First off a big thanks to Scarpa and The Mountain Boot Company for bringing me onto the UK Scarpa team. Since being introduced to the Instincts before my long trip a couple of years ago I’ve been a Scarpa man through and through, and every hard route I’ve done in the last few years has been in the Instinct Laces. It’s great to be onboard, and maybe I can even convince them to enter the kneepad market… 5.10 watch your back.
Now, onto the meat, 3 weeks in Spain with a few mates – including a token Scot to provide amusement/lines from Braveheart – and loads of rock… What could be better? Actually, climbing wise my trip has been mixed. Not because the climbing has been mixed, it hasn’t, it’s been awesome, but because my performance has been mixed. It’s dumb how climbing a little bit worse than you expect can have such a huge effect on how much you enjoy a holiday, but at the same time I’m not sure I’d want it any other way. It shows you care. It shows it matters to you.
I wrote a few paragraphs with introspective moaning about the aspects of my performance I was disappointed with, but after reading through it I hated how much I sounded like the whinney little brat I can turn into immediately after falling off, the brat I hate turning into. So let’s focus on the good bits…
For the first part of the trip we were based in Ulldemolins, midway between Siurana and Margalef, and we divided our time between the two areas. I’d mainly intended to onsight and flash stuff on this trip, but ended up getting involved with a quite a few quick redpoints of some awesome routes. In particular, Flash Over (8b+) at Margalef features by far the best move I’ve ever done on one finger – a big slap from a poor, flat mono to a big, fat jug and the kind of move that makes you feel like a total hero despite actually not being too heinous. On the first go front I managed to flash La cara que no miente at Siurana which I was pretty chuffed with. This short and butch 8a+ features some lovely fat pinches (damn I love pinches!) and is a route I’ve had on my ‘to do’ list since I first saw it a few years ago. After a day of climbing and frying ourselves in the sun the drive home would generally be made with a perfect sunset, a spectacular view and whilst singing along to a fine selection of Phil Collins, Finish power metal and dubious childhood classics.
I’ve learnt a few lessons this trip too: Migranya Profunda (8b+) at Siurana reminded me just how much I need to work on my heel hooking skills. This brilliant resistance route does the crux of the classic 8b Migranya (nice foot-first beta Robbie!)before questing off through some butch climbing and decent rests to a tricky move on a heel which seemed to provide the meat of the difficulty for me. 2nd go I redpointed to this move and realised my beta was wack. Next go I fluked through it but punted the next couple of moves with a sequence that turned out to be too powerful on the link. I then proceeded to screw up the heel move a bunch of times, reminding myself that I’ve got some definite improvements to be made in that department! My vertical onsighting has been pretty shoddy too, something which I guess isn’t surprising having spent half my winter climbing in a cave, but which really needs some work.
The final week was spent based from Tom Bolger’s new house out here, not too far from Margalef. It’s pretty remote and a really cool location..
The plan had been to get on some onsights at Margalef for the end of the trip, but the rain came in and plans needed to change. We managed to steal a few hours between downpours at Laboratory and sneak in a couple of short routes, including the fun but not-quite-what-I-came-to-Spain-for
8b 8a+ La Bomba. The next day the weather proved better than forecast
allowing an active rest day cruising cool Ceuse-esque 5+s at Tom’s clostest
crag, Villanova de Prades. Our final day dawned to heavy rain, and driving
towards the crag it was joined by dense fog for a combination more reminiscent
of North Wales than Spain. After a few hours eating cake in the café the
weather gods seemed to have been appeased by our sacrifice of lightness and
granted us a last chance to climb. After a quick scout around for dry rock, and
worried that my reputation as Mr Linkup might be in doubt, I decided to start
off with the original version of Migranya,
which proved almost as good as its harder counterpart. After that it was time
for some more relaxed mileage and an education on vert climbing. Threading the
chains on a particularly nice 7b as the sun dropped out of sight for the last
time of the trip there was only one thought in my mind: Damn I love rock
climbing! The wind had picked up, darkness was falling and we walked back to the car cold on the outside but
glowing warm on the inside. God I love climbing.