Saturday, December 24, 2011

Inspiration for the new year

This week I had the pleasure to meet the cameraman (thanks, Silvi!!!), while following the 18-hour ascent of Mirall Impenetrable on Aeri wall of Montserrat by Pelut and Jordi, during one of the coldest days (and nights) of the year on the mountain.  Big olé  for the climbers - and the courageous family support at the base.

While we wait for the Mirall video, here is one of the older productions by Canyi:

Monday, December 19, 2011

Average life

Science says humans usually over-estimate their capabilities compared to others - it is habitual to find 90% of people believing they are "above average", a fact defying the mathematical idea of an average itself.  The problem with this kind of bias is that it becomes difficult to trust yourself.  So how can we know if we are special, something everyone would probably want to be, or if we are simply average?  From childhood onward, various classification mechanisms are out there to rank us - in school, in sports, at work.  We like awards, but we like even more to be the first one on the podium, to be better, to be...above average.

Funny bias this, come to think of it, as it both ruins many pleasures of life and makes things change, innovation appear: over-estimated confidence pushing generals, managers, or scientists ahead with their crazy ideas.  Accepting being average, consciously choosing to live an average life, has always been impossibly hard for me.  It is not only hard, it is better to say I find the idea of it sad, boring, and not worthwhile to wake up in the  morning for.  I have been struggling against the average life for as long as I can remember.  Always trying to be the best, or at least different, was easy in some fields, much harder in others.  Until the day you meet someone better than you the adolescent hope in miracles remains.

But as life goes on its winding trail you repeatedly do meet the real stars - and I have in every field, in those where I thought I excelled, and in those where it was apparent from the beginning that arriving at perfection would be a big challenge to say the least.  In those cases, my famed persistence usually took over from the rational me, attempting to make up for the lack of talent with the goat-like determination.  Some call this problem the "cult of the light bulb", where the society overall believes in a discourse of a lucky inventor, but in reality most of us mortals have to work very hard and very long to be more than "average".

Where I am going with all of this?  It's a kind of an abstruse personal manifesto - although doomed to be average, let's try for the stars.  My message for the end of the year - and the beginning of a new one - even though this life of mine will probably turn out average in the end, even though it is full of mistakes, although I stumble and fall more often than not, ho tornaria a fer.  I would do it again, all over, with the same passion, determination, and drive, always believing despite painful realities, cold nights, and lonely days, that above-average is attainable.

Saturday, December 03, 2011

How to manage a new project?

I have some experience in climbing what my friends call "long-term", it is not the first or the last (I hope) time I take up a hard project and try to motivate myself to live up to it.  This post is part of this self-motivation to continue as so far the project feels somewhat beyond my current level of strength and training (but yes, this is the basic starting point for any project by default).

Starting up the project, Senglar, picture by Juanjo

As a preamble, I think in climbing, like in many other things of life, learning curve is very important.  And it is actually living through this learning curve, which becomes transformed and embodied into the project journey, that makes up for all the suffering otherwise involved in projecting.  Taking up a hard project is like throwing a dare to the world, and to yourself in particular, a dare, but also a commitment to learn, to improve your climbing skill, to live up to the requirements and the challenge of a rock line.  And it is incredible how many challenges 30 meters of rock can conceivably hide.

There are a couple of pre-requisites for working projects: first of all, inspiration.  A climb has to have this over-arching inspiring power, that might have to drive you for several weeks, months, or years.  For me, the most important part of the project is the aesthetics of the line and the diversity and technicality of the moves. It certainly matters where the project is.  If it is to be a long-term love-and-hate affair, it better be close to home, with relatively easy logistics and possible partner options to go there.  Next, the route has to have an inspiring name, really!  With a little bit of imagination we can make sense of numerous route names to relate some meaning to them.  Rush, Discordia, Maugli, or Calladeta motivated me not only because of incredible moves and pure lines, but also because of the names.  I had some trouble with Ben Petat, as I did not necessarily find the name mystic or fascinating enough to drool about at night, but the awesomeness of the moves compensated for the name in this particular case.

Second, to work a true long-term project, a lot of persistence is required.  Either you have it to begin with, or if not you can work on developing character during a project siege, but it is definitely one of the key ingredients to accomplish a project.  Sometimes, during low moments, it might be helpful to hear from your friends encouragements like "Yes, you can do it", but most of the time people will actually tell you that you should change objectives, go somewhere else, try other routes.  It is good advice, but it does not help with the persistence part if you do not have enough of it to spill yourself.  And only persistence will make you succeed if you are not genetically gifted but rather boast an average ability in sports.

Lastly, specific training for a project is part of what makes the whole formula work out for me in the end.  My take on it is to spend 2 weeks training hard for the project in the gym and 2 weeks working the project, in cycles of several months.  During the training (planned using tips and tricks from the best, Eva Lopez) I usually use the week-ends to get my frustrations out on different playgrounds and send some easy routes for the ego, and then use the remaining 2 weeks as project-specific training, trying if possible to be on the project every 2nd or 3d day.  It is a lot of self-discipline and painful planning required, especially when your friends are keen on going to many other different places and you are stuck in one location for months in a row.  But that is the part where inspiration and persistence should help keep you going back to one spot (and yes, sometimes, unfortunately, appear to prefer the "climb" to the people...).

Sticking the crux on the project for the first time, picture by Juanjo

After all this talk and reflection, for me this winter season starts at Senglar, with a new project (appropriately named Sprint Final), trying to break into a new grade (8a+), and becoming once more part of the Montserrat landscape for the months to come.  Maybe I should add "announcing it to the world" as one of the mechanisms for project success, but anyway, there we go, same place, new project.  Times will tell if I am strong enough to go through the process all over again, if my body can take another grade increase, and if fun can be had in the meantime to compensate at least a little for all the abuse on tendons, muscles, and mind.  For the moment, thanks to the faithful belayers - Alex, Joan Maria, Joan, Juanjo, Jordi, Marcelo, and Laia.  To be continued.

Monday, November 21, 2011

Bouldering moments at Targassonne

A beautiful location, a wide valley between snowed-in mountains, sunshine and crisp temperatures - what better place to go to on a day full of rainy forecasts all over Catalunya?  A short (but expensive) drive brings one just over the French border, in time to order a true "pain au chocolat" at the Llivia Boulangerie, and hit the warm orange granite running for the gold.

Beautiful scenery of late autumn...

More of the same - Targassonne boulder field with snow in the background

It's been a long while since I bouldered, my most fond memories going back to Fontainebleau.  Frozen and cold, it kept us interested and happy for many days, escaping Belgian rock gyms and rainy season.  Old times, with old friends, Taz showing off her ankle tatoo while pulling hard on some problem with Scappy in the background, Max and Paolo figuring out the footwork with Dolomite altitude of distinguished Italian mountaineers, Ren trying hard 6cs at Cul de Chien or Sabots, Tim running from one 7a to the next, dynoing up the heart problem, Marc sending 7bs while cheered by Olov.  Me never managing to even do a 6a there, falling off many problems, sending a few.  Meeting all in the evening to cellebrate with crepes and cidre at the awesome Breton restaurant in the center of the town. Old times, that from far away now seem good again.

I managed to try many boulders in Targassonne as well, falling off most of them, but at least with style:

Falling, all the way...

Trying (without success) one of the more inspiring lines that day...

While I boulder in France again, here is a little video of Ukrainian bouldering scene, in the only climbing location I have actually visited in Ukraine, Dovbushevy skalu sandstone:

Sunday, November 13, 2011

Between seasons and worlds

Miami Beach, Florida

My travels have continued lately, between seasons, among worlds, sadly lacking in one thing - climbing.  Life is possible without it, for sure, although it does seem (much) more dull.  From autumn, I went all the way back to a pleasant tropical summer in Florida, that reminded me of my high-school exchange times in Fort Pierce and Port St. Lucie there.  Florida seemed as commercial and bound on entertaining its balding residents as ever, with poorer strata of population having as difficult a time as ever making a living there.  It was somewhat funny for me to inadvertently say "hola" to the housekeeping services in hotels, and actually a pleasure to be able to understand Spanish and notice the Latin American accents.  Only a couple of years ago, this language was strange to me, and there we go, the learning machine of human brain has proved its utility once again, and now in the airport I can understand another percentage of travel population, not mentioning my ongoing efforts at integrating Catalunya one way or another.

Robert Moses State Park, Long Island, New York

A quick change of climate brought me to another island, from Miami Beach to Long Island.  Same ocean, different set-up.  Two more relaxed days admiring the incredible autumn colors, reminding me of other autumns in New England, a different, but also past period of my life.  Maybe nearing 30 forces more reflection, or simply a bigger collection of memories is available to draw upon during long solitary evenings.

Oh well, after this short North American break, time to jump back into the (rainy???) Barcelona again, and hopefully more time for climbing will emerge among the clouds when the humidity goes up, and the sunshine comes back down to us...

Tuesday, November 01, 2011

Beautiful Karpatu

Empty, cold, or full and beautiful? There, forever, embodying the souls of those who are not anymore, to be embedded into the souls of those who will be.  My first mountains, my mountains, always to be, always to stay, even when I leave, dissolve, and disappear without a trace.  Beautiful Karpatu.  Every tree there, every rock, every bend in the road has its own memory, but also mine, my mother's, my grandmother's, their grandmother's.  First mountains, the most beautiful?  Full of meaning, full of unbelievable lightness and sadness of being.  Although far, your image stays with me, in all seasons, in all colors, in all gloomy details of memories to fade, of future not to be.

The song my mother used to sing so long ago, in another life, in an incredible voice of hers I could never dream to master, those happy days, rare memories of happy days not to last.  Nostalgia rarely destroys my pragmatism and love of life anywhere on this beautiful and endless planet of ours.  Only Karpatu make me tick, sometimes, stop, remember, wonder "what if", and shed a tear or two when listening to Gutsulka Ksenia in repeat mode.  No "what ifs" anymore, fewer and fewer reasons to come back - although not that many to go forward either.  Ja tobi na trembiti, lush odnij v tsilim sviti, rozkajy pro lybov...

Thursday, October 27, 2011

First Desnivel article - ascent of Bongo Bar

Here is a read for a rainy day for you: my first article ever, published in Desnivel of the next month, November 2011, pages 76-80.  Yes, I am proud, the world has finally seen my name in print!  Thanks to Eva and Jorge for the comments and revisions of my work, and to Desnivel for accepting and editing it.  All the errors certainly remain my own.  For those of you who do not want to invest into a copy of Desnivel, here goes the text, however you have to buy the magazine to check out the pictures of the team by Paul Diffley from Hot Arches Production!  For more English-language information about the ascent, route description, and grading check my older post here and Dave's post here.

" Que nunca falte una montaña en tus sueños ".

Bájame una estrella (Miriam García Pascual)

Dave leading 2nd pitch, 7b+, picture by Paul

Un día en el mundo surgió una montaña, y la llamaron “Hombre Azul”, o Blåmann, en el idioma de la fría tierra del norte.  La montaña, como suelen ser las montañas, siguió un camino lento de evolución, o más bien de descomposición…desde hace años, siglos, o milenios.  Cada día, su sombra se volcaba hacia el valle, abajo, precipitándose sobre las rocas, siguiendo por el prado de hierba, el lago, la pedrera, el pequeño bosque, superando entonces el fiordo, atravesándolo con ritmo, y al final, cada día, alcanzando las tierras del otro lado. 
Un día, aparecieron pequeños puntitos negros abajo, siguiendo sus cuestas con los ojos abiertos y sus almas llenas de sueños.  Otro día, un barco flotando en el azul impermeable del fiordo acarició su retrato y continuó su camino.  Así, de siglo en siglo, la montaña permanecía, indiferente y majestuosa, bautizada como “Hombre Azul” por los pequeños puntitos, sin nombre para el universo, aunque llena de consciencia de sí misma, de su belleza y de su infinita tristeza.
Hasta el día que aparecieron los escaladores.  Vinieron en cordadas…dos, tres, cuatro… a pasear por su verticalidad, a intentar superar la gravedad que sus paredes albergaban, a recorrer cada rincón de la piel del Hombre Azul.  ¿Qué les motivaba?  ¿Qué o quién les empujaba hacia allí?  Sólo los cuervos y alguna ardilla merodeaban por estos lugares fríos y húmedos, la mayoría del tiempo, cubiertos de oscuridad, nieve agotadora, o densa niebla, y casi siempre sin esperanza de mejora.  Los escaladores persistían en su busca surrealista de retos, de superaciones utópicas, de logros sin importancia, de fotos borrosas, y de sonrisas cansadas en las cimas siempre nubladas.
 “¿Es hoy el día?”  Pensamos los dos, subiendo sin hablar, sin pronunciar nuestras dudas existenciales, sin dar lugar a los miedos escondidos, a las traviesas jugadas de fisuras mojadas, de rocas afiladas, de bidedos húmedos y piedras sueltas.  Seguimos callados, con la respiración controlada, la aproximación ya conocida: arriba está el bosque, el campo de arándanos, la pedrera, un poco de nieve, la cuerda fija…
Es una mañana ya fría, las primeras señales del otoño en el aire no nos dejan relajarnos.  Decisiones. Siempre hay que tomar decisiones en escalada. Siempre con consecuencias, y siempre con resultado incierto debido a las pocas variables controlables que intentamos gestionar.  ¿Empezar la vía o darse por superado?  ¿Seguir hacia arriba o abandonar?  ¿Atreverse a hacer el paso, aceptando la posibilidad de la caída, o dejar al compañero probarlo, bajando con la derrota a tus espaldas? Ya que estamos aquí, la primera decisión es fácil : empezamos.  Ya veremos cómo está la pared después de las últimas lluvias. 
Habíamos perdido una semana de buen tiempo en fijar las cuerdas, en analizar los movimientos, en acarrear el material arriba y abajo, en planificar la logística de la filmación en vídeo, de la cámara, de subir con tres personas… Al cabo de la primera semana decidimos no continuar, era demasiado peligroso, la vía demasiado difícil y la logística demasiado compleja. El largo clave, que parecía 8ª, tenía piedras sueltas y rocas afiladas que podrían cortar la cuerda del segundo en caso de caída.  Además tenia una travesía, con mucho desplome y pocas posibilidades de rapelar si hubiera problemas o mal tiempo en la segunda parte de la vía. 
Así que pasamos unos días haciendo escalada deportiva en la isla con la cabeza todavía puesta en nuestro sueño imposible.  Pero después de las primeras lluvias, con las condiciones ya bastante inestables, la vía, como una rata pequeña y dentona, sigue en mi imaginación… Hace ruido por la mañana, no deja dormir por la noche, mastica trocitos del alma o del estomago.  Aún estamos aquí, nos quedan algunos días antes de marcharnos.  “Si no este año... ¿será el siguiente?” , “Si no ahora, ¿nunca?”  Los humanos, esos pequeños puntitos negros, somos así.  Siempre intentando, siempre con una idea que inspira a la acción, que les saca de la cama, que les da fuerza para traspasar el infinito, para luchar contra el aburrimiento, la ansiedad, y la brevedad de la existencia, aunque sea una idea tan fugaz e inútil como subir una montaña.
¿Hacemos el intento nosotros dos, en estilo alpino, con dos cuerdas finas, un juego de friends y una pequeña mochila?  Se lo propongo a Dave. El pronóstico del tiempo es bueno y tenemos la suerte de estar aquí, de poder intentarlo. Si no llegamos a la cima no pasa nada, al menos sabremos algo más, habremos visto el límite, habremos pasado unos momento más en la verticalidad, con la montaña, con nuestros miedos y soledades.  Haremos las paces provisionales con la rata glotona de dentro. Al menos lo habremos intentado.
El primer largo se hace eterno. Dave se queja de lo mojada que está la bavaresa clave, pero llega finalmente a la reunión. Es mi turno de subir.  La mochila pesa.  Días atrás hice los dos primeros largos de segunda, a vista, y me gustaron mucho, hasta los encontré muy buenos, de los mejores que he hecho nunca en una vía larga, en una fría cara norte como ésta….  Hoy los primeros pasos me están costando ya demasiado, siento todo el peso de la mochila, de mis manos y de mis pies llenos de gravedad, de miedo, de tristeza,  cansados de tantos días de escalar, hacer metros y kilómetros de bavaresas. De caminar, de caminar aún más.  ¿Seguimos?  Sí, adelante, ya que estamos aquí, implicados con esta ascensión, a ver qué tal el tercer largo, el verdadero crux de la vía.
Dave acaba rápido el segundo largo. Este largo también está un poco mojado, pero aún es posible.  Dave empieza el tercero, la clave, con más dudas.  Se queja de que no se acuerda ni de los pasos saliendo de la reunión.  Pero rápidamente se mete en el juego y empieza a “apretar” (es una palabra divertida, que aprendí en relación a la escalada cuando vine en España, y que me sigue gustando porque transmite muy bien las emociones y gestos implicados). El primer diedro negro, llamado “lagrimas negras” porque está mojado la mayoría del año, se presenta muy difícil.  Es ya 7c, sostenido con una salida del techo en dinámico, y protegido con viejos pitones.  Después viene un descanso en unos bloques enormes inestables de más de 100 kilos, moviéndose pero empotrados allí, para algunos años más. Con decisión, Dave empieza el paso clave de la vía, una secuencia a bloque que sube el grado del largo a 8a. Primero un techo que se pasa por la izquierda,  después un bidedo malo para subir mucho los pies y llegar a un descanso improvisado debajo de otro techo.  Y una última salida en bavaresa, subiendo y bajando los pies, con un friend rojo de Black Diamond clave para lograr superar el paso.  Y ya está!!! Dave está gritando en la reunión.  Lo hizo, ¡increíble!, ¡ya no hay vuelta atrás!  Dave lo ha dado todo. Aunque me cuesta mucho subir, al llegar a la reunión improviso una sonrisa enorme e intento transmitir todo mi entusiasmo a Dave.  Sólo nos queda un largo de 7c con los primeros 10 metros complicados, y el resto de la vía es ya mucho más fácil. 
Seguimos ascendiendo, siempre hacia arriba, buscando el camino, asustados por un “base jumper” que pasa volando en menos de un segundo por encima de nuestras cabezas  y aterriza abajo.  Al final me atrevo a probar un largo de primera.  Sólo escalo 20 metros de 6c, y hago reunión en una repisa intermedia, sin arriesgarme a hacer la travesía evidente sin ninguna protección.  El sol acogedor, que baña la cara norte a las ocho de la tarde en el verano ártico, me dice que no pasa nada, que ya “apretaré” otro día, haciendo deportiva en la roca caliente de mi nueva tierra natal, Cataluña la imprescindible, Cataluña la salvaje. Dave acaba rápido mi largo, con movimientos acerca de 7ª, que ya casi apenas repito de lo cansada que estoy.  Pero ya no queda nada, el último largo pasa rápido, y en la cima el equipo filma el final triunfante. No tengo fuerzas ni para construir una sonrisa digna para la foto de la cima. Gasto los restos de mi energía concentrada en devorar la última barrita para recargar las pilas. Se hace de noche.
Nos espera la larga y monótona bajada hacia el coche, la vuelta, y la comida festiva de pasta a media noche.  Cansados, nos tumbamos en las camas.  Otra cima. Otra vía.  ¿Hemos  llegado?  ¿Qué hemos alcanzado?  ¿Nada?  ¿Todo? Los cuervos siguen dando vueltas arriba, la ardilla se prepara para otro invierno, la montaña ni se acuerda de nuestro paso, eterna en su belleza y su infinita tristeza.  Nosotros, tan humanos, llenos de orgullo, imágenes y vídeos, nos vamos a nuestras casas dispersas por el mundo, entre Escocia, Guernesey, Wales, y España.

Monday, October 24, 2011

Raco del Segre and other stories

An interesting week-end for me, meeting old friends, making new ones.  Saturday I finally accepted Albert's invitation to check out a new sector, called Raco del Segre, located between Alos de Balaguer and the Camarasa dam.  Beautiful (although dusty) ride through the autumn colors brings one into this calm valley, away from the worries and struggles of the dull and nasty world outside.

Below myself attempting (without success) Risc de Cagades, supposedly 7b+ (hard), as seen in the late light by our talented local photograper, Pete O'Donovan.  He is actually another British immigrant and lover of Catalan landscape, as well as one of the developers of the crag I had finally the pleasure of meeting in person (and with a camera in hand!).  The name of the route is, selon Pete, "a play on words in reference to all the 'Risc de Caigudes' signposts the Medi-Ambient have been placing on the walking paths", and it was the best route I tried on the wall.

Sunday I spent with another old old friend, Alex, and his girlfriend Jenia, whom I showed around the cloudy and misty (and then rainy) Montserrat.  Alex has basically taught me most things about climbing as well as mountaineering, and it was an interesting experience for me to climb with him again, showing off the newly gained strength on the warm Mediterranean rocks (this time without dire consequences).  I still remember seeing his pictures of glacier travel in Alaska, with that incredible blue one gets only from high mountain lakes, the strange white and grey shapes of summer glacier, the tired but happy faces of the alpinists.  What a long way since those days, when something made me tick, something made me know inside I wanted to be part of it all, I should try it out, be there, be that tired climber so close and simultaneously always so far away from that illusive summit.

There are people in one's life who stand out, who inspire, who leave a trace.  Those are also the most dangerous people that have the ability to hurt you the most, to make you want to run for cover, disappear behind the radiator, and just spend the whole day crying.  I have been fortunate to meet a couple of people like this, I have been inspired by them at several stages of my life, I have made my mistakes with them.  Those people made me change, made me learn, take the next step, evolve on my own yellow winding road, and for that I remain grateful.  With time and distance we attempt to make better sense of the events, we become our own characters of a novel, players of a game, actors of a play.  Despite the circularity, the surrealism, the egoism, and unending failures, we keep learning something, a little tiny bit more.  And with these small things, we change, and surprise ourselves, surprise the others as well, we build our own puzzle of a life.

Maybe without Alex I would never had engaged with climbing so deeply, so seriously, so personally.  Maybe many things would not had happened the way they did since in my life.  But they have, am I the wiser for it?  Most probably not, but now climbing has been embedded into my soul, I have made it part of myself, I have made my choices consistent with it, I have left behind many other things, things I sometimes regret during sleepless nights, things I sometimes think I might not even care about were it not for the instinct and the genetic programming we all have been played the trick with...Let the construction of life continue for whatever time is left, let me be surprised again, let the circle turn.

Friday, October 14, 2011

Two videos, two lives...

There are the stars, and there are other climbers, so many other climbers.  And there are those "putos amos", the ones who inspire, who make us dream, who make us close our eyes and think again, imagine the impossible, believe in the unbelievable.  Or not think, but relax, jump up, forget the fear, do the move, just try it for the hack of it. Experiment with the unbearable lightness of being, with the gravity or ingravity, with moments, with time, with life: maybe anything is possible?  Maybe we just simply can?..

One of them, Novato, I do not have the pleasure to know personally, but I have seen him several times in Rodellar, have noticed his smile, his kind eyes.  And have felt at home.  Despite the hard moves, the intimidating overhangs and tufas, Novato made the place seem human, possible, kind.  Thank you for being there, for making us come home sometimes, for inspiring us all.

Novato en Botanics - Rodellar 2010 from Christian Checa on Vimeo.

I have had the pleasure to climb with Txema several times, and it has always been that, pure pleasure of spending moments of this life, so precious sometimes, so interesting and useful.  Seeing Txema climb makes one remember the origins of sport climbing here in Spain, and realize that style, rhythm, and flow matter as much as competence and pure power.

Two videos, two lives, two climbers. Let us all climb and get inspired, many years more.

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Doctor, doctor, que em passa?

View down the Terradets gorge from up high on the route

What is my problem, doctor?  Maybe too much sport climbing for once?  To change perspectives, get a little bit of air underneath my tired body, following Dani's push for long hard routes, I succumb again.  This time to this wonder, called Doctor, doctor, que em passa? As some engagingly comment, one of the more beautiful routes in Terradets, although maybe not recommended at least before the end of October because of sun exposure and the high temperatures persisting around this year.

Dani starting the hardest, 4th pitch, 7b, in the baking sun

The route starts with bad rock and a not very memorable 6a pitch, maybe except for the dirt shower out of the uninspiring dihedral cracks at the top.  It leads up to the real business of a slightly overhanging 6c to protect entirely with friends, another 6c+ that starts with a tricky thin dihedral straight after loose blocks, there specifically to de-concentrate a scared leader with too many friends on the harness and too many scared feelings behind the helmet-rim like myself.  Thankfully, the following traverse is more impressive than difficult, despite more loose rock at the exit.  Next, three shiny bolts through slightly overhanging terrain lead to the happy anchor.  And there it goes, time for the crux: a bolted 7b that starts hard immediately off the belay.  The first three clips are the hardest, with an easier 7aish terrain traversing to the next anchor.

And Dani not smiling anymore...

Neither of us was able to onsight the crux, and we happily put it off as the fault of high temperatures, our tiredness, and overall lack of motivation to pull hard anymore after too much sport climbing the day before.  Despite this counter-time, I highly enjoyed the rest of the route, especially the 5th pitch, bolted with "allegria", and becoming pumpy towards the end.  One of the best pitches in Terradets for me, indeed.  The following 7a was very different, much more technical and complicated, I was about to fall off several times seconding, and Dani's ability shone through as he pushed on to onsight this one, now finally in the shade.  The last pitch had an "ufff" moment to get to the first bolt, especially for shorties like myself, but after placing the red and yellow alliens into the same 10-cm crack, and producing several mini-Sharma-screams, I managed, and happily clipped my way up to the chains of this one as well.

And there goes another long route for me...fifth one this year after Bongo Bar, Alexis, Deja-Vu, and Anglada.  Maybe also the last one?  Let's see if the dark forces of the project times get to me again and push back out of sight this strange frugal come-back to long routes and the hairy-airy exposed trad climbing of mine...What is my problem, doctor?  Maybe, simply too much climbing?  No remedy for our insanity...let the comedy of life go on, let the climbing keep us sane.

Monday, October 10, 2011

Autumn in Sant Llorenç

After spending the month going up and down the slopes of Sant Llorenç, the recompense has come - clipping the anchor on Calladeta fas més goig.  A couple more belayers, more encouragement, and coming back - the apparent miracle repeats itself, the sky opens and lets one pass.  Or, the effort pays off.  Luck or skill, but there I am, making my truth on a cold Saturday with perfect friction, for once sticking the last hold, pushing it all the way to the top, adrenaline working its way up the muscles at the same time, the brain saying no, the body making the moves almost automatically.  Feet moving with precision, hands sticking to the rock.  And there it is.

A project done, not much more or less to say, we still move around the sun, everything else is irrelevant, or oh so relevant.

Here is the landscape, that became so familiar over time:

The landscape that preciously keeps the sighs, the cries, the laughs, the coming and going of its inhabitants, ardent worshipers, and simple passer-bys.  Christian on Descanzo, Sergi on Fenaskistiskopi, Robert on Yo Claudio, Juan on Sexo, Salud, y Sant Llorenç, Fernando and Francesca on Emperatriz Esmeralda, Jose, Dani, Txema, Marc alongside me on Calladeta, Juanjo on Metzina, Marieta and Esteve on Sueños de Piedra, Ivan on Panxa del Bou, Oriol on No t'ho perdis o en Mision de dios despertando el ferro.  Moments in time, flickering lights in the eternity of fireflies, ignored by all, remembered by a few.  A landscape full of people.  A landscape all by itself, lonely and transcendentally beautiful.

And as always, thanks to my belayers, that not only catch my falls, but also try to make me a better person.  Asi vamos, uno sueño de menos...

Thursday, September 29, 2011

Traveling light...

Wall in Figueres

when god lets my body be
from each brave eye shall sprout a tree
fruit that dangles therefrom
the purpled world will dance upon
between my lips which did sing
a rose shall beget the spring
that maiden whom passion wastes
will lay between their little breasts
my strong fingers beneath the snow
into strenuous birds shall go
my love walking in the grass
their wings will touch with her face
and all the while shall my heart be
with the bulge and nuzzle of the sea

Saturday, September 24, 2011

Calladeta fas mes goig...

From long routes to short routes, from granite to conglomerate, from easy onsights to hard project work.  The good line remains what attracts me to climbing steep and hard.  Calladeta is one of them, an old friend by now.  First tried with Juanjo last spring, I courageously put it up with clip stick and then fell in love with the second half, a technical slab that goes on relentlessly for 3 endless draws, and finishes with some psycho-time on the last roofs.  I hated the first part though.  I still do - first jump that people with just a couple of centimeters more do in static (mmm Dani, you ARE taller...) leading to the roof, where a physical 3-move wonder finishes with a mini-rest, and then another 4 moves finish with a real rest.  So far I have fallen many (and I mean MANY) times on this sequence, although not more than 7b, but as hard as anything for me.  Not sure what made me finally stick it - the pull-ups I've been relentlessly working on since July, the little contortionist rest after the clip I came up with lately, or just seeing all those other guys (Jose, Bernat, Pau, Dani) fly over the starting moves without even realizing any of it could be hard.  But I did.  Now the falling is happening higher up, first on the traverse, now on the final slopers at the last hard sequence.


Today it rains across the beautiful Catalunya, the project stays lonely and untouched.  With another glass of wine, I celebrate the half-way point, the usual state of climbers, of life, - half there, but not yet.  Almost done it - but not quite.  Looking straight at the arrival point - but always falling off at the last mile.  Dreaming my dream and wishing upon a star, nothing changes, all changes, clouds go by, nights go by, projects stay.
Climbing stays there, the only tangible, grounded reality that keeps the (in)sanity going.  As long as motivation stays, sending will come, - if not this month, then the next, if not now, later.  If not in the real world, than only in my head.

In the meantime, thanks to all the people involved with my climbing lately, - Juan, Txema, Dani, Juanjo, - for their tireless belays and encouragement on the project during the many spring, summer, and autumn months, as well as to the prospective belayers to come, if ever I am to clip the anchor on this one...

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Deja-Vu on Capucin

Capucin South-West face, Deja-Vu line in the middle

What better could one do after four days of training?..Climb and climb once more.  Full of excitement and expectations, I keep checking the weather forecast.  It looks awesome, the summer is still with us.  It's been a while since I first saw the picture of Deja-Vu, on top of another Pirineos guidebook by tireless Luichy, but since then that picture stuck in my mind with a persistence of true challenges and a smell of hard work.  What a crack!  For crack-lovers there is nothing like seeing such a picture.  Any true aficionado will remember and start dreaming about lines such as Separate Reality, Supercrack, or Endurance Corner after a good picture or an awesome video.  Deja-Vu is one of these crown jewel lines of the Pyrenees, maybe not that well-known, but oh how inspiring. 

Dani jamming hard, 2nd pitch

Hidden in a seldom-visited cirque in the Eastern corner of Aiguestortes National Park, 1,5 hour away from the Amitges refuge, Capucin is one of several towers in the middle of the cirque, in front of Basssiero Towers.  On the approach one is immediately struck by the polished, vertical face, interrupted by the crack.  THE crack.  After the easier and well-bolted first pitch, the business starts: jamming (or laybacking, up to you) for a sustained and what seems infinite 30 meters of pure granite crack climbing.  It's been a while I haven't used my jamming gloves and technique, and this was it.  Happily clipping a couple of bolts on the line, and putting in cams in between, my day was accomplished when clipping the anchor on this one.   What a pitch!  Dani effortlessly came up and led the next pitch, that seemed a bit easier than the supposed 7a+. 

Following pitch 4, the hardest and last one

The last pitch had us a bit more worried, and I was wondering where the crux would be, heading up for a short traverse, and then a diagonal undercling-layback off the fingertips test-piece.  However, the problem came later, on the slab, when a move probably no more than 6c made my head crazy, my feet clumsy, and my fingers powerless.  Downclimbing twice, I gave up, and Dani again faultlessly flashed the pitch to the top.  Seconding the pitch, the moves revealed themselves to be more of a head game than physically hard.

Mountain tribe on the top

The day after, to rest a little, we explored the nice-looking South Face of Petita Agulla d'Amitges, first warming up on Dedos de Luz, good orange crack, and finishing the day up Anglada Guillamon, a dihedral-chimney fun up the Agulla.  Several good lines remain to project on this sun-bathed wall, such as a possible 7c line to the right of the Anglada's first pitch, and an incredible crack, apparently freed this summer at around 7b, on the left of the rappel line between Agulla Petita and the Casco.  Life goes on, full of climbs to be enjoyed, places to visit, and people to meet.  Thanks Dani for encouragement, company, and finishing the hard pitches for me, ninja power! 

Monday, September 05, 2011

Back to Spain

After our memorable Gore-Tex Tour, thanks as well to the clothing from Mountain Equipment, the scratches from the big wall are slowly fading. In the meantime, maybe awaiting next summer, I am preciously guarding the memories of the fjord-filled country and its impeccable granite.

Dave, Helena, and myself at the base of Blaamann, picture by Paul Diffley

Now back to Spain, a new life, my old life, all over again.  One year after first visits to Rodellar with Pau and company, and first painful struggles up the powerful routes there, I have come back with enthusiasm, determination, and new company: Dani and a couple from Cadiz.  Just before Norway, on an impromptu visit with Sarah, I got back on a couple of lines I had in mind and figured I could start having projects in Rodellar too, especially now that I am concentrating on pull-ups and endurance as part of my training schedule.  Unfortunately, one of them, the first pitch of Ironman, will probably be wet for some time now.  However, seeing Carlos Llogroño float over the wet line made me think anything is possible.  Anyway, the first objective has been the ever-bouldery, polished, and overhanging Pequeño Pablo.  It had me rather scared and feeling incapable last year, however this time it went quickly, although in full sweat, with encouragement and inspiration from Dani.  Thanks, bou!

Colorful Egocentrismo

I also left my quickdraws hanging for a day on Maria ponte el harnes, another classic and awesome line that might make me come back as quickly as next w-end.  Seeing the almost-locals Rodri, Eli, Marieta, Esteve, and Xavi left me with the good feeling of coming back to a place I enjoy.  Despite the tourists and the (already smaller) crowds, there is something there in Rodellar, the atmosphere, the canyon, the zen spirit, and so much peace of the place that keeps me a little enchanted and dreaming of more lines, more limestone, endurance, and pocket-pulling action.  Thinking about moves, projects, and new friends.  Maybe paradise does exist?

Discussing moves with Marc-bou, Rodellar 2010

Sunday, August 28, 2011

Gore-Tex Videos from our Experience Tour

Packing the bags, we are watching the rain pour over our colorful Mountain Equipment jackets.  This is our last day in Norway, and as a dessert here are a couple of videos by Paul Diffley, from Hot Aches Production, immortalizing this short but memorable experience:

Dave going for a morning run:

Dave climbing a little after the morning run:

Helena taking the classic Tunga jump:

and Helena again, climbing in the beautiful Ersfjord:

Friday, August 26, 2011

Freeing Bongo Bar on Blamannen: Dave in Action

Blamannen bathed in evening sunshine, picture by Dave McLeod

After the small big wall at Hollenderan, the next day became the V-day of the Gore-Tex Experience Tour of ours, when the weather stabilized just enough for Dave and myself to have a go at our main objective, the Bongo Bar route, on the impressive North face of Blamannen.  We have scoped out the wall on our first day in Norway, and Dave has done a lot of work figuring out the moves on the crux, third pitch, graded at around 8a.  He also rappelled from the top to check out the other pitches that did not seem very easy either, at around 7c, 7b, 7a, and the final 6ish one.  We have been hezitating about getting on the route because of objective dangers seconding the hard pitch (plentiful of loose and sharp edges while traversing around the roofs), - basically meaning my ability to do it, the uncertain weather forecast, and the possible wet cracks after all the recent rain.  However, in the end we decided to still give it a go, and see what we could do.

Approaching Blamannen for the third time from below for me, for the fourth time for Dave, just after the full-blown day of hiking up to Baugen, made me wonder about the realism of our objective already on the way up.  However, with brilliant sunshine, some puffing, resting, and blueberry-powered snacking, I managed to drag myself and my backpack again to the base of the route.  This time some kind souls have even set up a fixed rope up the last snow field, and the rimaye snow melted enough to make the scramble up the last ledge less dreary.  
Blueberry-huntint on the approach, picture by Dave McLeod

Still in the sun, more approach action through the arctic jungle

When at the base of the route, both Dave and myself looked up with apprehension.  The tension was palpable in the cold morning air.  Although the bottom pitch looked rather dry, we could not tell how were the top pitches.  The day before even the South-facing Baugen routes felt humid, will Bongo Bar be dry enough?  Will Dave be able to free climb the crux third pitch?  Will I be able to second it without falling off and cutting the ropes on the sharp edges of the climb?

When inspecting the crux pitch one week before, Donald and Dave pretty much concluded we should not go up.  They brought down all the fixed ropes on a sad Wednesday evening, and we all just went happily sport climbing.  Since, the wall has been itching in the imagination of Dave, and I have not really given up on the idea either, with the little mouse scrambling around my stomach and pushing for the big-wall dreams to take the center stage for just a little short while, just once more.  If not as a team of three with Helena, maybe we can still try it as a team of two?  It is safer to second on two ropes, while caring a jumar and a grigri to pull myself out of free hang trouble if I have to...Playing the big-wall game has always been intense, and this one is no different.

But UP! and we went, or rather Dave led off, and I grudgingly followed, feeling the weight of the backpack already starting off the ground.  I complained about it to the friendly hamster finishing parts and pieces of my snack, remembered "Ukrainian Strength" nickname I was given in some far-away past in a different land, by different people, and pushed on.  The first pitch did not leave us very optimistic - the crux layback roof was if not wettish, definitely humid, the dihedral above was drier, but still wet with moss retaining precious liquid.  If the crux third pitch were to be wet, Dave would not be able to free climb it, and we would have to come back another day, another time, another year.  At the top of the first pitch we decided to persevere - no other way to know except by checking out the "black tears" and the "diamond" sections.  UP!

And so it went, feeling better during the second pitch, and quickly forgetting the horrors of the first 7b warm-up pitch, in no time we were already below the roofs of the third pitch.  The hardest part of our undertaking, Dave went off leading the first 7c dihedral section, starting the sequence by a desperate "I don't remember any moves..." and then following up with perfect footwork, gentle swing around the corner, and what seemed effortlessly getting up to the rest in the middle of the pitch.  And there he went, after a "Watch me!" and a couple of grunts, he was already above, although shaking a little for the first time in two weeks, pushing his helmet up into the second roof and making the best of the second rest before the final layback.

And so it went, time for me to second this monster.  Helpfully, my experience from other past shady big-wall undertakings, with such names as Esfinge, Half Dome, Portalet, Eiger, Cima Grande, etc. kicked in - at least on the subconscious level - and I carefully went on, from peg to peg, from nut to nut, painfully pushing and hammering out the gear, gaining height one vertical foot after another.  The grigri and the jumar stayed uselessly on my harness, and there I was, standing by Dave at the third belay.  Now the only way was truly up, as retreating (back-aiding?) down the roofs promised to be rather unpleasant to say the least.

Dave high up on the route, leading the key traverse on pitch 6

So we went on, here's how it goes: Dave faultlessly freeclimbs the next, harsh 7c lay-back pitch, then the next, already easier 7b one.  I pulled up much less gracefully, grinding my teeth, and remembering all the battling up the other routes and projects of my life.  But the weather here looked good, we had friends and even a camera watching relentlessly our progress from the ledge close-by, and this wall was only 400 meters long, 800 meters high.  Except for a wild base jumper, only crows disturbed our silent effort, and so it went, only up, the routine, taking out friends, banging out nuts, shaking, resting, feeling all the muscles and tendons in my body rebel agains the weight, the progression.  Forcing the body to move up, peeing on the way, joking, filming, photographing, living.  Up we went.

Myself lost up in the cracks

I finally decided to pick up the lead end of the rope at the start of pitch 6, however my leading stunt ended very quickly as I came to the blank slab, protected by two old copperheads, and promising a frightening, gear-less traverse.  Bathed in the evening sun, from all bad options I chose one - building a belay with one more cam reinforcing the copperheads and bringing the hero of the day, Dave, up.  Sure thing, he made short work of my problems, led the traverse and finished the pitch.  I found the traverse rather hard, especially because of lack of gear and bold moves over a lot of air, and was satisfied that my self-preservation instincts made me stop before committing to those moves.

Those instincts did not stop me from wanting to lead again, supposedly the easy last 5+ pitch to the summit.  But, not far off the belay, again came a conundrum - anther not so well protected traverse, to the right this time, would lead us to the ultimate easier crack climbing to the top.  Again, I could not commit to the moves, I went down this time, and Dave the rope gun fired up the pitch brining us to the much-awaited top.  Actually, I found this ultimate traverse move the hardest part of the whole route for me as I had to apply all my slab vocabulary to find a crimper to pull on to be able to move up and not off the wall into the overhanging wild swinging.  Maybe because this was the last hard move after so much climbing, but I definitely would rate this pitch as harder than the original 5+.

Belaying while the evening sun gracefully touches our North Face

And so we were done, with another gruelling descent awaiting our wasted feet, another big wall, after a small wall.  Two long days: one on Hollenderan and another on Blamannen, that turned into a 600-meter marathon of laybacking over vertical terrain, and an 8-hour hiking in and out of the Kvaloya's granite stomach.  Up and free.

Route details (careful onsighers, stop reading here!):
Pitch 1 - start just to the left of the fixed rope leading to the ledge, up underclings and into a left-facing thin crack going up to a small roof.  Undercling the roof (crux, thin gear), follow the cracks up, then traverse right on slopers, and up into the final dihedral.  Go up the dihedral, either straight up to the belay ledge, or traverse right at the last big foothold on the right edge of the dihedral (easier). 50 meters, hard warm-up, 7b with difficult gear on the crux section.
Pitch 2 - follow the thin crack straight up from the belay to the black streak (next belay).  Very good fingery layback sections, with climbing progressively getting easier.  More gear placements and some good pegs. 40 meters, 7b+.
Pitch 3 - the crux pitch of the route, straight up the black polished water streak ("black tears"), harsh stemming on non-existent footholds (around 7c/+), then traverse right and launch for the first big blocky roofy formation.  Easier section but very loose and hollow-sounding rock up to a good rest.  Launch into the crux - stand up on the big loose rock, go above the roof clipping the arrowhead and pulling crazy on small sidepulls for left hand, feet up (crux).  Uncomfortable rest below next roof (the exit from the "Diamond"), and final layback on the right, where dropping feet lower helps on occasion, leads to the comfortable belay on a ledge.  50 meters, 8a.
Pitch 4 - very hard climbing to start with, another thin lay-back with bouldery moves and bad protection, careful as possible fall over the belay (crux).  After the first 10 meters climbing eases off to sustained physical crack and lay-back sequences, well-protectable, and finishing at the base of a prominent chimney on the left.  45 meters, 7c(+).
Pitch 5 - a difficult start  after the first peg, to grab an undercling and go left in the direction of the chimney, exiting  the chimney immediately on the left, a good crack system leads up to the next belay.  Some strange moves with either layback or using chicken-wings/chimney technique help overcome a wider crack section (bigger cam might be useful to protect).  45 meters, 7b.
Pitch 6 - easier climbing off the belay up and slightly right leads to a comfortable ledge (possible belay, 20 meters) with two copperheads sticking out of the cracks straight ahead.  The line actually traverses left (careful, loose flake above copperheads) on the slab and around the corner just below a prominent black-white streaked nose.  Very thin moves on badly protected traverse (red C3 BD cam and a nut), and a final dyno (crux) lead into a good hand-jam crack (save yellow/red C4 BD cams).  More crack climbing leads to a first ledge (possible belay), and then a second "double" ledge.  60 meters (can be done in two pitches), 7a+/7b.
Pitch 7 - up the crack system and right below a prominent roof, a short but difficult traverse from crimps in a disappearing crack to grab a hold on the right leads out into much guessed it...laybacking to the top.  50 meters, 6c (at least a grade harder and more exciting for the shorter people).
Scramble another 20 meters to reach the top.

And as a final bonus, here is a video of a Russian team doing a winter (=less free) ascent of the same route, same wall, but in very different colors: 

Blamannen - "Bongo Bar" (Kvaloya, Norway). Part 2 from KRUKONOGI.COM on Vimeo.

Alexis on Baugen, Hollenderan

Helena descending to the base of Baugen, Hollenderan

To change a little from our sport-climbing routine, we (part of the Gore-Tex team constituted by Helena, Donald, and myself) decided to start big-walling with a small big wall, that is Baugen, an inviting and well-advertised South face, mentioned both in the guidebook and by Par to me as "the most fabulous crack climbing around in Norway".  It all started, as most climbing on Kvaloya, with a long approach.  We took the steep trail up from Grotfjord, that started wet, but finished rather quickly up the col with a beautiful view down to the TKK hut and the range of mountains to the right of it (picture above).

Given that it rained heavily the day before, we opted for the proper South face of Baugen, and having hard time choosing the route out of all the three-star possibilities, decided on Alexis, described in the guidebook as "nice from the first meter" and proposing as desert the "wavy dihedral" as the crux lay-back pitch.

Donald following the second pitch on Alexis

The climbing reminded me a lot of cracks around Envers des Aiguilles in Chamonix, with numerous small and big cracks, well exposed to the sun, although still rather humid from the downpour the day before.  As the rock kept drying, we kept progressing up the route, quickly dealing with the difficulties on the way up, the word of the day being "layback".  I got rather pumped leading the "wavy dihedral", but it finished quickly and the cams seemed solid all the way.  After another extraordinary crack pitch that kept Donald grunting for a short lay-backing while, and a last fun experience with a short hand-jam section that Helena led, we happily made it to the top.

Helena at the start of the last pitch

The unfortunate part about Hollenderan in a day is that you still have to go down afterwards.  This time we walked out following the Blamannsvikdalen, pleasant and blueberry-filled walk, that still appeared much too long to our tired legs.  Good warm-up for the future big big-walling plans though.

Myself on top of Alexis

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

In Deliri Flagrante

Countering bad weather we have been climbing close to our fisherman's cabin the last days, while supposedly resting the fingertips and dreaming big-wall dreams.  I spent my time figuring out a tough sequence up a beautiful crack line in Ersfjorden, In Deliri Flagrante.  This was the first sport line to be bolted on the main Resekjerringa boulder by Leif Henning, sport-climbing son of another prominent first ascentionist on Kvaloya, Ben Johnsen.  I first started by underestimating the route and confidently went for a flash attempt that ended fast and furious at the start of the crux sequence.

Fun laybacking before the crux on In Deliri Flagrante

I next spent what felt like a couple of hours, abusing of the goodwill of Donald belaying me below, figuring out a very strange sequence for the crux.  First, after the pleasant laybacking and a decent rest, there is a nerve-breaking sequence to get up a small ledge.  My Amazon-warrior shout and a knee-pull-in  made short work of that.  However, next comes the real crux - from standing on the ledge one has to grab a good-sized undercling, get the feet high, and go for the next hold, finishing the route laybacking again an awesome granite flake.  Getting the key top undercling proved gruesome - although taller people just grab it from the ledge, making me feel totally foolish, powerless, and mainly short, I spent hours figuring out the foot sequence, despite having only three possible holds for the hands - a crack to layback, a right-hand sloper to crimp on, and a left-hand roof undercling to use.  There were around 10 possibilities for footwork, half on the left, and half on the right blank greasy walls above the ledge, every one of them heinously small, and the right-wall ones eating through the last rubber of my shoe.

After an hour of stubborn kicking, pulling, pushing, and grinding the skin off my fingers, I though I had a winning sequence.  That was before the next redpoint attempt, when pumped from the boulder move below, I realized the sequence was too hard, as I could not pull my right foot up the wall without a better rest.  Off I went again, trying out other ideas, moves, and sequences, hanging desperate in the cool Nordic air, and whispering to the trolls hiding among the boulders to share their knowledge, to inspire my footwork with a handy spell.  Just when I thought my technique on granite was good, just when I believed I could use my feet pretty well anywhere - came this  problem, this mystery begging for a solution I was shamefully lacking.  There I went, with another idea, another sequence: locking off the left hand, I could pull my feet up easier and get the undercling with my right hand.  Then I would just have to bring my feet up once more, and be done with it.

My tries yesterday were thus spent trying out this new solution - which to my frustration and fingers' doubled pain did not work either.  Bringing my left foot above my left hand in a lay-back position not only strained my neck out of control, but simply proved impossible after the stress of lower boulder move.  Really, time for short resistance training this autumn!!!  Thus, I stopped again, and preyed to the trolls, and female demons of the place, all those lonely-eyed and dirty-haired creatures of the forest, and blueberry-eating cave-hiding others, to give me ideas, to fertilise the barren soil, the tired skin of my hands, the stretched tendons of my fingers.  Off again, diving deep into my "creativity" shop, I managed to come up with another solution again, so simple, yet so contrived.  Instead of trying to pull my left foot so high up, why not simply leave it down, in an "inverted drop-knee" style, and dynamically grab the undercling with my left hand at that point?  And...that just worked!!!!  Too tired to redpoint, but confident now, I need another attempt at the route - that hopefully will happen on this trip.  In the meantime, let the big-wall dreams continue!

Pumped but smiling for the camera on top of Turistklasse on the Tunga boulder

While I have been appealing for inspiration to trolls and other strange creatures of my own, Dave showed us all how it's done by brilliantly free climbing his new route on Tunga on the first go of the day, despite combined moisture, high temperatures, and lack of skin.  He strategically left a Gore-Tex jacket on top to protect the exit hold from the rain, and Donald took it off just at the right moment before the final dyno.  Good we have at least one efficient redpointer on the team, or did he manage a better deal with the trolls than myself?..

Dave starting the crux on Centre Court, at 8b+ one of the hardest lines in Northern Norway

In between my struggles with the Delirium route, I also managed to bolt my first line - a proud extension from the top of For Apen Scene to the anchor of Balshoiballetten, two already rather painful routes, but beautiful as only the slab lines know how to be, on the huge slab of Toppsvaet.  I managed to put 3 bolts using a very nice Hilti drill and quick how-to insturctions from Dave, linking the two anchors with what I would like to call the Gore Extension, a heinous slab finish to the 25-meter For Apen Scene.  Given that I was not able to figure out one of the moves, I'm not sure about the grade, but probably around 7b/+, with a gorgeous view on top, and ironically of all things pretty run-out because of my limited proficiency at bolting traversing routes while hanging with all the gear and shredded fingers from above...Sorry, future generations that will have to cuss at me, as I have cussed so many other times on other run-out routes....or they always can simply and happily ignore the extention.  Anyway, I hope some learning has occurred and maybe my next bolting will be better!

And to finish this inspirational post on a good note, here is another besutiful sunset over our home Ersfjord:

All pictures, as usual on this trip, courtesy of Paul Diffley.

Sunday, August 21, 2011

Gullknausen, the Northern Jewel

The island of Kvaloya was formed, the guidebook says, as part of Greenland, before it actually parted from Norway some 100 million years ago on a sail West.  The island is incredible in its abundance of high-quality granite, tilted in all possible directions, and most of the time providing a stunning view to the neighbouring fjords below.  It is both beautiful and remote, hanging on the edge among the rocky and harsh world as we know it, the still arctic waters, the never-ending skyline, and out-of-space light that colonises it in summer, as opposed to all-day night that settles comfortably throughout the winter.

Nothing represents Kvaloya in all its full-blown colours and mind-blowing airy, watery, and rocky atmosphere as the Gullknausen.  Discovered accidentally by Svein Smelvaer from aboard a fishing boat called "Fidel",  the name given to the first 8a bolted on the main wall, it is a white-orangy 70-meter wonder hanging off the rims of the fjord, that any climber would go to some length to get a belay on.  It has been my immense pleasure to have a video shot by our talented cameraman Paul Diffley of my attempts, and final midnight redpoint of Golden Shower, an awesome line up the main wall, bathed in afternoon, and then night, sun, while the other members of the Gore-Tex team were busy with other projects: Helena and Donald multipitching on Flikkflak, and Dave working the yet unclimbed extension of "Fidel", supposedly a bouldery problem around 8b+:

Sports Climbing at Gullknausen, Norway from Hot Aches Productions on Vimeo.

Thanks Paul!  Below are more pictures of this incredible crag, one of the more stunning locations I have sport climbed in:

Donald climbing Flikkflak, as the guidebook says: "best 6b+ around (in Norway, Europe, and even on...)

 Incredible sunset over the unending ocean (picture by Paul Diffley)

Myself during the second attempt at Golden Shower (picture by Paul Diffley)

View from the ledge with the evening sun