Diamonds in Sintra

September 13, 2009

Went bouldering last night, Sintra of course.  In fact, this post includes climbing on the 9th and on the 11th.

In the previous post I talked a bit about the grading system in Sintra.  The grading is something that is talked about nearly every time we go bouldering, not because we are addicted to number, no, it is because it is SO interesting!!!  We (and by “we” I mean the totality of boulderers in Sintra who were present for the debate yesterday) have come to the conclusion that the grading in Sintra is scientifically correct, and we have arrived at this fantastic point because the grading is based on a “universal” scale.  You may be aware of how the temperature scale came about; of how it was necessary to have two points, two fixed points (these being the freezing and boiling points of pure water at a certain atmospheric pressure and so on), in order to establish the temperature scale.  Such an idealized situation is necessary for scientific reasoning.

An astrophysicist, a engineer and a biologist are asked to predict which racehorse will win the horse racing derby. The biologist bases his reasoning on what the horse ate, the horse’s caloric intake and its energetic output, and the ATPs and so on and so on.  The engineer looks at the horses in the race and gets mesurements of their legs, looking at the legs as fulcrums, and then measures the curvature of the spine and gets ready to calculate the air drag and so on.  Finally the astrophysicist says “I know, if we assume the horse is a sphere…”.

That’s the joke, physicist always make these kind of outrageous approximations/simplifications.

SIMILARLY, and getting back to the grading in Sintra, anything that is easy is given 6c/+ or 7a, then anything for anything that is hard we say: “well, it was hard but it’s kind of warm today and maybe a little damp even but if it was dry and 0 degrees Celsius outside then this boulder would be a 7b or possibly 7b+.  So the grade is 7b+.”

I mentioned to Macau that I’m having a hard time imagining something that is Sintra 7c or higher.  I’ve played on 7c+’s and seen plenty of 8a’s and above outside of Portugal but not in Sintra… hummmmm

But what I wanted to get to is mentioning the next level of bouldering in Sintra, boulders such as Diamante Branco (White Diamond):




Ricardo “Macau” Alves trying the moves on a new line which goes right on this giant bloc.

A number of large blocs have recently been found and they contain some powerful lines which even Sintrenses are agreeing are not easier than 7c.  That is a bold statement out here.  The Diamante Branco bloc has three main lines: Sete Vidas 7b+, Diamante Branco 7c and the new line out right that is still an unnamed project and some of the moves are shown in the above pictures.  In these pictures Macau is already halfway up the bloc, the first crux is below him and hard to photograph.  The fall is well padded but it is a small caos of boulders so very uneven.  Spicy!!

Two days ago we went to another sector: Eden.  We were 4 this time, the usual Macau, Pena and I and then Alex.  This was Alex’s first climbing experience in Portugal and now I wonder if I will ever see him again…  We met at the parking lot at 6:30pm.  Headlamps – check.  Jackets – check.  Music – check.  Snacks – check.  To all who join us – please remember to bring sturdy long pants.

We first climbed on a really excellent boulder which somwhat resembled a large piano turned slightly on its side ; it is made up of large rounded smooth-granite blcos.  The moves are on sidepulls and underclings, technical and a lot of tension.  5 star climb rated somewhere between 6c and 7a.  It is still unnamed–the rate at which new boulders are being discovered is faster than the climbers can name them!!  Macau and Pena have to have a list of names for future blocs or else there would be many unnamed lines.


The first crux move on this new line, going to a two finger divet.  Photo by Macau.


Photo by Macau.


Photo by Macau.Sintra03_Set09_19

Matching the undercling. Photo by Macau.Sintra03_Set09_20

Going up to the sidepull. Photo by Macau.

At this point some very heavy fog started rolling in, setting some nice mood, and Alex was already feeling the effects of the granite on his skin.  We decided to move to another sector: Arca de Noe (Noah’s Arc), so named because when it was first climbed on there was a lot of rain coming down and yet it remained dry.  Likewise, no this day, a few minutes after getting there the rain started coming down!  The foliage in Sintra grows rather rapidly… and agressively, and to get to get to this sector required some trampling through well armed sharp bushes and brambles.  Alex only had capri pants…

IMG_4903Alex on the right, feeling the effects of the hike, the cold, and the drizzle while Macau and Pena prep the main line.

IMG_4906Pena on the first move of the Arca de Noe 7b.  The first move is probably the hardest move but the last of the 11 moves was the crux for me.


The transition moves, requiring some tension on good holds.  Photo by Macau.


These moves are soooo good!! and on excellent quality rock!  Photo by Macau.


Photo by Macau.


The second-to-last move on A Arca de Noe.  Photo by Macau.

It was a good session at this sector.  Pena sent two of the three lines and made excellent progress on the third.  I got to the last move on the Arca, 3 or 4 times, and Macau made a new line going across all three established climbs possibly baptizing it A Arca do Dragao.

I wonder if Alex was yearning to go home because the blocs were a bit hard for his first day and he ended up sleeping on the crashpad for a while… however, after this sector we still tried a few lines on another bloc which was overhung enough to have stayed dry and by then it was something like 1:20am.  We ended another fanatic session in Sintra, I hope it only served to inspire Alex and not frighten him away… we will see in the coming episodes.


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