Spain has been amazing. We have had our ups in downs (perhaps more downs than up), but we’re in Spain. The country is new and a great joy in which to live. That said, we might have been in need of some change. Sending has been low, in large part due to the lack of climbing opportunities and the incidences of mishaps has been high. Such are the hardships of travel but a close to these hardships are rightly forthcoming. What a good time for change then to have Brent join our trip. A world traveler in the fullest sense of the term, Brent has been to many countries for extended periods of time and knows his way around most trying situations. Brent’s presence is to be our demarcation for a new chapter in this climbing trip, complete with sending, no car trouble and an easement of life. I hope
Monday, May 7th
Brent was due to arrive at the airport at 8:20 a.m. In an email he sent to Jonathan the night before he wrote that it would take him a bit of time to clear customs and would be waiting for us at the curb to pick him up at 10:45 a.m. Thinking that this was an odd and lengthy increment of time we decided to get to the airport at 9:45 a.m., assuming a typo in the email. We arrived at 9:30 and headed to the arrivals section of the airport. As we pulled into the pickup area we found that there was no curbside pick up. Perhaps we missed it. Jonathan made a loop, passing all of the parking areas and headed back to arrivals. We hadn’t missed the curb-side. There wasn’t one. Thinking that it was fine we parked and headed to the arrival terminal so that we might meet Brent as he cleared customs and exited to gated area.
At around 10 a.m. and after several laps in areas Brent could possibly be waiting we agreed that his email was not a typo and he really meant to be picked up at 10:45. As the clock struck 11 a.m. a sense of dread set in. How could more misfortune befall us? Where is Brent? Has his flight been canceled? Is he being detained? We had no idea and with no internet access we could not see if he had sent an email. We began to search the airport for our lost friend.
We searched the bus pickup, cabstands, and other areas in the terminal, all to no avail. We asked multiple information attendants for help. They all assured us that there was no curbside pickup and we would find Brent in the arrivals terminal. He was nowhere to be found. Distraught and cosmically marked for doom we decided at 12:15 p.m. to head upstairs to the departure area. Maybe he was there. Just as we walked to the escalator to go up, there he was, baldhead gleaming in the Noon sun, cascading down the moving human conveyor towards us. What a relief! We found Brent. And of course, as per the theme of our trip, his flight had arrived early. He was through customs and directed to the departures area to be picked up by the very same information associates who we spoke to, by 8:30 a.m. Welcome to Spain Brent. This is how it’s going to be.
With our precious cargo in tow we were off back towards Tremp. En route we stopped for a delightful little Kebob in a small town. It was quite nice to have some food after the lengthy morning and we needed a bit of sustenance because by sheer will and an act of Herculean manliness, Brent wanted to go climbing. After lunch we gathered a few things from the apartment and went to Les Bruixes.
For me, the day was a total bust. For those familiar, you know the pain and annoyance associated with the DOMS (delayed onset muscle soreness). My forearms we so sore that they were to the point of pain. No amount of stretching throughout the day could alleviate the tight sore feeling. When I tried to climb I was almost immediately pumped and felt weak. My pump was painful. I barely made my way up a 7a+ called ‘Pasta Sin Agua’ for the warm up. With one more attempt in my arsenal, I tried a climb called ‘Avant Match’ 7c and fell half way up with the extremity of my forearm pain keeping me from completing even very juggy straightforward moves. I was hopeful though that the effort on the day would flush out whatever lactic acids were in my arms causing me so much pain. I was hopeful for the next day.
Brent had a killer day. He onsighted ‘Pasta Sin Agua’ 7a+ and ‘Jam Session’ 7b. He also had two really good goes on ‘Avant Match’ 7c and was able to provide Jonathan and I with some good beta. Jonathan was able to give two good goes on ‘Avant Match’ and also flashed ‘Pasta.’ The day turned out very well for these two and not bad overall considering our airport epic.
We did have a less than desirable encounter with a young lad named… well, I don’t like to name drop. While Brent was climbing ‘Jam Session’ a youngish fellow American walked up the trail and started talking to Jonathan. Jonathan, being the affable and ever so much more approachable than say, me for example, engaged with, oh lets call him Javier. Javier it turns out is out here solo and searching for partners. With three people in a climbing set it was a little awkward getting out of the situation of having Javier fishing so hard to climb with us. I am, as a rule, skeptical of climbing with people I do not know and take a while to warm up to most generally. Compounding the situation was Javier’s propensity to use the word Fuck in just about every sentence. I am all for pointed expression and colorful speech but it was ridiculous. He also let us know that he was camping in his Smart Car in the tunnel beneath the crag. What a weirdo! I was not psyched but somehow we managed to shake him and escape without having to accept the strange invitation to go have a beer and climb the next day. I am not sure he was even old enough to drink by U.S standards. A strange end to an eventful day.
Tuesday May 8th
With Brent out of TSA dodge and a welcome addition to the bungalow, Jonathan and I were psyched to show him Santa Linya. My forearms felt fine in the morning and the psych was high. After breakfast and a quick grocery run we headed off to the well traveled Cova Grand. The sight remains impressive every time we walk up to this steep behemoth towering 40+ meters high with lines that have only been fully unlocked by some of the best climbers in the world.
We started the day on our usual warm up, ‘Meneo Canario’ 7b. I was first up and was happy to feel more normal although I felt a little weak for some reason. Despite this fact I was psyched because ‘Rollito’ 8b+ was dry. Jonathan sent the warm up project and Brent was bringing added psych to the table. After the shorter warm up we went to get on ‘Airline’ 7b and then warm up more on the moves of ‘Blomu’ 8b+, which climbs off ‘Airline.’ ‘Blomu’ felt hard. Very hard. The heat and humidity was high but I also just felt like garbage. I was determined to try hard on the day and moved my attention to ‘Rollito.’
Climber: Brent McDaniel
|Photo: Jonathan Bradt|
My first attempt on the climb I just wanted to feel the moves again, try and reestablish my beta and resting situations while warming up to the climb. A halfhearted attempt on the big dyno at the end of the crux had my unmotivated and swinging too low to want to jug back up and try again. I didn’t understand why I was feeling do bad. Maybe some food and rest would help. I had plenty of each while I gave Jonathan some catches, which we will soon come to, and wandered around the cave. After some time and sustenance I was ready to try again. Brent, the master of knee bars inspired me to try a kneepad for the first time ever. What a difference! The knee bars were far less uncomfortable and so much easier to set and hold!
As I made my way past the first knee bar I felt good and easily dispatched the main crux before the dyno. Before setting up for the dyno and with my kneepad firmly affixed to my leg I desperately searched for a crucial but difficult to set knee bar essential for recovery before the big move. I could barely set it, and getting pumped and nervous my knee bar slipped out as I tried to clip. I fell. I felt good though and had made a high point on the route, even in a state of not optimum climbing power. I pulled back up and did the dyno and the rest of the moves first try with a couple more hangs. Very happy with the attempt I decided to rest and have one more evening, cooler temp go.
Rollito Sharma 8b+
Climber: Danger Jones
|Photos: Jonathan Brandt|
My last attempt was about as good as the previous one. With two kneepads, shorts and duct tape in tow I was ready for knee bar action. I was still unable to execute the rests and fell at the same place. One final attempt at the dyno had me haphazardly slapping the pinch off the dyno. A day of progress.
Brent spent his day succumbing to jet lag and saving energy for the next day of climbing. He tried, ‘Meneo Canario’ and ‘Airline’ and will certainly send on his next outing.
Jonathan spent the day working ‘Blomu.’ He was able to make it through ‘Airline’ flawlessly three times and put in some excellent work in up high. With a few more good links this monolith could fall at his hands. Psych was high as Jonathan kept making high points but just as I, succumbed to the fatigue at the end of the day.
Climber: Jonathan Brandt
|Photos: Brent McDaniel|
Wednesday, May 9th
The dreaded third day on was upon us. Our fingers were stiff and sore but we were ready for another day at Les Bruixes. We decided on this crag because although sunny in the afternoon it gets good morning and evening shade. Send temps here are very good at these times because of the lower humidity.
After a hearty breakfast and a short hike we started the day by warming up on ‘Occident’ 7c. As we geared up for this climb our old tunnel troll friend Javier accosted us. Recounting his experiences on the climb he followed us up the hill with his harness and gryffindor grue offering to belay one of us. So weird! He was fishing so hard but we weren’t biting. No one answered and he spent the entirety of Jonathan’s attempt on the climb laying on the ground watching and not saying a single word. I guess that’s the sort of social interaction you become accustomed to when you’re livin IN A SMART CAR, DOWN BY THE RIVER!! After Jonathan lowered, he left without a word and wrangled some other poor soul into climbing with him.
Brent was next up on the climb and came close to flashing it but had trouble with the top crux. I opted not to push through the pump on the climb because of the fact that a good flash pump ruins my day of climbing. Yes, I am a very high maintenance climbing mamsy pamsy. I wear skinny jeans, its part of who I am. Come at me! Jonathan quickly sent on his next go with ease thus ticking off his hardest send of the trip! Get EM!
Next in my crosshairs was a climb called ‘El Latido del Miedo’ 8a. This route definitely ranks on my list of top climbs. A low tufa forest gives way to interesting moves on some thin pinches and edgy face climbing which leads to a large rest. After the rest you climb into another tufa section with some very tricky feet. At the top you get another decent rest and do one last two-move heartbreaker boulder problem and clip the anchors. The route is riddled with drop knees and roll-throughs. This climb, on this particular day, also came with a little clicking demon beast in a good two-finger pocket. When I put my hand in the hole I heard an unsettling noise emanating from some sort of impish creature. Further investigation yielded no evidence of what sordid creature this was, but increased my terror. To compound the issue there was no alternate beta. The human finger-eating pocket had to be used. I moved as quickly as possible, terrified of what my latch onto my hand in the depths of this black hole. Not cool.
After I got down the sun had started blazing and we retreated into the trees and shade for the next five or so hours. It was far too hot to climb. Jonathan, wracked with boredom, bravely ventured out into the heat to hang the draws on ‘Red Bull’ 7c+. As his belayer I suffered with him in the heat but I can honestly say that he put himself through the some of the worst climbing conditions imaginable. The rock was hot to the touch in some places. No wonder the hell demon finger chomper loved its hot little hole. That sounds bad. Anyways, after the heat abated and sending temps arrived we were ready for a couple of end of the day efforts.
Brent was up first and decided to hang draws on ‘Avant Match’, the 7c we had tried two days prior. His go was okay but he got flashed pumped after cooling down in the blazing sun for so long. I was next and went down to give ‘Latido’ another try. As I made my way through the tufa forest and to the first clip, the hold I went to clip off of cracked. I was 10 feet above a ledge that was another 6 feet above the ground. A loud snap resonated as the front half of the hold broke off in my hand. With no other choice I angrily clipped off the broken hold and threw the broken pieces aside. Even though a full break of the hold would doubtless have me in the hospital, I wasn’t particularly scared but pissed that this audacious hold dared to threaten the rest of my climbing trip. With fire in my belly I sprinted past the little Gremlin hole (he sounded more angry this time around) to the good rest. After a bit of time on the rest I raced for the top of the route. I was unable to beat my pump in the race. With feet cutting, yelling and cursing I tried hard but fell out of a jug, which may have provided me with just enough recuperation for the push to the top. I was happy with the attempt and the effort I put forth. I was able to finish the top of the climb clean. I was happy with a one hang go of a tufa intensive 8a.
Avant Match 7c
Climber: Brent McDaniel
|Photos: Jonathan Brandt|
The light faded and with dusk approaching Jonathan gave one last effort on ‘Red Bull.’ He came up just short on the precision pocket move up top. Brent, being the miraculous game changer gent that he is, impressed with a near complete darkness, not woods dark, but dark dark, send of ‘Avant Match’ 7c. After packing up and hiking down in the dark we headed to Pobla de Segur to have as much tapas as we could fit in our bellies at JM. A great meal topped off a good day and we were ready for the sleep-in rest day party to ensue.
Red Bull 7c+
Climber: Jonathan Brandt
|Photos: Brent McDaniel|
Thursday, May 10th
Rest day! Breakfast. Grocery store. Lots of coffee. Long phone conversation with this hot girl back home that lets me call her my girlfriend (I don’t even have to pay her!). This blog post. Dinner when Jonathan and Brent return from a silly day of hiking. Oh they’re here. Dinner.