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De Vuelta

June 4, 2010

Back!  Back from a 20-day climbing trip to Spain!

The PhD is done.  I finished the PhD, completed, done, DONE!!

Having finished the doctorate I had to give myself a break from it all, from the computer especially, and do one of the things i most love – climb.

My wife Ursula, our daughter Kale’a, and I packed up our gear into a diesel engine Ford and left gorgeous Sintra in search of special locations in Spain.

First stop was Candelario where an outdoor bouldering comp was going to take place.  Here is a short photo-report:

Kela’a doing what she does best – breaking hearts.

We didn’t know where Candelario was, we just saw that the directions kept taking us towards these tall snow-peaked mountains…

This is where we ended up camping:

The view from CandelarioAn awesome boulder at Candelario

Sunset at Candelario

Ursula looking all pensive

The next morning and the arrival of the Portuguese boulderers.  L-R: Pena, Macau, Rita, Teresa

L-R: Edgar, Gonçalo

Rasta

L-R: Pena, Digas, Vegan

Rita, Kale’a, Teresa

Ursula and one of Ivan Luengo’s ferrets (I think that’s a ferret… maybe Rasta can tell me it’s name.)

Unfortunately this is the only shot I got of the bouldering day… interesting rock, a big change from Sintra.  As you can see the rock was all pebble-y.  Sometimes a little aggressive on the hands, often “good” for the feet because many pebbles to toe-in on.  It was about 7 hours of climbing, plenty of very nice climbs but only one or two outstanding lines (as far as I saw), and by the end my feet were so sore I could barely walk.

After Candelario we got back on the secondary roads and drove to Madrid were we met up with Rances and his friend Brian.  We knew Rances from California, he is now ending his year of “study” abroad in Madrid.

A little in town climbing along an old wall.  I was hoping to do mainly sport climbing on this trip but this didn’t work out while in Madrid.  We went to a place called El Vallon which has some nice sectors but it was all flooded so we could only climb on some easies.  Though I had a super day of bouldering when we went and visited El Escorial!  It was a perfect crisp day, we met a friendly spanish couple who know the blocs and we climbed with them on many excellent lines.  I flashed two very nice lines: El Filo and La Puerta and then tried the sit to Puerta which is Megapuerta (8A) and felt close, just a little colder or another day trying and it would definitely have gone.

We were anxious to leave the confusion of city-living and headed out of Madrid all the way to Manresa.  Manresa lies super close to Montserrat, an impressive outcopping of rock that looks simply surreal!!

This is the view from our friend’s house where we stayed.

In one of the infinite sectors.  This place is really impressive.Ursula lovin the mountains and the climbing lifestyle!

An add in a store… too good to not take a picture of.

Kale’a climbing!!!  Yeah!!

Ursula reaching the top.  Perhaps her second top in her young climbing career.

View from the top.

Ursula pointing to the route where we climbed.

So, we were really impressed by Monserrat and after 5 days we decided to head out and go to our last location: Cornudella de Montsant.  Now, I have read loads of climbing posts and blogs but never heard of Cornudella de Montsant, so I imagined there would be some climbing but not like… not infinite climbing.  But as we approached we started seeing signs…

Margalef anyone…

Not going towards Margalef and we arrived at: Siurana

Cornudella is about… 7 minutes from Siurana and 30 from Margalef. Both places are just ridiculous.  So much rock… so much really good looking rock… insane.  I stood under First Round First Minute and looked at many other roof pocket climbs, I watched Nico climb an 8c+ beside La Rambla, I gazed at Golpe de Estado and saw so many other beautiful lines I had never heard of.  This is a paradise for climbing.  Every day you can go to new sectors and find excellent climbs.Kale’a, climbing her age in Siurana.Ya… Siurana is right this way.

Here our farewell with friends and housemates Ben, Isabel, and Nico.

So, it was an amazing trip.  It was my first sport-climbing trip, and it was the first time I was leading all the routes (no “sure, you go first and I’ll see what it looks like) which was really good for me to work on my mental climbing monologue.  It was my first family climbing trip!  awesome! definitely be doing more of these.  It was an excellent break from the 3-move bouldering I had been doing and it really made me interested in sport-climbing!!  I felt my forearms burn with lactic acid… hadn’t felt that in about… 2, 3 years?!

I tried only one 8a climb.  Tried it twice and watched Isabel work it too.  Very big learning experience.  Learning to shift from bouldering mindset of crushing each hold to sport-climbing mindset of using as little energy as necessary, milking a rest out of every possible situation and not getting pumped.

So now I’m back in Sintra!!  Excellent to be back.  Still haven’t had the chance to get back on the sport routes but have gone to Sintra to boulder a number of nights already.  The weather is warmer but Sintra has been covered with cooling clouds and oftentimes is windy at night, so the rock has been crisp.

Yesterday I made very good progress by sending a climb which shut me down way too many times.  It is a special line to me since I was the one who thought it would be possible and started cleaning and brushing and finding the sequence.  It is a blank looking slightly overhanging prow.  A line with very few holds.  A very small left hand sidepull and right-hand one finger divet leading up to stab a right hand shallow mono, followed by a high left heel to throw a left hand to an arete, and then squeezing the arete and working the hands up on small compression slaps.

It would be a 5 star problem for me if it wasn’t for the fact that the back of the left hand very easily scrapes on the adjacent wall, nothing that could actually remove weight but somehow takes away from the pure feeling of the climb.

Trying the climb back when I didn’t have hair.

I had three projects in the same area, this climb was the stand to the easier of the three lines.  I spent so many nights, alone in Sintra trying these three projects and getting completely rejected on practically every single move of each climb that yesterday I was saturated by defeat.  I returned again because I can’t stop thinking about those lines and because there has been nobody to climb with and go exploring the new lines.   Somehow it felt important to have reached that point of saturation because I tried the projects with a freer mindset, managed to send one and to make two good links on one of the other, harder, climbs.  The last project is perhaps the purer line, perfect, and it involves serious cranking on a very shallow crimp and I’d need to be either Max Z. or Randy H. to get any purchase off of it at the moment… so gotta keep trying!  Hope to get a video camera for my Bday so I can start documenting these gems!

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2 comments

  1. The ferret it’s either Ñapa or her daughter Gneiss.


  2. love ya, B! word up, dood…nice effort on the prow thing!

    Congrats on finishing the PhD!!! whats NEXT???



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