Monday, 2 February 2015


After a few days catching up with people in London (if I didn't catch you, please don't think it means I don't love you... I didn't have long after finally getting the van in order) I finally got on the road to Portsmouth last Monday.

I had a ferry booked to Bilbao in the morning to save me driving through France again, but on the way down I got a text to say it had been cancelled due to "unforeseen technical difficulties". I was pretty annoyed initially, but after switching to a crossing to Caen, and hearing that the seas further south were getting uncomfortably rough, I realised this might be best anyway.

After an evening parked in a pleasant little carpark with views of the city at night, I slept in the ferry port and boarded at 7am. The ferry was empty and the sea millpond flat, so after a while enjoying the view, I did a couple of hours of yoga, then had a siesta in the sunshine. All felt good in the world.

The weather turned again, and the drive through France was damp, dull and largely uneventful, but upon crossing the Pyrenees the sun came out, and I cruised down towards Tarragona with the windows down, reggae blaring, and a huge grin.

I came to Siurana to meet Hanka - another nomad who I first met in Finale over the summer, and who's climbing partner had unfortunately (but luckily for me) decided to go back to the rat race. At the end of a glorious sunny day, I found her bunkered under the trees in a very cold and windy Siurana... the forecast I'd seen the week before had been rather optimistic.

Next morning it was raining, so an enforced rest day before I even got started, but the following day conditions were perfect... sunny but cold and maximum friction. We went down to Grau dels Masets Cami, a nice little south facing sector, down the hill a bit and sheltered from the wind.

Immediately on arrival, one line caught my eye... short but sweet, 17m right up the centre of a pretty blank looking slab. It turned out to be a fairly recent addition to the crag, a 7a called Festucs first climbed in 2013. Initially I told myself to leave it alone and concentrate on getting some lower grade mileage, but by the end of the day it was winking at me in the late afternoon sun, and I had to give it a go.

I fell half way up, but after a few more goes I'd worked out the sequence for what turned out to be the crux, and climbed the rest clean to the top. Up to the crux was crimpy, and I decided not to risk my fingers on the redpoint, but left with a real sense of satisfaction to be climbing so well this early, particularly on such a technical route. It seems I learned some of the lessons Finale was willing to teach me.

The other thing that was particularly exciting; although I felt weak on the lower graded steeper routes, when I got on the slab I felt lighter and more limber than ever - and with good reason. I've never tried to control my weight for climbing, but since leaving work last May I've been on a wholefoods diet, and slowly and consistently loosing weight as a result. Last check, before I left Scotland, I was down to 57kg - 8kg below when I left London. I've also improved my flexibility tremendously. I'm quite intrigued to see how this will play out when I've got some rock fitness back :)

It's forecast to get even colder here, so we might head further south for a while, but my first little taste of Siurana will leave me wanting much, much more.

Festucs (7a) in the centre of the slab, the chalked holds to the left are Suape (6b) - another worthwhile line, if a little polished.

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