There are projects, and sends, and more projects. And then there are the 'no sends.' Those are the painful experiences of almost doing it, of having it all click but for a small little detail, but for a small glitch in the system. I used to think it was about "being ready", having the route dialed, having done the homework, having put in the right amount of hours. But we learn, as I tell my students, times change, things evolve, and what if not human is it to learn from one's own experience and mistakes? Now it all appears much more random, much more about luck, a turn of the Fortuna wheal to the right (or left) direction, as Ignatius J. Reilly used to loudly prophesize. Plans are one thing, reality is something else entirely.
I almost had it - I worked on my overhanging climbing for some time, I put in my hours in Rodellar, I sent a 7b there last summer, and a 7b+ last autumn, and finally managed to do my first 7c in that style in Gran Boveda. Proud as it might be, I tried for a 7c+ in Bruixes - and what better line than Energia Positiva, the queen of the sector in my lingering eyes? It has everything, a jamming start, a no-hands rest, a hard dynamic boulder move, than overhanging jug-fest to another boulder problem, another rest, the final slab trick on a vertical tufa, another rest, and a final roof. I tried it some years ago, I remember spending almost a whole day to get up it the first time, with Ville patiently belaying, and me using the cheat stick for ever and ever to get to the anchor, all the time wondering about those long white spaces between the bolts. Could I connect the dots? Could I fly? Would I dare?
In those days my optimism was untainted by ugly experiences of injuries and my rebelling body refusing to follow strict orders. But many things resist us in life, even though we might want them very much, even though we might be ready to sacrifice everything, to give our best, we still can fail. And so we do.
And so it went with Energia, I tried it for some time, then winter passed, other projects came along, and I remained away, busy with other endeavors. My left shoulder got injured, cooling down my climbing ambitions for some time, but like a frog swimming in slowly heating milk, I kept pushing against the current, trying to change the laws of nature, trying to make my body work as planned, as ordered, as prescribed. It did so patiently for some time. One year after my injury I was back to the overhanging terrain, and I was ready for Energia Positiva once more.
I managed to do Occident first, to establish the 7c grade in Bruixes, and then moved on to the next line, Energia. Beautiful, it still was. Inspiring, it shone its light over the valley, all the way to France, driving me closer, calling my name, murmuring enchantments and offering promises of infinite glory. So I came, and I tried, and I tried again. First, I fell on the first boulder crux, and fell again. Then, I fell on the second crux, and fell again. Then, I went all the way to the tufa. I did not fall there - my vertical climbing skills took over, and the slab was done with quickly. But that last roof...oh, roofs. That's another sheet of my climbing history that remains to be filled. Roofs are definitely not for me. They are scary, they are big, they inspire only fear and hate.
I considered abandoning the route because of this roof. I spent several days trying the move on top rope because I could not dare do it on lead. My demons were hard at work. A roof, the cherry on the cake, at the meter 34 of a 35-meter route, what devil had the idea to put it there? What evil force made the holds so small? Probably the same one that made it also possible to jam my fingers in the crack below, to position myself well enough to go again with the right hand, to grab the second hold up while having a slight drop knee with my right foot on that precise spot, marked with black shoe rubber, longing witness of many passages of other small people like me. Then, go left with the left hand, get the crimp, breeze. Then move the right hand further right, get the left hand on the same hold (don't forget to keep the feet well below), then get the right foot on the right ticked hold, move the right hand right again, get the left foot up on the roof on friction, and do the last move. 7 moves in total from the last clip to the anchor. I repeated them in my head for several virtual sends, for several weeks in a row. I actually discovered the way to do the move several months into the project, as I used to get to the roof so tired I had no positive energy to even try it. But I did figure it out. There was nothing else left but do it.
I got to the roof three times. On my second arrival to the roof I found the fifth knee bar on the route. I knew: when I will have five knee-bars, it will be enough rests to be able to do the route. It was the trick on Occident, and it would be the same on Energia.
Then on Friday, when preparing to drive again to Bruixes, I woke up in the morning and started coughing. It was not an anodyne cough, but the cough sending forbearance signals for its master, the flu. And the flu came quick behind, in full force. I managed to get to the roof one more time, and then fell again. It was not to be.
Unfortunately, climbing during flu was not the best idea I ever had - and I paid the price. My right shoulder started to feel strange during this same period of time, and continued going haywire since then. It is time again to forget the overhangs, to forget some dreams, and start (again) finding new ones.
While Energia stays out there, I take it easy, try to learn from my own mistakes, try to remember what shoulder rehabilitation is about, and in the meantime go exploring my new backyard in France. Maybe new projects - maybe on vertical ground this time - await me there?
A storm brewing over the Gorges du Tarn
Beautiful rock of Gorges de la Dourbie
Castle in Gorges de l'Aveyron
And one more, a view on Gorges de Lot from St. Gery
All pictures courtesy of Jonas.