Sunday, 20 March 2016

Discomfort zonas

Margalef and surrounds - it was 50% great (climbing quality, weather, caravanning situation, and all else), and 50% rubbish (my actual climbing). I started off quite okay and consistently deteriorated through the trip to make it the worst trip away for my climbing I can recall - by the end my performance was even worse than during the mediocre rain + climbing with a couple & young kid double belay bitch duty + obnoxious overcrowding Eastern Europeans semi-climbing trip to Turkey a few winters back. Sure performance is not the be all and end all of a trip, but then again it is a climbing trip and I like the climbing challenge, and ending up so detached from that for no obvious reason felt inherently wrong. Especially since with the best intentions...

Following on from my previous trip and related post, as well as sampling the climbing i.e. pockets, I wanted to try a bit harder and maybe sport climb a bit harder. In that context it must be said that Margalef: 1. Has some of the worst grading of any sport climbing venue I've visited - I can scarcely recall two routes of the same grade that were actually the same standard, apart from a few that were wrong on the same direction. And: 2. Is utterly rubbish for pushing your onsighting, with most routes involving being lost at sea of pockets, the easier routes I was on having more pockets and thus more confusion, and being less steep thus less chalky hints to avoid the shoal of grey and orange herrings.

On the plus side the climbing is really cool. I scraped up a few soft F7as, a few almost accurate F6c+s, and various piss/nails F6cs before even that started feeling less likely... So you don't get a ticklist, but the following list would have been a great one if I'd actually done it. Or most. Or any...

List of fucking shite:

1. Action Man F6c - entirely morpho (7a) crux that I tried repeatedly before falling off an off-balance slap to a duo that tall climbers could reach on a ledge.
2. Coraje Al Forao F7a+ - tried really fucking hard on a thin slab start, fell off just before a ledge with fingers so numb I had a few minutes of full hot-aches before I could start threading a ring bolt.
3. Ingravitus F7a - muffed a hand swap on a bucket at the first bolt partly because I was so shakey and unfocused after the above debacle.
4. Baby Siter F7a - tried really fucking hard on a pumpy head-wall with a sea of blind pockets. Slightly warm and slapping for nothing and fell off.
5. Talo Dret F7a (Montsant) - committed well into a very steep groove and ran out of reachable holds and strength.
6. La Estampa F7a+ - tried pretty hard and completely powered out trying to reach holds.
7. Garotina F7a - tried really fucking hard on various cruxes and came off 3 holds from the chain on a pumpy bulge, partly sweaty due to no breeze.
8. ??? F7a (Oliana) - committed well and ended up with too thin holds and no strength to pull on them.
9. ??? F7a (Oliana) - very morpho crux that I found too hard slapping to an out-of-reach duo rather than being able to reach it from footholds.
10. Massagran F6c+ (La Riba) - tried really fucking hard on the crux and ended up following unspeakably bad beta in the guidebook photo and wrong handed too far from next holds.
11. Uf Va Dir Ell F6b+ (Montsant) - tried to warm-up on this after cruising the walk-in and feeling fresh and perky, got to a bulge on less positive pockets and just powered out.
12. En Penitence F6c (Vilanova De Prades) - missed a completely hidden one pad mono.
13. Leidi Laura F7a (Vilanova De Prades) - mis-read the start, foolishly committed to the wrong sequence and fell off rubbish slopers.

Yup, that's a lot. And it gets pretty fucking boring trying hard and trying hard again and failing relentlessly and not getting any positive reinforcements for the effort.

So what the fucking hell went wrong??

  • I had trained well in almost all areas: I'd been bouldering well (e.g. some good benchmarking on the TCA comp wall), leading indoors well (e.g. good sessions at Ratho on both full routes and half "hard" routes (intended to be relevant to Margalef-style power-endurance)), gymming and running okay.
  • I was well rested before I went out and had tapered off training suitably.
  • I felt on general physically good form, and actually didn't feel tired, drained (well, apart from emotionally....) or de-energised on any day I was out.
  • I slept well and ate well and relaxed well in the evenings.
  • I felt inspired and positive before every day and almost every route (even after several days of climbing rubbish).
  • I felt happy with the pockets and felt I got used to them quickly.

Yes there were some issues with grades and blind pocket climbing but that wasn't the only things I was struggling with. Extrapolate for a further month and I'd be struggling to climb the stairs and there ain't no fucking duos on them. *I* was the problem and I don't even know how?? I've had enough times being hampered by injury and illness and conditions and tiredness and whatever, but sitting at the bottom of Montsant feeling fresh and perky in fresh and perky conditions beneath a wall of dream routes at my usual standard and not being able to get on them for no reason was a real WTF moment.

So. Answers on a postcard, and if any of them are the right answers I'll refund the postage.


Thought of a couple of things:

  • Although conditions were often excellent, some of the crux pocket-pulling was less positive than ideal and relying a bit on finger friction, which is always an issue for me, exacerbated by tape around several pocket-shredded joints (particularly 4, 7, 10, 11)
  • Although in training and in general I'd felt comfortable committing and fighting for holds, these were usually visible and obvious and required more effort than accuracy....unlike the pockets which sometimes involved theoretically lunging for duos with «5mm margin for error for me to hold them (particularly 1, 7, 9)
  • Although I felt I was climbing well and had enough strength and stamina, this was from bouldering (constant movement) and normal routes (constant movement with tactical pauses only at good rests). My "hanging around" strength / stamina was probably a lot weaker and that was a problem hanging around trying to find holds (4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 10, 11)



Okay that is a lot of moaning. Sorry / not sorry at all, I need to get it out of my system and writing through it can bring up useful ideas.

BUT, on the other hand, the routes I actually did were all really good. A lot of beautiful, characterful rock, a lot of fun and fascinating pocket-pulling, a lot of decently challenging routes at lower grades. Funnily enough my first sport trip away was to Sierra De Prades (camping in February would you believe it, ice on the tents in the morning, WTF were we thinking??), and I haven't revisited it since apart from a singular Siurana sojourn a few years back (partly due to the inferior Rockfax guide although at least they had the right fucking sequence photoed for Massagran). With Catalunya Climbs: Tarragona and exploration of some new areas, I still remained psyched with the area despite being unpsyched with my punterdom and am actually rather keen to go back. So that is some sort of positive result...

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