/4’s up and a knee bar rest. You must recover fully here, as the top can feel hard. Getting established on the upper tufas feels initially awkward, until you use a cupped-undercut on the bottom of one of the tufas you are trying to find a hold on! This gives you the reach to actually get up onto the tufas and whack a knee bar in, although it’s not the best. The crucial thing on this top bit is your ability to jam! If you can do a few more moves, you will see an obvious jam in between the two tufas, use this and try to rest somewhat, before moving left and racing to the belay. Mega route, not to be underestimated.
  • ‘Jam Session’, f7b. An awesome start to the trip and a good introduction to Bruixes if you haven’t been before. I can’t remember too much about it, not sure there is the most obvious crux, it’s all about avoiding the pump! Find rests and use them. Get into the swing of pulling on chalky, polished jugs!

Final word of warning: I climbed all of 2014 with no injuries. After, two to three days climbing at Bruixes wall, I could feel my elbows tweaking (inside, golfers). I’m not sure why this happened exactly but the action of pinching tufa possibly doesn’t suit my physiology. This is very annoying, as I love the style and seem to be quite good at it. A year later they have quietly got worse and are now quite painful. I am trying to rehab them in the hopes, I’ll be able to train this winter. Avoid injuring your elbows like I did!

Keep cranking Dave and have a fantastic trip!