Friday, 8 March 2013

The Rain in Spain

This half term I took the journey to El Chorro in the AndalucĂ­a province of Spain, to climb in the famous gorge and surrounding area. Armed with a bulging tick list and overflowing psyche we arrived at the villa to dusty ground and high suns. The crags lie between the many orange and lemon plantations of the area, and with such scenery and the rock we’d seen on our journey I was ready to get out on rock again!

On the first day we climbed at Poema de Roca at the Frontales sector, a massive scoop out of the side of a towering limestone cliff. The steep climbing features mixed climbing on steep tufas, juggy pockets and vertical crimps, and the mix of style suited me well for a first day back on rock. I blindly jumped on what I can only assume is the one jamming crack in Spain, reaching the top of the 6b+ confused.

The next route I got on was a classic steep 7b that had been recommended to me, La villa strangiato. A shallow slab lead to 4 hard moves and then fun juggy climbing on undercuts to the chain in the middle of the roof. Great fun! There was more of this style to follow as I jumped on the again classic roof climb adjacent to it. Eye of the Storm, 7c is described as “Disorientating climbing” and it certainly lived up to its reputation. The climb takes a juggy line through a roof groove, and the many twists and turns in the roof gave great moves! I reached the top, pumped and psyched and happy to be back at my previous level of last years trip to Ceuse within the first day. Great effort to Billy, who fell off the last move on his first go, and di it second go!  I jumped on a pumpy 7b+ and climbed a classic 7a afterwards to end the day. A great first day!

The next day and we drove to the classic crag of Desplomilandia outside of the town, and I was keen to onsight some of the classics at El Triangulo. After warming up on a 6c+ the dirtiest, sharpest 7a I’ve climbed, I rested and wanted to try one of the 2 8as of the crag. With no expectation I set off up the route, putting the clips in as I went. With a massive effort, power screams and probably a bit of luck with beta, I was at a small undercut only moves away from the crack above. I reached out left to a small crimp, went over the top to a pinch, then moved out to a good sidepull. Then disaster, my right foot opposing the sidepull popped and I peeled off! Frustrated about the result but happy with my effort it was to my despair I found the next hold was a sinker jug, and the next, and the next, all the way to the chains! Cursing myself, I lowered to the ground, rested and set off again. My foot stuck, my hand hit the jug, I shook out and climbed the route to the chains, my first 8a in almost a year and very nearly my first 8a onsight!

I climbed a hard 7b while waiting to try my main goal for the day, a flash attempt on the classic 8a of the crag, Mar de Ortegas. The central line takes in the tallest section of the wall and a mixture of tufas and small pockets. I collected the beta I could and while Mark abbed off the top to get pictures of the climb I gave it a go. The first section climbed really nicely and I reached the easier upper section on better holds relatively fresh. The climbing was amazing and before I knew it I was clipping into the chains of my first 8a flash! A great feeling and it put me in the mood for more hard climbing on the trip. Then the rain came………………………..

The dry weather we had experienced on the first days was gone and from Monday night it rained continuously for the next day and night. Thought of climbing were abandoned and we spent the day watching climbing films to get psyched for when (we hoped) the rain would stop!

The next day and the rain had stopped, and despite the condition of some of the crags we took the absolutely massive walk to the star crag of the area, Makinodromo. We could see that it was likely wet but we were too far into the walk to turn back. Sure enough, we got there and the seepage from the day’s rain was draining straight through the tufa draped wall and falling like rain to the ground below. Not a climbing day… After chilling out for a while we walked back down to the path below and took on the Kings Walkway, something I had been dreading for the whole trip. Despite having a shiny new Via Ferrata kit I had to walk using slings, always plan ahead and don’t leave it at the villa! The walk, despite my fears, was amazing, one of the best things I did on the whole trip and I was a lot more comfortable on it that I expected, and ended up doing a pullup off one of the foot rungs near the end of the route. I would thoroughly recommend doing it if you have the chance!

We actually managed to find some dry climbing right at the end of the gorge, and after finishing we climbed all the way through til dark, and I climbed and amazing vertical 7a+ and tried an amazing vertical 8a on tiny crimps with some amazing moves. Definitely something worth going back for!

On the next day we planned to return to Poema de Roca, but after doing many of the climbs there on the first day Billy and I opted for trying Amptrax, a long 6a multi-pitch route tackling the tallest section of the cliff. I was very nervous having not climbed a multi-pitch before, and after learning how to set up a stance at the first stance we climbed the amazing route. It really was a great climb and an incredible experience and we abbed off from the top happy and satisfied. We joined the others in the cave for the end of the day and I climbed a fun 7a and a pumpy 7b to end the day.

On the last day of the trip, another wet day, we were determined to climb and headed back to Desplomilandia, to another supposedly dry in the rain sector. It unsurprisingly wasn’t dry for the most part and I managed to climb a 5+ and a hard 7b in the first part of the day, and tried the 8a extension to find puddles in holds and water running down my arm. With no other dry routes to climb, I chilled for the rest day and belayed people putting in great efforts on the 7b!

Good effort to everyone on the trip, everyone climbed well and many got personal bests, thanks for making it a sick trip! J

This was an amazing trip, such great fun! I’m currently on the train for CWIF in Sheffield this weekend, hopeful for a good result! J