During an extended dirtbag climbing trip in Europe, I picked a fantastic line on the inspiring Bruixes cliff in Terradets, Catalunya, and poured my efforts into doing it. My previous experience of redpointing had been the ad-hoc type, rather than planned sieges. A week of attempts saw me repeatedly getting close. I would hurl myself at my chosen route over and over again until shattered, climb the next day on other routes, then rest. I spent rest days skulking about outside the refuge with a motley crew of Americans, nursing coffees and playing endless games of dominoes whilst we all waited for our arms to recover in time for the next day on our respective projects. My departure time drew closer, and my attempts became more frantic: I desperately wanted to get the route done. I could get to the ‘rest’ high on the line every time, but I’d still fall off the final crux moves.
It’s the last day I’m here. The shade that yields good conditions at Bruixes has been lying on the rock for an hour or so, and the onset of evening coerces me into a final effort. I tie in; my fingers feel dry, clumsy and tired from days of immersion in chalk and battling this wall. I notice tiny frayed bits of sheath on my rope fluttering in a thin breeze, and this draws my gaze up past my tatty rope through the first quick draw to the fifty feet of very sustained crimpy climbing beyond. I can feel the thin, positive pinches squeeze the pads of my fingertips, and imagine the abrasive footholds indenting the soles of my boots. My body twists through the movements like a sun salutation, familiar and rhythmic. I claw my fingertips into tiny platelets of rock and will aching muscles to contract and lock down. I allow my body to sag a bit as my right hand curls around the first of a series of smooth, polished jugs as the rock changes strata and angle. Now, steeper but much easier moves lead to an amazing double knee-bar rest in a roof. I lever my legs into position in this absurd inverted perch, the dusty denim of my jeans wrinkling against the cool rock and holding me in place slightly more securely. There is a deep, throbbing ache in my forearms which I try to ignore. Closing my eyes, I try to focus on slowing my breathing. At moments like this, random thoughts pop into my head, I start to hum a Phil Collins song I haven’t heard in a decade or so, and the taste of the shot or two of the local Orujo spirit I’d had the night before spritzes at the back of my throat.Purchase This Issue | Subscribe | Return back to Issue 90