Rock Climbing in Siurana
The chain of events which led to our recent excursion to Spain began roughly five months ago with a rather modest introduction to indoor climbing with Gavin Shortall at The Castle Climbing Centre, North London. Despite coming to the end of my first session with several newly acquired blisters, aching toes, and clothes covered with powdered chalk, I was instantly hooked.
For those of you who have yet to enjoy the experience of climbing, it must be said that very few activities can match its rich cocktail of adrenaline, self-awareness, problem solving, athleticism, and general Zen. To that extent it really is a unique way to spend one’s time away from the comfort of home, and a noticeably challenging way to do it too.
Given that I spend a large proportion of my waking hours using ropes and harnesses as a professional arborist for MLTC, I had confidence in my ability to vertically diversify, and transfer several key skills used to scale trees and apply them to climbing rocks. Alas, that self-assurance was swiftly crushed, as I was gracefully humbled in my initial attempts to negotiate what I thought would be a rather straightforward transition.
The above photo is Miguel Dolton having a rest on one of the faces.
The Trip – Rock Climbing
Moving forward five months I found that I was en route, coerced or otherwise by my climbing compatriots, to one of the world’s top sport climbing destinations without a great deal of practise under my belt. The approach to Siurana takes place on a steep succession of switchbacks surrounded by multiple tiers of exposed pale orange limestone, intersected by bold green thickets. It’s an environment that both threatens and invites the climber in equal measure.
The campsite at which stayed is managed by local and international climbing legend, Toni Arbones. Looking through the guidebooks that provide details of the topological lay of the land, it’s clear that Toni has been an integral figure in establishing many of the 1500+ routes that continue to lure climbers to this Spanish playground.
Without going into the intimate details of what sectors we visited, the climbs we successfully surmounted, and the others which beat us into submission, I must say that my short visit to Siurana has been genuinely inspiring. From the landscape defined by its Jurassic cliffs surrounded by basins of untouched forest, to the modesty of the people who facilitated our stay, Siurana really is a special place.
Whilst I’m still at the beginning of my foray into rock climbing, the hope is to return to Siurana’s cracks, flakes, and overhangs in near future to relive the magic enjoyed during our recent trip.
Comparing Rock Climbing techniques to Tree Climbing.
What I gather from having experienced both, tree and rock climbing, is that a ‘good’ climber is an expert at conserving energy. This is down to knowing when to straighten an arm and lean off the wall or use your momentum to carry you through a reach.
Day to day tree climbing is spent trying to sit in your harness and be in a solid work position. We keep our ropes under tension to avoid large falls and swings. We are anchored from above and have a secondary rope to position ourselves into a solid work position. Sitting in the harness is a great energy saver allowing the climber to spend the day in the canopy.
It seems that when rock climbing, the aim of the game is to ‘free climb’. The rope and harness is only there in case you fall. You are required to create an anchor at certain points of the ascent, using quick-draws that are snapped through the bolt in the wall. The only way to conserve energy is through good technique (I was burning through a lot of energy) and find locks or ledges on the rock face to rest. This is just the tip of the ice-burg when it comes to comparing the two, but these are my initial thoughts.
I found that there was only a handful of transferable skills. Mainly psychological attributes such as; trusting the equipment, the ability to control the fear of heights. The physical attributes that transferred would be general fitness, a little bit of grip strength and tying a few knots. I think this is the tip of the ice-berg but it will be interesting to see how things develop.
I had the pleasure of spending this trip away with four of the most motivated young professionals that I know. One of which was Miguel Dolton. Miguel owns a start-up company called forecast. Producing outdoor clothing. The photo shows him sporting one of Forecasts garments. Here is a link to his website, where you can find his range of clothing and a pretty awesome Instagram page: www.forecast.life
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