søndag 15. januar 2012

8 Months later.. Part 2


About a week after the worldcup in Barcelona, Hannah´s brother Magnus (Midtbø) showed up in Santa Linya to try Fuck the System (9a) with Jackob (Schubert). They tried it in the sun for 2 days, their trip came to an end, and both left with no send.
Magnus was returning to stay with us for the holidays, and after only one week in Norway he was back December 18.

December 16 I got a message from Sindre (Sæther) who (to complicate the story) had already been down here on a brief visit just a few weeks ago. He was wondering if we had room for one more during the holidays.
I said we did and he send me a new sms saying he was gonna check tickets.

The next message i got was the morning of the 18-th. Sindre: "In Barcelona, got any good beta and how to get to Balaguer?"

Since we didn´t know Sindre was coming, we hadn´t told Magnus.
So by chance Sindre and Magnus ended up on the same flight but somehow managed not to see each other.
Magnus rented a car, drove directly to the cave, had several good goes on Fuck the System and got to see Hannah climb Fabelita.
Sindre on the other hand ended up on the slow train. First to Barcelona, then to Lleida, before finally Balaguer 2 hours after sunset.
From there on Sindre´s trip changed for the better, but I´ll get back to that later.

Fuck the System

The next day I was back up the ropes to film Magnus. He was looking much stronger after a week back home "resting" and had seemed very close on the route the day before.
So, not surprisingly, after a quick warmup he sent the route in front of the camera.

Unfortunately the sun was on and with only one anchor for me to hang in I got my shade in a lot of the footage from the upper part. The contrast was also horrible so one of the crux sections got horribly overexposed...

"Magnus passing he´s highpoint and entering the upper crux (video still)"

The news of Magnus send was out the same day, but unfortunately some of the climbing media jumped to some wrong conclusions and managed to call it second go/second day and so on.
Magnus wrote on he´s blog that he did the route on he´s second day of the (this) trip...

What people also don´t seem to understand is that most of the harder routes in the cave are in some ways link ups, variations, direct starts, extensions and so on.

Fuck the System is no different. It is a direct finish to the 8c Digital System and tops out in the same anchor as Blomu´s second extension (8c+).
It breaks away from Digital System after the crux (from that point to the top of Digital it´s about 7c+/8a) and goes into a crux section of about 10-15 meters before traversing into Blomu at the last hard moves.
There is a "rest" just where the route leaves Digital System and the main crux sequences are completely separated from the other two routes all the way up until the very last move.

"Digital System crux sequence (video still)"

Magnus had before doing Fuck the System done both Blomu and Digital System on previous trips, so even thought the hardest part of the route was new to him it seems wrong in my eyes to try to quantify the effort into days or attempts...

"To anyone wanting just a happy pappy blog and not my ranting about people trying to measure and compare climbing efforts, please skip down to the next headline:)"

The counting of days and attempts is in most cases a pointless way of trying to measure what can not be measured anyway.

The only thing that really matters here in my eyes are the Conditions! On most of the routes they make all the difference.
1 good day is worth countless bad once when you try to do hard redpoints. On a good day you could shake out on almost any big hold. In bad conditions you will be slipping on jugs.

This is the big difference to indoor climbing where the route at least in theory should feel about the same to anyone if we don´t bring the whole physical difference (weight/reach and so on) into the picture.

In Santa Linya the perfect days are the once with not to strong sun and wind.
The wind how ever is very rare and hopeless to predict in advance.

A route that can feel easy on one of those rare windy winter days could take weeks in the more normal foggy, warm and/or humid conditions or simply be impossible in the heat of summer. Making this whole obsession people seem to have with time pointless, a measure of nothing.

To my knowledge Magnus spent about 4 days on the route (not counting what was spent on Digital or Blomu before). He climbed it in the sun with no wind. On the first trip it was very warm, when he came back it was a bit colder, but still neither great nor bad conditions.

Had he gotten perfect conditions he´s first trip he might have done the route then, but on the other hand, had he gotten humid foggy conditions he might have needed more time.
It was not an onsight nor was it a flash, so I ask, does it then really matter if he spent 2 days, 4 days or 2 weeks to do it?

The Bolger watch

Since I first got to know Tom Bolger in the spring he has been working on Chris Sharmas Catxasa (9a+). I was belaying Hannah just meters away when Chris did the first ascent in January 2011. At the time I did not know what I was watching, but the climbing looked spectacular.
"Sharma on the actual first ascent of Catxasa 9a+"

When Tom then started working it about a month later, I started filming he´s efforts. Tom managed to get to within a meter of the anchors before summer came and the cave got to hot, forcing him to wait until late November before it once again was possible to climb on.

Tom lives in the Santa Linya village (just up the street from us), and a long side Sharma is one of the most dedicated and inspirational red point climbers I have ever encountered.

While I was struggling with my red point motivation on the Tano in spring, Tom´s motivation seemed unwavering. He would climb up (about 8b+) and fall on a desperate stab to a mono over and over, come back down, rest and go again 3-4 times a day for days, weeks, months.

With poor training facilities during the long summer (a hangboard) he seemed a bit unfit when we returned, but two weeks later the route finally dried up and after a few weeks of training on it, he´s form returned remarkably quick. Now he´s once again making it through the lower (8A+) boulder crux and into the upper crux of Fabela (8c+). (se video still below of the decisive top crux).
"Tom Bolger facing the last hard moves on one of he´s better red point attempts"

The red point game eventually gets to any man, (even Tom it would seem) and after attempts in the hundreds and several falls at the very top, Tom would look rested and fresh, but still fall off this one move (see video still above).
Tom has yet to do the route and has been taking a break during the holidays, but now, equipped with some new beta for the top crux and a new found motivation I hope we will get to see him do it any day now:)

A different Christmas

A few days after Sindre and Magnus. Kiffen (Kristoffer Torbjørnsen) and he´s father Knut arrived.
Martin and Maria also returned, but as our house was running out of beds they decided to rent a room over at Tom and Lynne´s.
"X-mas dinner. From the left: Magnus, Kiffen, Me, Sindre, Hannah and Knut"

I will not bother to much with dates as the days all seem to blur together down here, but I can say that Tc (Therese Johansen) also joined us the 26-th.

The wind was as usual absent, but for most of the time, so was the fog.
where damp after the sub zero temps at night and most of the day the sun was scorching hot.
Good conditions could only be found for about one hour, (also know as golden hour) just before the sun went off the wall around 5-ish
. At 6 darkness would creep back in and the humidity would again rise to somewhere between annoying and unbearable.

The rock in the cave is rarely sharp. One can work the routes in the sun without shaving off all the precious skin, but redpointing is a different matter.
Magnus found himself a new project in the linkup Directa Open your Mind (9a), and impatient as he is, he would get on it an hour to early and fall of at the top dehydrated and wasted for the day.
He also had a few goes on bad days when humidity was high and slipped of the bottom crux. But eventually he got a break, managed to wait for the sun to fade, and cruised up the route.

"Magnus on the upper part of Directa Open your Mind 9a (video still)"

Magnus had previously done Open your Mind (8c/+) years ago, but could remember little of it.
The directa start is a short 8c+ into the 8c part skipping the normal 8a start to the right (the 8a start adds the /+ to the grade on the "easy" version as there is no really good rest).
I was up in the ropes filming from above while Kiffen with he´s own brand new 5D (borrowing my tripod) filmed from the ground.
Kiffens video can be found here:

As always the critics at 8a.nu managed to throw out some shitty comments about preclipping and a cheaterstone? (seriously...) Anyways, I will try to clarify here as I will no longer comment at the 8a site.

The route has (to my knowledge) never been done without 2 preclipped bolts. It is the normal ethics down here (at least on the hardest routes) to start with 2 bolts clipped, dangerous or not.
The first bolt is usually just there to reach the next and to keep the climber from crashing into the belayer when he(or she) falls at the 3 bolt.
The routes are long and potentially hitting the ground on a hard second clip for no other reason then to prove a point makes no sense. Sport climbing is about the physical aspect of climbing, not the danger.

The other comment about starting from a stone is even more funny. It´s a route! Not some low boulder.
I agree that building stone towers (like on many routes in Margalef) to skip hard first moves is a valid issue but also a whole different matter.
Here the small stone he starts from only serves the purpose of protecting the shoes from the sand on the ground, it has no effect on reaching holds or making it easier in any way...

About the grade... There is another extension to the route graded 9a/+. It´s basically an additional 8b+ after a good rest where the first 9a part ends. Most say it doesn´t really affect the grade, even thought mentally it of course makes some difference. The problem with the extension thought is that it never gets climbed.
When Magnus went up there to test the moves he was faced with holds covered with old birds nests and very little chalk. He only tested the extension that one time.
One the red point when he got to the first anchors, he tried to go on, but to impatient to sit in a uncomfortable ledge/hole for 30 min and rest properly he rested briefly and went for it, got a cramp in one arm (that stuck with him for days), and fell off.


Having forsaken the rope lately, Kiffen seemed a bit out of shape compared to former glory days, something he´s father, the always funny, Knut kept reminding him to everyone´s amusement. "I´v never seen you this weak Kiffen".
On top of this I managed to set the hue on the camera a bit too much in the pink-ish direction while filming him trying the power endurance 8a+ Irak Attack, and well, you get the picture:D
"Kiffen in pink on the crux of Irak Attack 8a+ (video still)"

Kiffen, like me spent a lot of he´s time playing around with the camera, and until the very last day failed both to send routes and win once in the nightly texas hold´em tournaments.
The last day however, that changed, after sending Pegue Nocturno (8a) in a desperate last ditch effort after falling of the top 2 times. He surprised everyone (none more then himself) by finally winning a poker game, leaving he´s father as the only one never to win. (In comparison Hannah won 6-7 times and still sits as reigning champion.)
"Kiffen on Pegue Nocturno 8a (video still)"

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