Saturday, December 26, 2009

Xmas in NYC

I have been enjoying the white Christmas in NYC, the City, Big Apple (nickname popularized actally by Fitzgerald in 1920ies within a horse-racing context).  It has been cold and full of people, the usual painful crawling along the avenues and staring on the Macy's and Sacks' window displays.  After the pilligrimage to the Rockfeller center and the Tree there, my father and  I stopped at the Bryant square snowy terrace.

For a cherry on the cake of this family reunion we went to see Cirque du Soleil's new show, the Wintuk at Madison Gardens.  It was an interesting performance, a change of style to more of a street-style gang dance, that improved in the end with more of a usual Cirquesque imagination stunts using talking lamp posts, garbage-can-disguised Godo (or that's what i called him), and two big walking birds.  The commercial success did lead even the Cirque to some standardization of entertainment, unfortunate as this might sound.  Nevertheless, seeing one of their performances remains a treat.  I might use Cirque in one of my upcoming classes, so if anyone has more informaion about the company, their founder, strategy etc. please let me know! (Michel?..)

After the show, we went on traditional family skiing in one of the hard-core NY resorts, Hunter, in the Catskill mountains.  My dad proved to have better technique and resilience than myself and outperformed me on several runs!  Maybe that is why i am keeping so much to climbing lately - it is the only sport (maybe besides rollerblaing) i have ever managed to master at least slightly...

On this note, Merry Christmas to everyone!!!

Tuesday, December 08, 2009

Siurana - Colico Nefritico

Montse recommended this fabulous line to me, my favorite 6c in Siurana, one and only, Colico Nefritico at Can Gans di Onis.  The start from atop, after some tree climbing:

First crux - getting off the tree and through to the second bolt, exciting for the short ones:

The line, enjoying Siurana by myself (yes, the ego-istic, ego-tistic sport or pass-time of climbing...):

Done! (the crux):

Pictures by patient Josep, and belay by Pau, thanks!

Can Tonigros and long live the new project...until next Saturday!!!



This long w-end turned out to be a raid on the little village of Arboli.  This is one of the lesser-known climbing areas in the Sierra de Prades, of Siurana fame.  We started very hardcore at the Falco, an incredible wall looking directly at the Siurana village and climbing walls.  It boasts very tasty lines, although the fun starts at 6c and up.  This wall has been equipped in St Benet style, and graded consequently (some older pictures of the same in a recent Luichi post here). 

I tried my new 9.1 joker at La millor de..., a delightful 6c both of us, Pau and myself, happily onsighted.  We turned next to Jinja, a deadly 7b with 3 consequent boulder problems and a 'micro' rest in-between.  Did i mention 6 bolts in 20 meters?  It does not seem that little - but it felt and looked crazy.  Props to Pau who fearlessly put the rope up it from the ground while i froze up and looked on from the belay post.  Deciding it was definitely too hard and out of reach this year, we turned next to another incredible line, Pa ella y pa los guiris, a 7a+ crack with the crux on top.  Not figuring out this one either, the day finished with another great 6c+, Trenca'm els pinyos, where i disgracefully hanged at the crux, but enjoyed the ride nevertheless.

We liked el Falco so much that taking pictures was forgotten for the day.  The camera came out of the bag only the next day that saw us attack Can Simiro sector.  I worked a 7a called CataCrack.  People keep calling it Supercrack for a reason, and seeing the line made me concentrate directly and only on this one climb, being a crack-freak myself for a couple of years now.  The crack was sent on 3d attempt, without any top-roping, whining, or additional draws ("alargos para los alejes") required, maybe due to the Falco experience of the previous day:

Pau went crazy at Can Simiro, below he is happily leading his 6th grade 7 of the day (Agua de Fuego, 7a) with the Siurana dam in the background:

Last day, we 'rested' at the Ermita.  This is a short wall right above the Arboli village, close to the actual ermita, another mountain refuge now invaded by crazy climbing lizards.  We tried a couple of 7s there, Pau got his 7a second try, and one day i'd like to come back to send the Caipirinha, 7a+, the only one i liked of the routes there so far.  Here is Montse and the crazy sky:

To finish off sweet desserts were consumed 'en masse' at the very recommendable (one and only) bar l'Hostalet d'Arboli, also selling the topo of the area.  Great team, awesome raid, and welcome to Josep, who apparently finally discovered that sport climbing could be a rewarding experience, and also took some good pictures in the process! 

Friday, December 04, 2009

Sant Benet

St Benet is a very special place.  It is located in the heart of Montserrat, above the famous monestary.  It takes over 1000 stairs (or a train ride, but that´s not hardcore, only for the wusses) to get there, and a proud soul to start the rather engaged climbing.  It is one of the places where hard sport climbing started in Cataluña in the 1980s, and it remains special and not that visited given the amount of incredible bolted lines there.  It has also some multipitches where week-end warriors enjoy themselves and bring the girlfriends to show off the view that points to the sea behind Barcelona on the clear days. 

There used to be many hidden hermitages in the surrounding caves.  Many have been destroyed by Napoleon and his happy soldiers, some survived well into the 20th century, but now climbers occupy the refuge, an old church transformed into a hippy squat, and the hermitages remain abandoned, welcoming the passing visitors for a night of full stars, calm, and reflection.

The climbing is very technical on good rock.  Routes are generally short, Frankenjura-style, although longer ones are also there, one just has to scratch below the surface a littke.  Below is the topo from Tranki of the sport climbing at the base of the Elephant, the formation to the left of the famous Mummy (and its Brown Sugar line i still have not done).  The lines are very good, and my plan is to come back to the first thee on the right this winter...

Sunday, November 29, 2009

Gustavo Dudamel

An incredible concert and conducting experience, I have come over this today and am thinking about using it as the finishing part of my leadership class - that I want to give by analogy, using the orchestra metaphor throughout the class (inspired by this)...

It is the young Orquesta Juvenil Simón Bolívar from Venezuela, the product of their institutionalized "la sistema" of producing musicians, similar to Cuban doctors or Soviet mathematicians.  The orchestra is led by its star, Gustavo Dudamel, now in charge of the LA orchestra at the respectful age of 28...

This one is also very good, where Gustavo plays the violin himself:

Monday, November 23, 2009


Montgrony is a beautiful spot and a very good sport climbing crag for colder and shorter winter days, especially when you have the ability and willingness to suffer humiliation on its hard, mostly overhanging routes.  For those not wiling to invest 24 euros into another Luis Alfonso topo of Ripolles, some info available here.

We spent day 1 at the Mal Pas wall, where the sun reached us in the afternoon.  I concentrated on a route called El Tortell Poltrona, after a famous local payaso, located at the far-right end, just after a nice warm-up 5.  It had a short but interesting crux, requiring good footwork and positioning.  Not getting the onsight, i did it on the second go, partly thanks to help from Pau, who rightly shouted at me and made me do the crux move, and clip after that instead of stupidly clipping from a mono-dedo (one-finger pocket).  The team struggled with other harder and easier routes around the wall, but my day was happily done.

After a very good dinner, night, and revigorating breakfast at the near-by Refugio de Col de Merolla, we warmed up at Cinglera de la Freixa just in front of all the parked cars and finished day 2 at la Vena.  Both Pau and myself tried Espantaocells, a supposed 6c+, one of the easiest routes on this incredible wall, and a strong 7a for me.  It is an overhanging dihedral that made me work and puff hard, especially when i dared to lead it after touching the holds on top rope. 

The things i have learnt on Maugli have been put into good use on this climb, where i gave it a lot of effort and did the second part after the crux almost without feeling in my hands or right foot - maybe due to the very intense stemming required all the way - see picture below, this is actually a rest before the crux. 

And here is Pau doing the same thing, but harder, while putting up the draws:

Pau down from the climb, autumn scenery and Gombren village in the background:

I grabbed the draw on the first bolt thus spoiling the red point - but did finish the climb anyway, a fun exercice before trying any of the harder lines of the wall.  Getting to the anchors with the whole gorgeous line in the view:

(pictures by our gifted Julietta)

Sunset and the road back home...

Tuesday, November 17, 2009


A  mix between Bacon and DeStael, just what i needed for today - Maurice Marechal and his paintings...

Autoportrait, 2005:

L´espoir, 2007:

Sunday, November 15, 2009

Albert Pla

Have spent the w-end listening to Albert Pla, a musician from the near-by Sabadell, who has both rythm and good lyrics. The rythm to go with my recent life, Sonando:

Yo estuve al borde de la muerte
tantas noches...
y sin embargo estoy en pié,
yo sigo aquí
yo que estuve al borde de la muerte
tantas noches...
y sin embargo sigo vivo
y aunque parezca estar durmiendo
no, qué va,
yo no estoy durmiendo, no
Yo sigo soñando, sigo soñando...

Vivo soñando, vivo soñando
Vivo soñando, vivo soñando

Sueño dormido
sueño despierto,
yo sueño mucho...
sueño un montón
sueño de noche,
sueño de día,
sueño con lluvia
sueño con sol.
sigo soñando, sigo soñando...

Other ones that are really good - Buscando and Ciego. And this song and video are too fabulous to resist:

Thanks again to Silvia for the discovery =)

Saturday, November 14, 2009

The rollercoaster

It all started with my sending Maugli, the long-standing project of this fall i have been writing about here and taking pictures of here.  It ended a certain cycle of my life that has been turning around this climb in some obscure ways.  Tim, a Belgian friend on autumn Spain pelerinage, belayed me on the last and successful attempt.  He did well - and i sent, grunting and yelling, going for it all the way, a muerte, as they say here, and even managed to produce an ultimate victory cry (resembling the cry of the first man that has shot his first mammoth) when reaching the chains - even i have to let the emotions out sometimes.

The journey continued with the Destellos route (opened in 1982, very much ahead of its time, - chapeaux the FA team!) on the El Peladet.    I have been eyeing this wall for a while, especially after the view like this from the top of Begasses while climbing La Mescalina with Marci last year:

El Peladet proved a very intense undertaking - the first 7a(+) pitch (7a and the 6b traverse all in one) was difficult and cold, it hurt my fingers a lot.  Below Tim preparing for the jump at the start of the first pitch with Begasses as the background...

Afterwards i set up to lead the 6b+, a jewel of a 40 meter pitch on beautiful and complicated gray slab.  It reminded me of pitches on the close-by Begasses, although in more complicated, scary, run-out kind.  I thought i wouldn't manage to finish it while spending an hour talking to myself and convincing my foot to stay on an impossible edge just before the second bolt.  It took further effort to do the rest - i did reach the top but with an ego as reduced as a pierced balloon, a head emptied by fear from any other emotions, and fingers and feet screaming for a stop.

Tim following the monster pitch of my purgatory for the sin of hubris after the Maugli day:

Tim considerately complained only a little about freezing feet and complete boredom while watching me struggle for hours up this pitch that he probably could have done descalzo (barefoot).  He did the next 6a and 6b in one looong pitch, and then suffered his part of the deal when trying to lead the last hard pitch - a 7b, where we both did not understand the crux, and cussed through the second part, very sustained - i would even go as far as say beautiful - but i just couldn't feel anything for a while after the top-out.  We successfully rapped with our 80m rope and went for a due rest and some big plans remaining in the shadow of our deranged brains of obsessed fanatics.

I don't exactly understand what pushed me to try for Tempesta Nocturna the next day - it was another unwise decision of mine, as if i haven't made enough of those during my climbing career or life in general.  Maybe the fact that we gave up on it the day before because of a depressing fog - only to see the wall clear of fog when driving back to Terradets, maybe the desire to show off this impressive wall of Montrebei to the visitor, maybe the sucking hubris to be able to boast about THE ASCENT afterwards on the blog.

Anyway, we woke up again at 6 am and this time delt with the fog and tiredness and went for the approach.  It was cold and windy, especially when reaching the breche and approaching the Pared de Cataluna proper.  It stayed cold all day.  My fingers decided i had done too much for their liking at the first pitch.  Tendon pain is unpleasant, and dramatic for a climber - as you know the more you will climb that day the longer you will have to rest to recover, it might be days, it might be weeks, if you push one more move, it might be months.  The first pitch of Tempesta was painful, cold, difficult - with a last dyno to a rock that started moving the moment i grabbed it.  It is moreover a key hold to reach the belay (one of the topos says it's Ae, another 6b+ - but careful whoever does this pitch again - that block will probably fall off sometime, directly at the belayer below, and probably with the leader...VERY DANGEROUS - we tried to make it go, but it resisted, and we decided to follow the destiny of selfish climbers - that is go up the route and not wonder what will happen to the next party).  The second pitch was the same, cold, and painful.  When Tim went off for the third pitch, i promised to myself to go down if he could rap from the top of the next pitch.  He somehow reached the top of P4 instead of 3, but a rap was still possible - we bailed, leaving the route for the future heroes and courageous climbers, and went down and back with clipped wings.  Flying is only for the strong.  Or as Bach says in his Livingston book:

"When you have come to the edge of all the light you have
And step into the darkness of the unknown
Believe that one of the two will happen to you
Either you'll find something solid to stand on
Or you'll be taught how to fly!"

In climbers' terms, finding something solid to stand on is a mataphor for finding a rappel anchor...

Tim at the start of the first traverse on P3, cold and anxious of the things to come:

The rollercoaster of life - success and failure, they go together, both have to be accepted - with tears and suffering, smile and contentment, but one way or another lived with passion - that is what counts in my book of life.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Cold and rainy Margalef

This w-end was not exactly conducive to climbing, being basically a cold and rainy disaster of a weather menu. With a group of friends we still managed an outing to Margalef, a sport-climbing paradise spot hiding sleepily behind the Montsant range. The road there is curvy and long making anyone unprepared or unmotivated car-sick quickly. Usually it is a worth-while winter climbing spot as its crags have a good sun exposure and the canyon captures heat well. This time it did not work perfectly - maybe the absence of sun had something to do with it, as well as the intermittant rain showers, hail, and wind gusts.

We managed a visit to Can Torxa and Ca La Marta sectors. The highlight for me has been flashing Chachi Qui Chapi while making the nose of my belayer bleed!..  Below is Pau redpointing the same (yes, he kindly volunteered to put draws on it for me), awesome picture by Julietta from Meteora, Greece (yes, another place to visit one day - now maybe with a personal guide =)

We than tried (hopelessly for me) Espinazo del Diablo, an awesome 7a+ requiring serious bouldery moves, and an even worse 7b, Instint Animal, in Ca La Marta.  Below myself leading one of the very nice 7a slabs on the left-hand end of Ca La Marta - unfortunately under pouring rain at times (the unfocused parts of the pic below are actually rain drops...)

At the crux, just before the ´pilla´ shout:

Again, pictures by Juliette, thanks!

Monday, November 02, 2009

Ager Climbing

Pretty cool picture by Luichy, climbing at the newly developed crag of Ager, some weeks ago.  Incredible day that saw 2 women that have sumitted Everest at the same crag, sport climbing in Cataluña (South African friend of mine, Cathy O´Dowd and the catalan celebrity, Araceli Segarra).  Somehow i mingled among all this good company - thanks to Albert for the invite and to Luichy for the pics!!!

(more pics here)

Mogli, Photo Essay

I managed another try on Mogli, the 7b+ obsession of mine in Camarasa, La Selva section on Sunday.  This time i will document it through a photo essay, thanks to the pendulum, photo, and climbing efforts of Tranki.

Mid-climb with Joan belaying among the mess the 4 of us managed to create at the base:

Getting through the crux section:

The big rest after the crux:

The final hard lie back moves at the top:


The fall:

Learning points:
   * figured out the clipping
   * found a rest before the crux
   * managed to do the whole crux section several times, also from ground up on lead
   * dared to really go for it on the top overhanging section last time on lead
   * led the climb with 1 fall on the last hard move...

The send is still hanging in the future air...

Gelida, fun for everyone...

his w-end was a productive climbing exercise, that first began in Gelida.  I went soft on myself this time, enjoying redpointing some old projects of mine.  We started at the right end, where i finally went for the 6b+ roof traverse.  It went through smoothly, giving me confidence for the things to come.  The second objective, Chapas Negras, almost fell at the first attempt putting up draws, and was accomplished at the second try.  The third objective, a 7a(+) 4 climbs to the right of Chapas Negras did not want to go onsight, but i managed to get a redpoint on the second try. 

In the meantime Pau tried his No Ho Se, 7b project, and i took some pictures of Jordi doing inspirational moves on another climb, Pau carefully belaying.

The start:


And the final picture of his fall i am rather proud of:

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Israel Kamakawiwo'ole

Israel Kamakawiwo'ole was a Hawaian singer that died of obesity at the age of 38 - but left behind the unforgettable version of Over the Rainbow.  In memory of him and his song that brings memories as well.

Somewhere over the rainbow
Way up high
In the land that I heard of
Once, once in a lullaby

Somewhere over the rainbow
Skies are blue
And the dreams that you dare you dream
Really do come true

Someday I'll wish upon a star
And wake up where the clouds
Are far behind me
Where troubles melt like lemon drops
Away above the chimney tops that's where you'll find me

Someday I'll wish upon a star
And wake up where the clouds
Are far behind me
Where troubles melt like lemon drops
Away above the chimney tops that's where you'll find me

Somewhere over the rainbow
Skies are blue
And the dreams that you dare to dream
Really do come true

If happy little bluebirds fly
Above the rainbow
Why, oh why, can't I

Sunday, October 25, 2009

Autumn colors in Montgrony

Autumn is on the road and in the mountains - and we are still climbing, the cycle of life! 

This was actually my fourth day of climbing, after a disastrous start in Calders on Thursday, where Salva and i tried to hide from the rain, and had to give up rather quickly; another painful try at the Policieros Friday night at Montserrat's Secretivo with another fanatic, Joan; a visit to Agulla del Senglar in Montserrat where i tried Discordia to no avail - although with a courageous lead of the first part up to the scary traverse left; and a finale at Montgrony on Sunday. 

Below is the Sunday climbing crew - Ester, Joan, Tranki and Vichenso enjoying the moment:

I finally got my objectives donw, and went for an awesome 7a, that was finally sent with some help from tick marks and long slings on every draw.  Tranki flew up the 8a project of his:

And fell down it as well with still ominous skies above scaring us with occasional rain drops:

The scenery was too good of a setting for this warm autumn day, i can't resist uploading one more picture, same climb, same man:

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Mogli or an Introspection

Sitting at home and eating my first-ever homemade coca with espinacas (see here for the recipe of this wonder), i think i am ready to follow the example of a friend and write about my experience now that it is still fresh and steamy.  While my neighbors noisily make love, i stare into the night and try to remember what it actually means to me, the climbing, the projecting, the absurdity of dedicating so many resources of my life to this so clearly purposeless activity.  At least before i used to look at mountains and think about climbing them.  Staring at a wall - a b i g  wall - would instantly switch my brain on and make me click, and i would just have one thing in mind - climb that wall.  But the level of analysis - or rather experience - has gone micro lately, very micro.  What in the climbing world is (disparagingly in the mouth of a real alpinist) called sport climbing.

My transformation into a sport climber has happened recently, starting sometime this summer, rather invisibly by means of a couple of projects.  Was it when i finally redpointed Jarabe de Palo in La Mussara?  Was it that 'project' i did in Gelida - given that i don't even remember its name, it does not qualify as a serious project...The transformation was definitely complete at the final scream (or whatever indistinguishable sound i managed to mumble through my cold self-protecting armor), when, puffing and shaking, i reached the anchor on the redpoint of Massa Kumba at Cavallers.

Now i'm not only a sport climber - i'm obsessed, i spend days working a route and, like a self-respecting bear, i can't be torn away from the honey.  The name of the patient this time is Mogli.  It is a 7b+ route in La Selva, Camarasa, conveniently bolted by Albert Cortes 4 years ago.  At this point in time it resumes in its 25 meters everything climbing has been and passionately continues being to me.  (The already-bored people can stop reading now, as the following content can probably be understood only by a couple of other climbing addicts...)  We were introduced by chance, when Tranki onsighted the route during our visit to Camarasa.  So many things happen by so much pure chance in this life - we meet people, make friends, fall in love - mainly by coincidence, justifying it all by our rational choices, feelings or whatever other bull.  But then again, there are moments when things click - and others when they don't.  I can try a line that looks perfect and NOT appreciate it, turn my back immediately after and forget it ever existed.  Than there are other lines, the sticky ones, the ones that imprint the conscience, that make the blood boil, that make one fall in deep for them.  I could have been obsessed by any other 7b or 7b+ or even 7c climb out of many thousands of bolted lines in Cataluna, but it is Mogli right now, so let it be the king of the night and rule the show.

Back to the topic, as i was saying, i tried it under the imitation reflex, after seeing Tranki easily move through the cruxes.  At that point my brain started its conspicuous lying spree about how it was not as overhanging as it appeared, and not as hard as the grade suggested, and why should i not try it given that the rope was already in place anyway etc.  I did try it on top rope that first time, around 3 weeks ago.  Climbing and love analogy is not as straightforward as it might seem, but it does work.  First, you see the line.  No, actually first you see the line really when someone else climbs it and makes you understand that the line can actually be climbed.  But you really see it when you try it for yourself, going from bolt to the next, flowing through the rock, or struggling for your life to get to the next pinch.  The first impression at our first touch with Mogli, like touching for the first time an unknown body, was strange.  Strange and painful.  Ok, why use euphemisms:  it was very painful and discouraging.  After seeing the flow in Tranki's lead, i could not read the first sequence, way before the crux.  The crux itself was excruciatingly painful - and it didn't go.  I could not figure out the way.  Then there was the second part.  Angrily overhanging.  It had some crack moves, which reassured me at first.  But trying them i found a couple of minor cruxes for me, with a mental melt-down in the end, a jug-haul traverse over the bolt, with crossing hands, feet, and a final reach for a huge hole.  There was no way.

Given my natural stubbornness (one of the reasons i'm still into this sport after so many years, so many failures, price already paid, and the remaining one to pay), i went for it again that day.  The second try was, following the learning curve principle that rarely lets down any minimally skillful business consultant, better.  I spent a while on THE MOVE - there is a cemented hold for the right hand, and than a shoulder-move to the left, and from there a long reach is required to go for the next pinch, that is the crux.  The original advice was to block the shoulder on the left hand, get feet high and go up for the hold with the right hand.  It did not work.  After numerous attempts, some cussing, numerous examinations of the specific details and the big picture, small feet, and big feet, small handholds and the non-existent ones, i finally figured a circumvented way - as usual doing 4 moves instead of one, but getting the job done:  after bouncing off the left shoulder hold, get the left foot up on a vertical push-hold, go for the higher pinch-side-pull-with-two-fingers hold, get the right foot up, and finally reach for the key pinch with the right hand.  After that mental and physical power-drain exercise i was done for the day, and overwhelmed to even consider the possibility to ever imagine myself leading this monster.

That was three weeks ago.  This w-end, after some late-minute planning, i was climbing with Salva and Pau, and they somehow managed to agree with me to go check out la Selva.  My persuasion powers are infinite, especially when climbing is involved.  Albert tagged along as i promised him to do a long route together.  But on the drive up north, with a meeting place being fixed as the Camarasa bar, i could not concentrate on much more than Mogli, the jungle call.  The long route plan got scrapped and there we went, down the ferrata and up Mogli.  After 4 tries i was destroyed, the route stood as virgin as it first presented itself to me, proud and yellow, with plenty of white marks suggesting the lack of its supposed virginity - and the standing proof of my incapacity.  But on my last go with a top rope i did make a very little step further - i did manage to do the lower part and the crux move, get the pinch with my right hand - and fall immediately after (all on top rope with patient belay from Albert).  A very small step, but enough to keep me thinking about the route, analyzing over and over the moves, repeating the lower sequence, the higher sequence, THE move.  By this morning i was ready - i could give it my all.

Mogli is a complete route - it calls upon all my skills, physical, technical, and mental.  Climbing is like that - it not only requires a pull-up muscle strength, but it is also so much more of a mental feast - one of the reasons it has been keeping me interested for so long.  It is impossible to get bored when applying at least a tiny little bit of imagination to the game.  And passion.  And patience.  And there it goes - an explosive mix of dust, chalk, sweat, success and failure.  The funny thing is i am still unable to pinpoint what exactly success means in this game.  I onsight some routes - and usually when they are important projects of mine i feel sad afterwards, sad i won't have to keep thinking about them again, concentrating on all the moves.  It is like loosing an old friend - the tension is off, there is no more risk of falling just before that crucial clip, of messing up that key foothold, of hesitating just a second too long when reaching for that last big jug.  It is over, time to look for another project, follow the same path over again - motivation goes down, existential questions come in - why this absurd game again? Proving what to whom?  Suffering a little bit more, trying a little bit harder to do a route half a grade more difficult than the previous one? Who cares? What does it all mean?  No, i don't feel the rush of 'joy' or adrenaline or whatever else word that could signify happiness or contentment or some higher order of satisfaction when being lowered down after a successful attempt.  On the contrary, i think of that empty look i have in Par's picture, when lowering from Massa, a look of a Martian, tired and absent, as ignorant as before, just a little bit less naive - but still as purely and functionally ignorant of the truth or its shade. It becomes an empty tick list, a cheap talk, a lost arrow.  But all that happens AFTER, when the redpoint gracefully appears for a minute on the infinite and eternal horizon.

Before there is obsession.  I use mental simulation a lot, seeing the moves, seeing myself doing the moves, feeling how it feels to have a hand, a foot there, in the precise spot required by the climb.  It is all about being sure, about putting an extra ounce in the exact spot where the gravity is, of taking off with the air, of flowing up against the pressure of the whole universe painstakingly dragging you down.  The first time i redpointed a 7a, Pillier Cromwell in Freyer, Belgium, in 2006, with a Hungarian belayer i dragged to the base of the route, running there away from a birthday party i was attending in the vicinity - he could not believe it when, after some closed-eye time and a full-blown concentration soup, i flowed up the route that i struggled terribly just minutes before.  By then i knew the moves.  I did not have the faith i could do them - one never knows 100% the project will go - one feels it is close, but which try will be THE try is totally uncertain - it is one of the basic rules of the game, what gives it so much competitive taste.  The competition here is against oneself, but also against nature, against rock, against all the possible things that can go wrong - not only with one's skill, memory, footwork, confidence and fear - but also an inquisitive bird flying by, a gust of wind, a belayer chatting with a by-stander, lack of the right pushing word at the right time, the wrong image flashing through the defenseless brain - the UNCERTAINTY has to be tamed, subdued, harnessed - through any means, muscular strength, technique, rubber, longer draws, more chalk, less cloth, whatever it takes.

Back to the beginning - yes, as i was saying, Mogli is a complete route, the first section, for three first draws, is 6c-ish.  It requires clear optimization technique and good memory for both, feet and hands.  After several runs it goes through pretty smoothly and gets you to the rest - it can be taken in any form, sticking your head to the rock and getting a no-hands rest, bringing feet up the ledge, and getting a feet rest while contemplating the crux above, looking at the rock and into the concentration depths of oneself, the depths of the soul or the empty spaces therein.  Then it is time to go - how much time i cannot tell, it is some internal clock, that measures how much is enough to rest the body but keep the concentration intact, keep that interested look, that expectation, that uncertainty about the outcome and a simultaneous curiosity - will it go?  This time?  How will it feel? Do i remember it right?  Will i be able to clip?  Will i screw it up (again)? But at this point it already is getting overly negative - time to stop the mind and get the body to work.  It is always a combination, that is why climbing is so interesting, it is a challenge of synchronizing body and mind, of exploiting the endowments of all the available resources a human being has in order to accomplish a goal.  The only problem with all this is the absurdity of the goal itself.  But then again, which ones of our 'ultimate' goals are not as absurd, as empty as this one, of climbing 25 meters of rock without falling, with as many subterfuges as possible at the current technological level - but still respecting some rules and norms about how exactly it is supposed to be done to truly be able to call it a redpoint, loud and clear, - to oneself or the others, the audience, the community, - or whatever pieces of it i believe to assemble in my head...

The crux section starts next.  After my four attempts on Saturday, i figured an easy way of getting through the next section all the way to my key cemented hold, using a small undercling and good feet placements.  The problem with all of this now is leading.  Now that i can do the moves, the next challenge is to integrate this with clipping - an essential activity when leading and stressing about the fall.  Clipping adds the spice to the soup, the adrenaline, the explosive stuff that makes climbing what it is.  Climbing is about leading - one way or another it always comes down to this.  Doing a long route or a short route, mountaineering or sport climbing, it is all revealed through leading.  It is the time to confront the monsters, the latent ones from that cabinet, the sleeping ones, the gray and limy caracoles endlessly crawling under the skin, waiting for the right moment, the instant of doubt, the decision point, the focal moment, the go/no go braking line.  Now, are you strong?  Are you good?  Can you call yourself human?  Can you do it?  My biggest disappointments with myself in climbing come not from falling or flailing, not from not understanding the move, or not managing that onsight attempt - but from not daring, not giving it all, not cutting off the bridges and committing to the whatever decision i take, not shutting off the context and going for it.  That is the way i want to live my life, that is the way i want to climb - to commit and do it, no regrets, to the plentiful, using all my capacities, choosing to use them and then taking the risk.  The risk of falling or succeeding, the risk of being wrong, the risk of suffering, the risk of destruction.  I judge myself on this basic criterion.  Sometimes i am cruel enough to apply it to others, but only sometimes, when i really really really care only, - that is also when i really really really get hurt.

My strategy today has started with engaging two strong strangers to put me draws up my project.  One of them nicely accepted, and even onsighted the climb in the process.  He confused me more than anything given that he went through the crux in a totally different manner than anyone else i have seen doing it.  I decided to remain blind to this insight and keep to my original plan and intuitions, hard earned through the numerous previous attempts.  It is another difficult decision in climbing - are you doing the move the best possible way? Should you try a different method?  Usually those questions pop up during the ultimate attempt, when you have only enough strength for one more, and no possibility for a screw-up.  So do you take a risk and try it a different way or stick to the original?  Can one learn from experience?  How to decide?  The questions remain the same throughout the lifetime.  Answers change - or they don't.  Do people really change?  Or do they change clothing, from yellow to blue, to green - disguising the gray uniform mass below, the gnawing body without hope...?

With the draws on, and doubled at two key spots, after 5 attempts on top-rope and one lead using wide artificial techniques to put up draws on the climb Saturday, i finally decided to go for the first serious lead attempt.  It is another vital decision - when is the time?  When is it enough practice and time for action?  For some climbs, it is time right away - they might be easy, they might be marked, someone can convince you to go for an onsight.  For some climbs it is the second or third try that is the good one, after having figured out the biggest secrets, after having penetrated the mystery of the rock, having combined the rock and the body, converted, activated the resources of human being into a purposeful action.  For other climbs it just never feels right, the secret remains closed, opaque, fuzzy and impenetrable.  At some point decision is required, a push, a no-return-i-have-to-go-for-it, an i-have-cojones-today altitude.  This altitude might be available in draws, or in limited supply depending on the breakfast menu, partner at hand, temperature and friction of the rock, mental state or an sms received the evening before.  Today i went for it.

In the end i actually do not have a story to tell, that is why this post is ominously hiding behind the useless title of an introspection.  I screwed up twice on my first lead attempt.  Clipping the second draw at the crux, just before going for my right-hand pinch proved too strenuous for my current fitness level.  Doing the last minor crux move, from the crack starting the traverse to the right-hand pocket, crossing hands and clipping was psychologically too difficult to accept as a challenge, so i yelled 'pilla' and gave up.  My second lead try finished with the same success, this time i did not even try the crux move but grabbed the draw instead.  I did go for the minor crux move on top and took a fall - again because i did not dare to go one move further to the pocket - already having my foot positioned for it, i did not even try the move, but at least i did take the fall without downclimbing, i just jumped.  This little tiny progress made me a little bit less angry with myself and compensated some for failure.  My old friend Mogli remains my old friend.  As Albert said, maybe it is a 2010 project - maybe i need to get stronger - or maybe it is simply irrational and inexplicable, the time was not ready for me.

below - my first lead attempt at Mogli, Camarasa, finishing the first 6c-ish section, October 2009.

Monday, October 12, 2009


- 1 massa de hojaldre fresca (en la nevera de súper, junto a las bases de pizza, creo que es marca LA COCINERA)
- Espinacas congeladas cortadas (1 paquete y medio)
- Queso de cabra
- Pasas, piñones, nueces...
- 1 huevo

Hierbes las espinacas hasta que se descongelen. Las cuelas, les tienes que quitar muy bien el agua.
Saltear en una sarten (con muy poco aceite) Las espinacas con lo que quieras ponerles. Por ejemplo: pasas, piñones, nueces troceadas, puedes ponerle bacon...etc.
Extiendes la lámina de hojaldre en la bandeja del horno y pones una capa de queso, encima pones las espinacas y otra capa de queso.
Cierras el hojaldre, ciérralo muy bien, sinó se te abrirá cuando se caliente.
Con el huevo, barnizas el hojaldre por encima, con la yema. Yo lo hago con los dedos. Es para que quede doradito. Pones un poco de orégano por encima y al horno!
El horno tiene que estar a unos 220º y por arriba y por abajo. Estará listo cuando esté doradito!!

PS - Thanks to Laura for the recipe, all copyright is hers!  Coca is a special catalan way of making pastries or delivering other ingredients to a willing consumer.  More info here.

Monday, October 05, 2009

Montserrat, Aguja del Centenar

Another Sunday long route plan with Xavi turned out to be a group meeting with 5 people, 2 parties, and a successful ascent of the Cade route on Agulla del Centenar.  Topo here, the route runs through a 200m dihedral more or less in the middle of the pic above.  It has been my first visit to the Frares region of Montserrat, giving a vistaso to another Agulla, del Bisbe, with its tempting Gam route I'd also like to do one day (any takers??).

The Cade went through quickly, with 4 long pitches, one half loose rock and one half awesome climbing on cracks and holes, friends and lovely old pitons well used up in the process.  Given that Salva only has 15 years of sport climbing experience, i ventured to lead it all by myself, like a big and responsible girl.  Below Salva happily (and sneezingly) following p3 that we linked with p2 (shadows of Xavi, Patricia and Luis at the first tree belay far below):

Given my incurable late obsession with sport climbing, after the Cade I made Salva run down the descent without even summitting the last remaining pitch of 3 and we gave another try to Policieros, a pending hardcore project in Secretivo.  Below are a couple of pics from another 'afternoon session' of climbing at the same Secretivo, 2 days earlier, when I got the first taste of Policieros and its hardcore suffering for all guaranteed.  Secretivo is a 20-route sport area 1-min from the road in Montserrat Norte, conveniently in the shade in summer (less convenient in winter).  Below is Joan working his project, picture by Tranki:

And Tranki himself, redpointing the same 7c with muchos excaletcrics y poco miedo:

Music to accompany here.

Sunday, September 27, 2009

Monday, September 21, 2009


The latest jewel climbing area in less than 1h driving from Barcelona that i have been obsessed with these days is close to Aiguafreda, and is called Grau dels Matxos. It has been recently developed and the work is still in progress. The rock is sandstone - just what was missing in the conglomerate/limestone/granite mix we already have at our disposal. All this rock probably has something to do with my becoming more and more of a focused sport climber - maybe i've done already my share of mountaineering... Directions are here, the topo is a sheet located at the middle of the cliff, at the base.

The climbing is very interesting - it is a mix of crack jamming for your life, overhanging power moves, and slabby finishes requiring some artistic footwork and a light touch. The 6as/bs are not incredibly good, the fun starts at around 6c, with a couple of awesome lines such as Liga Champions or Arrel. Below myself at the first crux of Presseguer, an awesome 7b line with incredible finish move - for the balance-inclined ones!

An unknown climber finishing another hard crack 7b+, maybe a new project?

Thanks to Tranki for numerous belays - and to Par and Salva's support for the final successful attempt at Presseguer! Pictures by Par, there are advantages to climbing with a team of 3 and a good camera!