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!

No comments:

Post a Comment