Margalef [Part 1] - sun! social! climbing! and the weathest days in Spain this winter?!

When in Spain.......

Not the predicted weather conditions of Spain. Still though, it does give a good visual image of how the tufas form.......

If you travel enough (and even if you don't), you're going to get unlucky the odd time even if it's late April in Spain! The two wettest days of the Spanish winter arrived last Sunday. I arrived into Spain last Sunday, the day after the YCS event, to heavy rain and winds. Not exactly my planned start to the trip, but still though, I was complaining and it just left some time to dig into some books, and sample the local delights, err, coffee and cake. 

The plan was for a 7 day long trip out to Spain to have a bit of a holiday, hopefully catch up with some friends, and get some climbing on real rock! For me personally, I didn't have any goals (I'm not one for going on trips with specific routes I want to project - with the exception of last summer's idea - but I usually have an idea of the level I want to be solid/consistent at) but purely just to benchmark myself after the winter of training and all the busy-ness of working two jobs! I've been training quite specifically also so was interested to see what benefits it had brought.

Once the weather had sorted itself out and crags began to dry (enough rain came down that it ended up taking the rest of the week for the seepage lines to fully disappear), we headed off to Siurana for the first day of climbing with the logic that, a) the cafe in Cornudella serves awesome cakes (see above) and b) it's not conglomerate limestone pockets such as Margalef so the crimps were more likely to dry out. Our theory proved to be successful overall even if large areas of crags were still out the of the question (also see above photo). A side benefit was getting to hang out with our now-regular-friend-to-meet-while-abroad Hazel Findlay (who we randomly bumped into at the base of the crag) who was preparing for a forth-coming expedition with climbing partner, Emily Harrington. Emily nicely summed up my own experience in her post of the trip with these comments:

For me, it doesn’t matter that I’ve been doing this sport for over half my life; there’s a certain confidence and rhythm that fades from my climbing the longer I go without touching real rock, or challenging myself to onsight routes that may or may not be within my perception of what’s “hard”.  We climbed loads of 12a’s and b’s on this trip that I found incredibly puzzling and difficult to read.  It’s something I need to do more often if I want to progress as a climber, even if I have to swallow my ego step down in the grades. This was a really fun conclusion for me to come to because I honestly had more fun than I’ve had in a long time just trying to climb every route at the crag, not worrying about the grade and focusing on reading it properly and moving confidently.  By the end of our 7 climbing days, I began to develop a bit more of a flow and confidence in my movement.  Hopefully that learning curve continues in Morocco.

[Side note: I know an awful lot of strong climbers based in Ireland that could learn from those comments also - capable of climbing stunningly-hard routes based on their strength (and also considering how much stronger they are than me) but need to get all the other components of climbing dialled in. Anyone want to answer the question I've posed when you get to the end of this post?]

For me, it's not necessarily the case that I focus on 'training' but it was evident on the first day at Siurana that I was just very rusty on rock. The first warm-up (7a) was jittery, not reading well, and getting pumped fast! Another quick 7a warm-up smoothed out some of the climbing wrinkles, but after watching Hazel cruise up a 7c onsight (with poise, precision, relaxed movement, confidence, excellent route-reading) that I'd done before I decided to jump on this for a burn. It became very quickly evident that I was not in any shape for this sort of climbing (technical, thin) and as Emily relates to above, some stepping back in grades to fix this climbing 'rhythm' was potentially required...... Trying to give a crude analogy, break climbing down into components: strength, fitness, mental, pacing, fear of falling, flow/rhythm (there's many others but use these as an example). Then rate them all out of 10 (on your own personal perceived scale). For me I was happy to say that strength was high, fitness was potentially high (althogh all trained on an indoor wall so not as long as outdoor routes), but mental and rhythm was lower. If any of these components are off-balance and not relatively equal across the board, it has an effect on everything else.

For anyone reading this, looking at your own personal assessment, what do you think is highlighted? Be honest with yourself!!!!!

Part 2 will be all about the actual climbing for the rest of the week :)

Margalef Part 2: steeeep....and self-benchmarking

Mountaineering Ireland/BMC Youth Climbing Series finals 2013