Words by Vikki Weldon | Photos by Tara Reynvaan
A Spanish climbing trip has truly become the sport climber’s pilgrimage. Areas such as Oliana, Siurana, Santa Linya, and Margalef have become household names in the international climbing community. For years I’ve watched the Big Up Production movies of Chris Sharma and Adam Ondra, drooling over the stunning limestone cliffs. The perfect long 50m pitches at Oliana seemed to especially call my name.
Holding the Spanish guidebook for the first time was like holding a little nugget of gold. I turned immediately to the ‘Contrafort de Rambau’ cliff, and was immediately astounded by the number of hard sport routes this world famous crag boasted. Home to the infamous ‘La Dura Dura’ (9b+), this one cliff alone boasts over 20 routes that are 8b+ (the equivalent to the North American grade of 5.14a) and over.
However, one line in particular caught my eye. ‘Los Humildes pa Casa’ is a gorgeous 50m long 8b+ that contains one of the single most continuous tufas that I have ever seen. With that stunning feature, and being at a challenging grade, I immediately made it my goal for the trip.
After two weeks climbing some incredible endurance pitches in Terradets, my partner, Tom, and I made our way to Oliana. Knowing the route may take me a while, I didn’t waste any time before hopping on ‘Los Humildes’ on our first day. Despite getting absolutely worked on my first go, and a little wigged out at the generous spacing between bolts, I fell in love with the route. I didn’t even get to the top of my first day, but I knew the route suited my style. There are no stopper, bouldery moves. The line is pure endurance. Once I figured out the sequence over the next two days, I realized that if I could hold on and recover at the multiple knee bar rests (my favourite!), I could do the route.
With three days on the route and a rest day, I surprised myself by falling off the top red point crux, only due to the slip of a foot. I was ecstatic. This rig was going down. I forced myself to rest for the remainder of the day so that I would be fresh for a red point go the next day.
All the next day I was full of jitters, anxiously waiting for the afternoon shade to hit the cliff. My warm ups felt a bit awful, and I had to wait quite a while to get on the route, as it shares the start with multiple other popular routes. When I finally tied in, I felt a bit cold, and not too hopeful. Poco a poco, I told myself (a great little mantra I learned from fellow Arc athlete Jonathan Siegrist). If I failed this go, I still had plenty of time to send.
With that in mind, the pressure fell away, and I felt light and full of energy. My mind turned off, and I let my body lead me up the tufas to the rest before the final business. With deep, powerful breaths, I thought, ‘right Viks, now it’s time to try hard’ and executed the moves to the top. It was brilliant! After only 5 days and on my 7th attempt, I sent one of the most beautiful single pitch climbs of my life.
I have only sent one 5.14a prior to this, and despite the style being quite different, ‘Los Humildes’ felt much easier. Yet the route used to be graded 8c (5.14b) and has since been downgraded, with the resounding consensus being 8b+. Therefore, I decided to call this soft for 8b+, and wouldn’t be surprised in the future if it was downgraded to 8b.
But enough about grades, they are subjective after all, and this route was my absolute style. Now, with two weeks left in the trip, I would like to try another dream route of mine, ‘Fish Eye’ (8c/5.14b). After all, I am in Spain, and I must do as the Spanish do: Climb a muerte!