From Here To There: Like a Tumbleweed
Mandragora, an 8c [5.14b] route, is the name of my last hard achievement. For my dear Rikar Mandragora, this was his first alpine route climbed so many years ago in the Ordesa Valley, in the Pyrenees. I’m back home from a little climbing trip around northern Spain, just behind the hillside of the Pyrenees. Just from here to there, according to the weather conditions. I was placid, climbing close to home, in some unusually dry climbing areas, until the weather obliged me to climb indoors or just go away from home to climb.
Last November, I was attempting Mandragora, located at my “second home” — Oñate. Mandragora is a rare and precious little pearl, with only one ascent — Patxi [Usobiaga's], and no more. And this was enough to get my attention in those days. I attempted three days last November. This mid-February, after my training season, I decided to go for it seriously.
Mandragora is an 18-meter [60-foot] high wall, and not so steep. From the first moves, there are almost no possibilities for any shake, just clip the draws and keep on climbing. The middle section involves seven bouldery moves on extremely sharp/positive side-pulls and a small, two-finger pocket, not so small (all of them) but pretty powerful all around.
After three days this February, and another three last fall, I climbed it. It became my first hard route this year. I had to put some extra energy into it. Mandragora is one of those routes where everything must be done in the correct way. You know, each part of your body must dance according to the rhythm that the route requires. No extra violent moves, just soft and smooth — until you reach the last gaston, then the violence is free and required. When you reach this, a not-so-bad rest leads you to a vertical, ugly wall and (on the day I redpointed) wet section. I was climbing desperately, because it is one of those parts that when you have been working the route you realize you cannot fail here. Okay, this was a theory of a positive brain. Now, the reality was that the bad feelings caught my thoughts. Fortunately, my mind, at that point, was not a brand new one, and I could resolve that section successfully and chain the belay with no small endeavor.
In the mean time, I was climbing again in this marvelous and smooth (except for the names of the whole routes), ambient place, called Etxauri. I worked on an athletic route called Capitalismoaren Txerriak (8c+ [5.14c]) a couple of times — it translates to "Capitalism Pigs or something like that — and I managed to onsight Maskarada ("Masquerade"), 8a+ [5.13c], and Zurrunbillo ("Whirlwind"), 8a [5.13b].
Photo by Rikar Otegi
From there, I went for an old and desperate project, that I get on from time to time. The name of this route is Powerade (8c+), the same as the famous beverage. Yes, I mentioned it on one of my first blogs. This time everything was in the correct way, (i.e., the route was dry — impossible for better conditions), so no excuses!
Well, I failed on the link-up section pretty high, but not enough to escape from the hard part, and this was making me anxious. Next time, when somebody offers me a gulp of Powerade, I don’t think I will accept it. (That’s a joke, of course.) After falling on this route, I had a good taste in my mouth, and onsighted the hard Hijos De La Roca ("Rock’s Sons"), 8a+, also in Vadiello area.
On the 24th of February, I’m going to stay in Vancouver. There is the VINFF, an international mountain film festival. I will be there to offer a slide show. So from here to there again, this time very very far away to there.
Photo by Rikar Otegi