I’m back from a nine day climbing trip in Siurana and as I’m writing this I am looking out of my window and wondering how the hell it can be a sunny 15 degrees celsius in Vienna in February!! It wasn’t even that warm in Spain…
Anyway, for anyone who has never been to Siurana I’d highly recommend going there. It’s a beautiful place featuring a stunning scenery and the climbing is excellent. We were a group of 7, beginners and more experienced climbers alike, and we spent a total of nine days in Spain. My big goal for this trip was to redpoint a 7a. I trained very hard for the past 6 months to reach that goal and I was really hoping that everything would work out. Here’s how it went (I’ll post photos later):
We arrived in Spain the night before and just on our first climbing day it was supposed to rain in Siurana. Shit! It wasn’t too bad though, because we decided to head to Margalef instead. Margalef features conglomerate rock with loads and loads of pockets, which makes for climbs that are very hard to read. I managed to onsight a 6a but failed on a 6b and a 6c afterwards. I just wasn’t used to climbing outside anymore and taking a lot of time to search for hand- and footholds didn’t exactly make things easier. The rain caught up with us mid-afternoon and we left.
This was our first day climbing in Siurana. We decided to go to sector Can Weekend. It is a very small sector that mainly has 4s to 5s and the hardest route there is 6b. We went there in order to have something to climb for the beginners and planned to head to sector Can Toni Gros afterwards. I warmed up on a 5 and flashed the 6b afterwards. It wasn’t easy and it was only my fourth 6b outside, so I was quite happy. We went to Can Toni Gros afterwards and we were amazed by the quality of climbing in this sector. It’s mostly vertical face climbing on edges and pockets on beautiful red limestone. I tried another 6b but fell on my first go and then sent it second go. I then wanted to try a 7a called Jugant amb foc that’s supposed to be nice (and soft haha) but there were other climbers on it. A friend and I decided to try another 7a instead but we were stopped by a nasty roof section right below the top that we couldn’t do. We had to leave a maillon at the last bolt and decided to call it a day.
This day we decided to go to the valley crags. They are very popular and they feature such iconic sectors as El Pati and routes like the famous La Rambla (9a+) and many many more. We wanted to start in Espero Primavera but all the warm ups were busy so we warmed up in a small sector called Can A Prop instead. I did a 5 and an incredibly soft 6a+ and then felt the urge to try something harder. As Espero Primavera was still very busy we decided to head to El Cargol. This is a sector right next to Espero Primavera. It features only a small amount of routes but they look spectacular. You mainly climb on a huge 40 to 50 metre pillar that sticks out between the limestone cliffs around. When I first went to Siurana, me and my friend were standing on the road and looking at that pillar and at the people who climbed on it. It looked really cool and we wanted to climb that too, but we discovered that the only routes up that pillar were 7a or harder and that was too hard for us at the time. However, this time it might not be to hard and I decided to try a 7a called Purgandus Populus that runs right in the middle of the pillar and goes all the way to the top (it says 40 metres in the guidebook, but my 80m rope was not long enough, so maybe 45m). It’s actually a multipitch climb but you can link the two pitches with an 80m rope. I quickly climbed the first 6a pitch which is only 12 metres long and prepared for the battle with the 7a. I wasn’t prepared for the long runouts between bolts however and I yelled take right after I clipped the second bolt of the 7a pitch. The climbing is quite tricky and balancy. You have to use very small holds and the rock is pretty sharp. You also risk quite big falls between every bolt. I slowly made my way up the route, but I was just too scared most of the time and I had my friend lower me about 4 bolts away from the chains because my mind couldn’t take it anymore. My friend tried to climb the route but he only got one bolt higher than I did and then wanted to be lowered. By that time it was getting quite cold and pretty late and we still had to get our gear out. We checked back with our other friends, but nobody really wanted to climb that route. Not only was the bolt spacing pretty far apart, it was also windy and the climb is generally a bit exposed. On top of all that, the highest bolt that my friend clipped was a little loose. As nobody wanted to climb the route, I went up there again, just to see if I could make it to the top (not even thinking about the redpoint). I made it to the last quickdraw but I’d rested on the rope a lot and I wasn’t really confident that I could do the rest of the route. My fingers were getting cold and numb and a small finishing roof was looming above me right before the anchors. At some point however, I took a deep breath and decided that all that fear was pointless and that someone had to get our gear back. So I climbed on, made it to the overhang, found jugs, clipped the last bolt and didn’t loose my cool on the easy runout to the chains. I was so happy when I clipped the chains! I didn’t redpoint this climb, but it was a tough mental challenge to do this route anyway. I was lowered from the chains and I was happy when I had firm ground under my feet again. Tomorrow would be a rest day.
Day 4 was a much needed restday. We went to the ocean and we visited the small town of Tarragona. It was nice!
Day 5 was cold, windy and it rained a little. My fingers were numb and I didn’t enjoy climbing. We went to Can Toni Gros, but I bailed after a 6a warm up climb and one go in Jugant amb foc (7a). I just didn’t feel like climbing on that day. I climbed a 5+, 6a+ and 6b in another sector afterwards.
Disappointed by my performance on day 5, I decided that I might have to try more 6c’s because I didn’t think that I could climb 7a during this trip. We went to Grau dels Masets Esquerra, a nice sector close to the village, that features mostly vertical face climbing. Although I planned on trying more 6c’s I hopped on a 7a called Es algo right after my warmups. Es algo is 25m long and you mostly pull on small edges and sidepulls. You go up to the 4th bolt, were you find a bouldery crux, that involves a long pull from a sharp sidepull and a nasty pinch to a small but surprisingly good crimp. You then have to do about 6 to 10 more moves, that are easier than the crux move, but still very droppable. In the end, you have a tricky mantle onto a slab and then 10m of very easy climbing to the chains. I rested on the rope quite a bit on my first go, but the climb didn’t feel as desperate as the other 7a’s that I had tried. I decided to have another go but I couldn’t figure out the crux moves and took some falls. I was disappointed because the climb seemed harder than I thought on my second go and I didn’t think that I could do it. My friends told me to try another very short (10m) 7a that was supposed to be really easy for tall people. I tried it a few times but I couldn’t even pull the crux move. Unhappy with my performance I tried a 6b+, but I was pretty spent at that point. I failed miserably and lost a lot of skin on the sharp rock. F*ck! Tomorrow would be our last day climbing and the only thing I’d done so far was two 6b’s.
We went to Grau dels Masets again. I actually didn’t want to go there because there were only two 6c’s that didn’t really look too inspiring. A friend wanted to redpoint Es algo however, so we all tagged along. I warmed up and decided to have another go at Es algo. I had to rest on the rope at the crux, but finally figured out a good sequence. The climbing after the crux was still pretty hard for me and I didn’t know if I could link it all. I went to the top, lowered down and decided to go all in on this route. I’d have one more go on it and if I wouldn’t send I’d walk away with the two 6b’s. Skin and strength didn’t permit more than one go anyway. My friend who also wanted to do Es algo failed on 2 attempts and actually fell right after the crux both times. I took a long rest after my first go and went for a little walk to calm down and to recover a little. When I came back, my friend was ready for his final go and I gave him a belay. He climbed the route effortlessly and he didn’t struggle on a single move. Everything just clicked. After I lowered him, he told me to just do the route and that he’d give me a belay. I tied in, put my climbing shoes on, blew chalk from my hands and started to climb. My friend coached me through the moves, I arrived at the crux and I stuck it perfectly. I didn’t think about anything, I was just climbing in a flow. I climbed through all the hard sections and arrived at a massive jug just before the slab. This is when my thoughts kicked in again. I knew I could send the route, but I was afraid to fall on the tricky mantle onto the slab. After some resting on the jug, I decided to comit a 100 percent, mantled onto the slab and didn’t fall. My knees were shivering. Luckily, the last 10 metres were so easy, because I was so afraid to ruin the redpoint. I did make it to the chains however and joy flooded through my veins 🙂 All the hard training paid off. I did it! My first 7a!