Rodellar is first and foremost a very nice place. You really feel like you’re on holiday. Most crags are no more than 10 minutes walk through an idyllic canyon, the Spanish are chilled out, the beer is cheap and weather is not British.
But Rodellar is also ridiculously steep. I don’t think I’ve ever climbed on rock this steep. All the different caves that overhang by half their length on both sides of a canyon, give the place the feel of a jungle gym, with the spanish jabbering away like monkeys.
In some ways, I dislike a lot of the routes in Rodellar. Rock this steep on holds and tufas this big make you feel like you’re not climbing, but wrestling a gorilla. Or as my friend Rupert says: you feel like you’re trying to get pajamas on a gorilla, tiny pyjamas on a very big, angry gorilla, who doesn’t want to go to bed. The other comparison we made was between the holds of Rodellar and the blubber of a whale. I thought that the jugs were not like holding jugs, but instead like holding the inside of a whale you had just cut open.
These comparisons aside, Rodellar is not all wrestling gorillas and hanging onto whale blubber. There are less steep cliffs and when it cools off a bit, the holds begin to feel more like jugs and less like blubber.
I found a cliff that was a little less steep than horizontal and found a route on it that had some lovely small in-cut holds instead of whale blubber holds. The crag is called Pared de la Virgen and the route Les Chacals. Most people (yes I checked on 8a.nu) think it’s 8b and a few think it’s 8a+. Unsurprisingly, I’m going to go with 8b, if it’s 8b to Adam Ondra, Sasha Diguilan, Neil Mawson, Chris Savage, Dave Graham and Ethan Pringle (among others), then its certainly 8b to me.
I did the crux moves on my first try, but worried about my lack of fitness I was concerned that I would fall off higher up. Having watched Dave use a rest out right after the crux, and then finding myself unable to get to it (a big move to an undercut) I was a little annoyed. But Chris suggested that I could use this to my advantage; as long as I looked at the rest as I climb past it, then my anger would motivate the drive to carry on. This seemed to do the trick and I got it 4th try. Grades and ‘I’m short’ moaning aside, I guess its the hardest sport route I’ve done.
I did an 8b in Turkey, but it was probably soft. It was also an 8a+ to a boulder problem and the boulder problem is easy if you have a small, strong ring finger, which I have, so in my mind it doesn’t really count.
It’s funny though; even though this was my hardest redpoint, after a few hours I’d decided that it wasn’t very hard and didn’t feel very proud of myself. The route took me 4 tries, so obviously if I really projected a sport route I could climb harder, but it was more than that. That evening my friend Chris Savage, very experienced in the art of hard sport climbing, said the same thing; that every time he clips the chains on a hard sport route, the first thing he thinks is ‘I can climb harder’.
And I think that this is maybe why I prefer trad to sport climbing. When I get to the top of a hard trad redpoint or onsight, I never think ‘I can climb harder’, I usually think ‘that was a really cool route, I’m really glad to have had a battle with that one’. Hard trad routes, looking back, seem like friends, that I learn to know and remember for a long time afterwards. After I’ve done a sport route, I usually care more about the grade or what a route says about how well, or badly I’m climbing. In other words, the actual route and the enjoyment of climbing it, gets lost after I’ve done it. Don’t get me wrong, I really loved the climbing on Les Chacals and I was psyched to complete it, it’s just that as soon as I did it, it felt easy, even worthless and all I could think of was how much harder I could and should be climbing.
Apart from the climbing in Rodellar, I really enjoyed being around a lot of good friends, who for some reason or another were out here in high numbers.
Jen came down and we joined team Austria on the classic Fiesta De Los Biceps, Riglos. That is as fun a route as any, I think the picture says it all.
A fun ‘active rest day’ activity is to go canyoning. Myself and Mr Pickford, a little late in the day ventured out with wetsuits into some canyons and followed it down. At the start, when the water came barely above our ankles, we felt silly for having the wet suit. But after doing some swimming through deep pools and high walled canyons, we were thankful to have them.
I’m back in Bristol now packing for Yosemite in a week’s time – bring on the cracks!