Friday, 14 December 2012

Some things you just don't see in climbing DVD's

I awoke yesterday morning to the sounds of nature. What could be better than the Spanish sun slowly warming the earth and illuminating the world as it burns off the last of the mist to reveal the golden limestone crags that await us. This is truly wonderful. Unfortunately today it was preceded by a herd of goats passing by, each one with a bell attached to their neck. Of course with goats comes a farmer, who to compete with the bells has developed a baritone that Luciano would have been proud off... and with farmers come dogs. Possibly three by my guess, two were big and loud and one was small... with a piercing bark. All this commotion stirred up the rest of the wildlife. A bird thought he would join the chorus. "AIEEE AIEEE!!!" Put these things all together and you have a wonderfully effective alarm clock.
Viejo Amigo 7a+ - the start to the route
'Via Des Rudolf 8a' and also the warm up
I met with Silvia Fitzpatrick later on. For those who haven't heard off her please check her webpage,  her climbing credentials are extensive Silvia always makes me smile, she has an attitude to life and climbing that is so refreshing. Her work ethic is incredible but her passion for routes is just as relentless. After feeling like she had worked too much she wanted to join me for a day of hard climbing to really wear herself out. I thought I knew the route for her.

Silvia demonstrating her
skill, ability and all the rest
The previous year in Spain I managed to push my grade considerably. In 3 months I went from 6c+ to 8a+, a jump in grades I didn't think would be possible to achieve. One of my top climbs was 'los senoras des asfis - 8a'. It is located in a cave so overhanging the rain never touches the earth beneath
it.  I had managed to work the route fairly quickly and had noticed that a line of bolts headed out left from the start. This route was 'Via des rudolf 8a' and I knew it would be a good climb for Silvia. Little did I realise it would take Silvia and me about 3 hours just to get the route ready. When you are dealing with steep unknown territory, it takes a huge amount of effort just to clip the route up, let alone climb it. On my first attempt I pulled a huge hold off the start. I screamed 'BELOW!' but of course this is futile. Everyone was standing beneath me. The rock dashed the floor narrowly avoiding their heads. My belayer and good friend Patrick Pearce was surprisingly unshaken by the experience. Shaken up and more than a little tentative, I continued my ascent, only to fall.
Tackling the unrelentingly steep Via Des Rudolf
Silvia with her superior technique, skill, ability (the list goes on) managed to fight up her way up and clip in the rest of our equipment. She used a piece of equipment called a clip stick. It is a long pole you can reach up to clip in the next clips a.k.a quickdraws to you. As the light was failing the clipstick decided to also. Every time she reached up, the quickdraw would fall of the stick and the sun would sink further. Eventually she managed to make the top and shouted for me to "take the rope tight!", at this point her three dogs thought it would be great fun to jump on top of me... thus making lowering her difficult and Silvia slightly angry! It was then my turn to ascend. Climbing at night on a route near the peak of my ability was far from easy, that's an understatement. We finished the day unsuccessful on the climb but happy that there is always tomorrow, falling rocks don't ruin everything.

A satisfying finish, otherwise known as "Thank god that's over"
On the walk home we got deep into discussion about how best to train a dog. During this Silvia got so involved she did not notice the large rock beneath her feet, one moment she was next to me standing, the next 4ft in front, face first on the floor. She got up and we laughed so hard I thought I was going to suffocate. I got back to the Olive Branch feeling beaten, my spirits were down and my lack of sleep had taken its toll. After all we had been through you could think we would be put down, but I felt strangely warmed by them. I told the stories of my 'interesting' day to the other climbers over dinner. Instead of reliving the despair I had at the time, we laughed. These moments are part of the fun, its the extra 'challenges' that all climbing DVD's should include. The cock up's and mishaps, running to a bush to pee before a route, forgetting your water and surviving in 30c degree heat with only salted nuts, these are part of climbing. It is the price we pay for having fun, living free and enjoying the sounds of nature more than just once in a while.

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