lundi 7 octobre 2013

Adventure climbing in Oliana with Albert and Dany

The initial plan was to go to Mont Rebei, a famous place for adventure rock climbing. But the weather forecast was for rain all the night before, so we decided to change plan for a sunnier climb which would dry faster... I suggested a route called "Mare Tenebrossum", in the region of Oliana... The route is quite long (340m for 11 pitches), and presents 2 huge roofs which have to be aid climbed. I though it could be "fun"...

About the name of the climb, the Mare Tenebrossum (Dark Sea in English) was for the Romans the ocean Atlantic, which was supposed to drop in some huge precipe eventually, populated by monsters, diseases, and which has regular big storms. In any case, not a place where you would want to venture, unlike the Mediterranean sea, or Mare Nostrum in Latin.

Forgetting about this, we started the 1h30 hike in at 9am, probably a bit late...  I took the lead for the first third of the route. The first 3 pitches are the ones of an other route, are quite nice, and bolted. Then our route goes out left-ward in order to reach the big overhangs, and the atmosphere changes radically: very little equipment, some parts of dodgy rock... I lead until pitch 5, when Dany takes its turn for 2 pitches of more "equipped" climbing but more difficult as well, on vertical rock...

By equipped, I mean burils, which are what were used before bolts appeared, and obviously don't compare to bolts in terms of resistance... There are still found in many not-so-travelled climbs, and sometimes are in a bad state... That is part of the "fun" of what is called "classica" climbing in Spain, which is often a mix of trad and aid climbing, and equipped with a mix of things, when there is equipment in-situ... Maybe the most apropriate definition is "climbs which have kept the ethic of the first ascent". Knowing that back in the day they had more balls than we do, it usually means that having a solid head is more important than the sport climbing skills...

Back to the climb, on pitch 8 starts the real fun. It's a pitch of aid climbing (equipped with some old burils which you have to use as there are no options of pitoning...). The pitch goes by a large roof, maybe of 5-6 metres, leading to a very uncomfortable belay station, in a very exposed spot! The void starts to be very palpable...

Now, obviously, going down is not an option any-more...

Albert starts pitch 9, which is probably the most impressive pitch I have ever done. The pitch starts by 20m of aid climbing, going over an other big roof, equivalent in size to the first one. Aid climbing this part, the exposure now is amazing... You left the vertical world for a world of void... Void void void... I am not sensitive to vertigo in general, but I have to admit that I was climbing with some stomach cramps this time...

After the roof, you are left with 25m of climbing of grade 6a, and totally unequipped... The first part cannot be protected, and as such you have to climb quite above the last dodgy buril... Definitely some serious climbing, I was very glad not to be leading on that pitch, as I was already scared to second it... Then Albert manages to put some pros and the climbing cools down... At least the rock is of the best quality on this pitch.

At the 9th belay station, we look at the time... It's almost 7pm, which means no more than an hour of daylight, for 2 remaining pitches... We have been going slow... Albert spent a bit of time looking after the start of next pitch, again a grade 6a with no equipment. As such, the way to go is not obvious at all since there are no indices where to go... I ear Albert moaning loud that the protections he did put are shit, that he does not know where he should go... And then come a few "se me cago en la puta" or "se me cago en la mare que em va parir", which are very explicit insults... Very rare for such a calm climber as he is... There I ear Albert shouting to himself "stop to be a pussy, and just climb this shit". So he does, and reaches the belay station, a solid tree attached to the crag. Me and Dany reach him just at full darkness...

Remains the easiest pitch (French grade 5)... But it starts to rain a bit, just to add some more fun to the climb... Bloody Murphy's law... Albert nevertheless solve this pitch easily, and express loudly his happiness to be finished the climb. I had to climb this pitch in full darkness, since I had forgotten my head-torch in the car... idiot...

We are all together at the top at 9pm, very tired, but happy to have made it! After some fun night walking, we reached the car 2h30 later, and Barcelona by 3am... As Dany said very correctly that we lucky to have Sunday to recover before starting the working week... Sunday which I spend in the couch no doing more than farting around on the internet, reading, or eating.

Personally, I learned quite a lot on that climb. First, it is the first time I am so dominated by a climb. If Albert wouldn't have been with us, I don't think I would have managed it, and that we would have had to at least spend a bad night on the cliff, or maybe even call for rescue... Two reasons for this: first, I spent a lot of energy in the aid climbing part because I am inexperienced in this kind of climbing. Neither I had the best gears for it. Secondly, I am not yet mentally prepared for this kind of seriousness, which I guess you can only improve by experience.

But overall, the feeling of adventure was somehow thrilling, so I wouldn't mind to start it again... but not right now! :D


PS: thanks Albert for the photos! :)

Third pitch

5th pitch

5th pitch

5th pitch

6th pitch

Massive roofs on our left

8th pitch - Albert going through the first roof

Dany at the 7th belay station

Dany in the first roof

Dany in the first roof

Albert taking us at the 8th belay station, from the 2nd roof

Happy to have made it!