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: