Ok so here’s the first of my ‘retro-blogs’ as a catch up to where I am at with ‘Old Dogs New Tricks’…
Otinar – Training week 3 / Overall week 4 (Feb 22nd – 27th)
Ok so we left our hero (me btw) on the horns of a dilemma – a late, light session on my board the day before I was going away had left me with a very sore strained arm (or worse). So the question was; to travel the 700km with the injury or to cry off and stay at home doing a bunch of stuff that you need to get on with: we were due to move house and I needed to finish my new book, so the temptation was pretty high to stay.
However, on the other hand I’d been climbing for 5 years with Jairo and never been on a trip with him…could I let him down at the last minute…??? Fuck!!
So I went. And we headed down towards Jaen – a short 700km or 9 hour drive – in Jairo’s motorhome. My arm was sore, strained and un-relentingly not good so I spent the time on the back watching movies being pissed off and massaging with my ‘Arm-Aid’ which seemed to help…
What made it doubly bad is that we were heading for Otinar and I’d been super-psyched for the trip. This is a ‘new’ venue which had a bit of a reputation, a mega steep cave with a bunch of 7s and 8s and nothing easier than 7a+ across the crag. With air cold, crisp and spring-like the 5 minute walk-in was get everyone breathing hard and there was a tangible excitement in the air. There were 6 of us and I’d decided to be cameraman for the day to rest an arm that seemed no better – a sore ‘pulley’ from the palm to the elbow.
On arrival the crag was decidedly well, brutal, not to put too fine a point on it. It was really steep, even the warm ups were really steep and the hard routes were super steep. It made my arm twinge just looking. However, the guys dived right in and set about mauling the warm/ups…then set about the main course.
Not the most aesthetic of venues set mainly above a huge goat pen the routes were very steep and it was inspiring as Miguel first then Jairo set about some of the most overhanging lines. My palms were sweating as Jairo gamely battled his way up, via a biiiiiig pump, a 7c which overhung 10m in it’s 23m length…I decided to make the most of the day and get some photos as I’d brought my ‘proper’ camera but after 4 shots the battery went – things weren’t going my way..
Day 3 started better and although my arm felt really sore I was determined to give it a go…then came a migraine so I went back to the van to lie down. Three days in and I hadn’t touched rock…after a sleep and a rest i felt a bit better and so wandered off and stretched in a ruined barn…the glamour!!
Day 4 – The dark side – After more ‘arm-aid’ i was ready to climb – and climb I did, like a big fat spanner. Warming up on the 6b+ part of very steep 7c (the easiest stretch of rock by far) I was nervous, static and slow. Feeling every day of my age I felt terrible, heavy and dulled – and somehow disappointed that the three weeks of training I’d done hadn’t turned me into a worldbeater. Then I pulled stupidly, forlornly onto the 7c, and ‘dogged’ the moves…it felt too hard, I felt too old and my frustration at my injury boiled over into cursing (not been known before) as I slumped on the rope. After I rest I then found myself falling off the next easiest route – a 7b which took an unlikely line – and a dark cloud descended!! Bad day at the office…
The bright side – However, I took solace watching an incredible French couple: him a 60 year old ‘lean, mean climbing machine’ and her a female version. They’d been there a few days and their modus operandi was clear and precise, he’d try and onsight and if he fell, work the route perfectly and send first RP. Then she’d go next following his instructions to normally execute a perfect ‘beta-flash’…now none of this would be of interest except that they both looked as old as the hills, they were doing this on routes up to 8a+ and they climbed so efficiently that it was a joy to watch. Very much a lesson in clever climbing and what you can do despite a few years…
Day 5 – Felt better. The clouds and cobwebs of day 4 had gone and I made a determined attempt to warm-up at the crag…And after some stretching a bit of use of Jairo’s mobile fingerboard and some rubber bands I got back on the warm-up – which, to my astonishment actually felt like a warm-up! Psyched I did it again and then climbed on into the 7c – carefully, testing all the holds for maximum efficiency and best body position – trying to channel Jerry Moffat’s matra ‘work it hard – send it easy’.
A redpoint ensued but cold hands put paid to anything and the rest afterwards only really made me more nervous. It was burly 7c and the likelyhood was I wouldn’t do it…however, as I launched into the crux sequence – a series of (for me) long snatchy moves off good holds – it just about clicked and despite a few, almost costly, moments of hesitation I slapped, stupidly pumped, onto the last jug. I’d got a send!! (something I’ll come back to in later Blogs).
I chilled for a bit and enjoyed watching Jairo send his 40 metre 8a with numb fingers and a lot of work, amazing effort.
The last night became more fun, I’d done summat so could relax a bit and as the G&T’s went down and the night grew longer the injury faded from my mind and the whole trip became better!
Ticks/Points of interest: 1 x 7c for 1500km of driving. And a typical ‘me’ route, bouldery and very cruxy and short…fun but nothing gained apart from the knowledge I hadn’t improved after 3 weeks. Watching the French couple showed that there’s life in old dogs and that clever outweighs strong!!
Lessons learned: Mates are more important than climbing and if you go you will get something done…and even if you don’t, go for a run, take photos, belay your friends and enjoy seeing somewhere new…oh and make sure your battery is charged…and use your mates for motivation and if you are injured don’t bring them down by moaning…
Score – 1 x 7c…Weight – 72.5kg