Sunday, May 30, 2010

Poetry Minute

Не жалею, не зову, не плачу,
Все пройдет, как с белых яблонь дым.
Увяданья золотом охваченный,
Я не буду больше молодым.
Ты теперь не так уж будешь биться,
Сердце, тронутое холодком,
И страна березового ситца
Не заманит шляться босиком.
Дух бродяжий! ты все реже, реже
Расшевеливаешь пламень уст
О моя утраченная свежесть,
Буйство глаз и половодье чувств.
Я теперь скупее стал в желаньях,
Жизнь моя? иль ты приснилась мне?
Словно я весенней гулкой ранью
Проскакал на розовом коне.
Все мы, все мы в этом мире тленны,
Тихо льется с кленов листьев медь...
Будь же ты вовек благословенно,
Что пришло процвесть и умереть.

Есенин, one and only...

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Art Minute

Van Gogh, so the story goes, used to be afraid of painting faces.  He found humans so strange and inaccessible a species, that he first attempted painting them without taking up the challenge of depicting their facial expressions at all.  In this vein, he obliged himself with a painful and diverse life, working as an art dealer, studying to become a minister in Amsterdam, failing to get a post in the church, living as an independent missionary among the Borinage miners.  Things changed when he discovered color in Paris, where he also met Seurat, Pissaro and Toulouse-Lautrec.  However, color did not help him to sell his paintings, and he committed suicide after managing to sell only one of his works.  The sign of the new times - his work is highly appreciated now, maybe because it somehow keeps us within the illusion of sanity, contemplating Van Gogh that crossed the limit in trying to understand human beings, losing his head in the process, but leaving us with the dowry - his loud and clear, unbounded and imaginative accomplishment.  At the threshold of eternity :

All this was a prelude to post one of my old-time favorites from Toulouse-Lautrec, another weirdo, a product and anti-product of the French culture of the time. Son of an aristocrat, at 12 he broke his left leg and at 14 his right leg.  The bones failed to heal properly, and his legs stopped growing.  His adult height was 1.5m. To escape his handicap, he invested himself wholly into his art and alcohol. He stayed in the Montmartre cartier of Paris, the center of the cabaret entertainment and bohemian life that he enjoyed painting so much. Circuses, dance halls, nightclubs, and racetracks - a new theme for too formal and romantic an art before the loud arrival of this short character. One of his most striking paintings, Alone:

I have been thinking recently about writing a paper on the institutionalization forces within French art development in the 19th century.  It seems to be a nice example of institutional entrepreneurship, where impressionists, such as Monet and Manet, having their paintings refused at the most legitimizing event - the Paris Salon, managed to convince the public during their lifetime about the value hidden in their paintings using alternative Salons and other 'social movement' tools.  Others, such as Van Gogh or Gauguin, simply refused to participate or play the game - and were left out of the legitimate art community.  Thus, the choice within society is either to conform, to try to change the rules, or to refuse to play the game altogether.  The outcomes seem to also be predetermined in a way...

Monday, May 24, 2010

Rodellar, or Egocentrismo Struggles

I am starting to appreciate more and more the overhanging climbing.  It impresses me maybe because of my previous alpine experience and the well-established belief about my total inability to climb overhangs.  When in Belgium, i struggled with both, the lack of physical strength, but also mental problems any time i tried serious overhanging routes - on toprope - and in the climbing gym (the country being Belgium...).  My evolution as a climber has been long and painful - i repeat myself, but it is still hard for me to believe i am leading these incredible overhanging monsters.  Even though they are easy by the sport climber standards, labeled 7as and 7a+s in Rodellar's guidebook, for me they represent huge steps on the moon.  Gravity does not seem to be the same in Catalunya, and finally the years and years of experience on the rocks and high mountains make me feel a little bit - just a little bit more comfortable on the sharp end.  Training hard in the gym accounts definitely for a big chunk of it, however the other part is oh so psychological, and here i notice all the groundbreaking impact of my last year with the new identity - the sport climber.

So yes, out of the eternal hole of my ego, and back to Rodellar - after a conference in Rome, it was a plane, and then a car ride that brought me for the second, and probably not last time to the Sierra de Guarra.  The little village of Rodellar this time was overflowing with people, cars, and dogs.  We managed to find a spot at the campground, have a bite at the Florentino, and after a due rest start the projects at Egocentrismo.  Concentrating on the projects was very good, however not very productive this time.  I spent one day giving battle to the appropriately named Porque, supposedly a 7a+ at the Boulder de John, to the right of incredible sector of Egocentrismo.  The below pictures are from this route:

After a toprope, i dared myself to a lead.  I did give it a couple of decent tries, however the bouldery crux resisted all the attempts.  Pau made good of the route at his first try, whereas i remained closed to the dynamic move, however proud of my leads anyway.  Below Pau working his next project, Pequeno Pablo - another mega-jug-fest rated an incredible 7a+ in the guidebook, hard 7b for most mortals, comparable in endurance requirements to for instance CalifatoCoach in Margaleff:

As a consolation prize, i managed to go up the near-by de 8 a 14 route on the second try, whereas the inspiration to lead Pequeno Pablo and to send Porque will have to wait for another visit.  Egocentric as i am, i stay amazed at myself, and have to look again to believe this image - incredible heel-hooking me on lead, i never thought i would, but there:

Pictures by Pau, great work, and interesting music discovery - Elle Lefant with No Moon.

Sunday, May 16, 2010

Another route, another climbing day...

Amenece que no es poco, a cool 7a+ for the strong at La Riba, sector Xina.  Despite nice pictures by hard-working Pau, it still remains a project for me - 1:0 for Pau, the strong man back in the game!


A cloud shadow

A breeze discovered my open book
and began to flutter the leaves to look
for a poem there used to be on spring.
I tried to tell her "there's no such thing!"
for whom would a poem on spring be by?
And breeze disdained to make reply
and a cloud shadow crossed her face
for fear i would make her miss the place

by Robert Frost

Sunday, May 09, 2010

la BuscaBrega, Vermeil

The first time I came to Vermeil it has been a little bit less than two years ago, with Gabriel, another of the guys I meet at random on the internet when looking for climbing partners in a new place.  I believe the plan was via larga, the Aranya, but finally we ended up sport climbing, and he showed me Cara Sur of the Mother Mountain.  We walked the walk and did a couple of 5s and 6as to the left of San Agustin.  Then he told me there was this awesome 6b, pretty hard but awesome, technical, dihedral climbing.  I went for it, and onsighted the climb, the highlight of my day and probably week during those dark ages of my climbing career.

It was the time when I was starting to recover from my mountaineering adventures and painfully taking up the sharp end again.  Coming of age, one might say - after the too quick beginning and end of an alpine career, I arrived - at least for some time.  I arrived to the climbing paradise on this planet, the little province of Catalunya I continue enjoying in rain, snow, and mainly good weather.  I started my recovery journey climbing long, epic, and fun routes with Cathy - and in the end of the circle have arrived back to where it all started, the sport climbing, the measured head, the technique and the flow.

Vermeil has become second home by now, two years later, especially after numerous thoughts about moving to El Bruc.  After working the Vianant for some time and having trouble reading the crux move there, I decided to change the objective to the near-by BuscaBrega, another route with some fame for being hard and contrived.  Although some people say it is 7b+, such as Luichi and his guidebook, others such as MacKay (aka Bou Major) and Fernando have it as a 7c if one does not touch the crack for rest or the last moves out of the slab.  I did not find it exceptionally hard,  but challenging enough to try it out this week-end.  Finding the easiest solutions to most of the moves was not too difficult, and the last dynamic moves left the good taste in my mouth of being able to do them pretty well after the harder dynamic reach at the Rush.  BuscaBrega did cost me much less effort than la Rush (a total 4 tries on lead, and 3 topropes), and appeared definitely easier than the (wet) Vianant for these rainy days of spring we are made to enjoy.

Saturday was a long, not very productive day.  As my friends stayed on the right trying various routes there, I chatted with some, belayed others, even met the famous boulder-master, Ferran from Rotpunkt&Holds.  Finally making up my mind, I moved to the Busca area, where Alex already had the route equipped and ready.  I dared the first lead, working slowly my head back into leading after some days spent toproping various projects.  There were three of us, so it was one of the fortunate times for me to get pictures taken of my attempts at the route.  The head switched on, and I managed to go for it as one should, hard and flowing.

After falling off at the dynamic crux at the exit of the slab (just after the clip at the picture above) twice, I left the draws and went home for the needed rest.  The route went first thing in the morning, Sunday.  It was another strange day, nevertheless the celebration was had with the classic pies de porc in El Bruc.  Thanks for the pictures to the tireless Remi, and the belays to the vigilant Pau!!

Amapollas are back, my lead head is back on track, the spring is here for sure despite the weather that is tricking us to say otherwise, and climbing is as good as ever.  A muerte, and listening to el diable, la princesa & yo (more here).

Friday, May 07, 2010

Roger Mas

Last week-end at Rodellar we spent listening to the pretty good new album by Roger Mas, a Catalan singer that is also known for putting to music the poetry by the Catalan Baudelaire, Jacint Verdaguer.  This is the shameless promotion of Catalan culture, and I have to say I do enjoy getting to know it a little bit better each time.

(from new album)

(from old album)

Monday, May 03, 2010

Rodellar or the spring is back!

This w-end saw the team go out of the Catalan limits, despite the abundance of climbing in this little province, to visit the near-by Sierra de Guarra, famous for not only its canyons, but also good wine and excellent climbing.  Rodellar is another of those, last villages at the end of the road, - similar to Val di Mello or Cavallers, where the road abruptly stops after many a curve, and the nature takes its toll.  The village is the small, touristic type, like the ones in Switzerland or les Ecrins, where for instance the wild St Cristophe-en-Oisans wakes up only with the tourists, mainly in summer.  There are several campgrounds in Rodellar - most still closed at this time, and a big free parking for the rest of the crowd.  There is the camping shop, the village bar, and a couple of old inhabitants, still wide-eyed from the 'progress' or whatever other name they might give to this invasion of dirty, noisy, mainly punky-lookin' climbers on their way for useless self-accomplishment, grade ticking, and project sending.  Whatever way we might use to rationalize, legitimize, and socialize this sport, it remains another one of the absurd, self-centered activities, similar to Internet or Web 2.0, a byproduct of the advance of our modern times, or as one of the names of Rodellar sectors well summarizes it all pretty well - Egocentrisme.

It is all about the "I" and the sending.  And if you don't send it is pretty hard to remain happy and sociable about it.  One of the challenges of the sport, that makes one work a little bit more on oneself, or refuse the work, and enjoy the routes.  The perspectives are many, however the climbing is one.  And routes are abundant, good, overhanging, and hard.  Rodellar has this rumour, this curtain of smoke about being a hard destination I have already heard about.  Thus, I was not surprised when getting there and being spanked on one climb after the next.  The stage was set by an already challenging onsight of a 6b+ at the Camino sector.  However, I saw the sectors on the other side of the canyon and could not keep my feet to the ground of Camino for long.  We quickly descended to the canyon floor, where full of illusions, I directly went for Capriczos de Luxuria, a diffiucult, bouldery 7b.  Despite several tries, I humbly failed to solve the bouldery crux, and fell over and over on toprope even before getting to the crux.  Below myself, working the route, the one in red..:

(picture by Pau, incapacitated for the w/end by his back pain)

Despite Josep's patience, the route took over, and I kept my motivation to try a 7a+ at Ventanas de Mascun sector, the awesome Juan y Fran se nos van.  This factor is probably more known for the incredible 7c, the Delphin - picture below.  But it was not exactly in my league yet, so I lowered my expectations and was very proud to get to the top of Juan y Fran, although the cheat-stick (Trango's sextoyish squid...) had to get out of the toolbox as well.  The day ended too quickly, and left me with another project and lots of humbling thoughts about my incapable feeble self and the tough overhanging climbing at Rodellar.

Sunday started well with the warm-up at Roxy la Palmera, an awesome 6b+, unfortunately getting a little polished.  The Mother-chorrera of this climb reminded me of my fight with Amazonas, a great and hard 6c at Kalymnos.  This time I prevailed, and got to the top after many encouraging words by Pau below.  Below me, flashing the route:

After a quick pass by the Nuit des Temps sector - it motivated me more for the name than for the actual routes there - not bad but not enough overhanging for Rodellar standards, we quickly moved on to Egocentrisme.  This sector was made to convert me to overhanging bouldery roof climbing.  With the Pequeno Pablo in the eye of the storm, I could not resist anymore and decided there and then that I had to go back.  

Although Pequeno and Gran Pablo were busy, other routes nearby seemed very well suited for the purpose, and I went for a 7a+ on the right, apparently called Porque?.  A boring name for a very good route - with an explosive crux within a small crack, and an interesting exit to the anchor.  Again, despite another try on toprope, I only managed to get to the anchors and was left with a strong good feeling in the watering mouth.  This is definitely a project within my reach.  

So...when are we going back??? And who wants to spend a week, or two, or three in Rodellar this summer??