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"Venga màquina"

21 Mar 2013

When I abseiled into Lundy a year and a half ago, for a short moment I was all too aware of being a mum.  Heading over the rounded top, hoping that we had more or less chosen the right place for our descent, it suddenly seemed a far cry from clipping bolts in Cheedale.  I had assumed these were the kind of things parents worried about out on the crag: danger, responsibility etc.  I never had the slightest bother teetering above small wires on sweaty small crimps.


Margalef, a lovely sleepy village

Rab, Jon and Heather joined me in Margalef last week.  The climbing was really great, I mean really great, just my thing.  18 degrees in the Barcelona sun when we landed, everything was perfect.

But was it?  I hadn’t climbed on rock for 4 months so I expected to be rusty, but over the course of the first 2 days I grabbed a total of 6 belays (which let’s face it, is a no no).  And... I was having bad dreams.  I’m always rather slow to get going on climbing trips, but things just didn’t seem right.

Margalef Heather

Heather climbing a 6b on a new crag along from Espadelles

In the middle of night 3 it struck me:  I was missing Vanessa.  If I’m honest I have always felt mums (and it usually is mums) who talk about this kind of thing to be a bit wet.  I mean, come on, you’re on holiday, get a grip.  But I realised I was firmly entrenched in the wet category. 

Once I realised the problem I at least accepted it, rather begrudgingly, and stopped grabbing belays and attempted to ‘get a grip’.  This did work and my climbing increased by 2 grades instantly.

Whilst the weather was unpredictable, this just meant I went for the climb everyday option.  This isn’t great for performance, but it is for ticking lots of routes (35 to be precise, over half in the 7s).

Margalef Artisan 7c+ Ernesto on Artisan 7c+

One day I did get on a 7c+ (see above) and joined the locals.  With a bit of negotiation Heather got us higher up the queue and by the end of the day we were fully hanging out with the homies amongst the dreads, dogs and ‘venga’s.  Our new phase is ‘venga màquina’.  Translated this means ‘come on machine’ and can only be used for the most inspirational of performances.  This came in the form of màquina himself, who only had one leg.  We don’t know his real name, but the gang seemed to mainly call him màquina and he was truely the embodiment of a machine.  The route was steep over 25 odd metres and he guided his leg, with the core of a rod of steel into the most contorted of positions.  He fell short of the belay on the final vertical to slab headwall, the crux; one of the most amazing performances I have ever seen.

Margalef view

The view from Espadelles, we liked it up there

I considered having a rest day after my reasonable efforts, in order to go for the redpoint again.  But I only had 2 days left and on the penultimate day it rained and warnings came of more rain.  I just decided to climb.  Of course it was sunny the following day, but who cares, I notched my route tally up 6 more routes. 

I am a rock climber again

06 Mar 2013

At last going rock climbing and the prospect of more rock climbing co-exist in actual reality.  What this means is that I touched rock on Saturday, Sunday and the same will be happening this weekend.  This is quite an event as my identity of ‘rock climber’ has been quite challenged for the last 4 months.

Things are certainly looking up.  The last 4 months have limped by.  I saw no point in pushing my body towards much exercise in November and December as my health wasn’t up to it.  But with the distractions of parties, Christmas and lots of chocolate over, my patience was running low in January.  I just had to get on with things.

Two weeks ago, at the prospect of being ill again, virtually guaranteed on my holiday, I went to the doctors: a chest infection was the diagnosis.  And antibiotics the cure.  Now I feel so much better.

Amazingly I managed to do 80% of the training included in the plan.  And something seems to have paid off, just at the right time.  A stop watch has become a new accessory, slung over the neck and under my armpit as I traverse backwards and forwards for minutes on end.  And I have gone from the ‘please don’t watch me’ stage (it’s been too embarrassing hauling myself jug to jug footless – in an effort to drag some power out of my arms) to ‘it’s ok now – I can be seen in public’.  Training at the Works is so skewed.  Some of the best climbers in the world climb there and it’s very easy to lose perspective.  The fingerboard has been re-positioned in the living room so that Hollyoaks can be easily combined with training.

Dick Williams

The glow of success - Dick Williams on the left

And on Saturday, Siobhan and I made a beeline for the Secret Garden.  My first time on rock since Italy in October, it was pure joy.  And the kind of day that can only be described as perfect.  I tried Dick Williams (font 7b/+) some 4 years ago and the outcome was frustratingly close.  Under the blue sky and warm, glowing sun, we picked away at it.  Over the course of 2 or more hours we brushed holds, put the world to rights (although nothing useful can be recalled) and made steady progress.  I unlocked the slightly scary (but manageable) top and Siobhan was armed with all the necessary info on the bottom.  And then within a 5 minute period, Siobhan did it and so did I straight away.  Just like that.  A hot chocolate at the Fox House was the obvious follow up.

And then it happened all again the following day – I went outside rock climbing.  This time with Jaimella to Burbage South.  She told me that the day helped her rediscover the fun of bouldering.  It was a good day.

And this very Friday morning I will be on a plane hurtling towards Spain, Margalef to be precise.  My first holiday without Vanessa.  Approximately 8 heavenly lie ins are on the cards and up to 10 long, leisurely days lapping up the rock are available.  Nic came back from Siurana some 3 weeks ago.  This is what he saw... I can’t wait.

Siurana view