Tuesday, 17 April 2012

12hrs Leiva 2012

12hr Climbing Rally - Leiva - 2012

The 2nd round of the Spanish cup this year was held on the walls of Leiva in the Sierra Espuña, Nr Murcia.
This was the first time a 12hr Rally had been run at Leiva and saw 16 teams take part.

Leiva is nested in magnificent scenery, its south facing wall rises vertically over the valley that gives it its name, emerging from the pine wood forest as an Island of rock. It is cut perfectly with 200m of height and more than 2 km long. The quality of the climbing matches the stunning natural environment of this Natural Park. Once the 40 min walk in has been completed you can't help but be impressed by it's beauty and notably remote sensation.

Above, video of the Leiva Rally

With very little time to prepare for this Rally our strategy was way off. We did enough routes 8 (only 7 counted as we finished the last one 30 seconds over time!) but went a bit too light in route selection and played things too safe!
The day started well but our position slowly sank as the day progressed, by which point it was too late to try harder routes to make up the points. So we had to settle with 5th place.

Leiva (2nd round) Results - 31st March 2012:
1st - Gonzalo Larrocha / Jose Luis Olivares
2nd - Roy de Valera / Adrian Ripoll
3rd - Jorge Couceiro / Hipolito Olivares
4th - Francisco Javier Perez / Jorge Montesinos
5th - Chris Newton-Goverd / Vicente Bartual

Current Spanish Cup Standings:
1st  - Roy de Valera / Adrian Ripoll
2nd - Jorge Couceiro / Hipolito Olivares
3rd - Chris Newton-Goverd / Vicente Bartual

See the full standings in detail here:

So we are currently ranked 3rd in the Spanish Cup! but my climbing partner (Vicente) unfortunately can't make the Riglos round so we will have to pull something special out of the bag for the Terradets round to hold on to our place in the top 3...

Thursday, 22 March 2012

Peñon d'Ifach 12hr Rally 2012

The 11th Peñon 12hr rally was approaching fast, it was to be my third time competing in this event, I knew what was in store, what torture lay ahead, could I sleep? No chance. My mind continually raced, visualising each climb we'd planned, each pitch and each move! Over and over.... Too many unknowns, so many variables out of my control and so much time and opportunity for things to go very well or very bad. Will it be too hot? Will we get the route we need to climb first? Will we find a good pace to climb at, or will we go too fast too soon and burn out? Or too slow and not climb enough ground? So many variables....The anticipation of the ordeal to come had filled my whole being with an anxiety that destroyed any hope of sleep & rest!

6am, the fog of semi-sleep began to lift, kit in the car, coffee in hand, on the Road. Passing two early morning car crashes, was this an omen? Body chilling as thoughts sparked strong mental images of 40m falls, trad gear ripping, hitting ledges, bones snapping and then.......the sunrise, I'll take that omen 'thank you'. Warmth soaking my face and the Peñon d'Ifach now insight on the horizon. “Sort your shit out, it's just another day climbing, do what you do, keep cool” I told myself.
20 minutes later I'm greeting my partner, Vicente and pulling on my “official” competitors t-shirt and racking up, trying to ignore the number 13 embezzled on our shirts! Nervous smiles and bundles of crazy energy bounced around the competitors as we gathered around the starting line. We're all here to have fun, here for the crack! Who are we kidding, this won't be fun, it's pure madness.
But still we'll all continue to pretend otherwise....
Vicente Bartual
Cordada numero 13.” That's us! First out of the sorting hat, proving already to be a lucky number. “Sin Permiso de Obras” I shouted. I felt a great sigh of relief pass over me as we now had our first choice route to ourselves. The sorting is a raffle based system where each teams' number is drawn from the hat and they claim the right to climb first on their chosen route. After that lottery, it's first come first served.
I was psyched, ready to go, doing my best to ignore the overwhelming walls of the Peñon looming above us. Each accidental gaze was punished by the wall noticing & growing higher and steeper. Or was it me shrinking in realisation of our vulnerability?
Our practised time saving tricks were already in action; ropes loosely looped over the shoulders, ready for quick use, already tied in, quickdraws fully extended.

Grouped on the starting line everyone was buzzing, biting at the bit, exchanging gazes of mad excitement and then the horn blew. The 12 hours had begun.

The next 11 hours blurred together in a haze of muscle burn, sweat and soul drying thirst.


The style of climbing in the Rallies is nothing like normal climbing, in the same way that Bouldering differs from Roped Climbing, this endurance race demands a completely different approach. For a start, anything goes, if it's there you can pull or stand on it, bolts, quickdraws, trees, climbing partners etc. There's no obligation to free any moves but some climbs force some moves to be freed and thus carry more points! Also, if you have to protect moves with trad gear instead of clipping bolts this also carries more points!
Everything else is strategy and preparation, knowing what equipment is needed, practising and learning each move so it can be climbed faster, what pitches can be linked together, who's going to lead what? Fast rope management techniques! And above all a solid & steady pace.
Each variable can save or waste hours and all must be perfected!

Our first route “Sin Permiso de Obras” is the longest route on the Peñon entailing 450m & 11 pitches of climbing! With several pitches of forced 7a cruxes. It has a guide book time of 6-8hrs and an amazing record time of 1hr 35 mins (by A.Ripoll & X.Pineda in the 2010 Rally)
We took a steady pace of 2hrs 30mins.

If you've ever been to the top of the Peñon d'Ifach you will know how treacherous the descent is, not for any technical difficulties or dangerously exposed sections, but for its glass like texture under foot on randomly uneven rock. A normal relaxed descent would take 1hr 30mins. But that's 1hr 30mins of precious time not climbing, so the ideas it to run back down to the base of the wall as quickly as possible and do it all over again. I say “running” but it's more controlled falling than actual running!

25 mins later we are back under the South Face of the Peñon again, quick stop at the check point to confirm our last route and state our intended next climb. Top up of water and smash in a power snack -
UpRaw (a fantastic new protein rich energy snack)

Next up, Route 2 - “Herbes Magiques” 350m - The scary one! For me anyway, I had just lead every pitch on the previous route and agreed to lead every pitch on this one. The first pitch is a sketchy, awkward A2, steep, broken, loose & often soap like texture crack.

Then easy ground (6a) but massive run outs on suspect rock .- falling is not an option. 

To finish is a mind blowing exposed A2 pitch right at the top.
2hr 50min.
Adrian Ripoll on the last A2 pitch on "Herbes Magiques"
When moving at this pace each route has a notable mental price as well as a physical cost to your reserve. For me I had to maintain my “mental bubble” and “happy place” just for these first two routes before handing over the leads to Vicente. Now all my mental reserves could be focused in to physical performance and efficiency.
It's an unusual concept to lead an entire multi pitch route and not swing alternate leads but it is the most energy efficient way to climb over long periods of time. Otherwise when linking 2 or 3 pitches together in one long push and using the traditional style of swinging leads one could easily be in a position of seconding 70m and immediately lead another 70m (140m) with no rest whilst the belayer gets cold. Leading whole routes balances rest and movement as well as giving a complete mental break for one person.

Run, slip, slide back to the start....
Legs screaming...

I could now relax and let Vicente take the reigns, a crushing tension in my mind dissolved immediately, now to just dig deeper and climb faster, like the wind baby!
Route 3 - the most physical on the Peñon – “Nueva Dimension” 350m – The steepest line in the face, finishing direct up the steep cave at the top of the wall. Breath taking exposure...
2hrs 50mins

Run, slip, slide back to the start.... Maybe base jumping would be easier?

6.19pm. “Time for one more?” I asked. “yeah why not?” came an exhausted reply.
Route 4 - “El Navegante” 250m 7a – record time was 2hrs!!! Normally a 8 pitch route, let's do it in 4!
Even though we were shattered a pace had been set, we were in the “zone”, a late surge of diluted adrenaline seeped into my blood stream. With a strong pace of “pull, move, pull, move”, industrial rhythm and constant motion, never stopping, just go go go.
7pm - 2 pitches up and the veil of darkness was falling fast. Twilight only lasts a few minutes this far south and I could see the curtains of darkness chasing up from the depths below and the last dwindles of light vanish from the summit. Head Torch on.
7.45pm Both huddled on last stance with the last pitch head, also the crux 7a pitch. We exchanged a momentary glance, no words, both our faces screamed urgency. Vicente snatched the remainder of the quickdraws and rocketed off into the darkness above, silent and graceful. A Ninja into the night!
7.56pm “Reunion!” small pause, “Cuando quieras”. “Voy” I responded.
4mins to climb this? Oh dear.... I disengaged any sense of style or graceful movement, dropped the clutch and floored it with full power. It was a panic spinning screaming slobbering mess, a vertical sprint of desperation. Where my feet landed I pushed, where my fingers touched I pulled. Blood spat out of my fingers and shins as sloppy limbs stumbled over vertical features.

Vicente gave a nervous smile as he saw this this panting mess charging from the darkness on the towards the summit.
What's the time? pant pant” 7.59 pm – Horn blows, 12hrs done.
A new record set for “El Navegante” – 1hr 40mins

Calmly descending from the summit we passed the last check point official who announced we'd come 2nd! “Really” I said. Both of us looked at each other in surprise.

We'd had only 1 week to prepare for this Rally, we'd never climbed together before, and Vicente never climbed these routes before on the Peñon! So, understandably a shock and more than satisfactory result.
Not bad for a “puta guiri” and a “rookie

Results for the 1st Round – Peñon d'Ifach, 10th March 2012:

st Roy de Valera Paseka / Adrián Ripoll Torres           87 Puntos.   1.320 mts.

2nd Chris Newton-Goverd / Vicente Bartual Tortajada  69 Puntos.   1.400 mts.

3rd Jorge Couceiro Canales / Hipólito Olivares Pérez     66 Puntos.   1.160 mts.

Mixed (Male & Female Teams):
1st Sonia Tierraseca García / Ximo Pineda Pastor          43 Puntos.      700 mts.

1st Ana Ruiz Pérez / Idoia Rubial Elorza                         29 Puntos.      550 mts.

1st Miguel Diez Rodríguez / Gonzalo Panzano Fuentes    35 Puntos.      780 mts.

See full results here

Full Calendar of the Spanish Cup Rounds:
st Round: “12 horas de escalada en el Peñón de Ifach”, Alicante - 10th March

2nd Round: “12 horas de escalada en el Valle de Leiva”, Murcia - 31st March

3rd Round: “12 horas de escalada en los Mallos de Riglos”, Huesca - 21st April

4th & last Round: “12 horas de escalada en Terradets”, Lleida - 12th May

Thanks to:
WildWolf  for sponsoring the Calpe round.Parc Natural del Penyal d’Ifac - for supporting & permitting the event.
Club Alpi de Gandia, Grup de Muntanya de Calp & Particularly Miguel Cebrián and Roy de Varela for Organisation
Guardia Civil & Fire Service Mountain Rescue teams, for their support.
Roy de Varela (photos)
Vicente Cotaina (photos)
UpRaw for the fuel - Hitting the wall is not an option!

Wednesday, 21 March 2012

3rd Spanish Cup for 12hr Climbing Rallies

12hr Climbing Rallies – Spanish Cup 2012.

The 3rd season of the 12hr Climbing Rallies Spanish cup is now under way, it comprises of 4 rounds in the following big wall locations in Spain; Peñon d'Ifach, Leiva, Riglos and Terradets.
In each venue the set up is the same, there are up to 30 teams battling it out in this gruelling endurance challenge, with 12 hours of climbing to complete as many climbs as possible on multi-pitch ground.
The designated routes are given points based on their length, difficulty and seriousness. Competitors attempt to climb strategically to gain as many points as possible in the time they have.
The rankings for the Spanish cup are decided on each teams best 3 out of the 4 results from the league rounds.

The rules are simple, each climbing team must:
  • wear a helmet & use double ropes
  • never climb simultaneously
  • both climbers must reach the top of their route before the 12hrs is up for it to count
  • only overtake other teams if they give you permission
  • not repeat routes already climbed
  • keep the same climbing partner for the whole rally
  • clip at least 3 points of protection on each pitch
  • carry at least 1 litre of water per person at the start of the rally & at least one mobile phone per team
The format
Arrive Friday, the night before the rally & attend the briefing.
Saturday, start 8am – finish 8pm, 10pm Dinner, collapse, normally face in food.
Sunday - limp home....broken....

History & Venues
The first 12 hr climbing rally was conceived in Calpe on the Peñon d'Ifach over 11 years ago, where it continued without much outside attention, until in 2009 saw the first Rally in Riglos.
Riglos gave a new dimension to the rallies, all forearms and a very specific style of climbing (you'll know what I mean if you've climbed there)
Due to the success and popularity of Riglos the following year (2010) saw the formation of the 1st League and Spanish cup with Riglos, Terradets and the Peñon d'Ifach in the mix.
The Terradets gave yet again a completely unique edge and style, more vertical and technical climbing with some spicy run outs and very sore feet at the end.
2011 saw the same 3 locations run at full success.
New to 2012 is Leiva in Murcia. A much smaller wall (only 150m high) it will be interesting to see what flavour this brings to the rally….

Calendar of the Spanish Cup Rounds:
st Round: “12 horas de escalada en el Peñón de Ifach”, Alicante - 10th March

2nd Round: “12 horas de escalada en el Valle de Leiva”, Murcia - 31st March

3rd Round: “12 horas de escalada en los Mallos de Riglos”, Huesca - 21st April

4th & last Round: “12 horas de escalada en Terradets”, Lleida - 12th May

Wednesday, 15 February 2012

Up Down and Up again

To quote Isaac Newton (no relation) "What goes up must come down!"

This law of Physics is something as climbers we are all too aware of, we continue to invest huge amounts of time and energy into resisting gravity whilst travelling over vertical or overhanging surfaces. Only to then submit to falling off or lowering back down to the ground once at an arbitrary point has been reached.

On the face of it a seemingly futile and worthless exercise but the source of so much emotion, passion & obsession.

Up's & Down's in climbing can come in many shapes and sizes; Fit/Unfit, Injury/Peak Performance, Tired/Fresh, Good Conditions/Not so Good Conditions, Head Strong/Messy Jelly Head etc
It's our ability to deal with the attachment to perceived success that determines how well we cope with the "down" times.
Understanding what we have really achieved in an ascent is key and the answer never truly lies in a conceptual number (grade) or the conquering a piece of wall. It is far more personal and internal. My other blog The Tao of Climbing will expand on these ideas & practices.

My recent experience of up's and down's taught be some valuable lessons and reminded me of some I'd forgotten!

The Up
In November I had started to regain some former fitness which culminated in an ascent of "la Bestia" in Lliber on 11.11.11 - A notable day to be taking down the "Beast" !! Not a classic route by any means, La Bestia forms an eliminate that only has real interest for locals. A simple bridge into the corner will bring the route down to 6c+, but sticking to the wall is a whole different experience! A recent ascent proposed 7c/7c+, which given the sizes of the hold looked about right.
After a few goes I found a sneaky & technical heel placement that allowed me to bypass all the small crux holds and brought it down to the 7b+ ish mark.
Sending "la Bestia" - Lliber
The Down
Four days later - BANG - I find myself being prepared for emergency surgery on a Perianal abscess!
Several minutes post operation - high as a kite...
So now at least 6 - 8 weeks to heal and reflect!!!

Why had this happened?
Mainly poor diet, ignoring what I knew was unhealthy and questing forward blindly....

How do I make this a positive?
Make positive changes in my diet and lifestyle, return to my deepest motivation and source of enjoyment in climbing.

The return
It's only logical that "What goes down must come up!"

In the Christmas break I ventured out for some easy sessions and concentrating on building basic fitness and more importantly enjoying not being inside. Fortunately climbing hurt less than walking!!
Coupled with perfect winter conditions (blue skies, warm, not cloud insight...) it was very enjoyable to be out climbing easier routes I'd previously over looked and continue to remind myself why I enjoy climbing....
And even more importantly to reinforce & retain the learnings both from Dietary changes that increased my rate of recovery & ultimately improved performance, but also the philosophical perspective that encourages a healthy view of success & failure.

Perfect winter conditions at Gandia
Not before long my eye drifted upwards and caught sight of some old projects
Jan 9th 2012 - just before sending "Baila al Alba" (Dance at dawn) 7c - Gandia

Sending "Sugar Glass" 7b+ Gandia

On the crux of "Sugar Glass"
A big part of my recovery has been down to meeting up with Sol Fernandez again and experimenting with his UpRaw snacks and dietary advice to power my climbing days. These dietary improvements have brought fruit to undeniable results and positive changes. The most profound result came from completely removing Bread from my diet!!!!


Looking forward, the 12hr climbing rallys are only a few weeks away so I will be training hard and putting UpRaw to the ultimate rock climbing endurance challenge...