So a rare return match for me - but to a fascinating (and frustrating!) area that definitely warrants it, and will warrant more in future... My goal had been to climb in better conditions, and hopefully climb some routes around F6c (most likely) or F7a (my usual comfortable onsight limit). I sort of did that, it was a close thing.
The final score of pure slabs: climbed / failed after proper attempt:
F6b: 3 / 2*
F6b+: 2** / -
F6c: 1 / 2
F6c+: 3 / 3***
F7a: - / 2****
* - one failed route actually F7a
** - one success actually F6c+
*** - one fail partly due to heat, one fail partly due to scrittle
**** - one fail due to missing good hold
(the rest cos they were fucking nails and I wasn't good enough....no excuses)
Not a great success rate but not a bad one either. Being foiled by some circumstances - heat on day 1, icy cold on day 5 - and a few avoidable mistakes - gives me a bit of reassurance that I was starting to do okay. More importantly I was finding it even more interesting than before. So yeah, I plan to go back, quick hit style, not least because one's fingertips only last a maximum of 4 days!!. Later or earlier in winter, last minute flights on a good forecast, camping cabin....who is up for it??
Further to my previous flailings, I have learnt a few more tricks of the trade this time:
1. Be prepared for mind-numbing levels of difficulty. Even around the F6c mark where routes start to be one grade undergraded rather than several, the continuously thin desperation is a real shock to the system. What might form 3-4m of crux climbing between breaks in a gritstone E4 is extended to 20m with no respite on a Pedriza F6b+. Be warned!
2. Conditions are crucial, in particular a light breeze is essential. Given La Pedriza is the foot-mountains of a 2000m range rising above the Madrid plateau, this is usefully likely.
3. Marking footholds is useful in a sea of obtusely homogenous granite crystals, but more importantly marking a wide variety of footholds to give a choice of moves once committed.
4. Feeling around for handholds is essential. One never knows when a useful 1/5 pad ripple might be hiding behind those same dastardly crystals.
5. Tight shoes with a bit of an edge seem to be marginally more useful than soft smearing shoes. The former can work better on the pure friction sections than the latter can work on the tiny crystal / gratton sections.
6. Chalking and drying one's thumbs can be very useful, both for tiny thumb crystals (essentially pinching a blank slab!), and thumb press mantles.
7. A slick rope and an alert belay are really useful. Although most slabs are well bolted, the constant insecurity can make pulling up rope to clip scarier than actual trad climbing!
8. Never relax until the chain is clipped. Even the easier sections are only "less hard" rather than easy, and still entirely fluffable.
9. Physical training for high steps / single leg presses, and flexibilty are the most important. Calf / leg press training seemed less useful - generally my calves didn't get tired although my feet did.
10. Slab training should ideally include very small crystals / grattons (as common a difficulty as the smears), and also side-stepping on slabs as well as high-stepping, as many routes weave a bit to find the least awful non-holds.
Hopefully I can get down to the grit soon and put some of this into practise...