Fire, Blood and Excitment

CREDIT:  Ben Herndon

It’s been a while since my last post and lots of things have been going on. I spent a weekend at Alpkit’s Big Shakeout coaching some little psyched children. It is amazing to see the talent we have coming through and the motivation these children have is inspiring. Alpkit put on an awesome event filled with adventure and entertainment and I event got to brush up on my fire poi skills.

Photo Credits to Daniel Wildey

So for the past few months myself, Stephanie Meysner and Ged Mac of the The Climbing Hangar have been arranging the 2012 Womens Climbing Symposium. An event that aims to connect, inspire and develop women’s climbing through collective climbing experiences, the latest research and the best coaching. Last year the event was an incredible success but it was our first one and we learned a lot and took a lot away from the event. I could not be more excited about this year! There is so much going on expert coaching, talks from some of the most inspiring people of British climbing and Exclusive clips from Hot Aches new film ‘Odyessy’ and Jen Randalls recently released film ‘Push It’. For more information check out our Facebook page HERE 

The event was feeling very well organised and after putting in so much work towards it I decided I could justify leaving the country and getting some sun. 

Margalef, Spain, rolling valleys of deep green trees with strips of beautiful orange and grey limestone endlessly flowing through. The amount of rock in Margalef is totally overwhelming and at first I found it extremely intimidating but came to find it unbelievably exciting. 

Leaving for Spain was really quite unusual. I have taken most of my adventures this year alone and met people along the way but this time I was sat on the plane with some good friends psyched and ready to crush some pockety rock. It had been a very long time since I last went sport climbing outside. My climbing has improved so much and I had no idea of my limits or what I wanted to try. I was however, definitely ready to spend some time out of the country, no comps, no plastic holds, just time to chill out and enjoy climbing.

The small town of Margalef is perched on a hillside deep in one of the valleys. At first glance it looks like a tiny desolate place but unfolds upwards to a cute little church buried amongst the overlapping buildings.

On arrival the weather was less than desirable so the amount climbing and sun bathing was lacking. The weather was a little up and down for the duration of the trip but we had enough days of beautiful sunshine to make it hard to leave. I knew I wasn’t fully fit and I was quite certain I was going to scare myself on the end of a rope. I had never tried anything harder than 8a outside on a rope before, considering so much of my climbing life was spent focused around sport climbing my lack of days spent sport climbing is quite pathetic. In Margalef I got on a route called Darwin Dixit. Good holds and huge moves on very steep ground up to a mono and then a pockety head wall. It was first graded 8c and now 8b+. Having never pulled on anything this hard my psychological fear of the climb proved to be challenging to overcome. Before even getting on the climb I was convinced the moves would be insanely hard and the fact that the holds were wet just allowed for me to create more barriers. I was surprised to do all of the moves on my first try and they didn’t feel too hard. I lowered off pleased with my effort but the thought of linking it all together was very hard to comprehend. 

CREDIT: Rachel Hoyland

CREDIT: Rachel Hoyland

After a rest day we were up early to try and get in some climbing before the dark angry sky inevitably brought the rain back again. Even though we only got a little bit done before the rain came hammering down it was our best day climbing! I got back on Darwin and after getting scared at the start on the huge moves, had a really productive and progressive session on it. I managed to climb it in two sections and figure out some more efficient beta on the lower moves as it was steep enough to remain dry in the down pour. The day continued into a full day of trying hard, avoiding the rain and climbing on any dry rock we could find. This included one of the best routes I have ever climbed! A beautiful 7a up big fat tufa’s. So much fun!  Another long night of heavy down pour left  motivation lacking and the prospects of finding some dry rock were looking bleak. However, Rachel Hoyland, psyche enthusiast was at the ready to drag us out in search of something to climb on. Another productive day where I gained another project,  a really cool steep 8a. It was so much fun to climb on and scared me quite a lot too which just made me want to do it more. I got really psyched about doing it and had a few red point attempts. The thunder God however had decided not to allow me to do the climb that day. The crux was a mono in the roof, every time I went for the mono there was a loud terrifying clap of thunder which scared me far too much to consider carrying on with the climb.

It went down the next morning first try though  after a few squats and a good Beastmaker travel finger board warm up. Then it was back to Darwin. I felt tired and the holds were still a little wet, it didn’t feel possible so I spent a little time improving my beta and decided to save energy for a few goes the next morning before flying home.



CREDIT: Rachel Hoyland

Sunday morning, our flight left at five and we were up early to make the most of the perfect conditions, cold, sunny, dry… well pretty much everything was dry except for the third hold which I had to do a huge move off. Ned’s drying skills allowed for red point attempts to go ahead. On my first effort I found myself at the mono crux, my hands were freezing and through fear of injury I went no further. I decided that was my warm up go and composed myself to try again. In just a few days I had gone from not being able to comprehend even attempting a route this hard and being terrified on the end of a rope to being ready to climb it. I was insanely psyched and I even felt confident. Mark had kindly dried the hold, my hands were warm, I was ready to go.

I pulled on and before I knew it I could see the sky… I was upside-down with my head just off the ground. As the confusion settled this allowed the throbbing pain from my finger tip to sneak in…

I had pulled the hold off. GUTTED is a massive understatement. I still can’t believe I pulled a hold off such a classic route of the area, sorry! Guess all the training has made me too strong! 

Emotions were mixed but frustration was most evident. Margalef is amazing, I would recommend it to any one. Loosing my finger tip made leaving much easier but I really hope to return some day. I had an awesome week with Rachel, Mark and Ned. Being with good people in such beautiful places makes me realise what a unique and incredible sport climbing is. 


It’s now only 2 days until the symposium and I am getting very excited and nervous. There are 130 women traveling from across Europe to be at the event this year! I am just writing my talk for the day now and reflecting on my world cup year is making me so psyched for 2013! I will let you all know how the day goes!



2 Responses to “Fire, Blood and Excitment

  • HI Shauna! Congratulations for your fast recovery! I was very impress with you in the world championship. I know very well Laboratory roofs and you shuld know for the next time that it is better to try other routes if the holds are wet! Sika can break as you have seen!. I think the route does not change a lot!

  • Shauna, thanks for the amazing blogpost, great to hear how you approached the psychological side of it all. Super psyched now as heading to margalef in a couple of days – what’s the name of the 7a with the “big fat tufas!” sounds like my kind of route. Hope the flapper healed quickly and thought your routes at the Legends comp were awesome.