Thursday, December 24

Goodbye Oliana

My campaign at Oliana has come to a close. Six weeks on the grind, learning the cliff, the random characters and trying to adapt my climbing to the various styles. Some routes felt super hard, others felt light duty. We had sun, clouds, heat, humidity, perfection... essentially every kind of weather experience aside from rain. Not a single day of rain. Pretty insane.

I really like the way that I intimately get to know a crag after a long campaign. The approach, the little spot where I drop my stuff and stage for the day. I learn beta for routes I've never tried just by watching the masses. Every cliff has a language of it's own; down to the birds, the creatures, the conditions, the style... it's fun to learn this language over time.

The last week at the cliff was some of my best time there. Climbing that I'm very proud of and also just some amazing long days enjoying the place and people. Many of the team sent their respective projects and the stoke was high. Last Thursday I finished off 'Joe-Cita' 14d, an incredible line that combines Joe Kinder's 'Joe Blau' 14c and the crux of 'Morronita' 14b. Usually link ups are not my favorite but I absolutely loved the climbing on this route. High quality from start to finish, with a heart breaker crux at the very end.

The last thing on my list of goals was a personal best in my first try climbing. Sam was a true homie on Sunday and journeyed up 'Fish Eye' 14b to remind himself of the beta and give me the spray. It has been a life goal of mine to flash this grade and I thought after watching a few climbers before me that this specific route could be a good option. I was super nervous, gripping a little too hard, holding tension when I didn't need to and perhaps overthinking sequences. I gradually relaxed but also found an unexpectedly early pump. Resting as I climbed, I neared the finish and finally let go of my expectations, finishing the route elated and so stoked for this milestone. Something I had dreamt about and looked forward to for a long while.

The following day Sam convinced me to check out his massive route and huge undertaking: 'American Hustle' 14b. Several hard cruxes, decent rests in-between, high quality rock. Sam and Walker did a great job on this route and I am still so surprised that it's not done more often. Hard for the grade and without fixed draws might be enough to keep away suitors. It's a damn shame. I loved climbing it.

Last day at the crag and everyone was stoked up. My good buddy Uri Maraver sent 'Gran Blau' 14a/b under headlamp, Sam one hung Joe-Cita, my girl Ari sent her first ever 7b with style -meanwhile I pumped my way up the amazing 'Mind Control' 14b. Three exceptional last days, it made my final hike out a little easier.

Now... I feel ready for some rest, holidays, and a change of pace, scenery and crags. I hope everyone out there is soaking up the final days of 2015. See you on the other side!

Tuesday, December 15

Oliana days

Progress here in Catalunya. We have our little apartment, bathed in radiant sunshine every morning as soon as the golden ball crests the mountain behind Figols. When we first arrived the sun hit our patio shortly after 8 in the morning, now it's closer to 9:45.

I certainly have the feeling that it's winter here - Christmas lights, cute little Catalan Tios, short days and cold air. The difference from Colorado is the sun. The sun soaks the crag every day, and yet still it can feel bitter cold with even a slight breeze. That being said there are definitely days where we are boiling hot. The cliff is primarily south facing so altogether it can be a battle to find the perfect conditions. Regardless, there has yet to be a day - now after over a month - when we have not been able to climb at all. Pretty insane. We are lucky in this sense. Very lucky. 

And now my time here is coming to a close. About week left, a handful of climbing days. A few days before Christmas my girlfriend Ari and I are moving to Vic, near Barcelona, to change the scene and enjoy the holidays a little. More climbing, but a different pace for sure. It will be a welcome change. I usually schedule my climbing trips with six to eight weeks of performance and a good month to just enjoy climbing near the end... before the cycle starts all over again. 

This trip has been very successful for me. After Papichulo I immediately turned my attention to 'Power Inverter' 15a. A power endurance test-piece, there is nowhere to hide. From the first hard move to the last I did not rest - I couldn't. A pumpy finish and nerve-racking bitter end. Pretty unique and insane features on this route. Many, many underclings. Snappy. I loved it. A great contrast from Papichulo. Tara Reynvaan shot the above image and she is finalizing work on a video - keep an eye out! 

The next objective for me would provide a different kind of contrast. 'Duele La Realidad' 14d begins with a savagely hard boulder problem. Roughly with moves, and in comparison to all the bouldering I did this summer it felt like honest V13. After this low crux you have a good rest, and then a long and involved mid 5.14 to the anchors at the 50 meter mark. I struggled with the bottom. The hardest moves revolved around a super fickle right hand pocket / edge that I could never seem to get perfectly when climbing from the ground. I tried again and again. I was in no shape for short, heinous bouldering but futhermore this route just really challenged me. On Sunday, in a cloud of mist, after many efforts on the bottom I tied in for one last try. I made it through the bottom, and fought my way, resting as I could, up the gut of the cliff into a massive tufa system up high, swinging my arms to warm up as the wintery, humid cold settled in. On paper not the hardest route of my trip but the most rewarding for sure. Sam Elias shot the images above. 

I've got one more hard one lined up, yesterday I fell agonizingly close on my second try. But as I was reminded on Duele, patience is key. Hopefully I can pull it off in my last few days here. Happy December to everyone! 

It's that time... do it.