Warming up on the polished 6b+ felt I felt strong, so I decided to go straight at the line to the right, which I had a feeling went at 7a (the guidebook is out of print at the moment, so a lot of us are flying a bit blind). I had to really pull hard through a technical crux, but I managed the onsight of what turned out to be Eco dildo (7a).
I was going well so despite intending to get back on Dale Duro Negro, when Mike fancied a go at Happy end (7c), I decided to join in.
Mike went first, and took it sensible redpoint style - conserving energy, resting to look at sequences and then completing them with minimum fuss.
I went with my usual not-so-sensible "a muerte" to see where it got me - the answer was not very far into the hard moves of the upper half of the route, but I was still very pleased with the effort. My head is in a good place, but it's not yet on a solid enough foundation for complacency.
I dogged my way to the chains, and lowered with a smile - I'd done all the moves, and that meant I could do the route. I've never had a first go at a 7c go so smoothly.
Mike dispatched it second go, and I decided to just go for it again. I made the chains with only two falls, which I was very happy with. After finding better footwork where I'd fallen, I think I'm already in with a genuine shout of the redpoint next time I pull on.
As the next day was Saturday, we decided to walk round to the quieter far gorge. It was a fair slog, but worth it. Beautiful scenery and stunning walls, with a lot more steep sections and tufas. After a not very finger friendly "warmup" at Oasis we walked along the crag a bit to find a gorgeous 6b+ tufa climb that was almost 40m and finished up practically inside the rock.
As we finished, a French lady was lowering off Catherine Panzeta Jones (7a) and whooping with delight. "That was good then?" asked Mike. "That was better than good, like an orgasm, you know?" came the reply. Obviously I had to have a crack. It was indeed a fantastic line... by 30m I had a grin plastered across my face despite the pain of the pump, and after a slightly desperate lunge, I clipped the chains for another 7a onsight. I was starting to feel like it's something to be expected.
Mike wanted to have a go at Sendero luminoso which goes at 7a+ for pitch one, and 7b if both pitches were strung together. He onsighted pitch one easily, but didn't have enough draws to carry on. I wasn't sure exactly where it finished, but I racked another 8 and set off. The French lady (who we now knew as Lilly) was climbing next to me, and we chatted for a while on the way, which helped keep my mind off what I was trying for. I was climbing relaxed, and the first anchor came surprisingly easily, but then I was on my own. I tensed up a bit and it turned into a real physical battle. I also started to get distracted by fears of an epic descent - if the rope wasn't long enough to lower back to the first anchor, it was far too steep for me to abseil, and I was running out of quickdraws. I skipped two bolts, and it was just as well - I finished with none so the top would have been very run out, and there was one final hard move just below the chains. That move almost snatched the onsight from me, but after a desperate reversal I found some better footwork and reached the finishing jug.
I was properly spent, but elated... my first 7b onsight. I know these are Spanish grades, but I've spent enough time on Spanish rock before without getting these numbers so it's still a sign that I'm climbing at my best.
Mike's a strong climber, and I'm sure there's a lot I could learn from him, but the thing that struck me the most was that his route reading is light-years ahead of my own. On my first attempt at Happy end, every time I got stuck, he gave me the perfect beta; even when I didn't believe it was possible, he was right.
If I want to take my climbing to the next level, this is obviously something I'm going to need to work on. But other than logging the hours on the rock how do you do that? I guess the first step is to keep a more open mind to what's possible, but what then?
Answers on a postcard please (c/o The Top Car Park, Chulilla, Spain), or in the comments below :)
|Team Scotland colours nailed to the mast...|
|Can't beat breakfast in the sunshine, under a lemon tree...|
|"We go this way, right?" "What ze fuck are you talking about?" Joris, Mike and Stephane on the walk to the second gorge|
|Worth the walk though...|
|Stephane embracing the tufas on Magic Line (7a+)|
|Mike on the "Orgasmic" Catrin Panzeta Jones (7a)|