Monday, November 29, 2010

Aporia or the Imaginary Journey

I have traveled wide and long, over many years no place felt like home.  Now, since a couple of years, I have stopped.  In this place, Catalunya, that I now call home.  Other climbers make me feel a little more justified in my choice - here is Sharma talking about his choice of home, friends, and family.  Imaginary or not, the journey goes on, we choose where we want to be, and we go.  Or we don't.  For me one of the benefits of this new age of freedom of movement is the possibility of choosing - I want to live near the rocks, so i do.  I want to define my identity through climbing, so i do.  Have i finally reached port?  I don't know, but sedentary life is not necessarily an unimaginative one. The journey can be real or virtual, dreamed through or real to the core.

Identity is so fluid, so good - and so wrong.  It is not there, or it is.  You would die for it, and than it is all empty.  A journey is an escape, escape from self that never gets it right, always looking for the zen - the stone master who wanted to be the sun, the wind, the mountain - and then the stone master all over again.  More years means just more circles - there is no more first time, only a deja-vu, an again and another retaliation of the same tune. Purification, authenticity - or all lies, all pretending, all artificial intelligence, artificial flavor.  Only color, only smell, only concentration, only way is up.  Another route, another project, another repetition of same old routine.  Even climbing succumbs to it, gets dragged into the mud - the cold, the body, the head, all the same, all over again.  Imaginary journey, a different setting - or all the same, all over again.  Making sense of it, finding meaning, giving meaning.  Lines, rock, relationships, conversations - needs and necessities, nothing real, all imagined, all of it in the head.  Images - the boy with lama, the dying girl, all of it sensemaking, making sense, giving meaning to the world, in search of an innocence, the forgotten island of the past, the never-ending journey to the future.  Why would it matter?  There are no more rats, only ravens - crowing on the tombstones, tombstones of the dreams, the ones we've never been free to dream.

Viatgi Imaginari is a 40-meter feet of imagination indeed, orange, grey, bouldery, slopery, holdy.  It has a roof, it has a pillar, it has a slab.  It has a run-out, it has a hidden save-me bolt.  It even has three key heel hooks to get the pressure down and give your arms back the needed strength.  A route to imagine, a route to climb. 

Not exactly related, but an example of another parallel imaginary journey, Oksana started to make Lyalkas, or dolls in Ukrainin, when she broke her leg and did not know what to do with herself for several months.  Now her dolls are a success and a pleasure to look at.  There is always  more to be imagined, the journey that goes on...

Monday, November 15, 2010


A discovery for me - the Bruixes crag, well-known by the hard-climbing Catalan girls, inspired me this w-end despite the cold, tiredness from training, and aching ear n' throat.  After redpointing Jam Session on the second go and onsighting Pasta sin Agua following good advice and quickdraws in the right places by Pau and Lluis, I spent the rest of the w/end trying out Occident, a good, well-overhanging line for me - polished jug haul with the tufa ending for the strong.  I think we'll be back...

Moreover, now with the new Lleida Climbs guidebook the menu of North-bound climbs from Barcelona has been increased substantially.  Good work, Pete, Dani, & Albert, and nice picture album.  Although some errors in the guidebook have already popped up - i.e. Cobra Canaries on African Wall in Cavallers is rated 7b+ instead of 8a, a stretch even for the strong guys!

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

And More

Some tell me I should stop being obsessed, that climbing that much slab is not good for me. Some tell me to go pull on jugs. But then, how can one give up coming back? Montserrat, the one and only...

Picture by Luichy, myself climbing a 7a called Santaquemoia at La Miranda de la Vinya Nova...

Sunday, November 07, 2010

Montserrat, always

Montserrat has always been a source of inspiration for me and my projects.  Starting with Rush, BuscaBrega, and Vianant, I keep coming back there for more challenge and flow, for more moves, intricate sequences, and incredible scenery.  Zen of the place, its flowers, its bugs, its smells and sounds absorb and replenish, inspire and keep surprised.  Now, as i see conglomerate from my window, i am closer than ever to the mountain.  I do not need snow and high peaks anymore, it is enough to play on a short wall, 30 meters high, with some gear, but mainly my technique and my mental qualities as a resource.  It takes time, patience, and always more self-knowledge.

Choosing one's battles carefully definitely helps the process to stay fun and sane. Maybe my last choice was not exactly following well the above guidelines - Mireia, a long route in Can Jorba's Soga de Satan sector, proved to be a much harder undertaking than initially estimated.  Pau was the first to go up the incredible wall, getting the rope on Mireia through Oriol, its 7c+ neighbor on the right.  We tried the moves together, and it did not all seem too hard, a 7c to the first anchor, and than a hard but rather short boulder problem that took one after another 5 meters of climbing to the second anchor.  A hard 8a, others warned me.

After several days spent figuring out all the moves, we started trying the route seriously - and realized we could not even lead it to the first 7c anchor.  Despite the route being totally my style, thin traverse from the final rest to clip the anchor kept throwing off any attempts at the redpoint.  All possible mistakes made me fall more than five times at the last move - badly changed hands, bad friction, wrong shoes, wrong foot, no confidence - all possible excuses, to the point that there were no more.  Oh, yes, there was one more - last day I came to the route with my finn friend Ville, and while toproping the route he managed to kick off a key stone that made the first long reach to the right a bit more manageable after the big ledge rest.  This cost me another try - but i was ready, luck had its place no more.  The route went, after many tries.  I underestimated Montserrat again, and managed only to climb to the first anchor.  Maybe i will come back, when stronger, to finish the route to the second anchor, or try its nice-looking sister, Martina.

(figuring moves on Rush, photo by Tranki)

For now next destination is Agulla de Senglar, with longer approach, but a wall as good as any in this orange conglomerate kingdom.  Another line - this time a long stamina-fest - Viatgi Imaginari, awaits new effort, new tricks, hopefully less long slings, and more fly miles.  Montserrat, always.

(toproping Viatgi Imaginari, photo by Nora)

Russia and its fate

I was reading today Khodorkovski's pronouncement and wondering why Russia, or rather many of its people, have had this unfortunate fate of misery and demise in their own homeland.  Whereas Americans, a little naively for sure, are usually seen in the bright light of the American dream and positive, if simple, emotions, Russia has earned the stereotype of suffering and never-ending maze associated with its intellectuals.  Or, maybe, Khodorkovski is just aiming at the long run, playing his best response in the game, and all this should be dismissed as more rhetoric of another ambitious 'future Mr. President'?   Yes, institutions in the country do not help, as Khodorkovski's case so well illustrates.  However, there are also others, such as Perelman, who have refused their talent and participation in the world altogether.  With each mention of Perelman, Dostoyevski comes to my mind.  He somehow managed to epitomize in his work the country and the Russian soul, or did he?  Yes, it would be scary and a little hopeless if so.

Ahthough Khodorkovski's story is the one in the limelight today, many other entrepreneurs and talented people have given up hope, taken up their belongings, and moved out.  Or maybe this is my unconscious self trying to justify why me too, i have left my own country and not been willing to recognize it for some time now as part of my identity.  Shattered hopes, my parents' absence of a vision of me in that country, all this contributed certainly to the exhaudus - of me in particular, and many, millions of others, in general.  The consequences cannot be evaluated, usual in social sciences, - as we will never know what a world with a successful Soviet Union would have looked like.  But it certainly would have been very different.

Wednesday, November 03, 2010

Siurana Invasion

So many events in the last month, I lacked any inspiration to write even a short note.  To start well, two full backpacks of climbing gear got stolen from my car, my camera included.  This means less pictures, but not less climbing.  The afternoon of the event we were already pulling up the Mireia project.  Mireia project was another bad idea of mine - after abandoning ambitions of climbing the 8a extension, i realized i could not even do the 7c bottom part.  Despite several days and patient belays from Pau, to Ville, to Luichi, and the slabby crux, the story remains to be continued.

Next, i changed living arrangements, now to live closer to the Mother Mountain, with all the stress implied in the moving, buying new stuff, and realizing just how much crap i actually have.  Let all possessions die!  The whole idea of things is so oh so overrated.  With internet access, a bottle of whine and a good cheese, i could care less.

And next, the short and well-deserved vacation to Siurana.  Despite it being so close to Barcelona, i had little feeling for this world-renown school.  A winter's day hike after wet climbing at Can Marges with Bienve led me to Campi qui Pugui sector some two years ago.  I remembered a prominent arete there and an impressive wall, climbing which i could not fathom at the time.  I've walked below la Rambla and suffered bouldery routes of la Olla.  I spent a day putting draws on Mandragora and failing on Remena Nena.  Much more remains in store though.  Although the definite guide by David Brasco is still lost somewhere in the print process, Siurana is full of good and bad surprises.

The first good surprise was the quality of the first project we tried, la Papagora.  A major line running in the center of the pic above, somehow overlooked by the English-speaking Costa Brava guidebook, it has been spared the Mandragora fate of total polish.  The crux is up high, and the route is gorgeous.  It was well-suited to my style, and after a quick toprope, I almost got to the anchor on the 2nd try, i mean almost.  Yes, i fell at the last possible move, after 35 meters of intense effort.  But what a route!

Coming back the next day, the force was with me this time, and the send was over in the cool morning temperatures.  My favorite line in Siurana so far, and not hard for the original 7c grade (especially if compared to its sisters, such as Cleptomania).  The less pleasant surprises continued afterwards, mainly due to the poor bolting of the routes - at least in my opinion.  Falling at the anchor was not over for this trip - first, i could not finish the onsight of Rauxa, doing it on the 2nd try, next i lowered off Gamba Gamba, and finally fell twice at the anchor of Muerte de un Sponsor, another major line.  My head is definitely not ready to take it all as it comes in Siurana (and probably many other places).  Oh well, everything just costs a big effort, that's the way.  Below myself, thinking about flying, taping up, and coming back to old gear, Ikea bags, and Trango Squid power...

And the evil olive trash wonderer, never to stop, with feet that start acking, with hands that stop feeling, with heart that keeps beating, and dreams that keep dreaming.

Autumn in Catalunya

Days go by, years go by, we grow up, learn, and forget.  Meanwhile, seasons change, but remain the same, bringing us each time the expected colors, the beautiful skies, sun to look up to, and to smile at.

Красива осінь вишиває клени
Червоним, жовтим, срібним, золотим.
А листя просить: – Виший нас зеленим!
Ми ще побудем, ще не облетим.
А листя просить: – Дай нам тої втіхи!
Сади прекрасні, роси – як вино.
Ворони п'ють надкльовані горіхи.
А що їм, чорним? Чорним все одно.