Hola! 4 more members of Equipo Escocia are now back in Scotland after spending an inordinate amount of time eating bocadillos, drinking cafe con leches and of course...climbing in and around the valleys of Siurana
! Since my last blog update an already very impressive list of ascents has been added to by every member of the crew, as everyone pushed to finish their projects and finish on a high.
On Sunday Calum, Geek, Gary, Mark and Ross drove back to Santa Linya
to complete some unfinished business, whilst me and Robbie decided to stay at the campsite in Siurana for 3 extra days rather than return to Santa Linya, as I still had an elusive project to tick off...
The day before had been named the official "Day of Sendage" due to Gary, Geek and a mystery member of the team doing very well indeed. Gary ticked Migranya (8b) and Geek completed his project Dogma (8b+) - a massive relief for the guys who had been so determined to finish off these routes. With this being theoretically the last climbing day in Siurana, the pressure was on to get psyched and send. After arriving at the crag to the news that Geek had been successful, we were inspired to watch Gary and give it our all in our own performances. As Gary climbed the atmosphere at the bottom of L'Olla sector
intensified as he made his way up Migranya - everyone knew how much it meant to him to complete the route, and I reckon we were more nervous than Gary himself! Looking calm and in control he neared the top, composed himself for one final time and went for the last few moves...and clipped the chain, resulting in a very happy man!
The time had arrived for me to try my 8a - L'escamarla-Ramadan link, of which I had only tried the bottom section after completing the 7c+ which runs parallel to Ramadan (8b)
named L'escamarla. The route starts off on steady ground up to a ledge before traversing right into a bulge to a bouldery first crux, then with steady climbing up the 7c+ until a traverse onto the top half of the 8b, with a spicy crux and a precariously technical slab to finish! On my first attempt I came off at the crux in the 8b section (not the actual crux of the 8b....just to point that out!) but quickly worked out a better sequence and went straight to the top. I rested at the foot of the wall until I felt ready to go for it - thinking of the rests, the sequence, the pace...it was getting late and I decided to get on the route before a headtorch ascent would be in order! The valley was emptying out and only the Scots remained. Quite by chance, I happened to be climbing at the same time as another member of the group as they were on their sending mission...(We have been asked not to give details of their climb as of yet over the internet but watch this space...) The atmosphere was amazing - the Scots had taken over the valley and the echos of "ALLEZ!!" and "Go on Nat!" as the last of the daylight provided a dull glow on the rock. It was as though we were competing in an open-air amphitheater, with shouts of "COME OOOONN!" ricocheting across the valley. I was now at a shake-out just below the crux on the 8b section...absorbing the atmosphere and at the same time trying to recall my sequence for the upcoming crux moves. A tiny two finger undercut...feet high...right foot out right, lock out and twist....cross through with left to a side pull...cross over the top of that with right...bump right foot up...get intermediate to steady and left foot out far left.....reach to good jug. After a deep breath I traversed to the undercut and did everything as I had planned, reached the jug and went "Ohhh...yay!" Robbie called up "Are you at the jug Nat? Through the crux?" "Yes!" I replied with surprise. More good holds followed and all that was left was the tricky slab with very long runouts! I tried to compose myself on the rest just before the slab. Night was falling fast and I knew that the dark grey rock would be rather hard to interpret in the dim light. I moved slowly and carefully...a foot slipped..but still on and keeping calm. Last quickdraw before chain clipped and the hardest move on the slab completed, I felt as though the route was mine. After shaking out on a rail I moved to a very positive crimp and then up to another just above, the chain just up and right. I weighted it and moved my right foot up but in a split second I was falling through thin air before stopping just at the crux...I couldn't believe it. The crimp and it's surrounding layer of rock had broken off just before the chain, luckily just skimming past Robbie belaying below. I was so disappointed and the thought of having to do the route all over again after doing everything right, and being robbed of the tick by a hold breaking made me feel ill. Just as my confidence was peaking after having a tough first few weeks dealing with my finger injuries, it seemed as though all the mileage and the gradual build-up of my skills climbing on rock over the 5 weeks would leave me just cruelly short of ticking my first 8a. We were due to leave the next day to Santa Linya, but me and Robbie had a different plan...
A long rest day at the campsite followed on Monday with many of the people we had met during the trip enquiring enthusiastically about the night before's events: "Did you get your 8a?" The truth hurt and yet deep inside me I had a steely determination to overcome the hurdle that the route had thrown at me; I was not prepared to go home without clipping the chain of that damn route! It took so much concentration and focus to get to where I was when it happened - I wasn't pushed physically as much as mentally, but it certainly took a lot out of me and showed me how much I wanted to succeed. Could I do it again?
The next day I was sat at the foot of the wall feeling nervous ( perhaps more than in a competition!) and tried to block out the previous attempt's disappointing end. It was a hot morning and the tension was building. Robbie reassured me that there was no pressure to get it first go today, I still had plenty more attempts if necessary, but the truth was that I desperately wanted to get it over and done with, as much as I loved the route! I started up, feeling less nervous as the moves flowed. I tried to climb quickly as by now I knew the sequence pretty much perfectly and had my rests timed well. I sprinted to the rest below the 8b crux section. Recovery was quick and concentration high. Calmness echoed in the valley as I prepared for the storm of the crux - two-finger undercut, over to the side-pull...but this time I had accidentally reached for the higher part of the sidepull in my over-exuberance to get through the crux. I thought it was over, but prevented panic from taking over as I resorted to spontaneity and improvisation over my carefully planned sequence. Fortunately for me, my spur-of- the-moment mistake sequence worked (perhaps even better than the last one?!) and I was on the jug again. Now onto the slab...this time I was particularly hesitant and slowed my speed right down...paranoid about breaking holds or feet slipping. I came to the tricky move and once again half-improvised on my sequence. I took so long completing the slab that I heard Robbie call out to friends who were climbing a bit further along from us to see if they could see me! A few holds further, past the brown scar on the rock where I had torn off the hold, I continued up to the final jug...and clipped before giving any sign of relief or celebration just in case the hold breaking was some sort of revenge for getting too complacent on the first redpoint attempt! I had to rest for a bit to absorb the moment and calm down before getting the clips out and lowering to the ground. I was incredibly pleased if not a little bit shaky but all in all - mission was completed!
On the same day, Robbie ticked his 7th 8b of the trip - Pati Pa Mi, rounding off what has been his most successful trip yet, completing 3 x 8b+'s too. It is unbelievable how quickly he has been ticking off these routes at such a high level, and I am looking forward to our upcoming journeys abroad and in the UK here I'm sure he'll continue to rip it up!
I've learned a lot about my climbing on this trip - I had to work around my injuries and realised that I can do hard routes if I put my mind to it, and if I truly believe in my abilities. Earlier on in the trip I was hesitant and scared of pushing it too far with my pulley injuries, and would get frustrated at being unable to climb at my best. In the end I learned to appreciate the bigger picture and just enjoy climbing with friends in one of the most amazing climbing locations in the world with amazing weather! I got some good mileage ticked, gained experience and most of all...had fun! I also learned many other things - don't touch electric fences, don't order anything with chicken at the Climber's Bar, the fact that I can't coil a rope at all (or uncoil it for that matter!), that Principe biscuits and Nestea are a life-saver and that the way from Santa Linya to Siurana involves a mandatory drive through Decathlon car park...
Bring on the next trip!