How Bernabè "worked" and trained to climb Chilam Balam:
- 09/07/2003: Bernabè announces his proposal in Desnivel (Spanish) " La vía es practicable de mayo a octubre, en invierno se moja "y hace mucho frío"... en la tercera de sus 22 cintas ya muestra "un primer paso de bloque superduro". Sólo hasta ahí podría ser 8a+..."
- 22/07/2003 David Munilla expresses his opinion about Chilam Balam (Spanish)
" I’m going to leave Alexander Huber’s opinion apart, although it is the epicenter of all this aureole of opinions, small talks that have risen with the new Chilam Balam proposal. I’ll try to be objective as a witness and as a journalist.
It is true Bernabé Fernández is not a modern climbing ace. He doesn’t travel, he doesn’t publish his on-sight climbs, he’s not visible. Let’s say he’s not trendy. Nevertheless, every now and then he sentences a new grade. Like appearing from nowhere, like all of a sudden. Everybody think he doesn’t climb anymore and… paff, the new news come out. It’s difficult to understand for quite a lot of people, it’s then when something else is sought. It happened with Mojave, 8c+ (I still remember the light weight of those climbers expressing their opinion about something they didn’t even see), it happened with Orujo, 9a+. Of all these proposals, just Mojave, 9 years later, has been confirmed on the grade Bernabé proposed.
As far it’s known, The anchor of Orujo, 9a+, hasn’t been very used, despite some attempts of our best fellow countrymen (Barbero, Andrada, Ramonet). Let’s wait then for its confirmation, the same it would be done with the new Chilam Balam proposal, 9b+. What shouldn’t be done is to leave the route apart and feed the polemic against the person. If Bernabé retired from competition was just because of the pressure, the referees, because he didn’t want to demonstrate to be the best one or not – I’m not saying he was it. In fact, in my opinion, he’s not a valid climber for this type of climbing-, because he didn’t want to demonstrate his climbings… Well, I was in Chilam Balam, I’ve talked to the protagonists, I have collected not only the opinion from Bernabé some of which I write here, but I’ve also talked to the belayers, of course in a subtly way and somehow pushed by the polemic.
After that, I’ve seen how an outstanding climber has squeezed himself in order to offer me a worth seeing spectacle. The route neither allow one only position for catching it graphically nor allow to repeat the movements. The 70% is a roof and the bolts are quite distant, that’s why I just left Bernabé moved forward at full speed. I’m not going to say I assisted to a second send of the route, but I did see the talent, the endurance of a climber that trained to climb up by there. Really fluid, dynamizing the sequences, placing every foot on the right place, scratching at the maximum every centimeter of the lock-off.
There are some movements I had to smile after the camera. I was excited and impressed. I’ve been seeing high standard routes from privileged positions and I don’t usually let myself go by what I’m seeing. When we both got down to the ground floor I said him “Canichi, I don’t know whether that is 9b+, I need to think on the route. I have just got stuck”. What did I ask him? If you’d go to try Orujo tomorrow, would you be able to send it? He categorically answered me: yes. He’d only have to go over the boulder movements in the upper part, but he’d do it again. He said that Chilam Balam was in another dimension and that he was used to “see” what others haven’t seen yet.
We’re talking about a climbing genius and we have to recognize it. I did ask him why he wasn’t more cautious, why he didn’t offer a more subtle grade, 9a+/b. "Grades are not chosen by us, they’re offered by the routes. I did doubt between the 9b and the plus. The answer is in the end of the route, after some 57 meters of roof climbing, some movements on nearly drawn crimps". How does Bernabé take all the critics about his route? Indifferent and recovering from his injuries. The anti-inflammatory to relieve the pain he took over the last period, have provoked him a "boomerang" effect from which he’s got to get out.
He was interested in producing a video. Whether he does it or not, it will take some time and never because he had to justify anything and not at all because a common climber petition.
Now, there are hardly some quickdraws hanging from Chilam Balam and if someone wants to put them on is necessarily going to be really strong. What this guy from Málaga has got clear is that this is his last bet for the high difficulty and he thinks he left it quite well signed."
" Conozco a Bernabé, se sabe concentrar bien en sus objetivos, pero ahí está Orujo, donde hizo cosas que no me parecen bien: tapó agarres naturales al lado de las presas artificiales después del encadenamiento (quién sabe si él los usaba o no) y rompió una presa, natural, que yo usaba para hacer el paso. Me da igual que cogiera esos agarres que ya no existen o no, hay que respetar la roca y también las formas de dar solución a un paso de otros escaladores. Y podría contar otros muchos casos, como el de Akira (1995, Francia, 9b), que conozco bien gracias a fuentes muy fiables: ¡la vía ya no es como cuando se encadenó!, hay presas rotas y otra tapada; probablemente antes se tratara de un 8c+/9a, una vía muy dura para la época, pero no la primera de esa cotación." ...
" I know Bernabe very well and he understands to put his focus onto his projects. But there is Orujo, where he made things which I don´t like: He chopped natural holds next to his artificial holds after his ascent (who know whether he used them or not) and he chopped off another natural hold, which I used in order to make the move on the crux. It´s not important to me, whether he used that holds or not, but we have to respect the natural rock and, furthermore, all the different ways in which other climbers do the moves. And I could tell of many other stories like the one of Akira, a story, which I know very well: the route does not exist in its original version any more, in which it got redpointed. There are broke holds and others are glued. Before these changes it maybe had been 8c+/9a, a very hard route at that time, but it hasn´t been the first of that grade!" ...
- Editorial of Desnivel No. 205, 12/03 by José Mendieta
" Chilam Balam / Estar en la altura
To verify information is a basic duty of the public media and we don´t put this under question! In sports there are two ways to verify an information: either there is a journalist present or there are eye-witnesses, which verify, what has happened. Just because of the very special characteristics of the climbing world, the climbing media do have another source of information: to report, what the protagonists say, because the journalist only can report “what has happened there without being there”. But in the absence of solid information one needs at least convincing information. Let´s analyze the situation in search of facts, proofs and witnesses.
The day of the ascent
When we asked Bernabe, he answered that on that day he was belayed by Josellilo de Anteqera. Bernabe wasn´t willing to give further information. Not, not any other journalist (as we know), was able to locate Josellilo. Then, it was told us that he traveled to Great Britain and that he didn´t return.
During the preparation
Traditionally, Bernabé doesn´t climb with climbers of similar strength as well as he doesn´t climb with local climbers. For that reason, nobody could tell anything about the progress on the route. These witnesses would help us to get an idea about what was going on. And normaly the climbers know about how the others progress in their projects and this is not because of keeping the others under observance, but because it´s simply normal! But Bernabé was belayed only by beginners.
His previous ascents
Bernabé bases his own credibility in his previous ascents of 8c+ (Mojave), 9a and 9a+ (Orujo), each being the first of its grade in Spain. The fact that Ramonet has confirmed the grade 8c+ of Mojave, does not prove the ascent of Chilam Balam, a route, which should be 9b+. And similar to Chilam Balam, the local climbers show skepticism when it comes to speak about Orujo: they couldn´t see Bernabé making progress in this project. But what´s known very well is that Bernab´s chopped natural(!) holds after his ascent for which he proposed the grade 9a. Then again he chopped holds, two of the three artificial holds, and then he proposed the grade 9a+. For sure, these facts do not deliver any convincing information.
After the ascent
Daniel Andrada went to Chilam Balam with the same interest as he would try any other hard route. What Dani thought about Bernabés ascent was, that “when he said that he made it, then that should be the truth.” What he could see was that it is difficult, the protection is wild, some runouts look even almost dangerous – surprising that you would go there only belayed by beginners, but still possible. But, above all, he could see that the finish of the climb – a long and runout boulder sequence between two bolts – does not show the typical signs (mainly rubber on footholds, chalk marks, magnesia on the holds) which should remain after working climbing a project for years.
All these things are there. We have the right and we even have the obligation to inform the public about these things. Bernabé told us now that, after all the polemics, we made him loosing the interest in climbing. On the other side, he told us from the very first moment after announcing the world´s first 9b+ that he would stop climbing at high level. Nobody asked him to announce the world´s first 9b+, but – yes – we would like to ask him to meet the height of his own proposal. "
" Speaking of 5 stars routes, you are one of the few climbers who have tried Chilam Balam. What do you think of the route and what happened around it ?
I tried it and I would go back, because now I have more time. I tried it 3 years ago and at that time I was not in my best shape.
The route is hard, long and hard to know about its difficulty.
It has many sections, but at the same time, plenty of rests. Some of them you can spend half an hour.
On the controversy, I'd rather be elsewhere. Sport climbing, unlike other sports with rules and judges, just have athletes.
The same applies to the mountain, one says to have climbed up and .. lying is easier. It has lied more than once and it has its influence. But there is also confidence.
You have to know that climbing is for everyone.
It is good that there are no rules, that you can not put everything in a box, not just black and white ... It's the magic of climbing.
I do not know if he did it, I don't say yes or no. Some people doubt because nothing is known about the belayer, because there was not magnesium, or the shoe brands ... That's what we all know. I do not know the solution to solve the controversy. Maybe you need further documentation, record your climbing. It is normal to give a situation like we are discussing. That's the benefit of the doubt, people have a right to doubt.
It is a visionary and futuristic route. It motivates me, I want to try it and I do not care if it was climbed or not. Barnabè (Fernandez) had a vision. "
- Nobody can prove Bernabè Fernandez didn't climb Chilam Balam
- If Bernabè or anybody can't prove his ascent, it's not proved he's a liar
- The only proof for an ascent could be many witnesses during the ascent (a video can be edited, a single belayer could be a liar ...)
- In 2003 in the crag of Vilanueva del Rosario there was just a 7c to warm up and Chilam Balam, a project possibly harder than 9a+
We find it particularly inspiring that the usual self-focused sending process had to give way to the combined passion of two friends and we echo Andrew Bisharat’s words when he says that
“Even in sport climbing, this typically individualistic, internal, self-centered thing, the climbing partnership has once again, this week, revealed itself to be one of the most important factors in achieving the impossible.”