Thursday, July 28, 2011

S de Sorro, or learning to fly...

After having redpointed the near-by Xilum this spring, I decided i should go for its neighbor, much less done, and supposedly easier line in Guilleumes, S de Sorro.  After some inspiration here and here, i took up the combat and checked out the moves on toprope.  Ville generously belayed me on the first meeting.  Pretty impressed from the beginning, I tentatively went up.  I solved the traverse doing a strange, hard pull from the key pocket to the two-finger right-hand wonder, getting the right foot as high as it would go on the red sandstone bend.  Incredible move that I found rather tenuous.  The second part of the route is really the business (despite a hard 2-move boulder problem at the second draw).  You get to a small roof, first traverse left along red sandstone ledge, than come back right following classic Montserrat two-finger pockets, and than there is the final dyno to the big rescue pockets to the right.  Overall, the first part of the famous "S" is formed by 14 moves from leaving the security of one bolt to reaching the next one.  It is a long journey, that takes away one's breath, inspiration, self-composure, sleep, if not more.  The last move is what makes this route a challenge for me - it is a dyno that I have to do with the right foot in the air, from a crappy sloping left foot, and a good 3-finger extension with my left hand.  When i fail, it's a whipper.  When I stick it, I do the route.

As Eva Lopez says, dynoing is genetically not a girl's thing.  I have been struggling with dynos for some time now - I encountered the first serious dyno for my little self on the Rush, my first 7c.  The key move has to be done dynamically, going for a big hold from very small crimps for the left hand.  Vianant, my first 7c+, also had a dyno on it - instead of launching for the big hold on the left, in the end of a tricky traverse, I was always going for the shitty hold below.  Although a worse hold, I could stick the dyno much better as the distance was shortened by going for the smaller hold.  Finally, the Ben Petat, this winter's struggle, did not have serious dynos, but I fell around 7 or 8 times before sending the route after the crux, incapable of going dynamically for the jug undercling after the pump below and the crux move on crimps.  There has also been Calladeta - still not done - where the dyno came first, I had to jump to get past the first bolt, than dyno again to get out of the roof section.  I failed many times on this route so far because I got too stressed and tired by these two dynos to be able to start the fun - slabby - part above.  Dynos have always been my low point, my challenge, my pain.

There we go, so why would one do this to oneself?  Lo que no te mata te hace mas fuerte?  O no?  I don't know, but somehow, in this vicious circle of life, I got myself head over heals into trying the S de Sorro.  Coming back to the route after a pause, I checked out the moves again, this time figuring an easier way for the traverse - going further left from the key pocket instead of doing the mortal dead-hang to the right-hand two-finger, and figuring a final traverse variant (doubling the S) to escape the mono that I could not hold on the exit moves.  All set, no?  No.  The problem is the first S, the DYNO.  I tried cheating around it - putting a long extension sling and clipping just before the dyno.  Although strong enough to clip, I cannot stick the dyno after clipping.  The last time i tried the trick, I had a perfect go, very strong, did everything perfectly - and certainly had strength to do the dyno...But the sling was there, i could not fight myself, i betrayed myself, i could not control my head.  Survival instinct said clip.  I clipped.  I had strength enough to get my feet very high - but not enough to get the dyno.  I fell.  I fell less than i would without the sling - but i failed again.  I could have done it, but i did not, i managed to convince myself i needed the extension, again.  Not anymore.  Playing games with oneself is the worst kind of a game one could play.  I am strong.  I will forgo the sling and send the route.  It is just one dyno.  I am not even that scared when on the route, I go for it with it all, but somehow I psyche myself out of it.  I can do it, and i will.  It is a struggle in my head, the worst kind of subconscious struggle.  Let's play...!!!

Project sent, 28/07.  Thank you Ville, Uri, Victor, Txema for accompanying me in my learning, pain, fears, and flying time.

Sunday, July 17, 2011

Getting back into shape

After my 2-week hiatus, an almost enforced break from training and climbing, time mostly dedicated to my thesis (although with exceptions for Gore-Tex allowed :), now I am back into the routine of getting myself up to shape again.  I started off the wrong foot already - warming up on Bauhaus on Wednesday, although going 2nd, somehow managed to pull my left hand finger on the first route of the day, to screw my tendon right from the start.  Yes, it's been a while, they tendons took much damage, they took even campusing for 6 months without too much complaining and without Radiosalil for some time now.  But it is that time of the year again, time to be motivated and stupid, stupid and motivated.  So there we go again - ice, heat, Radiosalil, and no, no, no, I do not want to stop n rest...

Anyway, whining aside, after not being able to solve the last move on Rescate Emocional, awesome, well-named 7b+ on Paret Gran, I lowered the objectives again, and went to the church.  The sacred place, St Benet.  Nothing like it, you might travel, you might roam.  Nothing like it, it is a honor to live just below, for a while, a very transient while, but I feel I somehow participate in the mystery of the place, in my own little and insignificant way.  I tried talking about it to Shantala, to Delphine, during both days, trying to transfer the sacredness, the beauty of the place.  Not sure I succeeded, but I continue believing, I continue worshiping, saying my little prayer to the Mother Mountain.  Coming back, again and again.  It is beautiful, it is mysterious, and it is not only about the mist, the clouds that take possession naturally and quickly of the Gorro tops.  It is not only about the landscape, about the absence of civilization - or its flagrant presence with tourist kleenex everywhere over the trails.  It is not only about the refuge, about Angel trying to fit into Ferran's role, about Santi giving us laurel leaves and tea flowers, sharing recipes for olive oil with rosemary.  It is not only about the routes, the moves, the flying feeling of weightlessness up above.  It is not only about flying off the wall and soaking into the scenery, mingling with the Elephant trunk, the Mummy, the old dead French soldiers, and the burros caring food for the monks up the endless stairs into the galaxy.  It is all of it, the whole, that is both smaller and bigger than the parts.  It is St Benet, one and only, the unique one.

I remember, I do not go for grades here - I go to climb a route, and this time the route was K Monos Somos, a piece of art in the pleasurable windy and shady Panxa del Bisbe.  After painfully getting to the anchor for the first time, I realized this was it, a route i needed to get my motivation going, to get my inspiration in, to feel the air below me, to use the newly gained strength, to try out my pull-up training I've been doing for a while now, to get the resistance back.  After the first run-out scary (supposedly 5+ the guidebook says) pitch, two bolts of warm-up on slightly overhanging ground, the business starts with the next two bolts.  First boulder sequence going for a left-hand stone, get the feet up and a dynamic move to the right-hand open-mouthed hold. Short rest, then left-hand crimp, get feet very very high, drop-knee, and go for the white marble stone, the crux.  If you get it, it is not time to celebrate yet - after a painful clip, there are still a couple of tense moves with ballerina feet to get to the next rest.  Then another clip, and the final batman flight to the last jug.  Despite careful inspection, I fail the technical sequence with the undercling after grabbing the white marble on my second go.  I do not even manage to catch the marble on my next go.

Motivation is back.  This route inspires me, it makes me think of Unicorni, of Ben Petat, of Calladeta, past or future projects, beautiful moves, precise footwork, reading the rock, only the right approach, the right mind will get you there.  I call Delphine, we change plans, and here I am back again, second day.  This time I put the draws in confidently, the moves are just soooo good.  I need this bouldering strength, it is so good to have air underneath, to go, to fight the fear again, to have the adrenaline rush.  I do a stupid mistake of feet on the next go - it was too good to be true, i was too strong.  Down we go, woooosh.  I rethink the strategy, recheck the feet.  Next one is the good one, despite the usual self-doubt, the wishful thinking, the partner-trusting, I go up.  I am weightless.  This is the right go.  Let's do it!  What a route!!! Can't shut up about it on the way down, try to convince Par to come out and try it too, what a route!  Maybe I will come back as well, another day, another year, a minute from now, a century away, for the neighbors on the left, they do look gooood too, although I like the names already less.  I got my motivation back, St Benet, thank you, one and only, no hay nadie como tu!

To continue the training, despite rain forecast and tired forearms, training continues in Gelida.  The sun is inescapable, it is sauna time, big contrast to St Benet.  Warm and dusty.  While Delphine struggles on the vertical terrain of the 6as that are pretty bouldery for the grade, I go for the old favorite, No HoSe.  Been a while I came back to this one.  Long-standing project.  This time I am able to put up the draws all the way.  But the rain is coming, we are the last ones left on the crag, JuanAn leaves along with others, only black clouds and swooshing wind remain with us.  Pull the rope or second?  I remember the storm in Collegats, the epic to get the draws down there a month ago.  Let's second.  With a quick rhythm and straight arms, I manage to reach the chain, get down the draws, and be done with another project.  Although only on top rope, but i feel my strength slowly flowing back into the veins, the muscles starting to respond, the arms getting back into action, hardly-won endurance flowing along the blood-work of my body.  I am ready, it is time for the projects again.

Four weeks left for projecting, in the meantime getting inspired by Nordic dreams - a picture from Jonas Wiklund, friends and cams waiting in the distance...:

Maybe will get to use them before going to Norway, say on some Southern face of a Mala mountain from Deta one day?..

Thursday, July 14, 2011

Gore-Tex Experience Tour, part 1

Life has its strange ways, and in another circle-like fashion, after not so long ago reminiscing about El Cap glory days, I have come back to trad climbing this summer.  Rather unexpectedly, I have been chosen to participate in the Gore-Tex sponsored "Experience Tour", after a preliminary selection contest on Facebook, and a final selection day in Scotland.  The tour itself involves an expedition to the Northern Norway, complete with the filming crew, specifically exploring the region around Tromso in search of new lines on the Nordic granite of Kvaloya and Lofoten. Gore-Tex brings together distinguished athletes (that is Dave) and enthusiast weekend-warriors (that is Helena and myself) on a fun event to promote their brand, reach the younger audiences, and allow us to have some fun in an incredible company and a breathtaking setting.

Gore-Tex is an interesting company in its own right.  Similar to Patagonia in the past, it is one of the 100 best companies to work for as declared by Fortune Magazine in the US.  Its employees do not have titles, are all called "associates", and all have a power to veto any decision the company comes up with.  Best known for the Gore-Tex fabric of impermeable fame, guaranteed for a lifetime (!), the company is active in various domains, from outdoor wear to industrial and military supplies.  But that is another story.

Back to my own Experience-Tour story: Dave, (the climber), Paul (the camera-man), Donald (the sherpa), Helena, and myself (the girl-power support team) will take Norway by force next month.  In anticipation, a lot of enthusiasm, research, and training to be had while dreaming of big walls, granite touch, and cam placements. All below pictures are courtesy of Paul Diffley and Dave McLeod.

Getting used to the trad craze again, the famous yellow Gore-Tex helmet borrowed from Dave McLeod himself (a landmark to look for in his movies by Hot Arches Production)

Below are some beautiful colors of the Ratho quarry, reminding me of Ettringen in some insolite ways, where our last selection happened over last w/end.  Not only were we treated to a glamorous stay at the Country Club hotel near-by, but we also got to experience the full-blown Scottish weather with rain turning on and off throughout the day.  Climbing damp rock with unfamiliar people and a camera looking straight at your face from above became a funny exercise in oblivion, timidity, and trying to avoid any kind of a mighty challenge for me. In the end I enjoyed a couple of interesting cracks and even ripped a couple of nuts on the last route.  This game still holds a lot of interest and challenge for me, despite my cowardly betrayal to the warm sport-climbing gods on the Iberic peninsula of late.  Maybe a long-due reconciliation is possible, who knows?..

Myself getting with difficulty off the ground in the Ratho quarry

 Helena, my rope-mate, happily gunning up

And here is a little music to go with the story...long story be continued in a couple of weeks in direct from Norway!!! Now time to go see Par, get the guidebook, talk to Jonas, get the beta, and climb with Oriol, get my trad rack back.  My first summer in a while that it looks like I'm not going to Chamonix, but adventure will come my way one way or another.

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Edinburgh the gloomy

Continuing my travels up North, I also visited Edinburgh, the Scottish capital where I have not set my feet yet.  During the visit itself I started to dimly recollect talking about the city, its history, and sights, in our English classes in high school, long time ago.  A very interesting city indeed that generously provided for a surprisingly rich visit despite the unpredictable uncontrollably rainy weather and limited time available for sightseeing.  One has to be warned directly and honestly - visiting Edinburgh without rain is possibly impossible in summer.  But it has some ways to keep the tourist happy - such as numerous museums, shops, or coffee houses (such as this one, the Elephant House, where for instance Harry Porter was born among other novels, scribblings, and journal entries by the tea, coffee, and elephant lovers).  At the first sight, it appears a gloomy city indeed:

Greyfriars Churchyard

One of the sights I did have a chance to visit was the Holyroodhouse, the Edinburgh residence of the Queen. Rich in history, it was home to many Kings and Queens, most memorable probably being Mary Stuart, that saw her lover killed in one of the rooms here by her husband (yes, many gloomy stories in Edinburgh)...

Inside court of the Holyroodhouse
Outside the palace, actually alongside behind it, lie the ruins of the abandoned abbey that inspired Mendelssohn's Scottish symphony among others.  Roofless and open to the sky, defenseless in Scottish weather, the walls still proudly stand, a symbol to both the permanence, and impermanence of things.  It also made me think of the speech by Deirdre McCloskey I heard just a couple of days before about the Victorian travel writer and skeptic Alexander Kinglake, who suggested that every church should bear on its front door a large sign, "Important If True..."

Romantic remains of Holyrood Abbey

Although the rain managed to spoil several of the walks in the city during the two days I spent there, the compensation came in the most ephemeral form - the clouds.  Incredible clouds, almost as if painted by Constable himself kept changing, moving in, moving out, all day long. Although often bringing the rain with them, they kept the sky so beautiful, so curiously different at every moment, that it became a delight for me trying to spot the blue quadrant somewhere in the middle of the stormy surroundings.

Clouds over Edinburgh

Oh, and not to forget Bobby.  As Copenhagen has its Little Mermaid as a symbol, Edinburgh has Bobby.  He is the celebrated dog that spent 14 years mourning on the tomb of his master, John Gray, in the 19th century.  I heard that story in some context before, it was funny to come across the statue of the hero in Edinburgh:

To finish with art, the National Gallery impressed me with this portrait of Lady Agnew of Lochnar, by the talented American John Sargent that kept me standing there, apparently it made his fame in the UK, and I am not surprised.  It left more impression on me than Rafael (he could not paint hands, could he?), Titian, or Gainsborough downstairs (maybe Botticelli's Virgin adoring the child also left an impression).

Tuesday, July 05, 2011

Copenhagen, the bike city

Nyhavn, where Hans Andersen used to live for many years

Lately I have been, among other things, visiting Copenhagen, a city that has been on my travel list for at least 10 years now.  Before, I have only been to Oslo, of all Scandinavian cities, although closely acquainted with Sweden during my early days, while learning to read with a book about Karlsson and his travels on the roofs of Stockholm through the incredible imagination of Astrid Lindgren and my father's efforts.

First impression - a city very similar to Belgium, especially the Flemish part, as well as to Amsterdam.  Another strong impression - bikes. They are everywhere!  There are more bicycles in this city than I have ever seen before, probably more than cars, impressive.  It looks interesting, although maybe not exactly always beautiful to see loads of bikes left unattended in all possible places and positions.

Otherwise the city has more space than other European capitals - big streets, unexciting food, and a lot of Anglo-Saxon influence, for the good or for the bad.  Sure, they all speak perfect English here, 7-11 shops litter every street corner, and eating a steak or a burger is the most usual thing.  Maybe Copenhagen is not architecturally very appealing, but one comes to appreciate the harbour, the small houses, and especially the museums.  Danish culture is carefully presented in the National Museum, with expositions including mummies from 1300 BC, originally buried in oak trunks. Strange to see so much interest in home culture - I am more used to French, English, or Spanish museums proudly exposing things stolen from other parts of the world.  Here Danish have done a great work to expose details of their own, warrior Viking roots.  As interesting as Egyptian culture, a good learning moment, especially given that Vikings were also my own forefathers, engendering Ukrainians together with the Mongols that came all the way from the East.

So much available water also afforded us a pleasant boat tour, visiting the city symbol, Andersen's unhappy little mermaid. Despite the happy-end interpretation by Disney, the original fable is rather depressing. The statue has not been very lucky either.  It is actually famous in Denmark because it has lost its head several times since its installation in 1913 by the Carlsberg brewer, Jacobssen, in fame of his lover.  First, the mermaid was decapitated in 1964, and again in 1998, as a protest against consumerism, and as an act by feminists to show that women are valued mainly in the society without heads, body alone.  The statue is still there, with a copy to replace the head that was never found.

To stay with the mood, we also visited the freetown of Cristiania, ideallist town or dirty squat in the middle of Copenhagen.  The sad free town, declared independent in the 1970s, remains just that...sad but supposedly free...

We finished with a visit to National Gallery and happened to see a very nice exposition of "French" art 1900-1930, especially fauvists such as this Anita by Kees van Dongen:

And Derrain's Woman in Chemise

Travels to be continued...