Daniel Woods - Reflections From Spain

Thursday, June 5, 2014

Reflections from Spain

By Daniel Woods
Photos by Daniel Woods, Courtney Woods, and Mike Caballero 

In April, Courtney and I took a trip to Spain. Our objective was to immerse ourselves in the iconic limestone and see what cool sends we could achieve. The area in which we had our sights set on was Margalef. This small town hosts beautiful lines of all difficulties. Everything from 5c to 9b can be found here. The climbing though has a reputation for being painful and hard. Pocket climbing is completely different than crimps, pinches, or slopers. It is a style in which takes time and patience in order to adapt. Courtney and I have had little experience with climbing on pockets. This trip was going to be a good learning experience.

We boarded our flight from LAX and set off on our journey to Barcelona. The travel was long, but anticipation of what the routes were going to be like made the journey less painful. After 15 hours of travel (had a layover in Munich) we arrived in Barcelona. Our bags made it safely; we picked up the rental car, and set off to Margalef.

Margalef is known for pocket climbing. This style of climbing requires tendons of steel. Often, you isolate all your weight onto one and two-finger holes within the rock. This style forces you to climb in a static manner. Before heading to Spain, Courtney and I had a few objectives in mind. Courtney wanted to develop her sport climbing pyramid and send an 8a. I was motivated to try First Round First Minute (5.15b) and also fill in my pyramid. Here is a mini breakdown of how things went.

Courtney spent the first few days climbing on everything and adapting to the style. She found an 8a project in the Cova Soleida sector of Margalef. This line was called Dr. Feel Good. It ascends the prominent overhang, leading to the top of the cliff. It was a classic and begged to be climbed. The beginning moves consisted of big throws in between good pockets on steep terrain. This led into the slightly overhung section of the route. The style here changed and required precise movement in between two-finger pockets. After a few bolts of resistance, the angle changed to vertical, allowing you to put more weight onto the feet. Near the top of the wall (a couple bolts before the chains) lay the redpoint crux. This involved taking a weird sidepull pocket, building the feet up high, and standing tall to a decent right hand pocket. Though the crux is short lived, it is a powerful move to execute after doing all the other climbing. Courtney went to work with the rig and figured out all of the moves quickly. She began making good links, but the upper headwall was still a mystery to her.

Courtney figured out a solution that worked, and then started to give it send attempts. After 3 days of effort, she sent Dr. Feel Good (8a). This was her first 8a. It was awesome being there to watch her take it down. I could tell that she was stoked. After sending she tried an 8a+ called Via Del Marc on the right side of the cave. This climb had nothing but small pockets. The first move involved a powerful throw off of a right hand crimp three-finger pocket to a left hand tufa. Courtney pulled a little too hard and strained a tendon in her right hand ring finger. This injury ended her trip, but she is feeling prime now. She was able to accomplish her goal, which is all that mattered in the end.

My main objective was to try First Round First Minute (9b) established by Chris Sharma. Sadly, this line was wet the entire time. I then looked to another line a few caves down from it called Demencia Senil (9a+). This was also established by Sharma and was very powerful on one and two-finger pockets out a horizontal roof. This climb has only seen ascents by Sharma, Iker Pou, and Ramonet Julian. I was intrigued by its bouldery nature and got sucked in. After a couple days, I had everything figured out and started making send attempts. I climbed through the intro 8c+ and arrived at the rest before the final dyno crux. I stuck the dyno and had just one more hard move before the line was finished. I slipped out of the last pocket, tweaking my finger, and leaving me hanging in the air. It sucked to fail while being so close, but I knew if the conditions were just a little colder, this line would go down. I later went on to send Llamps I Trons (the 8c+ right exit to Demencia) feeling content. It was cool to try hard on something and get motivated to come back in the winter even stronger!

The Spain trip was overall a success. We both climbed some sick routes, hung out with the locals, ate good food, and just enjoyed life. The only downside was tweaking our fingers and the monsoon that hit on our final days, forcing us back to Barcelona. This is life sometimes though in the great outdoors. Until next time…

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