After coming back from South Africa in early July I had a few weeks off from climbing; I had trained hard for King of Limbs and thought my body deserved a rest! Now resting is something I very rarely do but (I think) I managed to have two weeks completely off! I visited my Dad in France for a week and Mina took me to Legoland in Denmark for a late birthday present. Legoland might sound like a strange choice for a 30 year old but I had always wanted to visit after spending so much time playing with Lego as a child.
My theory was that after this break my body would be ready for another period of training and I wanted to get out on the limestone and try Bewilderness at Badger Cove. Sadly this was not to be the case; whilst doing no climbing I managed to pick up a couple of finger injuries, one in either middle finger to be precise. Now I realise that I didn’t actually injure them whilst resting, what is more likely is that all the niggles and micro trauma from training and climbing started to form scar tissue and my fingers began to seize up.
So, when I started back they ached around the knuckles and A4 pulley, especially when crimping. To cut a long story short I couldn’t climb on a board or anything too steep, or campus, or fingerboard so I just ended up doing a lot of climbing. Although I didn’t realise it I really used the time to improve my technique; I climbed on the grit when it was too hot to and I started climbing all the slabs and vertical problems at the Climbing Works, something I hardly ever did before.
Other than improving my technique I discovered the Five Ten Anasazi; I have been sponsored by 5.10 since 2009 but have never got on with the Anasazi, in fact until this year I had only ever owned one pair of them and they had only been used on very specific problems. For some reason I started to wear them more and more, and wouldn’t you believe it, they are way better for techy climbing than down turned shoes! So not only did injury improve my technique and enjoyment for all things slabby but it also allowed me to discover a much more versatile and comfortable shoe!
Apart from running laps on slabs and pottering on the grit I also joined in with a 10-week strength and conditioning group organised by the Inspector (Neil Mawson) and Sam Whittaker. Tom, Harry and Jordan put a group of us through our paces every Thursday evening; squats, presses, thrusters, pulls, planks, rows and just about anything else you can think of was on the agenda. The boys did a great job of thoroughly destroying us and yet giving us all a great base to work from. I really enjoyed this time spent in a small gym at the Sheffield Hallam campus; the camaraderie, the competition and the feeling of pain was something I hadn’t experienced in other sessions before. I think most climbers are in pretty terrible condition to be honest and have become over-specialised leading to injuries and reducing the effectiveness of their personal training. Doing these sessions was a refreshing change at a time when I couldn’t train in my normal way but I also think I have become a much stronger and more functional athlete along the way. Hopefully with the combination of this and more specific climbing training I will be to push my level up a notch.
Anyway back to the title of the blog! I wanted to go away on a short trip somewhere in November. I wanted to go somewhere I hadn’t been before so that I had no expectations and I wanted good weather so that I could climb as much as possible. I want doesn’t normally get, but in this case it did and in the end I chose Albarracin. I love sandstone and climbing amongst the trees (sound like anywhere familiar?) and this coupled with the fact that rainfall is pretty minimal there made it seem like an obvious choice.
Three of us ended up going for 10 days and another friend joined us for a few days whilst we were. We are all different climbers who operate at differing grades but I think it’s fair to say we were all suitably impressed. The setting is beautiful; red sandstone boulders strewn amongst the pine tree forest makes for a boulderer’s wonderland. The rock has great texture; grippier than Fontainebleau but still very kind to the skin and there are some lovely shapes and features on display. The one downfall was that the holds on the more popular boulders are getting caked in chalk. Whether this is due to the amount of rain the area gets or the lack of brushing by climbers it is definitely something that needs to change in order to maintain these classic climbs. I spent a lot of time whilst there brushing tick marks and excess chalk off holds, and the rock really benefited from this.
However, to me, this was the only down side of Albarracin. I had heard that the forest was littered with poo and toilet paper, and although we did see some it seemed no worse than other climbing areas I have visited.
The climbing itself is great fun; often pretty physical with just enough subtlety to make it interesting. There are a lot of roof climbs and a lot of mantels, most of which are high in quality and offer something different to a lot of other destinations. There was so much to do that I ended up running around like a child in a sweet shop; I wanted to climb everything and luckily the blue sky and temperature highs of 5 degrees allowed this. I am not sure if I would return as I climbed pretty much everything that I wanted to and nothing else really caught my eye, however if you climb mid 6’s to mid 7’s I think you would have great fun returning here time after time.
If you do visit make sure to check out the bakery in the centre of town; it does incredible chocolate croissants that even rival the French Pain au Chocolat!
Check out the video from the trip here.