Spending two weeks climbing in the sports worlds epicentre is certainly a great way to improve ones attitude towards what you do in the vertical. There is a quiet confidence that the Spanish climbers display. They are not loud, they don’t even look like they are trying too hard, but their ability and base level of fitness is incredible. I would say that per-capita Spanish climbers climb harder than any others.
I was working my project at Oliana that was affectionately known as “The Warm Up”. Yep, it was the easiest route at the crag on the main wall. A stiff 7a (23) that was a little runout in places and had a wonderfully interesting setup into the crux if you were a little taller – like myself. I top-roped it a couple of times on the first day. I am happy to have chosen that option to calm the nerves a little.
Day two on the route I decided to lead it and tied in. I was tentative and a little anxious, but I was above all motivated to try it. Since it was the warm up I decided to agree with the recommendation of my friends Monique and Simon to just go bolt to bolt and warm up the body. This was a great suggestion as I found myself over gripping and super tense as I climbed. I was pumped by the fourth bolt and said “Take!”
To have to say take on the warm up was a truly enlightening and humbling experience. To have to redefine how you do things and try new things was a real brain teaser. I mention this because there is a particular technique that I have been trying to work on for a few months now, but I have not been able to find the right type of route to practice on. Well this route was the route I was looking for and it certainly showed me a thing or two. The technique I wanted to work on was how I needed to climb this route correctly. I had been handed an opportunity.
Over the course of the next few days I came back to this route for my education. It was really humbling to have to work this route. It was well within my ability to send but as stated “the technique needed to be acquired.” I am very much a believer in “continuous improvement” and you when you’re unable to take two steps forward, you sometimes need to take one step back to grow. One must put the ego aside and learn.
It took me nine attempts to send this route and that was over four days. I was more excited about the new technique I had embedded into my climbing arsenal then I was about sending the route.
Realising that the success you seek lays somewhere different to where you thought it did is a truly wonderful thing.
Remember to be excited by the little things and that opportunity knocks but once 🙂
This morning I decided it was time to take myself for a walk to the little hillside villages that was visible from our terrace in Organya. The village is called Figols and it is about two kilometres from where I am staying. So just to add a little spice I put my laptop and a few other items in my pack for weight and trucked out the door with a purposeful stride.
The walk down into the valley through the farmlands and market gardens was beautiful as its early spring and the farmers are out preparing their fields and gardens for the new crop. I was greeted by the three sheep that lived down the lane, I am sure they recognised me from the other day. I said “good morning” and continued on my way.
There is an old concrete suspension bridge that leads the way to the other side of the Segre River that separates the two towns.Its wonderful to look down and see a couple of fisherman working their fly lines possibly trying to coax trout out of the brisk clear water. The river is flowing as the snow melts from a top the peaks that make up the central western Pyrenees Mountains.
My brisk walk is suddenly a little more strenuous as I rise out of the valley and head up a mild incline. There are terraced olive groves on either side of the road and freestanding stone fences that separate the levels. I love this look. It reminds me of so many of the films I have seen set in Spain.
As I approach the town I am greeted by the sounds of chickens fossicking around the hen house as a lone feline watches them from the top of an old barrel. It is a beautiful morning. The sun on my face and the coolness is just taking the edge off my body temperature so I am not too hot. I am sure there are more dogs than people in this town and they let you know they’re there.
Heading towards the local chapel a cherry blossom blooms brightly and catches my eye. It is stunning and reminds me of my days in Japan during “hanami” (cherry blossom season). I have to stop and stare. The chapel is ancient and incredible. The bell tower is still functioning and the stained glass windows still intact.
This town is so incredibly cute and so typical of what I thought rural Spain would truly look like. Its gorgeous and rustic and if the wind is blowing the wrong way…….it smells of goat piss 🙂
Its definitely worth a visit if you are in the area……..
With a perfect day presented to us yesterday, Simon and I got out fairly early to go and do some easy to moderate route climbing at one of the Oliana area’s oldest crags. We had been to Coll de Nagra a few days previous, however the weather sent us packing. The sun was now on our backs and we knew this was a great opportunity to get our Spain heads on. Driving through the village is really a step back in time and really shows you rural Spain in a very different way.
Arriving at the crag I noticed there were a lot of cars and when I looked at the cliffs there were no climbers…….where were the? I thought. The crag is very spread out and there are a few pinnacles separated by some open forest. Its a very beautiful place to be. The town and farmlands below as you walk in are just gorgeous.
Anyways back to the climbing part……….we arrived at our destination and identified the routes using our trusty guide book and chose our warm up line. I munched down a Vegemite sandwich as I was a little peckish. Hadn’t had Vegemite since I was in Munich with Erin and Paul. It was AWESOME! My lunch reminded me of my school days as a kid. Great flashback indeed.
The first route was a 6a and I thought yep lets warm up on that! Well it turned out to be a bit of an epic. Its was nails and the runout’s were worthy of a total freak out. Slab climbing is tenuous at best but when theres runout’s involved, its a massive head fuck. Thats where the adventure ended and the fear began. The second route was a hard boulder problem off the ground to some cruisy climbing for five metres and then another slab with a couple of heady runout’s. Great start to the day indeed……….where is this all going? I thought.
Then the rain came so we headed for the town of Oliana to get some fuel and hope it wasn’t raining at another crag nearby. There seems to be a rain shadow in the valley we are staying. If it rains at Oliana, we have great weather here and vice versa. Its bit crazy I know, but it is the mountains. We headed back to Coll de Nagra. The rain had stopped so we went climbing again.
The first route was real adventure climbing on a conglomerate wall. 30 metres of stunning and varied terrain indeed. Simon and I both loved the route.I think the word “sensational” was thrown about a fair bit afterwards. The I put the draws on the 6b. This was one of the most technical and amazing routes I have climbed in quite a while. The grade doesn’t matter one iota………this route was just absolutely committing and sustained from the ground to the anchors. It was balancy and on small holds on a vertical face to a slightly overhanging wall.
So today marks the first anniversary of me leaving Australia and heading into the unknown. I hopped on a plane and travelled to America and spent three months there after a traumatic 6 months where I experienced the “big 4” most stressful things that can happen in a persons life. I was damaged and broken, however reflecting back on this period is great. I have experienced many things since then, both good and bad……..and I have made many decisions about what I will and will not accept from others and for myself. This is nothing short of enlightening.
I have had periods on loneliness and I have felt truly alone, I have felt alone in a sea of people and I have felt unbridled exhilaration whilst by myself. I am a gregarious creature and being social is part of my base character, so the flying solo thing at times was very very challenging. I have also been with fabulous people and met some of the best people in my life. The care of strangers is amazing sometimes and……………..sometimes the people you know, just out of the blue let you down in the most incredible ways.
I have travelled to 22 countries now and there is so much more to see. I have climbed in some of the best crags on the planet including Oliana and Santa line in Spain, Kalymnos in Greece and I have climbed two mountains, one of them nearly 6000 metres high. The things that have happened just by saying yes to peoples offerings to join them have been truly amazing. This is not only the journey of a life time it is a continuum of growth and learning.
I dont go climbing everyday, but I think about it and I make no apologies about it anymore. I love climbing rocks and the feeling I get doing it……and I have also been able to see parts of the world most people don’t get to see. That makes my trip super special and fun to me. I have done a little touristy stuff, but ti has never really floated my boat. I am on an adventure here, not a holiday….journeys always start with a step into the unknown and right now I gunna just keep on moving onward.
I know I will look back one day and see this journey for what it really is………..a less ordinary life!
I woke yesterday morning feeling very uninspired, my brain wasn’t functioning well and I felt a little anxious. There was nothing indicating anything bad or horrible, I just wasn’t feeling it. So I decided that I would have a rest day. I put my hand up for belay duties. The sun was out, there was a chill in the air and I was really lapping up being a rest day.
I had brought a couple of nice spinach and cheese pasties from the local patisserie, along with an apple turnover type thing for dessert. Pure delight and good crag food. We headed to Oliana again as Simon had been asked to shoot some of the worlds best climbers on their projects. This in itself was an opportunity not to be concentrating on trying to send and another great reason to relax.
We were the first group to arrive at the crag and got the primo car park, loaded up and headed up the hill into……….”The centre of the universe”. As stated previously; This place in intimidating. I belayed for a good couple of hours in total. I was really enjoying the opportunity during breaks to watch Dave Graham fight a serious battle on “Papichulo” 9a+ (36), Daniel Woods put on his best efforts and fought his way up “Fight or Flight” 9b (37) and Clemen Becan work his way up a new project in a relatively relaxed fashion. Chris Sharma was back on “The Blonde Project “ giving it a bit of a burn and Monique Forestier was on “De Picos Pardos” 8b (31) having a very large amount of fun.
Monique said “get on and have a go!”………so I did……LMFAO. It was intimidating, scary, inspiring and awesome fun all at once. I am really happy that I did get on it. Cant wait to keep on trying this amazing line. I think it may always remain a “project”, but thats ok….you have to try.
My goal this year was to push myself and this is a good start.
I thank the gods for the inspiration and support…………. “good humans”
Today we headed to another area of intimidation and fear. The Cova Gran cave in Santa Linya, Spain. This is the cave where Dani Andrada and Chris Sharma have established and sent some of the best routes at the grade on the planet. It is a beautiful site and it is hidden away under the town of the same name.
Its just fantastic to be getting out and seeing these amazing areas and meeting some of the people who have sent this sport screaming forward in the past fifteen years. Tom Randall of the “Wide Boyz” was there today and spent a good bit of time politely chatting about some of his adventures. A really lovely man and very funny to boot.
Monique kept at me to get on the first pitch of the route she was trying. The first pitch is 7b+ (26). I was so apprehensive about this and then looked up and thought “the draws are on it, what can it hurt to have a go!” so I tied in and put my shoes on. Off the ground this thing comes at you. Traversing left on good hands with small and very polished footers. The body positions needed for this route required me to be crossing through to gain holds and dead-pointing to holds that were good, but it was super strenuous.
Sitting on the rope at the third draw felt a little demoralising but I thought “C’mon Craig keep going at least two more draws”. It was my first go on this thing and I haven’t seen the pros back off when they only get to the third draw when they are establishing routes or trying new projects. Pulling on the draw above I clipped it and sat on the rope again. The next four moves were through the crux. I can hold the holds and get to the next moves, but I couldn’t link them…….this is some very hard climbing for me.
Keep in mind I am NOT giving up……I will get back there again to fight the good fight! 🙂
Today was a very cool day indeed. Today I walked up the hill and placed my gear at the foot of a crag I had only seen in climbing movies, that I had never thought I would see and one that is made of legend. I walked into to climb at Oliana. This is where Chris Sharma reinvented sports climbing and used the crag as a melting pot to test his mettle and push himself to the absolute limit. Changing what was possible for our sport.
Seeing the crag from the car was awesome, absolutely incredible. As we got closer the awe disappeared and the intimidation kicked in. I was here and it is now. Go and climb Craig……go …..and …..climb! I was with a very dear friend of mine Monique and her Husband Simon and their lovely and very bubbly daughter Coco. We were so excited to be catching up and hanging out in this amazing place.
The warm up route today was similar to that of the warm up Monique and I did on our first day in the Red River Gorge, Kentucky in April last year. We warmed up on this solid 7a (23) (name unknown). The sun was on our backs and it felt great to climb after a ten day break. The rock felt foreign and I was anxious about how I would go. I top-roped the route and it was hard. I am sort of glad I didn’t lead it but also felt like I was being a bit soft.
Aside from really enjoying being at the crag, it was great watching some of the best sports climbers in the world. Dave Graham was working a super hard route with his buddy and Daniel Woods and his wife Courtney were there too. Monique, Simon and I were talking about how there last trip here was when La Dura Dura had its first ascent and today I was standing under it. I couldn’t even see the holds……LOL.
Monique was working a route called Mind Control 8c+ (34) and got her index finger stuck in a hold and opened it up rather badly……the sight of blood was the least of her worries as she would have to rest for a couple of days now and that was frustrating for her. Simon and I did a couple of laps of the unknown 7a and the weather started to come in. And so did the photographers. We watched as one of them jumared up the wall to get into to a good position.
Simon said “That sounds like Chris” and sure enough it was. We just happened to be at the crag the day Chris Sharma decides its time to work on his new project, directly to the right of La Dura Dura. Monique introduced us and we chatted briefly…….a nicer guy you couldn’t meet. Genuinely warm and humble. We had decided to call it a day as it had become super cold and on the last climb I lost the feeling in my fingers………sooooooo cold!!!
It was fantastic to stand and watch the process of working possibly one of the hardest sports climbing routes on the planet. It is incredible what these people can do. Its inspiring and the level of dedication to this effort is just unbelievable. I thought about taking photos and then I thought again. I felt really uncomfortable about it and just simply enjoyed the experience.