Thursday, 1 September 2016

A blog a week until I'm up to date: Post 3 - New Year in Cornudella

Next up in my roughly weekly fortnightly catch-up are some highlights from my trip to Siurana, Margalef and Montsant with Ted Kingsnorth over new year 2015/16 (Ted's account can be found here).

The trip didn't start well, with me sat in Manchester airport departure lounge receiving ever more urgent texts from Ted until the inevitable message admitting he wouldn't be making the flight came through. However, I got very lucky as sitting in the departure hall was another climber I knew in passing - Ross from Bristol, en route to meeting friends in the Costa Blanca, and willing to divert to Siurana for the day as he'd never climbed there before. A plan was hatched, hire cars collected and we drove to our excellent AirBnB accommodation "Siurana Climbing House" in Cornudella (highly recommended) which we shared with the convivial Duncan and Heather.

Before the trip, with my shoulder reverting to grumpy state of semi-instability I didn't have any specific goals, beyond tidying up Hidrophobia at Montsant - a long and pumpy 8a that I'd tried to flash, and then failed to redpoint a few years previously. Highlights of the first few days before going up to Montsant were:
  • Witnessing Ross's extraordinary lack of stamina; pumping out on a long 6b+ despite recently redpointing his first (short & bouldery) f8a
  • The excellent long arete of Lua, 7c
  • A surprise on-sight of a tough 7c+, Puceta de llançol.

An old photo of me trying to flash Hidrophobia back in 2012

Whilst talking with another visiting climber on New Years Eve, I was advised to swap between different 2 and 3 finger combinations to rest and fatigue different fingers alternately on Montsant pockets.  After a relatively quiet evening, New years day dawned and despite his ankle injury, Ted agreed to walk up to Raco de Missa and belay me on his rest day so I could try out this pump minimising theory.

Ted's grapefruit sized ankle, complete with brace and my borrowed rockboot (a full size bigger than his own)

After a warm-up and dog of Hidrophobia to reacquaint myself, it became apparent that the useful advice wouldn't work on my left hand, as my perennially dodgy ring-finger meant I took all the small pockets with a front-2 grip.

Hence, despite the holds turning into sinker pocket jugs at the top, I made an airborne retreat with an astonishing level of pump, and was too beat up to even think of having a second redpoint attempt! The next day, my forearms were still toasted and it was my turn to belay Ted at Margalef, whilst on an enforced rest-day.

Ted climbing at a damp Racó de les Tenebres
A couple of days later, I cashed in on the beat I'd gleaned from belaying/watching Ted and flashed the classic Magic Festival (7c) and then went on to on-sight the other crag classic, La corva de la felicitat (also 7c). We finished the day at the bouldery, roadside El Laboratori sector as Ted had unfinished business with Tsunami. I had a go too, but the first dynamic move of the jug rail made my shoulder crunch and I kept well away whilst Ted and our new South African friend, Brian ticked with ease.

On our final day, I fought up the long and pumpy Hot Knife with an increasingly painful and unstable shoulder. Hence, whilst travelling home on a disgustingly uncomfortable Ryanair flight, I gave significant thought to whether surgery would solve my ongoing problems and get me back to full strength...