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So with a grand total of 4 days climbing in Magic Woods before we looked at the weather report which was full of rain, we set off to Chironico also in Switzerland. This place usually stays a bit cooler than everywhere else as it’s higher. We were wrong! It was boiling usually getting to about 35’ in the day. The climbing became frustrating because of the heat and our skin was feeling the consequences.
We got some good things done and it was nice to be back there but we had to leave with projects still to complete as we couldn’t help thinking we could be doing better else-where. Next was to try Gotthard and Susten Pass in higher ground, hopefully with cooler temperatures. We arrived to rain. Our luck felt like it was starting to run out. However we sat tight for a day and we were given most of a day to climb with only brief showers. The scenery of the susten pass boulders is amazing if you’re lucky enough to get a clear day.
While walking up the valley, you’re surrounded by friendly sheep, a massive waterfall in the corner, a random very old farmer who looked like he should be at home looking after himself instead of his sheep and some beavers. In the one day we had, we both managed another 8a. This is Simon’s first so he was rather content with himself. Luckily it suited both our styles and it was dispatched with-in a couple of hours. Sadly we didn’t get given another chance to return to the valley, so we uped and off again.
We decided to change the scenery and a border change. Italy this time. We picked a place we had never heard of before and were going to give it a chance. We read some reviews on the internet and set off. We arrived at the field that the boulders were in, just off the main road into a small village. I let out a deep sigh. It was rubbish! In fact so insignificant I can’t even remember the name and we’ve deleted the topo off the laptop. Four or five boulders in a field with lines crammed into them so in the topo looked like there were loads of problems to do. We looked around. The quality was even worse closer up. We got straight back in the van and left. Spirits running low we headed for France. Annot. Sandstone bouldering, up and coming area and from the reviews this place couldn’t be bad! Have a guess… Scattered sandstone boulders in the trees. I was getting excited and couldn’t wait to get out the van and finally climb something.
Ok a little hot but I didn’t care. We threw the under the first boulder we found, crammed our shoes on and pulled on. Well, tried. The sandstone wasn’t hard packed. It fell off as you touched it. The reviews mentioned it being a bit unclean but not this loose! I was starting to doubt whether we’ll ever climb again this year! It was nice to attempt to boulder and we managed to top out on some of the boulders but the rock was unsafely poor. Heads hanging low yet again we vacated. Verdon here we come.
So since you last heard from me in Albarracin I’ve been very busy in the Costa Blanca. I’ve been here for over a month now staying with friends from Epic Adventures (www.epic-adventures.co.uk). I’ve been visiting lots of new areas as last time I came here was a year ago and only went to Sella for a week.
The Spanish have got it good out here, the rock, the weather and the beaches. I first arrived feeling like a kid in a sweet shop, so many good crags and I didn’t know what to start projecting first. Once I had them all lined up and I started to tick them off one by one. We found a crag called Murla which was later to become my stomping ground. I started off there with a hard 7c+ with a scary top, a run-out to the belay would have made for an “exciting” fall. With a sigh of relief I can say that I didn’t fall off.
Then it was off to pay Sella another visit. I love Wildside and the previous year I had done two 8a’s in a week. Matching my winnings from last year I walked away content with another two; Watermark and Celia.
Next I decided to step it up a grade and try an 8a+ nearer to “home”. Murla is very short and very bouldery which is perfect for me. The 8a+ had awesome moves which all went bar one in one day. This particular move is a jump into a finger slot in a block which I kept missing. A couple of weeks later I found new beta which meant this move was more reliable. Grrrr! Why couldn’t I have found this earlier? I felt I needed a break from the route so tried an 8a next to it. Another amazing route which had a dyno in the middle of it which I finished in two days so it was back to the 8a+.
After a day at another crag for a change of scenery and some on-sighting I headed back to Murla for what I hoped would be my last session but was just too tired from so many days on and we decided to have a full rest day before going back. We got to the crag at around noon and it was pretty warm even though it is shaded, on my first attempt I nearly pulled through the crux, I came back down, rested and then fired the route off. I was so pleased to finally get it done as it my longest project yet and also my hardest route to date.
It was good to see some familiar faces at the Berghaus European sales launch in Calpe. I went out to see some guys and girls on their activity day and met some of the extended team. The day was topped off by a meal at the hotel in Calpe which made a welcome change from pasta, chopped tomatoes and veg.
After spending some time sport climbing in the Costa Blanca area of Spain I’ve ticked three F8a routes.
After a week stay at Sella I’ve done Watermark F8a and the next day also ticked Celia F8a on my second redpoint. Both these routes are at the Wildside Sector.
I looked at Watermark and thought it looked good from the floor. As I had already done two 8a’s here a year ago, Watermark was the next step. I pulled on and soon found out that it was not my style at all, sustained vertical and crimpy. However, second day – first try, I dispatched it, missing a clip out as it pumped me too much to clip it!
Celia was much more my style. A bouldery start to a good rest then pumpy tufa climbing with a big pop in the middle and a fairly hard shoulder move near the top. I did think this route was slightly easier than the other 8a’s I have done here.
The last F8a was at Murla, I really didn’t expect to get it that day. The route suits me down to the ground with hard first moves and a dyno in the middle. This route is awesome, I love it. And hopefully my project next door (8a+) will go soon too. Wish me luck!
The night that we arrived back from Cuenca, we were so tired from the whole week that we went to bed at 9 o’clock! The next morning we were psyched to be pulling back on real rock again after the hot, sweaty comp had robbed us of valuable skin. Now we have an extra crash pad the loss of skin seems worth it. Before we went to Cuenca I tried a route called Inashakra font7c. It had been raining and the top out was wet so I used another rock to top out. Unsure whether I had actually done it right or not we went back to check and also for Simon to have a go. It was now clear to see from the chalk that I had “cheated” as you can top out on slopers, which meant I had to do it all again. Getting frustrated as I couldn’t repeat the first move I finally got the top. I also tried the font7b+ next to it but had to return the next day to complete it as I was too tired from trying Inashakra. On the way back to the van, we stopped at one last boulder, another font7b+ with a hard rounded top out. Having done all the moves and only the top out to complete, I tried for my last time that day. Unfortunately and quite scarily I pulled on and felt a sharp pain in my shoulder. I stopped straight away but had a worrying feeling I had just picked up an injury.
The next day we went back to yet another unfinished project, a font7c called Circo Del Sol. When we previously tried it we ended up lifting each other up to try the top moves as the top bit was yet again really hard. Now armed with beta, within about an hour, Simon pulled over the top shortly followed by myself. Thankfully my shoulder pain the day before was just a twinge. Happy with this tick I had one more project in the Sol Area. The line is called Revenge but since the rock is sometimes poor quality, a crimp had become more positive. The climb was originally given font8a but now I have done it, it feels more like font7b+. Simon saving his skin didn’t try it and wasn’t climbing for the rest of the day and so we headed back of to the van for dinner. That night everything went a bit crazy. Loads of Spanish people turned up in Parking. Loads and loads and loads of vans appeared. It was a Thursday night! It turned out that it was Fathers Day on Friday and so the whole of Spain got the day off! So Friday turned out to be crammed with people. I wanted a rest day but went to try an font8a overhanging prow anyway. I only spent about half an hour climbing as it had a ridiculously massive move in the middle which for someone my height just seemed impossible.
Fully rested I set off on my own to an area called Techos while Simon stayed and ate breakfast. My aim was to work out the top out of a font7c roof which was horrendously crimpy. I tried and tried and tried but not matter what I did differently it still spat me off. I spent the day being shut down by various problems, so it was nice when we had an evening session and I finally got up some problems!
Still with a lot of loud Spaniards in Parking we headed out early back to sol. With no-one around finally we had peace. We warmed and quickly dispatched a font7a+ and an amazing rising font7b traverse. When we came last year everything had snow on so we couldn’t finish any of the boulders. There was a font7b traverse that we tried but we weren’t fit enough so this year we went to see if we could do it. The holds are really slopey, the climb is quite long and has poor holds at the end just when you’re tired. I did it on my second go. Pleased with this I called it a day and just at the right time as it started to rain. Thankfully all the Spaniards had left presumably to go back to their jobs. The Parking was back to being ours.
The journey to Cuenca was not as quick as we thought it might be, it took about 2.5 hours on the windiest, roughest roads I’ve seen in a long time. When we got to Cuenca we had a cheeky cheeseburger starter at McDonalds and then headed to the wall. We got there a little bit early because they don’t open until 17:00 in the afternoons. When Rodrigo turned up he met us in his usual supremely enthusiastic way and said we were welcome to climb for free while we here. We had a good session at the little wall and Rodrigo invited us to his house for the evening. We met his sister, girlfriend and his sister’s boyfriend and had an intensive Spanish lesson for about 3 hours. This was our first experience of the crazy times that the Spanish do things, for example they cooked dinner at about 00:30 and said that this was normal and we ended up going to bed at about 03:00am madness!
Unsurprisingly we were pretty tired when we got up but we went to climb at the wall anyway which is where we met Rodrigo’s business partner Scott a kiwi who moved to Spain a few years ago and never left. He invited us to stay at his house which was awesome because it meant warm showers and a bed in a room that wasn’t freezing cold.
When we went back to his house we met his wife Christina who is lovely as well and the two of them invited us out to a bar in town that gives free food with every beer! Apparently that is how Tapas used to be but the tradition was lost in most of Spain and the only places it has stayed is Castilla-La-Mancha and Granada so we made the most of it. The food was ridiculous! With each beer you get a small cup of chicken and ham soup and a plate with quails eggs, jamon, bread, honeyed courgette and a big salad all for free, genius.
On the way back from the bar they offered us a bed for the whole week so we’ve stayed here everyday and they even gave us a key so we could come and go as we liked (you know you’re in good hands when you meet fellow climbers). Living here has really given us a good idea of the life of a Spaniard, they never sleep, they are lazy hell and they openly admit it. They have a slow but very good quality of life here and we can only imagine how much slower (and better) it is when the summer kicks in and it’s too hot to actually do anything.
Two days ago we climbed on some routes here and were pretty amazed at what we found. The rock is pretty poor quality and all the routes are held together with large amounts of cement and glue. In some places where there’s blank sections of rock they’ve drilled pockets and chipped crimps into the walls to make the climbs possible then on top of the drilled pockets and crimps they finish off the edges with more cement to make it a nice smooth hold. Can you imagine that on Stanage! We weren’t too fond of the falseness of it all so lost interest in the routes pretty quickly, there is a hell of a lot of rock here but it’s just not very high quality. Friday and today were rest days so we would be in shape for the competition on Sunday and hopefully I could grow back some skin by then and wear a bit less tape to hold ourselves together. Lucky for us we were informed of Neusc and given some by Rodrigo at the wall. It’s a bit like climb-on balm but not so natural and hippy so in theory it should work a bit better (like the rest of modern medicine). After two days of using it my finger has started to close up already which is awesome.
We just got back from the wall having met Pavi and his mates from Madrid who look like an annoyingly strong bunch and the problems are looking awesome, particularly with the inclusion of the blue volume from Holdz in Sheffield. Hopefully the comp will be a good day with the lots of Spanish craziness and some winning for at least one Brit.
It’s the morning after the comp and we did pretty well. Simon came third behind Pavi and a local Cuenca climber in the final and I won the final. That’s a first and third at a Spanish comp and new crash pad for the trip. We’re not sure where we are going to put it yet because we have no space and it’s massive but we’ll find a way. The day was really good with a decent turn out and we went for a beer afterwards (accompanied with more amazing free food) and got bombarded with Spanish for a while trying to pick up anything we could (not easy when you only know about five words). Once we had finished at the bar we went back to Scott’s where he cooked us Thai green curry (he’s a trained chef) which was much needed.
Today we are off back to the land of Albarracin and hopefully the weather will be like it is here, warm and sunny. We’ll be pretty disappointed if it’s naff again but we need a day or two rest after yesterday so it’s not so bad.