Saturday, July 26, 2008

Tales of Spain 6: Swimming Holes

After all the punishment our muscles, skin and egos took climbing at Rodellar, I started to question which I enjoyed most: the climbing or the swimming. We spent many of our rest days exploring the swimming holes located along the Rio Mascun. The water was frigid, and jumping in was totally exhilarating. The water was normally a clear emerald green. Unfortunately, these pictures were taken the day after a thunderstorm, and the water is cloudy.

A few weeks into our trip, our Russian neighbors in camp told us of a swimming hole with "warm water and a waterfall." We jumped in the car with our Australian and British friends to find this rumored paradise. What we found exceeded our expectations. El Salto at Al Berge is the ultimate rest day location. It hosts a deep swimming hole, water of a comfortable temperature, and El Salto (The Jump). There is even a restaurant if you need coffee, beer, or food.

Tales of Spain 5: Gran Boveda

Gran Boveda was another sector where we spent a significant amount of time. The routes at Gran Boveda are super long, juggy fitness tests. These pictures show Ella, Heather and Wendy on a few of the brilliant routes at the sector.

We gave our camera to our Canadian friend Magda to take a few pictures. She had the rapid fire finger. Here is a huge collection of pictures of the route Ambicion Zero.

Saturday, July 19, 2008

Tales of Spain 4: Pince sans rire

We spent many days at sector Pince sans rire. It is a smaller sector, but it has good warm- up routes on the right side that are shaded early in the afternoon. The right side of the wall has an incredible collection of long, steep routes with sustained tufa columns. At the center of the sector is a deep cave with a few nearly horizontal roof climbs. It took me three days to piece together a physically possible sequence on my project, El enano de la chepa del Seta, 5.13c. The route followed a line out the guts of the cave, and involved some truly bizarre climbing. I wish I had some pictures.

Wendy redpointed Akelarre, 5.13a. On this amazing line, a pumpy section of tufa columns led into a burly crux section on powerful underclings. The route was capped with a juggy run to the anchor. Here are Wendy and Heather working the route.

Tales of Spain Part 3: Las Ventanas del Mascun

After the series of small bumps in the road, we were happy to be settled so that we could enjoy the climbing. It was well worth the money and the trouble. I am organizing slide shows by the different sectors at Rodellar.
Las Ventanas del Mascun is probably the best sector at Rodellar. It hosts a very large number of routes. Most of them are long and extremely steep. Wendy and I are climbing on two classic routes on the left side of Las Ventanas.

The next series shows Joe Kinder redpointing Pata Negra, 5.14b. I am climbing on my big project, Kings of Metal, 5.13c. I put a lot of time and effort into this 35 meter route, and it caused me plenty of pain and suffering as I fell near the top several times with the send at my fingertips.

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Tales of Spain Part 2: Rodellar

We blazed down the highways in the kickin' Peugeot (can you tell I really liked our rental car) at a steady 120-130 km/hr. Then, we experienced some genuine European rural driving. A slim vein of asphalt that did not seem wide enough to accommodate two cars wound through a post card setting of fields, and tiny towns with buildings set into rock outcrops. The road wound like a string of spaghetti along the rims of deep canyons, and we crossed narrow, single lane arch bridges constructed from stone and mortar.

While it was questionable whether or not the road was wide enough for two cars, it was certainly not wide enough for a tour bus and our car. We were greeted with the front bumper of a bus coming around a sharp corner, and the only option available was to take the Peugeot into the ditch. The Peugeot was unfazed, and we pressed on, the road descending through a thick forest, until we arrived at our destination: Rodellar.

Tales of Spain Part 1: Traveling

Months before we left on our journey, it seemed practical to fly to Spain the day after finishing the school year. This schedule, however, led to a frantic scramble to complete my work responsibilities and pack. Thrown into the final push was a series of celebratory and going away dinners because our friends are the best. The capper was a staff party at Jane's followed by a sixth grade "We made it" celebration dinner. We wandered home in a blurred state the eve of our adventure faced with a 5:00 AM departure.

Our journey to the airport was uneventful. 40th and Airport is the beta for traveling. Unlimited free long term parking in a well lit lot that is patrolled. $7 shuttle drops you right at the door of the terminal. Check out for directions ect.
Having checked in and passing through security with hours to spare, we were feeling good. We did it! We were heading to Spain!

The monitor displayed Flight Canceled, setting off a series of near catastrophes. We proceeded to the flight canceled line and waited for 45 minutes with a large group of disgruntled passengers. The United person hooked us up with an alternative flight plan, which involved a high paced, high stress series of connections from Chicago to Newark. We had no more than 15 minutes to arrive, figure out our gate and run to make our flight. Both connections were a last call slide to the finish. We did it though, and we again felt satisfied to arrive in Barcelona via Portugal.

With the terrible lost baggage experiences of our friend Jenn at the front of our mind, we watched the baggage dispenser with reserved hope. I mentally rejoiced as bag 1, 2, and 3 appeared, but we were left hanging as Wendy's climbing pack was MIA. We were assured the bag would be delivered to our hotel the following day. After picking up our kickin, black Peugot rental, we headed to our hotel and collapsed into a deep sleep.

More good beta: for car rental. Much cheaper than other companies.

The following morning I called and was happy to hear that the bag was at the airport. I requested for them to keep the bag, we jumped in the kickin Peugot and rallied to the airport ready make tracks for Rodellar. During this time the airline was gracious enough to send the bag out in a van destined, eventually, for our hotel.

I had come up with a great plan to manage our funds. Wendy and I put $200 euro each into an old airline envelope to pay for our shared expenses on the trip. While awaiting Wendy's bag we walked over to a shopping center to have lunch. On our walk, I noticed I had an old airline envelope in my pocket, and no longer needing my ticket stubs, I threw the envelope into a garbage can on the street corner. Yes, that envelope contained $400 euro. When it came time to pay for lunch, Wendy inquired as to the whereabouts of our group fund. At that time, the realization of my idiocy struck me like an electric shock. I feigned ignorance, and suggested we immediately return to the hotel to see if the bag had arrived. As we approached the corner trash can containing our money, I was demoralized to see that all of the street trash cans contained new, clean trash bags. While I am an absentminded dimwit, I am also lucky. I strolled by the corner garbage can, plucked out our money, and immediately turned responsibility for group fund management over to Wendy.

The bag arrived and we left Barcelona eager to get to Rodellar. We were filled with anticipation imagining Rodellar as the ultimate sport climbing destination.

Stay tuned for part 2 of Tales of Spain

Sunday, July 13, 2008

Birth of the Blog

I'm creating a blog in attempts to better keep in touch with friends and family, at which I am rubbish. (I'm practicing my new vocabulary after hanging out with the international crowd in Spain. Rubbish is British speak for really bad). I hope you all enjoy our photos and news.

Coming Soon: The full account of our 5 week adventure in Spain.