Wednesday, April 22

Exit Cornudella

Exhausted. Like a wide eyed child aggressively sampling their way through Charlie's bustling Chocolate Factory, it seems as though I've metaphorically reached my sugar limit... There are just so many crags, and so many hard routes all across Catalunya, I've been slowly delaying the inevitable over the last several weeks and now I'm... smoked.

I feel the same kind of deep fatigue that I usually do in the first few weeks of a hard training cycle. One rest day doesn't do the trick any more, and soreness seems to linger for many sessions. On some nights my sleep is even disturbed from pulsating forearms. The towering walls and brutal Spanish pump has caught up to me! This feels pretty good really. 

A brilliant moment of Catalan life. We were so lucky to be in Cornudella
on this day, and even give a hand the night before at practice.
So much color and passion in Catalan life. A memorable experience.

everyone is just downright pooped

About ten days ago I spent two days in a row on 'Estado Critico' 14d, and, with a brutal pump I clipped the chains, then followed with 'Kalea Borroka' 14a on my first try. Why not try some enormous, pumpy pocket climbing the very next day? So we ventured to Montsant. This crag is not far from Siurana, but offers a very unique experience. With outstanding views, sometimes all of the way to the Med, this crowning cliff sits well above the grapes below. My buddy Sonnie Trotter was keen to finish a route there he had tried this trip called 'L-Mens' 14a. It's a rad swooping pocket line on very high quality conglomerate. Sonnie gave me some running beta and I flashed it. Fighting a pump to the finish of this 40 meter rig, I was very stoked. It's a super good route. A little powerful, and very resistant. To the right is Falconetti 13c, with a massive 14a extension. I spent about an hour resting and scoping out the line before I tied in for an onsight attempt. A few dynamic and uncertain moves in the bottom pitch had me a little worried but I rested and quested my way to the 50 meter finish on this thing. I mistakingly lowered off with my 80 meter, which left me dangling about 50 feet off the deck at the end of my rope for a while... some shenanigans ensued... thanks for the help everyone... This was a great day of first try climbing for me. 

After one rest day we ventured to Margalef. I am usually a little turned off by super popular routes - I typically prefer the obscure or the forgotten zones - but everyone I knew that had climbed or tried Era Vella had nothing but great things to say about it. So... why not check it out? It's a very steep and long route. There really are no terribly hard moves. A lot of 5.13 climbing, over and over and over. Some mini cruxes here are there. The key characteristic to it's difficulty is the lack of rests for how massive it is. There is a lot of information to remember and much of the wall looks very similar. The hardest sequence is maybe v7. With pretty garbage beta I felt close to a send on my second try. I had fun with the fight. 

The next day we came back and first try I finished the route. 

The best sends of my life are the ones that I fight the hardest for. The barely there flash or onsight attempts.. all day adventures in the mountains fighting conditions and fear.. the routes that I train for months to send.. When I clipped the anchors of La Rambla last month I looked back to not just the hard climbing days I'd spent trying it, but the months before I had sacrificed nearly everything to prepare. It's this experience - the full circle - that deeply inspires me. This element of my climbing has taught me more about my character than I ever imagined. I really don't care what the grades are. Some routes are hard as hell and we will never be certain of a send - furthermore they require a transformation from us. Maybe that transformation is physical or maybe it's something greater. Other routes come easily, and for the most part, while these climbs might be fun, they really hold very little meaning. And that's fine! We can't be overwhelmed with the pressure and emotion of projecting at our limit every day we go climbing, even if it's what truly inspires us. I climbed Era Vella and I had a lot of fun doing it. Grades are there to offer a foundation for difficulty but the more I climb the more I realize the plasticity of grading. I could comment on how I feel that Era is easy and make a list of routes graded 8c that are much harder and blah blah blah but what I'm after is not a grade, it is an experience. So never mind all that. I had fun climbing the route, and cheering on friends at the crag and getting pumped and hiking out in the dark and laughing at Cameron's nausea on the drive. 

Greg Kerzhner tries out the powerhouse rig, Mr Cheki 8b+

Below a Bearcam photo of me climbing El Prisionero 8b+ a route at Montserrat that I've been dreaming about for weeks.

Next up... we ventured to Finestra sector of Margalef. A beautiful zone. I laughed my way up Montgronyeta 7b+, a stunning route with concrete-hard drip features. Some of the most fun I've had on this trip. The two 7c+ to it's left were also stunning and the rock on this wall all together is breathtaking. I made my way up a handful of great 7's and onsighted a nice pocketed 8a+ but the main take away from our few days there was that I need rest. I tried 'Victims del Passat' 14c a handful of times and honestly never even got close to a send. I started thinking back and realizing that I had not taken more than 1 consecutive rest day for a month.. and my body was beginning to feel pulverized. So we left our apartment in Cornudella as planned, and moved to Barcelona. 

I love Barcelona. And what a perfect combination to spend some days in the city and also have the chance to check out Montserrat. It's such a brilliant place... it deserves more explanation than I have energy for at the moment, so you'll have to wait for my next post. As for the next week, I'll be exploring Montserrat and recovering in this vibrant city. I'm so blessed.... 

Friday, April 10


Over the weeks I've fallen more and more in love with Spain. When I first arrived, now just a little over a month ago, I was honestly not sure how much I liked it. The rock quality didn't completely blow me away like Ceuse, the landscape isn't totally lush and breathtaking like the Swiss Alps. The food and beer is not much to write home about. It's hard to really put my finger on it, but perhaps it's just the vibe, that gradually lured me in... The sun is always shining. People are stoked and motivated. There are just so many bad ass crags in every direction that it's hard not to get fired up. So much sending is going on, all the time. It's an inspiring place. And now I totally see that, where perhaps in my first weeks I didn't. I get it now.

Since I last wrote my journey here has been amazing. I remained focused on climbing at the Can Piqui Pugui wall, eventually finding cooler temps and finishing 'Chicane' 14c, but not without a battle. The crux is very long, with nearly two foot moves for every one hand move. The hardest section is reaching rightward off of a horrible left hand crimp side pull at the very end of the crux. For a shorter climber, or really a climber of any height, this is a very hard move. I consider this route to really be in my style, and yet still I think it took me more effort than any other climb of this grade for years. The reward is always directly proportional to the battle, so finishing Chicane felt really good. I did the resistant, awesome 'Renegoide' 14a and the mega classic 'Mr Cheki' 14a and 'Anabolica' 13b next, before settling into Spain's first 8c, which has subsequently been upgraded to 14c, 'L'Odi Social'. This route is an entirely different beast. The route boils down to a short crux, involving a super powerful shouldery tension move, all based around a downright awful right foothold. Smeary, polished like glass... It takes a ton of body tension. It was a really fun challenge, and a cool change. This route really is just hard moves, not so much bad holds. I followed it with 'La Ballade des Pendus' 13d yet another killer route on this wall. Everything I did back there was bad ass. 

Chicane.... Bear Cam photo

Next objective was to head back to El Pati. My homeboy Sonnie Trotter had been trying 'Estado Critico' 14d for a couple weeks and he was narrowing in on the send. It's a massive route, on perhaps the steepest section of rock in Siurana. The start is a thuggy 13a or b up a crack system. You can rest well at the end of this section before you break right into a long intro boulder problem. With some pretty heinous feet, you compress and use tension to get yourself up to the crux pounce. You're tossing to a blind 3 finger pocket with your left hand. From here you get very little rest as you fire through three more short cruxes - edgy, sequential and pumpy to the very top on a brilliant blue streak. I was afraid of the pounce move, fearing that it would be hell for a short climber, but I pretty quickly found my feet and sussed it out. It would be the quick traverse afterwards that was my personal crux. After so much powerful climbing on the Can Piqui wall I knew I would need a few goes of getting super pumped on this rig to feel some fitness again. Second day on the route I one-hung twice, falling from the pounce. But it was a great opportunity to remind my body what it's like to climb on steep terrain for 35 meters. Today I went back with big psych. Conditions were perfect, Sonnie was there all stoked post-send (he sent just days ago! hell yeah) on belay, and Cameron Maier was on a rope filming. I battled with the route, several times on the verge of slipping out, had to keep moving to make the chains, forearms burning! I love this shit... when the moves are not so hard, and it's possible to keep climbing even with a monstrous pump. After I stuck the pounce I knew I would fight for a send, but I didn't expect to make it. Anchors. Always the best feeling. I did the shared start 'Kalea Borroka' 14a first try today as well, and snuck in an onsight of 'Zona Zero' somewhere in the last few days - this was one of my favorites in the area for sure.

------Estado Critico----> Bear Cam Photos

Jokingly, we have told our friends that the routes on Can Piqui are all a letter grade harder - in my experience it seems the older the routes, the harder. Old school is just... fierce. For me, no doubt the two hard routes I did on that wall both felt harder than Estado. Maybe 'my style' is actually evolving, or maybe I got super lucky on Estado. I have no idea. They're all just hard climbs! What really matters is that we enjoy our lives and challenge ourselves. My time here in Siurana has been both of those things - challenging, and very enjoyable. Like I said before, I love this place. Now, it's time to move on... !!!