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Chulilla sun

25 Mar 2015

It’s been a while since I last blogged – that’s not to say that I’ve nothing to say – it’s probably a case of too much and where to begin.  The obvious starting point is our recent trip to Spain – Chulilla to be precise. 

There was a lot riding on this trip.  It was the very first one, just Nic and I, without Vanessa.  We wanted good weather, to climb, to rest, to relax, to be together.  It delivered on everything and there was more than we realised.  The slice of no responsibility for a week tasted very good.  My parents had the other half of the cake.  We left them with World Book Day on the horizon and a fancy dress costume to organise.  Vanessa confidently chose Dick Whittington.  

In between knocking out a few routes in the sun we also enjoyed regular skype updates on the outfit developments.  Seeing the costume progress was just as good as monitoring the improving forearm capacity.  The role of parent and climber sits on my shoulders in equal measure.  An interesting, rewarding but challenging balance.

Dick Whittington 

The final outfit!  Thanks Grandma and Poppa!

If you haven’t visited Chulilla you must.  The routes are long; an 80m rope would be handy and most crags start around 6b.  Despite the length, the climbs are never boring and the rock quality remained consistent throughout:  excellent.  The village is bustling with small shops, a few bars and a school.  This may not be on your radar but we clocked the 2 playgrounds for future visits.  

Chulilla selfie

Two people in need of sun!

For me this was virtually the first outdoor climbing in around 5 months bar 2 hours at the Cromlech boulders at the beginning of February.  That was a decision I chose since, all going well, this would be my first winter in 3 years of consistent and continuous training.  My vitamin C and D intake has kept everything at bay and I have tried to be organised, diligent and stick to the plan.  Things have gone as well as I could hope for.  However two things can never quite accounted for in a winter training period:  confidence and rock-ability.  When I write training plans for others I always pencil it in:  towards the end of the plan I mark in ‘fall practie’, ‘getting used to the rock again’ etc.  How hard it is to do it for yourself! 

Chulilla team

It was a big team.  Pictured: me, Nic, Lucy and Ben.  There was also Bob, Mia, Charlie, Gilly, Rich.  Thanks guys, what a trip!

Whilst I know this and I know myself, it’s hard to suck it up when you find yourself jibbering above a bolt faced with a plummet.  Things became clear the week before as I froze, level with a belay at Awesome Walls, since I didn’t have the bolt by knees clipped yet.  I grabbed a neighbouring jug.  I also squealed when I took a practice fall.  I squealed twice more in Chulilla on 2 other falls. 

Through 15+ years of foreign sunny Spring trips my pattern of behaviour is this.  Day 1:  over-excitement leads to a seeming abundance of confidence.  Day 2: reality unveils.  My knees were literally wobbling so much above a particular bolt I fell off since my legs could no longer support my upper body.  Day 3 onwards:  realisation kicks in that the problem isn’t going away and that the pattern is repeating itself and I need to do something about it. 


Beautiful Chulilla, climbable crags are all on the left in black

This meant that on Day 1 I onsighted a 7b+ and on another route I took a big whipper as my foot slipped clipping a bolt with the rope fully paid out.  Day 2 my knees wobbled and I had to have serious words with myself to complete the redpoint.  The realisation that Little Miss Unconfident had arrived without an invite was offset by a blatant improvement in my fitness. 

We can improve our confidence through training, particularly working on a weakness.  If you are weak, it’s no wonder you won’t feel confident if your arms may realistically give way at any moment.  It’s the same with fitness, which in my case had improved.  But it cannot be solved by only working on the physical.  Confidence can be trained like everything else, but just like everything else it requires patience as there is no small fix.  Since I coach, my errors stare me in the face:  above bolts I over grip, I become blinkered and can’t see all the handholds and footholds, my heart beats faster and my ability to make decisions melts away. 

Chulilla Oasis

Looking towards Oasis sector

Towards the end of the week I was faced with a decision:  do I continue trying to improve my onsight head or attempt a hard redpoint?  I chose the latter since that is exactly what I want to do this year.  So on day 3 I picked a route, which had been recommended to me by 3 people:  El Diabolo visite de prana 7c+.  I battled to get on it at all since I felt there was only a slim chance I could do it in the timescales.  Yet I needed to fall off, I needed to experience hard moves but what I wanted was an all out burn on something. 

I didn’t get the route, I was extremely close, falling around the 28m mark –I had made a few too many assumptions about the ‘easy’ top, which isn’t so easy.  But I did get the burn – and that stood me in good stead for what was coming next.

Malham and GBH – 8a+.  I’m diving in this year – normally I spend a couple of months going through the grades, but I have sense that time is ticking and there is none to be wasted.  After 2 visits I’m still jibbering above bolts and resort readily to top ropes but my rock sense and movement is much better.  At least I’m more aware I need to address it.  How many years having I been climbing?