Wednesday, 29 May 2013

Veni, vidi, vici! Santa Linya bank-holiday weekend smash-fest

Not quite "i came, i saw, i conquered" as I'd visited at Easter as well, but for shear volume of successful climbing, my bank holiday trip to Spain is a personal highlight. It's worth mentioning my prep for this weekend; spangling a finger trying Melancholie at LPT and only pulling on jugs for the last 3 weeks. Hence why the previous Tuesday gets a mention:

Leave work at 5 and race down to Llangollen and meet up with Liverpool's strongest climber/physio, Matt Donnelly. A few fingery 6c warm-ups didn't feel great on the dodgy digit, so i set off up "Extreme Ways" 7c with a high level of trepidation. The on-sight attempt floundered at the first hard move and i ended up sitting on every bolt up to the chains. A semi-efficient sequence was worked out and Matt sent up to try for the flash; close but no cigar.

Matt worked an alternate foot sequence around a move up to an obvious undercut on the headwall, so i set off on my redpoint go with a fuzzy memory of what to do mixed with a bum view of Matt's supposedly slicker sequence. Needless to say what's efficient for a whippet 5'9" climber with a panache for rockovers didn't work well for my 6 foot+ dimensions and i had to fight hard to get to the chains before the pump spat me off.

Ticking a technical 7c second go a few days before going away should have been a confidence booster, but it did just the opposite. Over the next couple of days I mulled over just how pumped i was going to get on the long Spanish routes if 12m of gently overhanging Welsh climbing had induced a near red-line lactic bath...

Our shitty, cramped Ryanair flight down to Reus was full of stag and hen do's, as well as some other climbers we recognised from Awesome walls Liverpool.

(Aside: It's no surprise that Ryanair they have a 93% on-time record when you list your flight times as 10% longer than other airlines. There statistics for successful delivery of luggage is also massively over-hyped when their pricing policy means that only those with oversize luggage, or disallowed content (such as climbing ropes/karabiners etc) put in a hold bag. I counted 6 hold bags for a full flight of 180passengers - Rant over)).

We arrived in sunny Reus; got a sweet Fiat 500 hirecar and bombed it up to Cornudella for some lunch and an evenings climbing at Siurana. After a slow warm-up, tentatively testing the dodgy digits, the best was saved 'til last with an on-sight of the old-school classic Mandragora, 7b+. On the crux, the full crimp was deployed without complaint - get in!

An early start was made to THE cave of justice; no readers, not Parisella's but Santa Linya as it pisses all over our cave in all aspects of the climbing cave top trumps list. However, we soon realised this was going to be a short lived visit as there was much more seepage than our previous trip over Easter.

El Koala (8b) was wet so I was off the hook on that score, but still had unfinished business with Trio Ternura (8a) whilst John's target 8b was similarly wet, so he set about finishing off Pegue Nocturno (8a/+).

Santa Linya: THE cave of justice. In a top trumps game, it'd win hands down over Parisellas 

After some fairly epic hold drying, i sketched my way through Trio Ternura on my third redpoint. John's long distance film showed 7mins of kneebar shake outs in 10mins total climbing time - need to get fitter! The difference on the final go was figuring out a sweet little trick of tucking an extended quickdraw behind a tiny flake, thus speeding up the clip instead of it flapping in the wind.

Thus, the pace of the weekend was set; from there on i seemed to manage everything i tried by the skin of my teeth, and John seemed to pull defeat from the jaws of victory on multiple occasions, starting with 3 efforts on Pegue Nocturno, each time dropping a deep lock off from a 2-finger pocket to a slopey crimp just before the difficulties eased back to f7a-ish.

The sun came out and we went for coffee/second breakfast, before deciding to visit the other Santa Linya crag; sector Futbolin for the afternoon, where further unfinished business was dealt with in the form of Bestia Parda, a short and bouldery 7c+. A change of boots from Scarpa to La Sportiva muira's was the difference this time as the superior heel made all the difference.

Next up was the "crag classic" Opium, 7c. John went for the on-sight and pinged off the crimpy crux up high. I was beta'd up and went for the flash, but by now the fingers weren't happy with crimping and i slumped on the rope. I worked out a different method and got it next go, skipping a clip and barely making it to the chains with eyes on stalks and elbows pointing skywards.

8a RP, 7c+ RP and 7c RP in a day; I was chuffed with the turn around in performance compared to Dinbren and hence set about a great dinner of 3 courses for 15Euro with a carafe of wine.

My ham and melon starter; not bad for a 15 Euro set meal including wine!
A somewhat later start than Saturday was called for due to being as stiff as a board. John was psyched to tick something, anything even, so we settled on the Disblia cave at Sant Llorenc. I really couldn't get going, and was almost shut down by the 6a+ and 6c warm-ups. John tried a brilliant 7c+ with an 8a extension in the right hand cave, but was denied victory, not once but twice trying to clip the chains in a very powerful position. I sacked it off after dogging this route once and sun bathed instead. In the early afternoon the sun arrived and beer o'clock was called.

Beer and crisps break before getting a second wind and continuing the crushing at Futbolin.
We then headed back to Futbolin, and from no where i got a massive second wind (fairly obvious now that it was the jumbo packet of crisps we had with the beer). In a marked contrast to earlier, the fortunes we swapped so whilst John's power had faded and he sun-bathed I did a bunch of back-to-back on-sights up to 7b.

More food, more beer, more banter ensued before an early morning departure for the Ryan air flight home and a pleasant ride round Llandegla to round off the bank holiday Monday.

In total, all grades from 6a+ to 8a ticked in a 3 day weekend; "SMASH, SMASH!":

8a, Trio Ternura, RP
7c+, Bestia Parda, RP
7c, Opium, RP
7b+, Mandragora, OS
7b, Colera & The Oxfury, both OS
7a+, Spanglish, OS
7a, Por la Boca Muere el Pez, Brigadistak, & Lo dejé to blanco, all OS
6c+ El Kalkilo, OS
6c, Presidiari, OS
6b+, Red Dusk, OS
6b, La Discordia, OS
6a+, Presidiaria, OS

Saturday, 11 May 2013


Compare and contrast: There are some strange folk in Japan making pictures of cat sushi. This one looks a lot like my Pluto (see below)  is wrong on so many levels
Pluto not very impressed with being woken up and photographed :-(

Wednesday, 8 May 2013

Terredets & Santa Linya; Easter 2013

My 9 day trip to Catalunya can be summed up in a few words/short phrases
- Lurgy
- Mild hypothermia
- Unfit
- Pumped

Photographically, these look like:
John seconding pitch 2 of "Smoking" 6b+ at Terredets. The sun left us shortly afterwards and the combination of having a shitty cold and only a t-shirt for insulation made for a fairly miserable experience shivering at each stance. Things weren't helped by only having tight down-turned boots to climb techy slabs with; ow!!

The helpful belay hangers on Smoking; no need to look at the copy of the topo we'd saved on my phone, just look at the customised hangers to know what grade the next pitch is (then add at least two french grades to estimate what it'll actually feel like - these weren't your average Spanish soft touches, no siree)

Post climb view of the crag; Smoking climbs the lighter coloured rock just left of centre

Rest day shinnanigans; what strange manikins they have in Spain??
Super thick and yummy hot choccy. All in aid of ridding myself of the lurgy, you understand? Honest guv!

Another "rest day" - this time i actually left the house and went to Collegats with the others; here Martin is struggling with a thuggish start to a 6b. He wasn't impressed when i demonstrated that with cunning use of a kneebar, the crux could actually be reduced in difficulty all the way down to a no-hands rest!

The whacky rock sculptures of Collegats inspired the famous Barcelona architect Antoni Gaudi.

Climbing wise the trip wasn't a massive success; the combination of lurgy and getting spanked by the burliness of Santa Linya meant that i didn't get as much done as last year.

I had one good afternoon at Camarasa doing the classic 7c+ Shere Kahn on my 2nd go having dropped the on-sight catching a slopey bit of a hueco instead of the positive edge, right up by the chains.

Pegue Nocturno at Santa Linya took much longer than expected. I'd successfully dogged it on day 1 and took the ride from the last hard move on my first redpoint a couple of days later, but it wasn't until the second to last day that i clipped the chains, dosed to the eyeballs on paracetamol, 'brufen and all manner of other cold remedies. With that in mind i don't know if i have any right to comment on the grade, but it certainly felt a notch harder than my other f8a tick of the trip; Maneras de vivir on Bruixes wall, Terredets.

Maneras was a strange affair, ticked on the last morning of the trip, an hour before driving back to the airport. I ended up having an extra dog of the route due to the rope miraculously tying itself off to the belay when we pulled it down prior to our redpoint efforts. This probably wasn't such a bad thing as it made sure i had the crux fully committed to my memory banks. However, the visualisation of the successful redpoint didn't include getting my hair caught in an extended draw and having to pull a big tuft out before questing on up the route.

I'm already planning a return trip for the first May Bank Holiday; hopefully to finish off a bunch of routes in Santa Linya with John. Fingers crossed for cool conditions and a sending breeze?

Skiing Spring 2013 - La Plagne - Pow heaven

A quick photographic summary of a weeks skiing in France in March, 2013.

La Plagne - our home for a week. A few hundred km of piste can be access from La Plagne and the neighbouring Les Arcs, accessed by the mega 200 person gondola pictured below

Loadsa snow after a 3 day dump. Even on-piste there was 8inches of snow to contend with. Off-piste was perfect boot to knee deep powder.
Chainsaw massacre? No, a cold Wrigs on the first day

Mont Blanc in the distance on a clear day

Caroline's kiddies meal. The French start them young on raw meat. Tasty though.

The other half of Caroline's kiddies meal; Zoom! ice lolly

Quick video of our initial attempts to ski in powder...