Climbing in Spain: Reflections after Margalef.

My long overdue post from our Margalef trip back in August

Note: wordy climbing-centric post ahead…do skip this if you’re here for the food and travels.

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I am a firm believer that one does not have to climb like a pro in order to enjoy rock-climbing, especially since I have been in leisure-climber mode longer than I have been in serious training mode.

I however agree that there is a heightened sense of accomplishment when all your efforts in training translates to the ability to climb a harder grade. By that, I am not referring to the thrill that comes with updating an 8a.nu scorecard but rather, the immediate, tangible feeling of adrenaline on a route that comes with nailing the crux or completing a sequence of beautiful moves. As routes become more difficult, the complexity in movement calls for the body to respond in ways that it might be unfamiliar with, but as it starts to remember the training it has gone through and you instinctively shift your weight, feel your fingers stick, will your mind to focus and hear your breath calm, the flow sets in. The grade on a tick list hardly conveys these intricacies well enough. Perhaps this is why I also love yoga, because like climbing, once the flow sets in, everything falls nicely into place and it all makes sense.

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Prior to the trip to Margalef, I made no effort whatsoever to train, I have long considered myself a retired climber and was happy channeling my energy towards yoga and running. The only climbing I’ve done were sporadic weekend afternoons to Safra Yishun on the same 6As and 6Bs and an occasional bouldering session. Sure I could still get up the wall and climbing still gave me a good workout, but the truth was I no longer felt the same exhilaration and psyche I used to feel, in fact I hated bouldering because I was just so damn lousy. Onsighting 6Cs with ease have become no more than an elusive and distant memory for me. Though I longed for that sense of being comfortable on rock again, there was no motivation for me to pick myself up from square one and start all over. The nagging thought that I will never climb as well as before, plus my convenient excuse mantra that “I don’t have to climb hard to enjoy climbing” steeled my resolve in NOT training.

When I stopped working and finally had more time for my interests, a typical day would include 2 hours of yoga and a long run, A also encouraged me to gradually return to bouldering and that’s when I found myself more comfortable on the rock wall than I have ever felt in the past few years. It was kinda peculiar that I was getting back into the groove of climbing all of a sudden when I haven’t been training at all. Granted, my fingers felt raw after every session and I was still hopeless on pinchers and slopers, but my body subconsciously became more efficient and less awkward; it was as if all my climbing muscles were in comatose for the past few years and they were now gradually waking up! It is an exquisite feeling to return to a sport that you have forgotten how to love but have always loved.

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beautiful daily treks to the crags

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Of course, as I am now writing all of these, my state of weakness while sport climbing in Margalef have become a source of motivation for our next climbing trip (to Chulilla and Siurana in December). Bouldering is fun once you have attained a base level of finger strength and fitness but my first love will always be sport climbing. A combination of trekking in the wilderness, crags stretching further up than the eye can see, a picnic lunch atop a cliff and of course getting in the zone while climbing makes for a lethally enjoyable adventure.

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Climbing trips also serve to remind me that it is possible to live on and be contented with so very little. We cook our own food, live in budget refugios (hostels in Spain) and spend the evenings chatting over cheap wine (though I’m not a drinker) under the starry night sky. Live simply, appreciate nature and enjoy the company of the people around us.

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Refugio La Finestra in Margalef – Clean, basic and balconies with a view.
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common dining area in the refugio
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reception and bar

Though climbing in Margalef did not go very well for me, (I only did 5s, 6As and some 6Bs and dogged on many of them) what it did was gave me some confidence to lead climb again and stirred the climber in me to train harder. I particularly enjoyed the company of old and new friends on this trip and am definitely looking forward to better form come December in Chulilla and Siurana.

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