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


Part 1 is here

The beautiful, and steep, line of the 'test' route last week




The important part was of feeling rusty on the routes this week (i.e. not feeling 'smooth'), was that this was o.k! I had come away with the awareness that all of my climbing in the past months (I'd only touched real rock for about 30 minutes since the El Chorro trip at the end of December) had been indoors. And with a hectic work schedule, I wasn't sure how good anything really was. So, swallowing pride and lowering off the route was the right thing to do on the day, even if I wasn't overly thrilled about it at the time. Sense (i.e. saving my skin and arms for the following days of climbing) comes with experience......

As it happened, the weather was to largely dictate the rest of the week. Leaving only four days left before the flight home, it meant that we were largely left with the choice of climbing only some of those days or climbing all four back-to-back. I'm a big believer in a maximum of two days in a row (especially when pushing it and even then one-on, one-off is better at times too) so it wasn't ideal but in the end, I ended up knocking out 3 and a bit days in a row. Destroyed arms ensued.



Anyway, the short story of the rest of the week. All of it was Margalef. Naomi was working a route herself, and I was keen to play on a couple of things. I knew that there wasn't much incentive in getting flow back as I don't expect to be climbing outdoors much for the next while either so my main goal had been to try a range of routes to benchmark, and to give some motivation to train for the Red River Gorge in October. (Venga venga venga!!!!!)

So, digging around between the drips, I had some fun by trying a nice short vertical 7c+ (lots of positives as all holds felt huge even if didn't send due to wet pockets), laps on some 7c's, and playing on a fun 8b (photo below). The 8b was a good tester of strength and climbing form.
One session to work out the moves and put in the quickdraws went well (only one move causing some issues - a small dyno off a one-and-a-half-joint mono, frickin' awesome!!!!! - that had to be worked out). Leaving it at that, the target was then to just have one or two possible burns on the route to see how my red-pointing memory/skills were working (i.e. remembering sequences, pacing, etc. - another component of climbing well other than just strength and fitness). A nice pleasant surprise meant only four rests (and if I'd been moving perfectly, two would have been removed immediately) required to the chains and that was with forgetting significant sections, out-of-sync pacing, etc. Boooo-ya, the training I've been doing is working - and an excellent base for October. As it happened, I only got the extra go on the route in the blazing sunshine (see photo) so it was largely just a recovery mission to get my quickdraws back, but even still all moves were easy (too easy?), and hugely positive.


Of course, it wasn't the perfect-in-theory trip, rocking up and sending routes all over but I never expected that so I'm happy. I'd jokingly said to GreatOutdoors Brian that I wanted to watch the Extras footage of Echo Wall [DVD] (Amazon link) to get the beta for a go at flashing the 8a in it (Sativa Pratica, a classic 8a in Margalef). As it happened, I never did get the go to try it, partly as I realized from my early-week experiences that I wouldn't be doing it in good style, but after watching people on it, I now know it would've been possible, and I would've only need another week of climbing to get back into tune. Some may think that I was daft to not do it, even if I may have gotten up it with a battle, but I've always been particular that I like to do climbs in good style, without sieging, etc.

I subscribe to what many would relate to as the Ondra-approach: Try and onsight the route, but if you have to spend more than a few days on a route, you're not strong enough, go away do more climbs below the grade to bring you up or even train, and then come back and send the route. For many, they've a different approach and that's cool with me. Whatever works for you. 



So I'm now back home, missing the Spanish lifestyle, but game for a steady push through the summer to October and Red River Gorge. A new location is fantastic for stoking motivation :) What's your motivations/goals/targets for the summer?



A nice day to return to Ireland - the Bank Holiday Monday up on Three Rock, Co. Dublin

Neal McQuaidComment