Archive for December, 2009


Window of Opportunity

December 17, 2009

Closed.  That’s how the window of opportunity is at the moment.

A wave of cold cold temps in sync with clear blue skies and 0% humidity blew through Sintra these past 3 days.  They were accompanied by fanatic bouldering sessions, the Mecca sector saw most of the action.

On the first day Mecca saw >20 climbers giving it their all on these excellent boulders, trad climbers, sport climbers, male and female climbers, old and young.  The action that concerned me revolved around two boulders: Stoneedge and Menir, two beautiful compression problems on prows that face each other.  The first session was on the stand to Menir, which despite many tries by Nico and I did not see a FA, a beautiful line that will someday see a full sitdown ascent, the provisional grade for the stand is 7b+ (V8), the sit adds 3 moves that haven’t been done yet but are themselves no lower than 7b+.

Myself on the first move of the stand to Menir, excellent photography by, of course, Macau:

We then moved to Stoneedge, a few days before I got the FA of the stand to Stoneedge and the sit was still a puzzle, but with the aid of some of the strongest boulderers (André, Nico, Pena and leading them, of course: Gonçalo) a short person sequence was figured out.  The problem didn’t go though, the stand is 7b+ and similarly to Menir the sit adds 3 hard compression moves which are by themselves about a hard 7b or soft 7b+.

Despite the many attempts on these problems the night was just warming up.  We then moved on to see two more gems: Solaris and Supa Hiro, one weighing in at 7c+ (V10) and the other at 8a (V11) and both having only seen one ascent… you guessed it, by Macau.  Both lines are very aesthetic and unique, Solaris having slopey holds and involving a large campus move, and Supa Hiro involving long moves on sharp crimps!!

Myself on Solaris, setting up for the campus move, photo by Macau:

The attempts were valiant and both Nico and Andre managed to solve the campus move, though the difficulty did not end there and only Andre managed to figure out the final deceptively tricky mantel.

By this time most of us could feel that our skin was nearing its final push, many of those 20+ climbers had had enough too and slowly trickled out of the boulder forest.  But for the most fanatic one more boulder needed to be visited: Supa Hiro!  Pena, Nico, Andre and I gave it good goes but the two-move crux sequence was beyond our abilities that day.  The crimps too small and sharp and the reach too long.

Below, myself on the beginning of the Supa Hiro crux, photo by Macau:

Two days later, yesterday, Mecca saw some more action but my a reduced number of climbers.  This was the last day of single-digit temperatures.  Nico and I gave strong burns on the sit start to Stoneedge and to Eduardo Maos de Strappal (7c) and Nico finally managed to piece together and top out Eduardo and I was tantalizingly close… Stoneedge is still up for grabs but not for long!

Today it’s raining and the temps are up… from my house I can see the mountain of Sintra and am anxiously waiting for an opening in the weather.  To facilitate my waiting I have received some help from my sponsors at Evolve:

The Pontas and Pontas Lace-up which I have already used and am a fan of (Pontas for bouldering and the lace-up for sport) and now the new generation, G2, of the Talons and the Predators, these are seriously downturned, aggressive, and the rubber looks sturdier.  I will be testing these and writing about these very soon, as soon as the weather clears up!!!


Just Photos

December 12, 2009

My last post was just text so this post will be (apart from this introduction) just photos.  Today there was a gathering/meeting of climbers at the new seaside trad climbing area: Casal Pianos, here are just a few photos (you can find many more at Macau’s webpage):



Isabel running it out:


No Photos Please

December 11, 2009

Pity we didn’t get photos of this night session, it was fanatic.

I started off the night thinking that I would spend it trying a project in Peninha, but upon arrival I found the holds very wet, especially the top.  So I warmed up there and then drove in search of drier lands.  At the Mecca sector I met up with Mario, Rasta, Pena and Jorge (a newcomer to the outdoor bouldering… a gym rat).

Jorge did really well, sending some of the classics such as flashing Ninho de Cucoos, Incha-la on his second try and Cromeleque with a few goes; he gave Megalito some good goes but it got the better of him for now.  Pena did the stand to Eduardo Maos de Strappal (7b+) and redid the hard compression moves to try the straight up version and I got the FA of the direct line topping out straight up (though not the sit start) which adds a little difficulty but stays at 7b+, naming it “Stonehenge”.  Pena and I then both gave the sit some good burns and made progress but still a step beyond us.

I tried a line I had envisioned and which we have named Menir, directly opposite Stonehenge, but it’s moves are still too hard.  Then Pena and I give some fanatic tries on another line I envisioned starting on Megalito but exiting right using some nice underclings and slaps and crimps.  The moves are really cool and the topout is hard, in sync with the Mecca theme we baptize it “Sultão Qaboos”, the Sultan of Oman!  5 nice boulder problems in the space of 3 square meters, probably the highest density in Sintra.

Perfect temps, great motivation and excellent company!  Tomorrow another session starting at 17:30, location=Dinossaurus!!  See you there!


Jamming In Portugal

December 6, 2009

Today it is raining!  Yesterday a code yellow was announced for all of Portugal, yellow not because of some pending “terrorist” atack but yellow because of weather-related problems.  However, we decided to risk it and go to the coast, 10 minutes away from my place in Sintra.  Yesterday’s objective was to go play on cracks!

All pictures are enlargable by clicking on them, enjoy.

The approach to the crag, it’s always good to join rock climbing with oceanic environment:

Still the approach, the crag starts to be visible:

And here we are, the first sector, the warm-up area harboring some nice, short, easy lines:

And here is Nico Favresse showing us the crack climbing prowess that led him to the 3rd ascent of cobra crack… not exactly cobra crack is it Nico?!  Hey, where is your rope?:

That was the warm-up area, then on the backside of that basaltic outcropping lies the second sector, taller lines, some with a slight overhang, very nice splitters (I never made it to the other sectors which house more and even taller lines).

As seen from the ocean, amongst the caos of fallen rocks:

This caos of rock can only mean that some of the rock is unstable… this crag had to be cleaned by the hard work of Nuno Pinheiro and others so that big blocks would not take out the whole climbing community in Portugal.  One such bloc was removed the day I was there and I documented part of its relocation in the following video.  The bloc had already been removed by the guiding touch of Nuno’s hammer but was still unstable so Leo levers it to safety:

The crag as seen from the side:

The Portuguese conquerers again at the edge of the ocean, conquering the land instead of the ocean:More jamming, Nico on the left, Mario and Texas in the middle, Leo and Filipe on the end:

Nico on the FA of this aesthetic, slightly offwidth, dihedral crack:

One of the more seasoned Portuguese sport-climbers, Filipe Costa e Silva trying his hand at jamming:

Three shots of Nico onsighting the hardest line of this small sector, a 7a+ (5.12b) finger crack:

I too tried this line, my last climb of the day and I have to say it felt much harder than any of the hardest sport climbs I have ever tried… I tried it on top-rope and I think I did one move, all the others were with the assist of the rope.  In terms of crack climbing technique I am at about the V grade, I managed to get myself up some 6’s but with the ugliest, least-effective technique you could imagine… obviously I ended up using excessive strength and jamming parts of my body that didn’t need to be jammed.  Despite the caloric expenditure, however, this reminded me of why I enjoy crack climbing: because one ends up using so much more of the body than one a face-climb.  It is so much more a full-body experience (not to mention a mental experience as leading crack climbs requires much more awareness) than face-climbing.

Well, it isn’t exactly Indian Creek but we have cracks in Portugal!  Another reason to put Portugal on your list of climbing destinations.

To end this post here are some pictures of the coastline surrounding the climbing area:

The climbing crag is that outcropping at the end on the left:

On much of the water’s edge there has formed these hills of coral(?) which often house water pools:

Sometimes the edge of the pools are pink with new coral:

And you can see how deep this new layer is looking at it from the side:

More frequently the valleys formed by the coral hills are filled with rocks which have been trapped there and rounded by the tides:

I particularly liked the configuration of these rocks:

p.s. Portugal is in the World Cup 2010!!!  Yeah!!!  But wait, what does this have to do with climbing??  World Cup 2010 is in South Africa, world-renown bouldering mecca!!!!  hummmmm…………….


The Sculptures of Sintra

December 1, 2009

Yesterday morning I get an email from Macau tempting me to go bouldering in Sintra.  My plan was to have a solo night session on O Mito, listen to music and try the moves, but I succumbed and went bouldering IN THE DAYTIME!!!!!

Very strange to boulder in the day 🙂  The Sun illuminates the holds so differently than the headlamp 🙂

So, though it had rained hail a few hours before and was still intermittently raining, I went to Sintra.  I wanted to go to O Mito and see how I felt on what would be the 2nd day trying the sit start and so I did, and was forced to warm-up on overhanging crimps because the only jug was completely soaked.  Trying to be wise, warm-up carefully to not get injured, I eventually found myself trying the start moves again.  Macau arrived at the end of the warm-up, gave me his beta, and snapped photos as I tried to unlock the hard moves.  All photos by Ricardo “Macau” Alves, check out his website!

Trying my beta…

Trying Macau’s beta

I made some good progress, felt stronger on the heinous crimps.  The first move on my beta is slightly harder than Macau’s but may set me up better for the following moves, whereas Macau’s first move is easier but then…  both sequences feel hard!!  Can’t wait to get back on it, hopefully tomorrow!!

Then we went to another boulder which we had seen a few days ago.  I had refrained from trying it because it looked intimidating.  Beautiful and intimidating.  My good friend Max Z. over at Czarclimbing came up with a set of indicators to evaluate how “good” a problem is, how many stars does it earn.  I’d give this problem a high star grade.  Macau had cleaned the top a little, on toprope, and so we were going to see how it fared today.  Just as we were finishing drying the two-finger start hold and contemplating the moves Pena and Rasta arrived!  The more the merrier!

Pena and I gave it very good burns while Macau snapped away and Rasta cheered us on.  Photos below:

Macau and I were discussing: The rock in Sintra hasn’t been sculpted in the same way as most bouldering places I have visited.  Hueco or Hound Ears, Little Rock City, Horse Pens or Bishop generally have obvious lines: a line of crimps or huecos or slopers or dihedral.  The line tends to be there, staring you in the face.  Whereas in Sintra the rock oftentimes resembles a sculpture more than an obvious “line”, they are more artistic lines instead of gym-climbs.  This boulder we were on yesterday is like that.  It has two pockets to start and God knows how they got there because other than those two pockets the rock is smooth.  Instead of climbing a “line” on the boulder you’re climbing the shape of the whole boulder.

We saw one more line on a neighboring boulder, another beautifully sculpted piece or rock with no evident sequence but definitely calling for attention.  Hopefully tomorrow the weather will be good enough to go and try that new line!