Tuesday, March 31

La Rambla

Since mid last December I've been preparing mentally and physically to try La Rambla. Almost akin to finally meeting your climbing hero in person, it's strange to have watched all the videos, read all the interviews and even visualized myself climbing on La Rambla well before ever arriving in Siurana -- then the moment when dreams meet reality -- it can be quite surreal. The more I climbed on the route the more I grew an appreciation for it. It's diverse, very tall and demanding. Much like my experience with Biographie last year, the key element of success on this climb is to glide your way up the initial 90 moves before the crux - it's important to try and make this section of the climb feel so easy. In the beginning those 90 moves of 5.14 feel like a project in and of themselves, but after a week or so the 'bottom' of the route transformed into more of a warm up. And yet still the crux felt so hard.


My mantra became 'poco a poco' - little by little. And my attitude remained focused on making small improvements everyday. Even if those improvements were subtle or a slight contribution to how efficiently I could climb through the bottom, I was stoked. After about 6 or 7 days trying the route I fell exiting the crux, after the hardest moves. So at this point I knew that the route could probably go for me, but I had no idea when. In another day? Another month? Next season?

I notice a lot of strong climbers exude quite a bit of confidence. Maybe it's because I'm simply not as strong, or maybe I pressure myself too much to assume success and then, to deal with failure. Regardless, high levels of confidence have never been the path for me. Personally, it's always felt like a lie to be super confident. I prefer to show up empty, and just try. Again and again. Removing expectation is really hard, but the less I arrive with, the better it seems. Maybe it's strange but I almost imagine the idea of success like a sand castle. It's so fleeting, so unpredictable, and so fragile that to put too much faith in it feels like a grave mistake - at least for me. Clearly I am not a competitor!


So with this spirit I just kept punching the clock knowing that maybe one day it would work for me. Thankfully, it did. I finished La Rambla 5.15a, on March 20th. The conditions were perfect, the pressure of a looming storm had arrived, my friends were at the cliff, and legend Dani Andrada was there cheering my efforts. A perfect day to send. Three months of training effort boiled down into a single moment; this is my favorite thing in climbing, and the reason why I can't seem to quit trying hard. A huge thank you to all of my supportive crew; friends and family and supporters and sponsors... it's huge to have everyone behind me.

This was my primary goal for my three month trip to Europe. It is an exciting feeling to have so much time left here, and likewise so many directions I could take at this point. I managed to squeak out a send of 'El Mon de Sofia' 14a after La Rambla and just before the skies erupted. Catalonia sunk into nearly a week of rain and stormy weather.

We left the dire conditions in Siurana and checked out the awesome crag of Margalef - which was also terribly wet - before we drove two hours north to Oliana. I rested for a few days and then climbed in Oliana for two days before returning to Cornudella (Siurana). Recently I've been putting in some effort on this incredible test piece route, 'Chicane' 14c on the Can Piqui Pugui wall. This has quickly become not only my favorite wall at Siurana but one of my favorite walls in the world. Compact rock, incredible, old school and demanding routes. Beautiful scenery and without the crowds of the normal Siurana hang outs. It's awesome. Many of the rigs here are from the late 80s and 90s. It seems like every route here is a half or full letter grade harder than the routes on the 'other side'. 'Siouxie' is one of the best, most interesting and varied 5.13's I've ever done and I completely loved the desperately big moves on 'Llulaby' 12d.

the 7b at Can Piqui are no joke. BEAR CAM PHOTO

A thumbs up moment on 'Pren Nota' BEAR CAM PHOTO

Unfortunately Chicane is really a cool weather route. And it's not been cool. I climbed three times into the final moves of the crux last day there but it seemed futile to try again until it really cooled off. So yesterday I switched gears and instead of hard projecting I went to sample some of the other cliffs around Siurana. It started with an onsight of the amazing and beautiful 'Los Borrachos de Cornu' 13a, and also a send on it's bouldery neighbor 'Pequeno Saltamontes' 13a. 'Ramadan' 13+ was next on the list and a Siurana classic. I must have really nailed the crux on this thing, or perhaps it suited me because the onsight felt (no kidding) easier than some of the 7b terrain on the Can Piqui wall! I flashed it's neighbor 'L'escamaria' 13a but it nearly took all of my skin with it... quite sharp. I had been looking to try 'Pren Nota' 13b for weeks and finally got the spray down for a flash on this one - one of the best in the area I'd say - and ended the night with a headlamp onsight of 'Outback' 13a. It was super refreshing to clip some chains and enjoy some of the other terrain. Now I feel ready to try hard on this wickedly thin, burly thing again! But first a rest day on the Med.

Lastly, I'd like to announce a new partnership with EpicTV. I've done some films with them in the past, but this partnership means that, in short, you will be seeing more video! Everyone loves videos and I think this is going to be a rad situation. Epic has the most content, by far, of any spot online and along with myself - proudly - Adam Ondra and Hazel Findley are also joining on with Epic. Wow. Rad company, seriously I'm honored! 

Below is my most recent release from them that I made with my good friend Celin Serbo on a wicked route up at Independence Pass that I did last August. Enjoy! and look forward to many more Epic releases this next year...

Saturday, March 14

in Spain

Landed in Spain. A week later I'm feeling pretty settled in. Jet lag is done. I'm learning my way around the little town of Cornudella de Montsant. I'm picking up a few more phrases, getting to know the crowd of climbers who are here, sussing where to shop and where to park and go on walks and whatnot. It's nice here. The vibe is rural, tranquilo and very climbing focused.

Most people are projecting. Seems like the thing to do here - to pick something burly and beat your head against the wall repeatedly. It's perfect company for me. This is why I came here, to Spain, to Siurana.

Siurana is beautiful. Only a 45 minute drive from the Mediterranean but it's very mountainous. The crag itself is colorful and varied. There are short and steep sectors, there are tall and vertical ones. One characteristic that seems to be consistent throughout is crimps. Crimps and pockets. The style reminds me of... Smith Rock meets Cathedral / Wailing Wall, Utah. It's not so foreign - it's a similar style that I've climbed on many times. People really love the climbing here, there is a strong contingent of stoked travelers and locals alike. Weekends are busy.

I came to Siurana specifically because I want to try and do La Rambla 9a+. It's a hard route, in a tough area. It's tall and involved and old school. It's awesome.

So far I've climbed 5 days and have been making steady progress. On my third day of tries I linked from the ground into the final boulder problem crux. On the fourth day I did the route with one fall. Yesterday (day five) I refined random beta and made some important links through and into the crux. It's coming along. 'Poco a poco', a local said to me a few days ago - this will become my mantra.. ('little by little').

I'm remembering patience. I'm remembering determination and stoke but also doubt and anxiety. Trying hard routes is hard on your body but also your mind. It's a game I've played so so many times in the past but even still I'm learning and applying new methods. It's exciting, and I'm stoked. I think I can climb this route, but whether or not I actually will is only partly in my control. Wish me luck!

Photos to the left are from homegirl Colette McInerney. We are piecing together a video short for EpicTV -- details to follow!