To be honest, I’m so glad and lucky that I’ve been able to fund myself enough over the years that I’ve been to Siurana 6 times now in 12 years. I can only be grateful for the fact that I’ve been able to work it into my life that I could, and still can, take these opportunities to get to locations such as this!
Photos will come in the next few days (although there’s not many as there was only two of us meaning it’s tricky getting shots) once I can get them off Naomi’s camera - side note, if anyone is looking for a new camera, you’d be doing well to consider the Panasonic Lumix TZ10 - stunning pictures from a compact camera and with a ridiculously good zoom to go with it.
Amusingly, things most definitely did not go to plan from a climbing aim point of view. Many months ago, I listened to an interesting interview with Irish hurdles runner, Dervil O’Rourke and she described how as a short-distance runner, she hadn’t run more than 250 meters in a single go while in a training session (at minute 8:10). I’d known that I was focusing heavily on bouldering (and indoors at that due to time constraints this year) so I’d been essentially doing the same as this since returning to Sheffield last September. I only realized at the end of the first day that the last time I’d even put on a harness (bar using one in the house for hanging weights off) was the lead comp back in mid-October! So evidently, my physical conditioning for climbing long distances, and the efficiency required for such feats, was not on par with my own keenness for such pursuits.
It came with this: my ideas of ticking getting back on L’Men’s just didn’t make sense with only 6 days to spend in Spain and it being Naomi’s first time in Siurana, what was the point in going to a different location? For other reasons, it also didn’t make sense but I’ll get to them in good time :) To be honest, I had no real ambition of even really trying to send the route (I didn’t have time) and was only thinking of going with the idea of gauging fitness for such a route, and to re-familiarize myself with the moves for a good attempt at Easter. As it happened, I didn’t need to go to Monstant to get that idea - it was fairly evident from the first day of climbing that I was seriously rusty when it came to route climbing!
On the first day, after ticking some 6’s and low 7’s to remind myself of the climbing style in Siurana (vertical to slightly overhanging and crimpy), I jumped on Mandragora for an attempted onsight. For those who don’t (and those that do) know Siurana, it’s the most amazing looking orange streak of rock you can see as you drive into the Siurana valley - 35 meters of 7b/7b+ climbing (getting upgraded now due to polish). So I thought it would be an ideal test but that I should crush it (weirdly, I’ve never really been on it before - bar climbing the first two bolts years ago to retrieve draws) - I was pretty confident in my fitness for such an outing.
Boy was I wrong!
What roughly happened was I decided to climb it at about 4pm in the day in full, blazing, sunshine - which only an idiot would do on this route as, it being an ultra-classic, is heavily polished (as it turned out). But to top that off, I cruised up the first 3 bolts and started to notice a strange sensation in my arms (I think it's called a savage pump)....so climbed straight into the crux section......realized I’d made a hash of it as I was going the wrong way and on too tiny credit card edges for holds.......so bore down (like a boulderer) and down-climbed to the half-rest......and realized I’d climbed about 5 meters in total....and climbed like a boulderer.....so my forearms completely seized and I ran away to hide and have a re-assessment of my plans for the week. I’m not kidding, I couldn’t climb for the rest of the day after it, my arms were that solid. Muppet :)
You can see the theme of the week though, my body was conditioned for bouldering mode, and it took me 4 whole days to un-do much of this conditioning and climb in the way needed to get up sports routes (a beautiful balance of power and efficiency). So I spent the following few days showing Naomi around some sectors, and I used the time as an excuse to get back on an old classic I'd tried a few years ago, Anabolica. Last time I tried this was not in the frame of mind for projecting hard routes due to other issues distracting me in life, so it felt time to jump back on it and see if I could use the bouldering strength to send it and kill an old acquaintance.
- Worked the moves at the end of day two.
- Tried it twice on day three (refining sequences - trying to work out how to do the final red-point throw in a way that seemed like it might be remotely possible when I got there pumped after climbing the first 5 meters :) - no go, couple of slips threw me off.
- Took off a day to relax and actually have some chill-out time.
- 4th day, felt really strong, tried it in blazing sunshine and got really excited that I’m still learning about movement in climbing and how to stay efficient after cruising the first crux and falling from the traverse. I love climbing for doing this, I’m still learning so much! Started to get stressed a bit as only a day left of climbing but why not give it a go on the last morning?
- 5th day - stuffed up the first crux and fell off. Not happy! Rested 20 minutes and got on again, arms were gassed and collapsed spectacularly at the crux once again. Started swearing at the route and had a full-on rant (anyone remember me ever doing this before? I can’t!). Tried to climb it clean to the chains but could barely pull on. Mad. Still though, it took out my frustration to do it and I walked away clear of conscience from it. It’ll be there again......
Anyway, to finish off, thankfully Naomi had the good idea to head back down to the valley to finish off our last evening. So on-sighted some 7a’s and finished off with a 7b+ on-sight in really nice style. So at least the week of punishment on routes paid off and I’m back to where I want, give or take.
Honestly though, I shouldn’t feel frustrated as it is only the first bit of sports climbing this year and my first time of routes, but I was genuinely hoping to start off on an amazing note this year. Such is life though, and as always the routes will be there again in the coming months/trips/years ! The realistic, rational person in me recognizes that I shouldn’t be expecting miracles on the first day so I’ve done the important thing, figured out all the positives from the trip, what needs to be sorted out in the coming weeks ahead and move on. Psyche!!!!