fredag 14. mars 2014

January, the month that passed me by

As I mentioned in my last post; the real red-point. I got very close on Fabelita on new years eve, falling basically fresh at the endurance crux, just slightly missing a hold..

Then January arrived and despite my efforts I felt worse on the route. Obsessed with the project and unable to really focus on anything else the month then just seemed to pass me by.


There were however a precious few days of respite, days where I for one reason or another got away from the cave and managed to at least partly enjoy myself climbing on something different.

The first of these came with my friends and team mates Ole Karsten and Olav coming down for a weekend trip from Sogndal (Norway) psyched on seeing the awesome cliffs of Terradets and Margalef.
Having thought Fabelita would be in the bag long before they arrived, I had casually volunteered to act as a guide showing them around.

Initially leaving the cave when conditions seemed good felt every kind of wrong, but inspired by the older guys youthful enthusiasm, I found myself enjoying a bit of a break. 
Terradets turned into a pretty good day, including a surprise send of Trecking (8a+) in the sun, before a rushed return to the cave and a decent attempt on Fabelita just at the last light was fading.     

"The classic wall of Bruixes in Terradets, here in a photo slightly fucked by blogger..."

"Olav on perhaps the best route on the wall, Energia Positiva, 35m, 7c+"

"Olav nearing his highpoint on Energia, again photo for some reason a bit fucked by blogger..."

"Olav testing the final heartbreaker moves of Energia, Ole Karstens highpoint" 

After the day in Terradets bad weather struck and we once again found us returning to the cave.
Conditions were however far from prime so both Magnus and I spent the day training on routes we had done before instead of getting shut down on the projects.

"Roger observing how a tufa that was dry earlier in the day now seem to be leading a small waterfall, Olav and Ole Karsten climbing on a bouldery 7b+ in the background"

Bad weather, often a source of much frustration, has at least for the photographer in me it´s brighter sides. When the rain finally stops these beautiful light conditions sometimes appear, natural phenomenons better described through the camera then with words.    

"The rainbow graces the cave with it´s presence, a sight I´v´not seen before in my 4 season here"  

"The rainclouds dissipating in the surreal light of the setting sun" 

"The humidity on the ground rising up to form the fog "la niebla" over the Santa Linya village in the foreground and Avellanes in the background. 30-ish sec exposure at around 3 in the morning."   

Despite the heavy rain of the previous day, Ole Karsten and Olav were psyched to go climbing. With basically everything wet, we got in the car and drove down to Margalef, about 1,5 hour with me or Magnus behind the wheel, but more like 2 hours++ with Ole Karsten driving like an old lady.

Once there, we found the valley soaked, so like everybody else we ended up at Espadelles. Magnus rapidly onsighted the few dry routes we could find, a brand new 7c+ with no chalk and holds breaking left and right, and a super cool 8a that I should have done, but didn´t, falling several times at the last hard move trying to find a small blind pocket.
Ole Karsten and Olav also managed to find a piece of almost dry rock, Olav getting very close and Ole Karsten sending.

"Olav on the first boulder crux on a classic short semi dry 7b+"  

"Ole Karsten, having stuck the move, manages to go all the way"

Ole Karsten and Olav then returned to their grown up jobs in Norway, leaving Magnus, Roger and me once again alone in the house.
With the cave now dripping wet, Neanderthal was as it usually is when Magnus is here, more or less impossible, so we got back in the car and headed up to Oliana for a day.  

In Oliana I had a surprisingly good day, on-sighting both a tricky bouldery 7c and a technical endurance 7c+, in addition to playing around a bit on Marroncita (8b).
Roger had a great warm-up flash attempt on the first 7a+ part of Marroncita, but as the day went on seemed to get more and more tired, getting to the same place, but unable to go the last two meters to the anchor.
Magnus, continuing his string of bad luck, warmed up on-sighting a new 8a+ and then struck out. First by falling off the on-sight on Gorilas en la niebla (8b+) some 40+ meters up on the upper slab. With all the hard climbing more or less behind him, he found himself out of quickdraws in a maze of similar looking tufa blobs where the rain had washed away all the chalk.
Frustrated he then got on China Crisis (8b+), but after a good fight struck out again on the last move of the crux mid section.  

"Magnus on his on-sight attempt on Gorilas en la niebla 8b+"

"Magnus 40-ish meters up on the final slab of Gorilas en la niebla 8b+"


Now based on these pictures and short stories it might seem as we got around and climbed a lot, but the truth is that this was 3 days in a month, the rest being spent getting shut down on the projects in the cave..

"Roger setting up for the crux on his project Arqueologico (7c) in the cave"

"While Roger chills in a knee-bar, I contemplate changing my barely 2 month old Sportivas.." 

 "Having gotten through the hard lower section of Arqueologico for the first time, Roger, having recovered as much as possible in the knee-bar, is faced with the final steep 7a section to the anchor" 

Roger then fell of a few moves higher on a awkward high heel hook rock-over slap move, joining me and Magnus in the close but no cigar category.

Despite wet holds Magnus kept trying Neanderthal, 95% of the time getting up to the dyno just to slip and slide and fail to stick the move.
Like last spring it turned into a sort of routine, one go in the evening, slippery and wet holds, falling at the dyno, going down or pulling back up and easily linking the section.

"After having pulled back up Magnus sticks the dyno every time, here on on a rare in the sun attempt before the rain came."

"The normal conditions on Neanderthal, black tufa equals wet tufa, here from last spring" 

At some point the collective then gained a few members again when my polish friend Matheusz and his friend Wojciech moved in for a few days. 

 "Primo and Gonzalo, living in their cars down at the parking, joining us one evening. Almost a party, just missing the girls.. From left to right: Roger, Magnus, Primo, Gonzalo, Matheusz, Wojciech"

And just like that, january was gone. Except for what I´v written above, a vague memory I barely recall.
Luckily february was coming up, a month I´v always felt better. But since this was about january, february will have to wait for the next post :)

fredag 21. februar 2014

The "real" red-point

Since I started spending my winters in Spain 4 years ago, I´v constantly been involved with a project somewhat beyond my current climbing level.
When I first came here I figured since I had done several 8a´s in the past and up to 8A boulder the year before, I should be able to get up an 8b route quickly.
I was wrong.
I got completely shut down, having focused on bouldering for many years I was not mentally prepared for the challenge.

I remember hearing about how easy it was to red-point hard routes in Spain. It seemed to be just a question of having a bit of endurance and trying enough times, given enough time anyone could do it.
Onsighting was the real challenge, the "pure" form of sport climbing, much harder since you only had one chance.
Now that might be true if hard red-pointing was about sending something in 2-10 tries, or if it was just a physical effort, but it´s not.
Red-point as a concept starts as soon as you have failed to do a route in your first attempt, be that onsight (without beta) or flash (with beta), but sending a route well within your level and comfort sone in a few tries has nothing to do with hard red-pointing, or what I would call real red-pointing.

"After a failed flash attempt and a small foot slip Magnus easily dispatches Essencia de la Resistencia 8c(+) in Terradets on his third go, a red-point light in lack of a better word"

A real red-point is when you need to spend a lot of time working something because the difficulty is not just far beyond your onsight level, but beyond what you are capable of linking together after figuring out the moves.
It´s so hard that even when you can do most of the sections fairly easily you can still manage to fall of 30, 50, 100 times or more once you start going from the ground.
This because, despite what some might think, hard sport climbing is not just a physical effort, nor is it about climbing with pumped arms, slugging through the motions, lifting one arm after the other.
It´s about linking complex moves together, often hitting small holds or pockets with precision (low % moves) and somehow having enough energy to pull at 80-90% at the end of a hard sequence.
It´s about staying focused and motivated, pulling hard and fighting while at the same time saving energy, climbing efficiently and recovering on the route, keeping the pump away long enough to get to either the next rest or the top.

To achieve success at your very limit everything needs to come together.
You need to have the necessary power and endurance, be rested, motivated, focused and warmed up, climb flawlessly and then on top of that have a bit of luck and good conditions.  
It´s for me by far the most demanding aspect of climbing as a sport, requiring just as much mental strength as physical power, endurance and technique.

"Primo, a true red-pointer, here facing his nemesis move at the very top of Analogica Natural ext 9a"

Now the line between a boulder an a route can be blurred, there are short bouldery routes and there are long boulders. In theory red-pointing a boulder can in some cases be much the same as red-pointing a route or visa versa.
This has never been my experience, but coming from the wizard himself I can´t ignore that this in some cases might be true.

For me personally bouldering is a different game entirely. Usually the moves separately are harder, but in most cases there are so few of them that I get many tries and don´t need to save energy or climb efficiently. I need to focus, but rarely for long, the battle often being over one way or the other before I ever really start fighting.

"Me on the classic boulder L'Æil de Sybille in Font, hard single move, short battle"

On a route at my very limit it's different.
Because of conditions or just the difficulty and physical drain of the climb, you more often then not only get one good try in a day.
Knowing that, the mental focus required becomes that much stronger, a focus that given time becomes a demanding mental drain.
Climbing is easy, it's all the the waiting thats hard.
Keeping the motivation over time and preforming at 100% every try after having had all day to psych yourself out. This is something I´v never encountered on a boulder, not by a long shot.

"Magnus on the ultimate mental challenge, Neanderthal 9b. Getting only one try a day, he has to climb flawlessly up a solid 9a with barely any place to stop, just to face this super frustrating 7C dyno"

Onsighting, although difficult in it´s own way, can´t really compare.
This because as soon as you get over the initial fear of falling and gain the ability to climb without restraints in unknown terrain, it becomes fairly easy to give the attempt a 100% effort. After all, you only have that one try and wether you make it or not it, that will be the end of it.    

"Adam "the Wizard" Ondra on a pure no chalk or draws on-sight in Margalef"  

"Magnus taking a mental break from the hardship of trying to red-point Neanderthal and enjoys a nice  day of on-sighting in Rodellar last spring. Here bagging the classic 8c+ Cosi Fan Tutte"     

The red-point process starts out the same as the onsight attempt with lots of motivation and energy, and as long as there is progress confidence stays high and it´s fairly easy.
But then, once you start hitting a wall, falling over and over again at the same move or getting negative progress, suddenly struggling on something you felt good on before, it becomes harder and harder to start with a clean slate and find the motivation to keep trying.

"Me once again hitting the wall, falling of the end of the Fabelita traverse for the xx-time"

For me it´s at this point the real red-point begins and were it becomes the more demanding aspect. It turns into a head game, all about overcoming those mental barriers, to find the strength of will to push yourself beyond comfort, to get beyond the frustration of failure and self doubt and be able to stay optimistic and focus on each attempt, not worrying about the investment of time or on the should have´s and could have´s.
Then, having somehow conquered that mental monster and given enough time and effort, everything might come together and you could find yourself at the anchor.
But then again it might not happen, and despite all your effort the journey will end without a conclusion, throwing you right back into the ring with the mental monster, this time without a concrete way of facing it down.

"Tom Bolger chasing the second ascent of Catxasa 9a+ in Santa Linya. After two seasons of hard work he eventually injured his back while working on his house, never getting to finish his project.."

Now, after 4 seasons, I have suffered through the ups and downs of the process enough times to roughly know what I´m in for. As a result I am not just mentally stronger, I am prepared.

The first season however was very different.
More often then not I was afraid of falling, usually clipping way to early or just over-griping the holds when I got a bit above the bolts, making it very hard to really enjoy the climbing and give it a 100%.
In addition I was unaccustomed to the constant failure of the red-point and lost both motivation and confidence several times, in the end to a point where I just tagged along with Hannah to belay and get on some 7a-ish routes I knew I could do.

I realise now that I had never really experienced this kind of failure before.
At home I had tried routes for months, even years, but I was doing other things and only got on the projects 1-2 times a week or less.
Living down here and climbing on the same route almost every day the process became much more intense, to a point where it became hard to focus on anything else.
It´s at this point when you are completely obsessed with this one thing that the failure gets to you.
Chris Sharma talks about this in several films, but unless you actually experience it yourself it´s hard to really understand.

"The legendary Chris Sharma on one of many red-point attempts on a 9b+ project in Oliana" 

During my time here the fear of falling more or less disappeared to a point where I now objectively look at run-outs and skip the bolts if they cost energy to clip, as long as I won´t hit the ground, I rarely give it a second thought.

"Running it out to have that extra bit of power on the final hard move"

"Having skipped the last bolt I have to make this clip or risk hitting the ground"

But though I might be prepared, I still find it hard at times when despite my best efforts progress comes so slowly that I almost doubt I´m moving forward at all.

Having started my climbing career rather late and never having acquired the milage, I can´t climb as much, nor gain (regain) endurance as quickly as most of the climbers around me seem to.
Being almost 80 kg´s as well I get tired (and/or injured) from to much steep climbing, and at least in the earlier stages of the process seem to need to climb just as much on easier routes on less steep ground to recover and build the necessary endurance or end up suffering muscular fatigue and negative progress.

Since I got back to Spain in november, I´v spent a lot of my time on my project from last season, Fabelita (8c).
In the spring I spent about 2 months on it, feeling close but getting shut down on the same moves over and over again in the crux traverse in the middle.

"The Fabelita traverse"
"The classic rose-move"

 "My crux move in the traverse, stabbing into a pocket while keeping body tension" 
"My highpoint from the spring, the last move of the traverse"

It got to a point were I could climb from before the traverse to the top on my warm-up without getting pumped and climb up to the traverse from the ground and feel completely fresh. But no matter how much I tried, I could not get through the traverse from the ground.

When I got back this season (about 6 months later), I expected to be back up to the end of the traverse in a few weeks and be done with the project in a month.
But thought I was feeling strong on some moves, I could not recover on the rests, the traverse felt hard and my endurance was barely enough for 15 moves.

"Resting, a challenge all in its own"

So I got back to work, trying to link sections and familiarise myself once again with the route before once more starting from the ground.
Then, after about 1,5 months of super slow progress, I finally made a break through and got through the traverse.

"Finally sticking the final move of the traverse from the ground"

I was more pumped then I expected to be, but having broken through the mental barrier stopping me for so long, it was like a great weight was lifted from my shoulders, I knew I could get there again, it was finally going to happen.
I recovered better then expected in the jug after the traverse and managed to get up to the pinches under the final hard move before missing a fairly easy adjustment move and succumbing to the pump.
The next try, on new years eve, I got through again, this time much less tired.
I got to the same point as before, but trying out a new faster but slightly harder sequence, I missed a hold and came off.

"Missing the final pinch on my new years eve attempt" 

"Same move, better photo angle"

On my next two attempts I also got through the traverse, one day in really bad humid conditions were I slipped off not long after the traverse, and the next time feeling super strong, but overshooting a delicate dead-point move to a slot.

"The dead-point move to the slot"

Then everything started going backwards, I rested several days but still felt tired, I got up to the traverse and immediately got pumped, about the way I had felt a month before. I tried to rest more, but the same kept happening.
I had hit a peak and failed to do it, and now I was going back down, needing to climb on easier ground and give my body a few weeks to recover.
This is one of the hardest parts I guess, letting go when you are so close, being patient and resting.
Especially since none of the others (Sindre, Hannah, Magnus) seemed to have the same problem.
But I guess we are all different and we all need to figure out what works for us, if you can´t force it, all you can do is accept it.

A few weeks later I was once again feeling rested and got back on the route, but like the first time through the traverse, I was feeling way to pumped to conceive of getting past my previous high-point and sticking the dyno.
I still put up a proper fight and managed to slap for the jug but was to tired to hold on, somehow getting a new high-point by 1,5 move, possibly just half a move from sending the whole route.

"My red-point endurance crux, holding two open pinches and making a final throw to a jug"

"Slapping the jug"

Then bad weather set in and we got a few days forced break from the cave, and thought I would have liked to get back on it and tried to finish it, this was an opportunity to regain some lost endurance and renew my motivation and psyche to get back on the route.

Getting away, even just for a few days, was definitely enough to get me super psyched to get back. But  wanting it is not always enough.
I´v never been able to do anything hard in january before, and this year proved no different. I kept trying, but the traverse was back to being really hard and even on the few days I was feeling strong, I somehow slipped with the foot or missed on the crux stab move and fell off.
There were a few days when I got through, but I always felt tired and fell of the final dyno so pumped I seriously started doubting if I would be able to do the remaining 5 meters of 7b climbing.

"The dreaded cross move just after the dyno"

So from almost doing it in the end of december, january passed me by with no reward for my efforts. Then february came, a month I´v always felt better, but before I could get back on, a Norwegian Tv-crew came down to do a show with Magnus. Attached to the project as a cameraman this meant another few forced rest-days from the project.
Feeling tired from the tv thing I then decided to mix it up and start trying in the morning as well as in the evening just to see if I was in good enough shape to get two decent tries in a day.
That failed and feeling tired in the traverse I fell off there on both tries.

Then the next day, considering a rest day when I woke up, I suddenly felt much better after the initial warm up and got in a good try, falling relatively fresh on the upper dyno.
After a rest day the same happened.
Day 1, first try getting passed the traverse but falling tired on the dyno, then still feeling tired in the evening, getting on a 40 meter 8b and falling after the last bolt.
Day 2, feeling tired and initially planing to rest and just hang out in the cave and film Magnus and Adam, I did my warm up route anyway just to see, felt very good on it, got that nervous this could be the time feeling and went for it. 

I got through the traverse for the 10 time and felt great, then got more pumped in the rest jug then before, fought my way to the undercling where I for some reason felt a bit better, but on the dyno I was tired again.

"The powerful middle section between the traverse and the dyno"

"Fighting to get to the undercling"

In the end I guess I was maybe just a little more determined then before and thus hit the next hold a bit better and managed to hold on.
I then managed to recover enough to do the next tricky moves easily and climb to the top feeling less tired then I usually did when working the link.

"The final "rest", three moves from the anchor" 

"Clipping the anchor"

Clipping that anchor after spending 5 months dedicating myself 100% to this route was definitely my best feeling in climbing so far, a feeling of happiness and satisfaction that would be difficult to describe in words.
This fleeting feeling of complete happiness was of course to good to last, but thanks to a golden
champagne bottle given to me by my friends and team mates Ole Karsten and Olav (that I had stored under the start of the route) I was at least able to keep it for the rest of the night :D

"Finally having sent the route the champagne tasted oh so good"