Many of the same places but always a new experience… The past month we were settled into an awesome little apartment in Cornudella de Montsant. For those that don’t know, this is a rad little town just a ten minute drive from Siurana, ten minutes from Montsant and forty minutes from Margalef. With a legit gear shop, several cool cafes and restaurants, countless traveling climbers, this is unquestionably one of the major hubs for sport climbing in Catalunya. You won’t necessarily be greeted in English here but the shop owners and bartenders are known for being accommodating and stoked on the climbing community.
For me this past trip was not as singularly focused as some of my trips in the past. I mostly prepared by climbing outside and supplemented with a little strength training just about a week before departure. My aim was to have a crack at a few Siurana classics I had skipped over before, and if time allowed to jump around to a few other cliffs. Furthermore my aim was to support my girlfriend Shaina on her mission to climb 5.13. She had been preparing for this trip for months, born from a lofty goal to climb 5.13 this year after having just done her first 5.12 in February (!!!).
The first week we arrived was quite hot and crowds were something of an issue, but as the days passed the temps gradually lowered until we exchanged tank tops for down jackets and even found ourselves suffering from cold in the shade. Altogether the weather cooperated damn near as well as one could ask for. I skipped one day of climbing because of crippling arctic wind, but otherwise our 2 days on, one day off schedule persisted throughout.
In addition to delicious olives, countless Estrellas, brilliant sunsets and even a beach day, we both finished the trip contempt with our climbing. Shaina proudly climbed her first 5.13, ‘L’escarmala’ – a Siurana classic requiring huge dynamic movement, finger power and technical footwork alike. She did a second 13a just a week after.
I completed a major objective for 2017, to climb 10 routes 14d or harder, with sends of the resistance test piece ‘La Reina Mora’ and the ultra bouldery ’20 Anos Despues’. I remember a few years ago reading an interview with the incredible Japanese climber Sachi Amma, when he mentioned that it was a goal of his to climb 10 grade 9 (14d or harder) routes in a year and distinctly remembering that seeming so beyond possible (for me – I believe Sachi eventually succeeded). Early this year I did the first repeat of ‘Bachelor Party’ 9a and shortly after had the best climbing of my life, finishing ‘Pachamama’ 9a+/b, ‘Joe Mama’ 9a+ and ‘Chaxi’ 9a+ in a couple weeks. From here I reflected on that interview with Sachi and planned to just go to the death climbing outside and pursuing 9a for the rest of 2017. I was never quite sure it would come together (both logistically and also physically) but it did a few weeks ago. After climbing ’20 anos’ I was pretty blown out. A long year of grinding, projecting, traveling, living in my truck and flying across the globe. In between the 9a’s I also climbed 50 5.14s. I was pretty smoked. I took the level down in Spain after that, doing some utterly amazing pitches like ‘Pal Este’ 14b, ‘Toni Kaneloni’ 13c and ‘Los Ultimos Vampiros Hippies’ 14b among others – like some not nearly as amazing, but hard non-the-less routes like ‘Directa Jabali’ 14b, ‘Leche Caliente’ 14a and ‘Afrodita’ 14b/c.
At this point I’ve got one more nemesis route in the Boulder area to hopefully finish off and then I will be taking some time to rest, chill and prepare for 2018’s goals during December. I’m so proud of my climbing this year – especially because I took a giant step back from training and focused on being outside and with my friends and dog – and it worked (to my surprise to be honest). Now I want to try and get a fresh start, diving back into systematic training as I pursue the next objective. But first, some Pumpkin Pie.
Well here I am again. EL portal. My preferred neighborhood cafe as the staff is friendly and the wi-fi is okay. The coffee is acceptable but nothing outstanding. We came here almost daily during the winter. We would wear our down jackets inside and fight for the seat next to the dull heater. Last time I sat at this restaurant I was freezing and mostly heart broken. I feel quite differently now.
Today, a spring breeze whips through the narrow streets and gives life to the colorful drying laundry of this charming little village. The warmth in the air is so calming and pleasant. It’s Easter – a huge holiday in Spain – and the town is bustling. Traffic clogs the main street as vacationers sprint to Andorra and search for picnics necessities at the Sunday market. The sun’s rays are intense and white and come from high in the sky.
I feel grateful, I feel accomplished, my heart is full, the sun is shining. Life ebbs and flows doesn’t it?
My process with Pachamama has ended. I did the route within a week of my return to Spain. It felt surreal to sit at the anchors, to realize something that for weeks and weeks I was obsessed and overwhelmed with desire to have. The moment I sent was calm. I yelled mostly to tell my belayer, 50 meters below, that I had clipped the anchor but I didn’t so much feel the need to yell from relief or excitement. It was a strangely tranquil experience. Almost like, ‘ huh, well, here I am. This is the moment.’ Not to say that I was not or am not excited. It was biggest, most powerful battle of my climbing life – without question. But I guess the finish, while hugely important to me, was also just a small piece of the experience. I imagine I will look back on this for my whole life. Silly… rock climbing.. huh.
Momentum has been a powerful ally to me for years. It’s rare that I let a send, no matter how big, completely derail my stoke. I know that I’ve usually only got five weeks or so to perform at my very best and I don’t want to waste it. I immediately moved to the right onto ‘Jo Mama’ 15a, a power endurance masterpiece with few resting positions and resistant cruxes throughout. Just some days later I had already sent. I never would dream that I could climb this grade so quickly, ever. The conditions suited me perfectly – warmer with wind – and my power endurance is likely at an all time high after the month at Potosi and some hard days on Pachamama. Still it seems unreal. For me there is at least 1 grade of difference between these two routes. Perhaps it just worked out?
As with before I’ve moved right along. This time to a much different style. ‘Chaxi’ 15a is bouldery and savage. Some great resting positions but also some very serious boulder problems high on the wall. I have a feeling this one will not let itself go as easily… time to get snappy. Onward!
This week expect a full account of my process on ‘Pachamama’ that I wrote for the Arcteryx Blog and also look out for the release of my Pachamama film that I made with the awesome Tara Kerzhner to be released on EpicTV.