When is enough, enough? Is it wrong to want to push myself further, to explore my limits, to achieve something in my lifetime that I once thought was impossible? Is this wrong? No. I don’t think so. To me it’s a personal quest that I can’t explain. But perhaps you feel it too?
“The two most powerful warriors are patience and time”. Leo Tolstoy
“Venga Monique. Rah! Allez Monique. Rahh! Venga. Rah, Rahh, Rahhhhh!” Not much went through my mind as I fell from the top moves of Mind Control into the crisp evening air. It’s only a split second between ejection and when the boing of the rope takes hold. But memory of this moment was pure and simple, happiness. Not failure, or disappointment, but rather — wow, that was awesome! I was so excited and grateful to have had the opportunity to try something at my utmost limit. And to be climbing this route with utmost conviction was a remarkably rewarding experience for me. But I already knew that I wanted it over again. This was my final day and my final attempt on Mind Control (8c/+, 33/34) in Oliana Spain 2012. That trip I had succeeded on Fish Eye (8c, 33) and with a little time to spare I turned my focus to Mind Control. I spent one day working the route right through to the anchors and then, the very next day, the heavens opened and the top tufa remained wet. Regardless, totally infatuated by the route, I spent what time I had left working the bottom crux section, in preparation, in hope, just in case perhaps a window of opportunity would present, and the tufa would dry before we left. Indeed it did, with two days to go. It came down to the wire, last day, last shot scenario, but it was not to be.
Back home, confronting thoughts turned my mind against me. Whilst wishing that I were back in Spain my mind simultaneously concurred that climbing was a self-indulgent pursuit, that added nothing to society, and sucked up incredible amounts of time; time I didn’t necessarily have. The ‘responsible’ side argued for work and the mother in me wondered if a more ‘regular’ routine would be better for Coco. I had to be honest. When was it all going to stop – this climbing caper? How could I justify travelling back to my all-time favourite cliff in the world, when I had climbing available in my backyard? Could I find a balance, or a legitimate reason to return? I was racked with guilt but time dissipated such thoughts and along with a little udge from my friend Will Currie, I returned.
So here I am now, back at Oliana. We (Will Currie and I) have been sending and working several lines. Mind Control was initially dry when I arrived. However, I had promised myself that I would use the first weeks getting fit by trying other routes. I stuck to my guns and got some stellar climbing done. One route, Humildes pa’Arriba (8a+, 30), which can be described as the ugly duckling of the three lines that share the Mind Control start, was so enjoyable that it was a pity to do it. Next I tried China Crisis (8b+, 32), a long crimpy face climb, a great route but not exactly what I’d come to Oliana for, as it was somewhat reminiscent of the climbing that I’d get back at home. Very much my style, this route went down quickly.
After gaining some fitness I was eager to take my place in the queue for Mind Control, but my plan turned pear shaped. It rained. As I mentioned previously any bit of rain meant the Mind Control tufa would stay wet for a very long time. The weather has been testing me, over and over, with more and more rain, but still I remain unfazed. I am content because I have been trying another route, Humildes pa Casa (8b+, 32). Not just any route but in my opinion (and many would agree) the ‘King line’ of the cliff. Humildes pa Casa is impressive, a real line or more like a channel of bricks laid end to end for 20-meters, cement rendered and stuck to the cliff. Before it gets to the top however it tapers to a fin and incredibly at the same point a left hand tufa becomes available to ride for another 5-meters before the final crux arrives — some 50-meters up. This route has kept me absorbed. My mind is scattered throughout the route, brick pinching, side-pulling, lay-backing madness, with too many moves to remember the unforgiving sequences merge into craziness, a blurrrr…
Any way it was yesterday when I got to the top of Humildes that I glanced across at Mind Control and convinced myself that it could be dry, but alas it was not. More rain fell overnight and it won’t be dry again for weeks. Even Humildes pa Casa is wet now, and the reality is that I will not get the chance to finish many projects this trip. Yes it’s disappointing, I am frustrated to feel close to doing these extraordinary routes and then have to have to walk away. That’s the way it goes sometimes. Still it has been a fantastic trip. I tried hard and did a lot of great climbing. I love it here, the energy is contagious, I feel a part of a greater international family here. Can’t wait to see you all again next time!
PS. Special thanks to my new sponsor Climb On — for their hand creams that I used for breakfast, lunch and dinner and between each burn on this trip. Last year I had up to five fingers taped at any given time due to the splits in my fingers – but this year I had none of those problems. Thanks Climb On!