After poor early-Autumn weather, conditions are finally improving in Catalunya, heralding a flurry of important ascents over recent days. Dani Andrada climbing as strongly as ever, returned to his beloved Santa Linya, where he established 'Analogica Natural (extension)' (9a) on the very steep rock to the right of 'Digital System' (8c).
Meanwhile, the awesome walls of Oliana (sector deportivo-Rumbau) played host to one of the most impressive weekend's climbing ever, as Chris Sharma on-sighted routes graded 8b+/8c and 8c on consecutive days.
The action started on Saturday morning, when our own Steve McClure, after very little preparation the day before, made a fine ascent (possibly the 4th) of 'Humildes pa Casa' (8c). This stunning 45m route, whose name roughly translates to “those of humble persuasion should stay at home” features a fierce 8a bulge on pockets to start, followed by sustained wall climbing leading into a 25m-long tufa so perfect that it looks like it's been poured in concrete. Steve completed the route on his first red-point attempt, seemingly without undue effort, though (as usual) modestly claiming otherwise.
Chris arrived with girlfriend Daila Ojeda at a more 'Spanish' hour. After a week spent working in Switzerland, giving indoor bouldering master-classes, he was, by his own admission, 'raring to go', and spent most of the day working on a new (9b) project. Then, as the sun left the wall and the light began to fade, he set off up 'Paper Mullat' (8b+/8c), completing the on-sight of this 40m route in little over a quarter of an hour.
Sunday saw the same cast of characters at Oliana, along with Dani Andrada, who'd come to work on Sharma's 9a+, 'Papi Chulo' — still the hardest route on the crag and, so far, unrepeated.
After a brief warm-up, Chris uncoiled the rope at the foot of 'Humildes pa Casa'. That he was planning to go for the on-sight was never in question and, once he'd started climbing, neither was the outcome. He never looked remotely close to falling, and was even able to exchange pleasantries with both myself (camera-man) and Victor Fernandez (video-man), hanging out in space on ropes behind him. Here is a climber clearly at the top of his form.
A final mention should go to Ramón Julian, who continues to quietly repeat the hardest routes as fast as others can put them up. His tally for last couple of weeks alone (since November 22nd) comes to 8 routes of 8b+, 4 of 8c, 2 of 8c+ and one of 9a! I'll have whatever he's drinking!
With the likes of Dave Graham and Tomáš Mrázek also in the area, Catalunya, in particular the western province of Lleida, seems once again to be climbing's 'melic del món'. That's Catalan for 'belly-button of the world'.
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