Words by Piotr Drożdż | Photos by Sam Challéat
In wintertime, for many climbers, there is no other way to escape frosty conditions and head in the direction of the Spanish sun. Despite the fact that even in Spain weather can be quite fickle, starting each year in November, Cornudella de Montsant becomes a meeting place for those who want to keep their training momentum going and for anyone yearning for a moment of active peace. Sooner or later, every climber finds out that all roads lead to Catalonia.
Last winter, Nina Caprez was one of the climbers beckoned by the huge faces of El Pati. After a pre-planned and well thought-out 2014, the Swiss could finally catch her breath, “My last year was really organized, I knew exactly when I wanted to be where, and at the foot of which climb. I became very tired and it made me think that I should just live my life and see where it would take me… it took me to Spain.” Nina believes that it is projects that look for her, one can say that La Reina Mora decided to send her a Remembrall. After the Arc’teryx athlete brushed up on all the sequences, fought with the cruxes and still dod not succeeded, she was ready to admit that one of the gems in El Pati’s crown was the first really hard route she’d ever tried, excluding Orbayu.
Nina’s huge project last year did not worked out the way she’d planned – the 510-metre 8c by Pou brothers made it clear that it was the mountain the determined the eventual success, not climbers. For a radical individual like Nina with a pure concept of ascents, such a manifesto appeared hard to swallow, “Orbayu taught me one thing: if I want to continue climbing the way I do, I need to be a little more open and friendly with myself. Until Orbayu, everything in my climbing career was easy, I never really had to struggle, I made quick ascents a little below my limit. Now I perceive climbing differently.”
Super crazy, weird and outstanding to climb – is how Nina describes La Reina Mora. The entire process behind consecutive attempts might be referred to in a similar way. Frustrating as it was at the beginning, Nina realized that the failure was eventually part of the game. The new “not-ascent” challenge turned out to be a mind-opening experience, “You start adjusting mentally to the fact that you try the thing at the same time accepting the risk that maybe you’ll never be able to climb it.”
But there’s also another dimension to it; a personal history and life choices in the background. For the first time, it became crystal clear that in order to do something extraordinary, every climber needs a good deal of mental support from somebody else; from “people who give you energy, perspective and lots of support in these little moments when you need it most.” For Nina, one of them was definitely Marc Le Menestrel, a dear friend living in Catalonia. The exchange of experience and the opportunity to step back from the climbing scene to put things into perspective combined with world class routes made the Swiss athlete shift down a gear and enjoy relaxing evenings around the fire.
And, La Reina Mora? The mere act of trying and giving one’s best became more important than the eventual success, which knowing Nina’s determination, will come sooner or later. It is not only the weather conditions at the sector that often make La Reina so difficult but also the unpredictability of the route itself and, above all, the head of the climber that needs to enter the right mindset, “Last winter I was just traveling, not being sure where I wanted to be and it made climbing harder. I didn’t feel well with myself and my body. It’s about the feeling you have within you that both climbing and everything else you do in your life make sense. I had to find that balance again and probably that’s why I wasn’t able to really perform and be strong over the last months. I had to breathe a little, I had to feel where I wanted to be and what I wanted to do. And once I feel what I want to do and where I want to be, I can completely focus on my goal with my head and heart wide open.”