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CLIMBING truth drama STORIES
Last weekend, January 13 and 14, I did two different activities. On Saturday I climbed a classic north face in the Pyrenees. The next day, I tried Begi Puntuan, the 9a [5.14d] Patxi [Usobiaga] climbed a few weeks ago.
Last winter, I started to practice winter alpinism (ice climbing). It’s pretty curious, when I’m in those indoor training periods. I feel like those chained dogs always wondering when the hell I will be free at last. My “free at last” moment becomes each sixth day, and I call it my rest day. In winter time, I go to the mountains, ice climbing and mountaineering. It gives me freshness to keep on going, again, for the next five training days.
So, the day before, I trained pretty hard. Some specific weighted series that shocked my forearms — and back muscles, too. This same night some friends and I arrived to Gavarnie and slept outside. Early in the morning, five friends and I arrived to the base of the north face of Taillon (3,144 meters). We had many climbers with the same intentions, so we needed to take care with the snow, ice, and rock falls from the parties that preceded us. It’s a 700 meter, pensive route, just 55 degrees (and some 75 degree, too).
When we were in the middle of the route, I heard a deep screaming coming from below. Nothing special. Half-an-hour later, a helicopter from the French Gendarmerie (we were in the French part of the Pyrenees) came around. In the Pyrenees, when a helicopter is flying around, it is because something has happend!!! We went down thinking about what evils had happened. Immediately, a Basque guy came and talked about the success.
Three experienced Basque alpinists were climbing the same route as ours. They slipped and fell down 300 meters, with dramatic consequences. Even more, a very good friend of mine, the 8,000 meter mountaineer Edurne Pasaban, was pretty close to them but a little higher. Fortunately, nothing happened to her.
Immediately, I had the impression of how small we are in the mountains. While reflecting, feelings of sadness came to my mind, on the way back home. So, with these little words, I would like to make a little homage to them and especially to their extraordinary wives and little boys that they left. I had the opportunity to stay with them during the multiple person funeral.
The next day, I felt like those cold TV news showmen that must change his attitude from a drama to a cool new attitude in a few seconds. Instead of keeping my rigid training schedule, I decided to give some time to my mind. I would visit Etxauri. Let’s enjoy outdoor life!
The day before, the living were in a shady and cold north face above Gavarnie (French Pyrenees) on a not-so-steep face, holding two ice axes, and stepping with crampons. The sad Sunday, the next day, I was on a warm and incredible south-facing cliff, crimping tiny holds and stepping onto small footholds. This allowed my soul to soar away from those bad feelings.
So, let’s prove if my mind can appreciate this opposite change and get the necessary energy to aid my mind again. When we arrived and I looked at my friends, I immediately got involved in Ivaniko’s, Esti’s, Ekaitz’s, Josean’s, Leire’s, and, of course, Rikar’s nice feelings.
Before, I told you about this incredible and solitary place called Etxauri, close to Pamplona, in the Basque country. So many routes to try, so many marvelous lines to climb. Ekaitz is the masterpiece of this great new sector in this “old fashioned” Etxauri cliff. He developed — almost by himself — all the new lines, maybe more than 50 new routes, from 6c to 9a (most of them in the 8a [5.13b] and 8a+ [5.13c] range). Nowadays, there is one thing that captures our attention among the others: Begi Puntuan (it’s a Basque word that means “Eyes Target”), and Patxi said it was 9a [5.14d]. It’s Ekaitz’s target right now, but he knew I was there because I wanted to try it, too. So, he looked at me and without a word he passed me the chance to try it. And, of course, I tried. Not so deeply, but I tried.
Photo by Rikar Otegi
The first section of 8a/8a+ difficulty I flashed, but I stopped immediately, because the route changes radically. Very hard, bouldery moves for three bolts raise the difficulty so much. I did well in the next moves. I could make all the moves, long ones, crimpy ones, and hard ones, in that incredible line in an incredible place. Quickly, just before the night came, Ekaitz did his last attempt, only falling one time. He was pretty happy and he is on the right path.
The next day, Monday the 15th, the story was again about training, but this period, fortunately, will finish on January 31. After that, I will start focusing on the most beautiful story: THE CLIMBING STORY.