|The author sending hard in Margalef
My friend Colleen Kamoroff has flown all the way from California to visit me in Spain and to have an adventure of her own. She allowed me to share with you, my glorious readers, (mom, dad and some random people from Russia- thanks for reading!) her experiences thus far. Before anything, I’d like to share a collaborative haiku we made which, I think, summarizes my experiences in Spain quite well:
Jasna climbs a rock
and without further ado… here is Colleen’s blog post
I’ve been having a ridiculously hard time finding the time to write a journal entry. I have even been injured and sitting on the couch, leg elevated, doing absolutely nothing. Still I had no inspiration. I watched an entire episode of Real Housewives or Orange Country over writing in my journal. I’m not even kidding, it was some saga where Gretchen threw a party, got in a fight with the other fake blond, and then some middle aged women took Zanex to get over being bullied. Oh god, what am I doing with my life? I really didn’t quit my amazing job with benefits and bonuses to come to Spain to watch crappy American TV. I came her to climb, which I did, and it was amazing for three glorious weeks.
I first went to Rodellar, land of lactic acid. I caught a ride there with Jasna and her two friends, Chris and Jason. I thought I was hot shit coming from the states. Not only could I lead climb, but I could lead climb something harder then a 5-9. Look out Chris Sharma, Colleen’s coming to Spain. I quickly learned that EVERYONE climbs in Spain, and they climb REALLY well. In Rodellar, I was probably only better then the girls that came to belay their boyfriends or the over 55 year olds. Everyone was climbing ridiculously overhanging routs that I thought only existed in climbing magazines. There were Spanish men completely horizontal, throwing for crimps, and grunting like wild animals. Even my friend Jasna had a ridiculously overhanging project she was working on. It was a 7a, which translates to 5-areyoufuckingkiddingme in American. The start looked like George’s giant peach. It had one hold for two of your fingers and then a throw to a not-so-great-sloper while your feet slipped off polished rock. No way do I want to lead that. I tired it on top rope. (The funny thing about top rope is that the Spanish don’t even have a name for it. They just call it “top-rope.” Its like the act of top ropeing originated by English speaking individuals or that top ropeing is so insignificant in Spain they didn’t even brothers to give it a proper Spanish name.) I tried the 7a and couldn’t get off the ground. Jasna and her friend Roman saw my attempt to climb and decided to give me a hand. Roman ended up pushing on my back while Jasna pulled on the rope to get me over the peach beginning. There is a feeling you get when you are being pushed up a climbing rout. It’s more then just being mortified. It’s that upsetting feeling that maybe you shouldn’t be doing what you are doing. I made it about three more moves before I couldn’t climb anymore and had to come down. Fuck it. Rodellar did have some amazing 6s however. There were 6s with tufas, 6s with overhanging jugs, 6s with crack. I LOVE CRACK! The climbing refugio and the town were very cute and the people were very friendly as well. We stayed there for four days and at the end of it I was tired but happy.
The next place I went climbing was in Ramales, a little town outside the Basque country. I went with this guy, Ortiz, and his two friends, Janire and Vanessa. They were all Basque and would speak in a combination of Basque and Spanish with a little English. I speak English, I know a little Spanish, and I think Basque is a combination of un-comprehendible Xs, Js, and Ks. Its an understatement to say I had no idea what we were doing the entire trip. I met Ortiz though this Australian guy that I partied with at a Hostel in San Sebastian. Ortiz was very nice. He was finishing up a PHD and teaching technical drawling at a university to engineering majors. He had a bright red European climber’s van complete with a stove, sink, and a collapsible dinner table. The roof popped up and the back seat folded out so it slept all four of us fairly comfortably. We climbed in Ramales for one day and the weather held out just long enough for us to get back to the van. It poured all night and the next morning. There is no climbing in the rain so the next day we drank two rounds of Café con letche and ate chocolate in the van until about noon. Ortiz then proceeded to drop everyone off. At each of the girls’ apartments we stopped, drank some tea, and ate some more chocolate. I finally got home to my friends house is Bilbao around 5pm. Not speaking English and only consuming caffeine, tea, a chocolate all day, I felt a little off, but very Spanish.
The third place I went climbing was Margaleft. I went with two British guys named Eli and Martyn. I thought they were Jasna’s close climbing friends but apparently Martyn didn’t know Jasna and Eli has only met her once at the climbing gym. Still, they were willing to pick me up in LLieda and take me with them on their weekend climbing trip. Martyn had an injured hand so he was just taking pictures. Eli normally climbs 8a, but had an injured elbow so he was more than happy to climb 6s with me. I felt like I was finally hitting my stride as a Spanish climber. I stopped being terrified about falling EVERY second of the climb. I even almost on-sited a 6c (and by almost, I mean I had some directions on how to climb it and I fell at the top.) We ended the third day of climbing a little early because it was hot and Eli looked like he was about to melt. On our way back to Barcelona we stopped at Eli’s friend Tom’s house. Tom just happened to be a sponsored climber that climbs 9a (no big deal really.) He has a cute little house in the countryside that he and his father were renovating. Part of the house was built 10 years ago but the other part was built back in the 1730s. It was all made of stone with a pizza oven in the front poach and a space for a pool in the yard. There were also some boulder problems on his property that Martyn was super keen on cleaning up and developing. So Eli, Martyn, Tom, Tom’s dad and I all went bouldering. They were actually some quality pieces of rock. I did a few routs to not look like a complete wimp in front of the boys (they just climb 8-9a, no big deal really.) However, the last boulder we went to was quite hard. It had a problem with a side-pull-crimp to a small ledge and then a big swing to a larger ledge. I couldn’t get from the smaller ledge to the larger ledge (actually I couldn’t even start at the side-pull and just jumped to the smaller ledge.) Eli said that the larger ledge was a good hold, so I agreed to have him push me up so I could get the experience of the motion and do at least one move on the problem. This is the second time that I have been pushed up a rout in Spain. There is this feeling you get when you are being pushed up a climbing rout… After I got to the larger ledge I couldn’t do anything else so I came down. I felt my left foot hit the crash pad strait on, than I felt my right foot hit and roll over the ankle. I knew right away that it was sprained. Fuck it.
This is how I ended up on Jasna’s couch watching American TV. On the positive side I was able to get caught up on all my favorite shows: The Office, Parks and Recreation, Modern Family. I also got caught up on all my not so favorite shows: 30 rock, Family Guy, The Mindy Project. And, I got caught up on all the shows that I never thought I’d watch: The Real House Wives of Orange County. I spent three days resting and convinced myself that my ankle was getting better (mind of matter, right?) Then I went back to Margaleft, this time with the original crew of Jasna, Jason, and Chris. I couldn’t climb, but I crawled out to the base of the crag to watch other people climb (the next best thing, right?) Jasna bought me an ankle brace to hobble around in. I had her sign it. She wrote “A muerte,” Spanish for “to the death.” “A muerte” is the climber’s mantra here is Spain. It’s not so much of a saying but a feeling of determination, where you disregard all fears, and just go for IT. I think that along with the overemphasized climber’s breathing (HaaAAzzughhh!!!), you can use “A muerte” in your everyday life. It can be used to justify irrational decisions; like when you quit you job and buy a plane ticket to Spain. Or it can be used to rectify an otherwise pitiful situation; like when you literally crawl up a hill to get to a crag because you have a sprained ankle. My climbing trip may end here and I may just watch television until I get back to the US, but at least I’m living A muerte!!