Saturday, April 21, 2012

An End to the Unending Project Saga

Senglar, picture by Carlo

Never had I thought myself able to try a route of such vigor and difficulty.  I started seriously considering Sprint Final as a potential project for me about a year ago, when finally topping out on Ben Petat, its worthy sister, that obsessed me for the whole previous winter.  Trying out the two neighbors, Somni Diabolic and Sprint Final, then and there I decided Sprint was it - a bit harder than Somni, it had it all, bouldery, resistance moves, intricate sequences, a roof instead of the cherry on the cake, and a sloppy, heart and nerve-breaking exit.  Keeping the route in the back of my mind, I went happily through another summer, another (less happy) autumn, while the incessant time kept creeping closer for Senglar to be cold enough in November.

My confidence boosted by my latest successes on the rock - destroyed somewhat by failures in other domains of this complicated life of ours, I was back.  Surprise surprise - I could not do the lower crux anymore, although i distinctly remembered having figured it all out during the first top rope in spring.  The roof felt harsh, although with some hope in the air.  After a break due to the torrential rains, a dark trip to the sunny Miami, and the start of my training season, a month later I was back on the route.  Old friends giving up on me one by one, new friends miraculously appearing  to keep me and Senglar some deserved company.  Life continues, always, with or without us, with or without our stupid tears, with or without our unreachable objectives.  Climbing, the true friend, hinges there, in the shadowy cracks of reality.

I hit the pavement, hard, on the Christmas-sy street in Andorra, the only thought when lying on the hospital bed running through my oxygen-deprived mind being about Sprint.  "I will not be able to climb Sprint!".  The body gave in, the training took its toll.  Live and learn.  A month later, there I was, so close, so far again.  Figuring out more moves, still falling off the lower sequence, and unable to clip the fixed draw.  But I was making progress.  Slow, but straightforward project progress.

Then, just before the dream was about to come true, the Aussie fell through the air, straight down, right onto me.  It was a perfect day until then - I managed to finally send Ultravox, although tired from the previous day's work-out on Sprint, then I onsighted a 7b near-by - another rare gift from the Mountain and Carlos, who left me draws on the route for the happy ending of my day.  But the Aussie's weight had to hit me, directly on the left shoulder, as my telling him to "CLIP THAT DRAW" was slowly dying off on the deaf ears.  Stupid accidents, not more, not less.  And there I was, ignoring the shoulder, over-training, and getting injured in Siurana on a 6a, not less.  While not being able to put on my own cloths, in rage, I kept thinking "I will not be able to climb Sprint!"

That low point strikes once in a while.  And sure, everyone knows the mantra - it has to be overcome, the only way from there is up.  For some, it's death of a loved one, it's bankruptcy, it's divorce, it's all these pains life keeps throwing our way.  For me, it was the stupidest shoulder injury ever.  I mean, yes, sure, I also managed to kick my pinky into my bed and almost break it, but that did not make me stop climbing.  But the shoulder, on a 6a...that was just too much.  Oh yes, another stupid accident, another blip on the (in)finite timeline, not more, not less.

After another month, some fisio-therapy and mileage on easier routes, there I was again, all new, all intelligent again, all striving for the way upwards, out of my cage.  I felt happy, I dreamt so much about shaking the pump off at that last rest, just before the last sloper, of breathing in the air and watching the scenery - that beautiful, undending scenery that inspired, that kept me feeling warm and fuzzy.  The first time I enjoyed the scenery of Montserrat for real was on the rest of Vianant, when in the beginning we used to time those rests with Pau's phone.  Then, there was no more timing, there was just breathing in and feeling alive, feeling the world around, being totally consious, living the moment.  No appearances to manage, none to convince, only the rock, the body, the rehersed moves, and listening to every cell, to what it has to say, concentrating on making this whole big mass of a mammoth to move up.  Incredible, but possible, the body listening, the mind performing the creation.  Although the body stumbles, cries out, irritates itself and the onlookers, in the end the mind prevails.  But then there are the rests, those incredible rests of long difficult routes, where one stops, breathes, and becomes one with living.

And then after that awesome first day back on the project, after four tries, after all the good sensations - my skin was gone.  Just like that, my fingers split.  Two of them.  I taped, I cried.  But there was not much to do.  The  moves kept becoming harder, the friction kept pushing me off.  Although those were the two coldest weeks in February, I had no skin, I missed my time again, I was off to train, to dream, to wonder.  In the meantime the temperatures went up, way up, making it unbearable during mid-day there in March.  Pedro sent Lourdes, life was moving on.  I was not.  My life stopped there, in Senglar, with this route I had to do, for no apparent reason but for the drive, for the surreal need to do it, to show to myself, to the world, what I already knew deep inside - I could do it, just because I set off to, because I really wanted to, because...

Finally, after months of falling, of starting over, of falling some more, - finally, I started to see some progress in late March.  I changed the clipping hold for the crux, doing one more move, I changed the sequence for reaching the rest, I finally managed to get to the roof in one go.  And again, it was all over again - how to get to the roof in a good shape?  How to get out of there?  I changed again, I finally managed to use the undercling (invertido!!!), unlocking an incredible levitating move to do the roof sequence.  It was not enough.  Down, and down again I went, swirling through the air, down.

And then it came: on an April Friday I climbed the best 20 meters of my climbing career.  I was floating. It all fell together, astonishingly, easily.  The high, the peace, the calm.  I got to the first rest totally incredibly un-pumped.  My heart rate was normal, my breathing was there, no signs of fatigue.  Unbelievable!  For three months I struggled with the first bouldery crux, I fell countless times trying to clip the draw, not finding a way, not seeing it.  I changed the moves, I worked on my two-finger strength, I pulled up for my life on crimps over and over and over again.  I fell, for the first time in my climbing life, with the rope in my hand, just mili-seconds before clipping.  I dared myself, I flew.  It became normal, the swishing, the air-miles on and on, one draw, two draws.  Thanks to all for catching me with a soft landing, doing it so well as to teach me to belay better, to jump more, to give more slack.  Pedro, Carlos, Uri, Xavi - you are all as part of my success as my own hard-headed persistence.

I got through the roof move as if I've always done it that way, as if it was an easy warm-up journey, as if gravity was not around, as if body did not exist, only control, breathing, accuracy, and a free mind.  I went up, through the roof, through the traverse, up.  At the last rest something happened.  I realized I did not care that much anymore, the air, the mountain, they were with me, the wind was pushing me up.  And there I was again - thoughts starting to flow in the wrong direction, my will became less strong.  Txema's "despegue" did not work - or it worked too much.  I rested too much, or too little.  I was disconcerted by the water in the holds, I was...there I was, flying through the air, again, going down in an endless pull.  It was not over yet, the route prevailed, once more.  Once more, my illusions were betrayed, I was not strong enough, I went down, failing that one last dynamic move.  One last two-finger pocket, I saw it right in front of my nose.  Without a sound, I was in the air, and flying down....once again.
Up! Picture by Laia

Although it was my best try ever on the route, best piece of climbing I have ever done to date - it was not to be.  I had to go through just a little bit more.  Then, on a perfect sunny day, things came together.  I was strong, I had that ultimate chunk of rage.  I looked that last two-finger pocket right into its scary eyes.  I doubted, for a mili-second, I doubted.  And then it was mine.  Clipping the chains, and not feeling anything.  The usual.  Project times, dark times.

I wrote some time ago about projecting here - mentioning my 3-factor model (inspiration, persistence, training), but now I realize I (on purpose?) excluded the other important part - the people, those who inspire for the project, those who come with you over and over, those who listen to endless complaints, those who belay in the rain, in the sun, those who smile and cry with you.  Thank you, my friends, those who stayed with me and helped me during this project.  It has been a pleasure, and I hope I can reciprocate all the favors you gave me freely and happily, the precious little gifts of life, that strange amorphous creature, that is sometimes simultaneously so cruel and so insanely beautiful.  May the painful process of learning and unlearning continue. 


Marieta said...

Felicidades de nouevo Julia, me alegro mucho por ti!

uasunflower said...

Merci, guapa :)

pedro said...

ei jabata! muchas felicidades campeona,y ahora a buscar otro proyecto porque sino queda un vacio extraño...

Anonymous said...

Goooood job!... and awesome powerful steady tenacity. Thanks for sharing your inspiring thoughts. Have a nice day!

uasunflower said...

gracias, pedrin, me lo tomare con un poco de calma ahora, me quedan algunos 8as por muchos sitios para acabar :)

@anonimo: thanks for reading and commenting ;))