A blog about climbing full time on the road.

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Friday, November 25, 2011

Albarracin send fest (new levels reached)

water puddle reflection
water puddle reflection
After Cassie hurt her finger we figured her time in Albarracin would be spent recovering from the injury. After a full week or so of recovery (rest assisted by significant rainfall) she began to pull on her fingers and found that it was feeling much better. So, it seems it wasn't a full tear, but probably only a strain. Yesterday she hopped on a great line called Karma which goes at 7a+ or v6/7. She sent it in a few tries, which was a great effort. This is Cassie's first v7 and it proves she has gotten quite strong bouldering over the last few months. The crux move involves a long reach and she had to really lock off on her right arm and really stretch to get it.  Pictures coming later for this one. Today we head back to a huge roof that Cassie is psyched to try. It's another 7a+ and should make for some very cool photos.

Palpant v8 - small but stout
 Later that day as it cooled off we headed to my project called Palpant. It's a beautiful roof/bulge that involves difficult compression moves and a big throw, on top of that two full cut loose moves. I sent it on my second try on my third day of effort. I nearly fell at the top and really struggled to stay on for the finish so it was a true full value send. It goes at 7b+ which is v8/9. That makes my first true v8 boulder problem and I was incredibly happy to send. We have video of the send that we will post when we get back to the States.

setting up for the second crux throw

catching the sloper and holding the swing. just barely.
 Thanksgiving isn't celebrated outside of the USA but our friends from England wouldn't allow us to pass up an opportunity for a feast. The entrance to the bouldering has a small park which includes a bbq shelter. We've done what is now known as Burger Monday a few times and so we decided that a bird must be on the menu for thanksgiving. We had 8 people chip in 4 euros each and we were able to get three whole chickens, four bottles of wine, and potatoes. We started the fire early and everyone was nervous about grilling that amount of chicken considering we were doing it with firewood. I've gotten a reputation as the chief firebuilder in camp so it was up to me to get some coals going. We threw the first batch of chicken on at about 7:30 and began basting them with Cassie's homemade bbq sauce. Mouths were watering as the sound and smell of bbq chicken came from the grill. Considering most of us climbers are living on quite small budgets such a feast was kind of mind boggling. The result was grilling perfection as everyone began tearing into the chicken in what can only be called a feeding frenzy. Dirty hands or not chicken was eaten and washed down with good (seriously) cheap $1.25 bottles of wine. Batch after batch of chicken was put onto the grill with everyone getting their fill. Afterwords we all sat down next to the fire rubbing our bellies. People had quizzed us about the traditions of the holiday so someone started the "i'm thankful for" and everyone else had to repeat all previous thanks and add their own. Much hillarity resulted from things like "showers", "nice smelling girls" "garlic mayonaise" and a little reflection was allowed as well. We were indeed thankful and happy. Definitely one of the best thanksgivings ever.

As we write this post I can barely comprehend that we are leaving sometime between monday and wednesday for southern Spain and Morocco. Time has indeed passed quickly here at Albarracin and it will be three weeks of climbing when all is said and done. Hopefully a few more projects will fall before we head out. Much love to all our friends and family over this Thanksgiving holiday. Being so far away sure makes it tough and we miss all of you a ton. Can't wait to see you soon.

Friday, November 11, 2011

Albarracin Spain


castle walls
Castle walls

castle walls
in the US they wouldn't let you do this...
We left Apt (Buoux) Tuesday November 1st to head south towards Spain. The plan was to drive while the weather was poor. It worked pretty well except that the weather was quite poor for almost a whole week.
We drove along the coast of Spain and spent a day exploring Barcelona before the skies opened up and the rain poured for a couple of days. Barcelona was a beautiful city with small streets that are perfect for walking around. We explored a famous market, the harbor and the Santa Maria cathedral which we though was even more beautiful than Notre Dame in Paris. The gothic buildings were amazing as were the Gaudi architecture.
Given that Cassie and I tend to do almost no research before exploring most cities we often stumble upon things other people intend to see. It makes it a bit more exciting and allows us to just go toward whatever seems interesting. Cities in the US wouldn't allow for this type of meandering considering you must generally drive everywhere. I'm sure we miss things, but we always feel like we see a lot and enjoy it so it works well for us.
As usual we avoided eating out and spending money on museums, so sorry that we don't have anything to report on that. One thing to note though is how good the cured meat is in Europe. Probably food laws in the US don't make it possible to hang a whole leg of pig up uncovered in an open-air market, but over here they are everywhere, and the meat is delicious.
After leaving Barcelona we stayed on the coast heading toward Valencia and eventually Albarracin. We took our time since the weather was still pretty terrible. After a lot of driving we started seeing huge hotels on the coast and signs for campgrounds so we picked a small town and setup in a campsite there. There were hundreds of motorhomes and rvs there. it seems the coast of Spain is a great place for retired people to get away from the winter in northern Europe. We were the only people camping and were easily about half the age (or less) of everyone else. after taking a walk on the beach we realized we had stumbled upon a famous town named Benacasim. It was a fancy resort for the rich, and during the war the villas became hospitals for the wounded. One of the villas was Ernest Hemingway's home and where he and journalist Martha Gellhorn had an affair. We made some friends at the campground and spent a few days waiting out the rain. Finally the forecast began looking good so we drove to Albarracin in the rain. The only campground was closed so we were quite worried we wouldn't be able to afford to stay and climb. Luckily it is off-season here and were able to rent a hotel room for only 20 euros a night.
Albarracin is the most beautiful village we've ever seen. The infusion of much tourist money has allowed it to become a very eyecatching place with a nice plaza and wonderful red buildings. The castle on the hill is exquisite. Plus there is a famous trout stream running through town. The local bakery has pain au chocolates that put the French versions to shame (why not add more butter and chocolate?) And the Spainish breads are outstanding. The bakery here is by far our favorite on the trip.

 Now to the climbing. Albarracin was touted to us by european climbers as the anti-fontainbleau. At Fontainbleau the climbing is mostly technical power. Here it is just power. It is the most amazing climbing area. The area is known for having roofs and it has not disappointed in the least. We began climbing tentatively because it had rained only the day before and most climbs were still wet. Luckily because of the huge roofs here, many climbs are able to stay dry. In some cases roofs have a second roof (often very high and unclimbable) above them that protects the lower climbable roof from rain. our first day was quite good climbing at the Techos area (roof in Spanish) with us both climbing Obra de Arte 6a+ v3-v4 in just a few tries. The second day we climbed with some new friends from the UK named Michelle and Lucy who are both on long climbing trips. We climbed at the Arrastradero area which had a great variety of climbs in style and length.
obra de arte
Cassie sending Obra de Arte 6a+ v3/4
Arista de los belgas
Matt on Arista de los belgas 7b - v7/8 - completed on 3rd try
 We both flashed a 6a pocketed roof called El Minivarano that may be one of the best v3s we've ever done. We also did a very cool face called El Metodo Decide 6b (v4) in a couple of tries. Both of those sends helped inspire confidence to begin pushing ourselves harder so we headed over to Spider-Pig a 6c+ (v5) which I flashed and Cassie is very close on. Our third day Cassie took a rest and I climbed. Michelle and I put our fears aside and did the huge topout on Supermafa Tacho 6b v4 (i flashed it) the top is quite high and requires a heel hook mantle. Nothing like going horizontal 12 feet off the ground to get your heart pumping. After that we headed to Corona a 7b (easy v8 hard v7) that I came quite close to getting so I'm keen to go back and finish. Also did Meteoro a good 6b. The next day Cassie and I walked around town. After a good day of rest we were back at it again and had a super day at the Psicokiller area which was excellent. By this time Cassie and I were doing grade 6 in a few tries. We decided to hop on a long roof called Anfiteatro 7a. neither of us finished it but it was an amazing line. We also tried Vivo en el Presente 7a+ (v7) another powerful and difficult roof. There was a huge group of guys trying both and everyone was awestruck when Moni (Monika Repitchy flashed it, and Cassie almost sent it as well while most guys (including myself were falling at the crux repeatedly). Moni is a German pro climber who is super strong and is here with her boyfriend Peter. Click here to see her blog. She has already climbed and onsighted or flashed some very difficult problems and is super humble about it. She is easily the strongest girl (and is stronger than almost all guys) we've seen climb. Very fun to watch her crush. we also met a super strong South African climber named Chris who has been on quite the road trip and has crushed all over europe. He has a great blog that you can get to by clicking here.Though we left that day without any memorable sends we were both happy to see that some of our hardest sends might just happen here. Unfortunately the day after Cassie was trying a difficult horizontal roof that was rated 7a or v6 am injured her right ring finger tendon on a small pocket. Needless to say she is pretty bummed because it will hold her back from climbing hard for a while, though whether its a week or a month we don't know right now. There was an audible pop we both heard which isn't good. So, were trying to stay positive, but its tough when you feel like you are close to getting your hardest climb and must then back off. 
Cassie on the tendon popping Eclipse 7a v6
In the meantime I'm trying a couple more projects including a 7b+ called Palpant. It certainly feels like the most difficult climb I've ever tried. In theory its either solid v8 or easy v9. I spent a few hours on it yesterday and did all the moves except the crux move which is a big throw to a sloper while basically horizontal. Also sent another 7b called Arista de los belgas (pictured above). This was my second v7/8 here and that makes 3 birthdays in a row that I've gone up a V grade. Hopefully by the time we see our friend Mark I'll be strong enough to keep up with him.

Today is saturday and our friends Adam and Michelle were super nice and let us borrow their laptop for the night. That's why the pictures are now uploaded so send them positive thankful thoughts if you are enjoying this post. I'm probably taking a rest day after 3 days of climbing and Cassie is going to climb a bit to see how her hand feels. She climbed a bit yesterday and didnt have any pain which is a good sign. We are now trying to decide what to do with our last month in Europe. There are a few options and all have their benefits and drawbacks. 

Cassie trying Joya 7a+ v7

el metodo decide
Cassie on El Metedo Decide - 6b v4

Supermafa Techho 6b
Matt flashing the high Supermafa Tacho 6b v4
       Here's a link to the Albarracin Flickr Set with all the rest of the photos that aren't pictured here. There are a ton...

Sunday, November 6, 2011

Cresciano and Chironico

praying mantis

la finca - cresciano
la finca campground
We have uploaded pictures for Cresciano and Chironico so a follow up blog post is in order.

The hike to the Cresciano boulders was much higher than we thought, we mistook a road for a stream which shifted our view of where the boulders were. Instead of being on a flat grassy area they were on a large hillside. We were concerned that the landings would be rocks and slanted, but were happy to find a beautiful flat forest with great boulders. On the way up the hill we hiked by a wonderful little old Swiss village.
the view from Cresciano boulders
cresciano valley
the boulder hill - the climbs were above the small village in the trees 

We spent 2 days at each area, exploring and climbing. Most days it was quite cool which made for great friction, but was definitely chilly. It took me many tries before I decided to take off my sweater and climb in a t-shirt.

Cassie had spotted a beautiful boulder with huge crystals on it during our scouting expedition. We did a bunch of great climbs on it, from the line of crystals, to a thin turning crack, a high powerful face, and a funky starting sloper problem. There were so many climbs on it we almost didn´t go to any other boulders that day.
holding the crystals
the cool crystal problem at cresciano

Chironico was a bit puzzling to find given that our guidebooks were in italian and german. We got quite lost. We found the boulders and were happy to find a ton of climbs to do. The rock was excellent and the landings were perfect as well. Both days we found more and more boulders. Would have liked to had more time to explore and climb, but the weather drove us away.
chironico dyno
a 6bish dyno at Chironico
matt´s project - chironico
Matt´s Chironico project - left undone
This boulder was my project for the trip and I left this climb undone, kept falling on the final hard move. So close, but that´s the way it goes.

Hannah and Seamus - our New Zealand friends
We uploaded about 150 pictures, many more than are pictured here. click here to get to them