I had heard very mixed reviews about Albarracín. Some friends of mine returned singing its praises and others swore never to return. After watching a video of Romain Desgranges in Albarracín that Adidas posted online I decided to go see what it was all about for myself. I had a two week break from training to climb on rock and spend some time chilling out before the world cup season. I didn’t want to travel far and Font and Switzerland both seemed a little too risky weather wise.
I turned up in Albarracín not really knowing what to expect. All I was hoping for was some warm weather and some fun climbing. On the first day in the forest I was blown away by the quality of the climbing and even more so by the temperatures. It was freezing! I am not a fan of the cold. A friend recently described me as an ‘indoor dog’, initially I was a little offended but then I realised I was sat at a really cool boulder problem happily wrapped in a sleeping bag and a blanket with no intention to expose my hands or feet to climb. This is how the first two days of our trip went. I did try to climb and I quickly learnt how dry the air is in Albarracín when I dry fired off the top of a boulder and landed in a crumpled, puzzled, terrified heap on the mat. This continued to happen, I continued to dry fire, I continued to scare myself and I crossed my fingers for some warmer weather.
So the climbing impressed me but the weather initially was not so appealing. Ned however, was in his element climbing everything in his path teaching me about the affects of conditions. How sticky the rock feels when its cold, dry and breezy. Apparently things go from feeling impossible to doable. I left my fingers crossed underneath my blanket and continued to hope for some sunshine.
After two days and no success on the rock for me I was getting a little fed up and Ned was due a rest day after his fast pace ticking sessions so we decided to head to Valencia to seek out some sunshine, thaw out our bones and eat paella on the beach with some good friends. My desire to bring some warmth back to Albarracín with us must have been strong enough as the temperature slowly began to rise and my motivation followed. I found my flow and was able to push myself and enjoy the play ground that I had before me. On the first warmer day I climbed two really cool 8a’s and I tried the moves on Zaraparrilla too. There was a huge move in the middle that I had initially written off but I had an idea I would have regretted not trying. There was a tiny little undercut without any chalk on that I thought would allow me to build my feet high enough to get enough distance when unleashing to the big crimp rail. To my surprise (and the other people at the boulder) it worked. I also learnt a new technique that a friend suggested for dry conditions when you have dry skin. Licking your fingers before you climb. Yeap, it’s pretty gross but it works!
The next day I headed back to Zaraparilla and fell at the end 4 times constantly refining my sequence and changing shoes. The final move is a long way but in isolation it isn’t a problem for me. Even when I fell I could jump back on immediately and do it. But on the link my forearms and fingers just didn’t quite have enough. I knew exactly what to do and I knew that I could do it so why did I keep falling. There were so many other problems that I wanted to try. I didn’t want to have to come back to this one again and again. The added pressure of returning knowing it was possible was daunting. A feeling I am becoming more and more familiar with.
After a rest day I went back. My head was full of ‘what if’s’ before I even got to the boulder. What if the tweaky move hurts my arm too much? What if there are loads of people on it? What if it’s too hot? What if? What if? What if? There was nothing I could do but go and try. We arrived and it was hot but the boulder had been in the shade so the rock was cool and the two people climbing on the boulder were kind enough to let me join them. After a blissful warm up in the sunshine it was time to start trying. The shade wasn’t going to be around for long! My first go was not so good. I made it to the last move but I climbed stiff, hesitant and ridged. With the pressure of the sun encroaching on the boulder I had to get on as soon as I could. On my second go of the day I was able to climb fluidly and think whilst I was on the rock. I placed my toe differently and adjusted my hand at a better time. Everything clicked together and I latched the last hold.
So lets talk about the grade.If you compared Albarracín to Fonatinebleau then yes I would say that all of the grades are soft but I think you could say the same about almost every area in the world. I don’t really know what grade Zarzaparrilla is to be honest. I didn’t realise that problem had so much controversy surrounding it until after I had climbed it. I had only seen one video of it, a recent video of well renowned climber, Romain Desgranges and he gave it 8b. In the guide book it’s 8b. It took Ned just as much time as all of the other 8b’s that he did. Who am I to give it a different grade? To me it felt hard and I worked hard for it and I didn’t mean to overestimate my ability if thats what people feel I have done. I’m an ‘indoor dog’ after all.
I left Albarracín with many projects from 7a upwards and there are many things that I didn’t get the chance to climb. However, I felt ready to leave Albarracín. I was excited about finishing my training for the world cup season. After a week fulfilling my desire to get out on some rock a slight feeling of guilt began to reveal itself and I wanted to be at home getting ready for the intense season ahead. It’s not long now! 😀