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Albarracín, Spain

[vimeo video_id="29891165" width="580" height="326" title="Yes" byline="Yes" portrait="Yes" autoplay="No" loop="No" color="00adef"] We arrived at Albarracin on Monday Sept 19, a month after leaving Canada. I think I’ve bouldered maybe a handful of times in the last 2 months or so so I’m obviously very weak. I have never taken a break this long from climbing since I started. I started day one here in Albarracin very cautious. I took it very slowly. My mind wants to climb hard already but I’m scared my body won’t keep up. My tendons, where they meet the elbow, are sensitive for some reason and I don’t want to push it. I did a lot of warmups and problems in the 6A to 6C range.

Day two we went to Techos sector so I could check out Cosmos 8A+. This, and Zatoichi 8A are the hard climbs I’m interested in during the week we’re here. I was just curious to see how the moves felt and check the holds. It revolves around a small left hand inset crimp pocket. I don’t have the strength in those fingers at the moment and it proved to be much too difficult for me right now.

Cosmos is certainly a 4-star problem in my opinion. Distinct, independent, steep, hard. It has it all. Opened by Christian Core at 8B with the second ascent going to Miguel Navarro. He suggested 8A+ and now it is sometimes called 8A after the pocket broke.

We ended the day hiking up to Zatoichi to take a look at that. It’s very much an easier Alma Blanca. I worked out all the moves and sent in about an hour. Super psyched to know that it won’t take long for me to get all my strength back! Nice way to start this little trip here. Rest day next.

Rest day hike in Albarracin.

After a rest day I decided to visit the Arrastradero sector, probably the most popular sector with the best concentration of independent lines. This sector, plus the Peninsula sector are really what make Albarracin a world-class destination for bouldering in my opinion.

Having spoken to my friend Miguel earlier in the week I knew that he would be coming up to Albarracin for the weekend with some friends and that we’d get to climb with them on the weekend and he could show us all the boulders. Miguel was one of the initial developers of Albarracin and is responsible for many of the 8A first ascents in the area.

Me on Motivos Personales

After waiting 3 years to visit this beautiful bouldering destination it was absolutely worth the wait. We ended the trip climbing the last two days, making it eight climbing days during our ten day stay there. We climbed with our friend Cèsar who was camping up at the boulders for a few weeks. He’s a great friend and a psyched boulderer. He knew the area well and showed us many amazing boulder problems.

I ended the trip completing my unfinished climbs from earlier in the week including Klem’s Traverse and Motivos Personales. I also managed to climb Zarzamora (8A/+ in the guidebook) on my last day. Makes it a semi-successful trip for me, but very good considering I haven’t bouldered much lately.

The trip to Albarracín exceeded all of my expectations. I expected good problems but I wasn’t prepared for the concentration of stunning lines. I found myself very aware of how lucky I was to be in forest and to be able to enjoy the rocks and the setting. The colour of the rock and the pine trees combined for a unique setting I’ll never find elsewhere. The aroma of pine needles and thyme brush created fond memories I’ll always have. The softness of the sandstone was perfect. My skin was never trashed and the crimps felt like butter. So many beautiful problems and I know I’ll regret not doing more of the 6′s and 7′s in the area. Hopefully I can return one day.

I’m pretty happy with the video. I didn’t take as much time editing it with little finishing touches. I kind of wanted to produce it quickly seeing as we’re on the road and will be in Fontainebleau in no time. There’s eight climbs included. Six by me, one by Leanna and one by Cesar. Please watch it and comment – even if you aren’t a boulderer you’ll surely enjoy it. It’s the ninth bouldering video I’ve made (time flies). I recommend watching it with headphones in fullscreen view.

Deep Water Soloing in Mallorca

My long awaited trip to Europe has finally begun. There's been lots of travelling, eating, and sightseeing.

We're climbing in three places during our trip this fall: Mallorca, Albarracin, and Fontainebleau.

Mallorca:

When we planned to visit Europe, Spain was one of our "must-see"s. I also figure that while in Spain I could probably make the trip over to the island of Mallorca to do some Deep Water Soloing.

After having spent a week in Mallorca and climbing 3 days I formed a pretty good opinion of the place and the experience. I was pretty exhausted from the heat and the sun to climb many more days than that. We climbed at Cala Sa Nau and Cala Barques. Cala Barques is great. You hike in to a beach (still not used to seeing topless girls, so strange) and then take a little trail up along the cliff to the climbing. The climbing is so much fun. Hike, down-climb, or jump into the water to begin your climb. I did 3 climbs and one down-climb. Cala Sa Nau is also beautiful. Less of a hike but the cliff has less lines.

Everyone knows I’m a boulderer. Always will be. That doesn’t mean that I can’t love deep water soloing as well. It’s an amazing experience and I had so much fun. I didn’t want to leave :) It almost makes me want to start sport climbing a little bit.

I’m sure everyone will feel a bit differently about it but I’ll try to explain how it feels to me by comparing it to how sport climbing feels to me. When I sport climb I generally enjoy myself. It’s fun going up higher and I enjoy the sense of travelling upwards and away from the earth. Doing easy moves (compared to bouldering, many sport climbing moves are easy) is nice and almost relaxing. Alternatively, the rope is annoying. I wonder if other boulderers feel this way but it feels very artificial or unnatural to have a rope attached. Also, I do find that while I am never afraid above my last clip I do not enjoy falling into a rope. It jerks and it is awkward. Also, I don’t enjoy the endurance / stamina factor of route climbing. I find it very annoying that I may fail at a move because I am fatigued and the constant assessment of my fatigue level (and the second guessing that goes along with it) is not something I enjoy. I do realize that I can train and those factors will be less of an issue, but I’m just telling you how I feel.

Deep water soloing resolves many of those issues. No rope is the biggest improvement. This removes the hindrance and makes the experience much more natural. Just you and shoes. Very much like bouldering in it’s minimalistic-ness. The falling is much better – just a quick smooth fall into the soft water. I was also never scared of falling so that helped.

Me, taking a fall

It also helps that deep water soloing in Mallorca is done on beautiful cliffs with nice approaches over warm water in great weather. It’s so ideal. I guess there’s some negatives – wet shoes and burning through chalk – but it doesn’t make a dent in the enjoyment factor.

Maybe I enjoyed myself so much because it’s also basically a new form of climbing for me. I do routes maybe once a year, so coming here and doing 3 days of routes brings a lot of excitement just because it’s different I’m sure. How would a sport climber feel? Maybe there’s no big difference to them. Maybe it’s the same just in hot weather with wet clothes?

Bouldering is very obsessive – kind of anal retentive. Small sequences with maximum attention to detail and execution. I know it is also like this on the difficult sport routes, but for me bouldering all the time it is very nice to come to Mallorca and have a small vacation from my climbing and my obsession over difficulty and details as well. I enjoy the Deep water soloing lifestyle. Lay on the beach a bit, sun tan, eat, do a few climbs and take a swim, return to the beach and take a nap, wake up and climb, etc. It’s great. I’d really like to come back with a bunch of my friends. I wonder if I had a cliff like Cala Barques where I lived if I’d boulder still?

Apparently Chris Sharma still comes to Cala Barques after all these years. He was climbing one day while we were there and Leanna managed to snap some pictures. He warmed up by climbing a 7a to 7c to 8a without a rest.

Chris Sharma

Chris Sharma, Daila Ojeda, and friends

When I think about the big picture of it all, I guess deep water soloing is just one step closer to the purest type of climbing – free soloing. That must be the ultimate type of climbing but I’m not about to venture there. Please comment everyone: Have you done any deep water soloing yourself? Do you like it? Do you plan on doing more? What was your experience like?