Thursday, July 01, 2010

Granite Summer

I have decided to treat myself this end of June with a week of a granite cure. For some reason granite is my favorite rock - it is the king stone. Maybe because of Yosemite, but more likely because of New England, and my first imprinting experiences of doing multi-pitch on Cathedral, Whitehorse, and Cannon there.

When I started climbing, around the first week or so, I already heard the mysterious and powerful word of multi-pitch, specifically a route called Thin Air buzzing up the Cathedral Ledge.  It is a 5.6 that takes 4 pitches and a crowd of willing alpinists trying out their new shiny cams and anchor skills learned through John Long's book.  Me too, I followed the same road well-traveled, read Freedom of the Hills for a reinforcement, and eventually got on the line, generously belayed up by Kevin and Cory, my first ever multi-pitch! Thanks for taking care of me, guys!

It is actually a funny story, my climbing beginnings, when I think about it now.  Freshly out of college, I invested my hardly won money from the previous internship at Gillette to first buy a car, and second climbing shoes and a harness. I saw real climbers previously, on a trekking trip to Zion National Park.  Just before a storm when hiking down from Angels' Landing, there were these bodies hanging from the wall in front of us. I had no idea what they were doing - climbers, someone told me. After that, I was so impressed by the sight, I started looking through the internet, the newly minted medium that supposedly could answer any question one had ever had, and figured a little bit more what climbing was about. I was young and still looking for a way to define myself. Maybe reading Rushdie´s Satanic Verses at the same time had something to do with my attitude as well. Not sure, anyway, I got myself an account on, bought climbing shoes, a harness and a screw gate, and showed up at the next meeting of Mass climbers at the Quincy Quarries, the local Boston crag. And sure we go again, Quincy was granite! My first climb was a 5.6 layback, I clearly remember how strange and difficult it seemed. And somehow I was hooked right away.  Below is a picture by Nelson, aka the Pirate, from those early days, toproping a 5.9 in QQ:

Long story short, this summer, as a tradition now seems to call for it, I have gone back to the classics, the good old granite walls. And where else to find them then in the Pyrenees, close to my new found home? Now the time is ripe, the weather has settled, and the rock is calling.  In a nutshell, it is time to explore another new place - Ventosa and its wide variety of climbs on offer.

The logistics are rather simple - go up from the Cavallers dam, 2 hours bring you to the refuge, and another 10 to 20 minutes to various walls, bolted for the pleasure of occasional visitors.  The way now is somehow complicated by the destroyed bridge.  Here is Juanjo, my rope mate for the adventure, crossing laboriously the new contraption:

Ventosa climbing is incredible, but only if you enjoy slabs and crimps, and don't care about excruciating pain in your feet after many meters of crawling upwards.  Ventosa is full of it all over, just bring good shoes and enjoy.  First of all, the Eden (topo by Tranki):

Routes done: Clara Luna (onsight), Elvis la Pelvis (onsight), Gisela (onsight ***), Fan fan (redpoint ***).

Second, there is the Vermeil - it is probably the best wall I have seen so far at Ventosa, here it is, reflected in the Tumeneja de Baix lake, still full of ice at this time of year:

And the topo of the wall, again by Tranki:

Routes done: only one, called "the best" by its author - the incredible Lilita Wildstyle (in blue above).  I found a very strange, my own way of doing the crux traverse, practically in static using a foot much lower than normal, and crimping and underclinging my way to the other side of the slab.  It took me a while, and basically destroyed the rest of my climbing day, but led to success the day after during an inspired piece of climbing that took me straight up to the anchors.  One of the best routes I've ever done, a jewel!!!  Here is a close-up, with the rope hanging in Lilita:

Finally, to finish off the appetite of a hungry sport climber, there is the fascinating wall of the Tabletom Sea Cliffs, in the picture below.  The prominent crack in the middle is a 7b+ 40 m wonder, Divertim-nos fins a morir (probably in reference to the final off-width before getting to the belay chain), yes, bolted, and no, I was too destroyed to try it this time.  And as dessert, there is an 8a+ on the left, following the outside corner, the Ascensor para el cadalso, maybe a long-term project waiting for the next trip?

Experiences become real only after writing about them, at least for me.  I still have to come to terms with the awesome climbing up at Ventosa and my longing for mountains and these magical lines of granite, bolted or otherwise.  To finish, here is Juanjo, meditating, (happily?) about life in general, climbing in particular:


TR said...

CONGRATS for your fantastic (R)EVOLUTION as a climber...never saw anybody progressing from 6a+ to 8a in just ONE year...

Fuck!Where's the limit?!!??

Ventosa has been my summer hollyday home along 16 years...allways getting up and down from the heaven to Babylon, but also enjoying the infinite golden and black walls.

LILITA is "the LINE", i saw it while descending from BAJAME UNA ESTRELLA, and inmediately knew it had to be ascended...

To carry the electric drill, the bolts, the ropes and all the gear to bolt a route is not easy at 2300 mts and into de summer!!!

BUt some things in a climbr life have no iportance when you got "the LINE" up there.

Happy to see you enjoyed it, and happy to know that LILITA gives this impression to the (not many) senders...think you probably have the 4th ascent...

Ah...and happy to see you keep on progressing, it's amazing!!!

And Juanjo is "the machine"...sure he will come back to ASCENSOR...give him any time...

uasunflower said...

:) thanks! Ventosa is genial, and thanks for all the work you did there, in the little 'hidden' paradise...