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My training season runs from January to January. Around New Year, before the season draws to a close, I often go away somewhere on a climbing trip to make the most of the year’s hard work and also to have a bit of fun! The past few years my travels have taken me to Catalunya, and this time was no different. Not only do I love this world class climbing area, but it gives me the opportunity to visit my coach in Barcelona at the same time.

So on the 3rd January, still recovering from the new year revelry (I am not as young as I was!), Stu, my friend Bob and I flew out to Barcelona and set up camp in the refugio in Cornudella de Montsant. From here, Siurana, Margalef, Montsant and Masriudoms were all just a short drive away. With 2 full weeks of climbing stretching away in front of me I began the trip feeling pretty relaxed. I knew I was in good shape and with so much time to play with I felt confident I could get some good routes done. However, I should have known that the best laid plans of mice and men often go awry.

The first week of the trip we found ourselves climbing mostly at Margalef, with one day at Siurana thrown into the mix. However, ever-changing weather conditions meant that we seldom ended up at the same sector twice. We began the week climbing in the shade, but as temperatures dropped this became unbearable and we opted for sunnier sectors instead. I felt I was climbing perhaps the best I ever had, coming close to doing my first 7c+ flash, but was finding it hard to go back to finish anything off due to the weather. Seeing the way things were going I had a choice to make: should I drop the bar a bit and go for routes I knew I could onsight or get done very quickly, or keep trying to push my level and go for ticks that were really at my limit? I opted for the latter. It felt like a lot more fun, like what I had spent all my time training for. It was a high-risk strategy, but I like a challenge. There is also no better feeling in the world than fighting with everything you have on a route that is at the absolute limit of your ability. So that was it, decision made.

Around the middle of the trip, after a week of climbing “non stop, non stop a muerte” as my coach likes to put it, I had a sudden slump in psych. I had been feeling pretty mentally tired from the word go due to the efforts of the year’s training, and a week of pushing myself to the edge had tipped me over. I spent a day climbing easy routes and chilling out, and then fortuitously for me (though obviously not for him!) Bob tweaked a finger and we decided to take an extra rest day. This was just enough to let my brain recover.

Renewed psych left me chomping at the bit to get back to Margalef to polish off some unfinished business, but unfortunately the weather gods were not on our side. Temperatures plummeted further and a strong wind arrived, driving us down to the coastal crag of Masriudoms in search of warmer temps. Masriudoms, for those of you who don’t know it, is well worth a visit. The routes spread from 6c+ to 8b+/c, and all of them are excellent. Continuing to hold out hope that we would make it back to Margalef before the end of the trip, in hindsight I perhaps picked the wrong strategy: I spent a few days doing some slightly easier routes (by this point feeling slightly desperate to clip at least one chain!) and only got on one of the classic 8as on the last day of our trip, narrowly missing a tick as daylight faded for the last time.

By the end of the 2 weeks I had a few routes in the bag but nothing spectacular. Mostly what I could say was that I had a handful of “almosts”. For some reason, however, this left me on a massive high. This year for me has been all about sorting my head out – learning to climb aggressively, well, without fear of falling, fear of failure, without really thinking, just climbing my best. There is no other way to express it really, but a muerte. I felt like I had achieved that, and it was only weather and circumstance that really stood in my way. It’s amazing how impossible it is to feel disappointed if you have given it everything.

All that was left was to head into Barcelona to catch up with my coach. With my head now fully destroyed, I really was not in the mood for a big training session, but luckily neither was he and so we ended up mostly chatting. This brought my year to a close, and so my annual rest period  of 3 ½ weeks off climbing began with caramel waffles in Barcelona. Yum!

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