In the last month or so, the crag of Oliana in Catalunya has been swarming with British climbers taking advantage of the 40m+ routes to get some early endurance training and the occasional hard redpoint in. James McHaffie kicked off the Mind Control 8c/+ sending spree, followed shortly by Neil Mawson and Wiz Fineron making fast redpoints of this 50m pumpfest.
Initially graded at 8c+, all three climbers agreed that the consensus for the grade is now generally nearer to 8c.
"Mind Control is just a brilliant route. I think the consensus is it's 8c. This seems about right. It felt a bit harder than Bat Route at Malham and it's nearly twice as long. It felt like soft 8b+ to the shakeout hole at 23m then 8a to the top but with the last 8m being the hardest bit."
James had not sport climbed regularly since 2012 and checked the moves in early January before gaining some fitness and starting redpoint attempts towards the end of his trip. He fell from 7m below the chain three times before completing the route in cold and windy conditions:
"I did it first go on the last day in cold fog, it was -4 and couldn't feel my toes from half height onwards. Every move up the last 5m is 6a/b with the last being very droppable, a stab for a pocket. I'd caught it with 2 fingers! It's the longest sport pitch I've climbed."
Neil Mawson arrived in Spain last month with Mind Control firmly in his sights, having tried it briefly on a previous trip last year. Describing the route, he commented:
"It's a 50m monster pitch with all the hard climbing in the top half. It starts up about a 25m 7c/+ to a good rest then blasts straight up a slightly overhanging grey tufa-streaked wall for 25m. It's a total stamina test with no individual hard moves. I fell off after the last clip on the last tricky section twice which was hard mentally."
Speaking of the grade, Neil added: "I don't think it's considered to be 8c+ any more, I think 8c is right."
19 year-old Wiz Fineron - no stranger to hard sport climbs despite his young age, with ticks up to 8c+ including the multipitch Silbergeier 8b+ in Switzerland - completed the trio of ascents, commenting:
"Mind Control was 50 metres of some of the nicest climbing I have done. I originally had no expectations or plans for what I wanted to climb for this trip but after watching Neil have a couple of goes on it, I just couldnt resist. It's definitely one of the 'King Lines' of the crag."
After taking multiple heartbreaking falls from just below the chain, Wiz succeeded on his 8th attempt. Regarding his approach to redpointing the route, he explained:
"I have to admit that I may not have approached it with the best projecting tactics of all time but after my first go on it, going bolt to bolt checking it out, I thought it was going to be easy so I just dived right in for the red-point attempts. This meant that sometimes I would find myself 'freestyling' in some sections resulting in the elbows rising high above my head before being spat off right at the chains. This happened a few times!"
He added: "From my experience I honestly couldn't say its 8c+. Comparing it to other routes that I have done that are around the same grade, the crux moves on this just don't seem to be hard enough combined with how good the rests are. I think that somebody with mega endurance would find it quite easy for the grade."
In addition to Mind Control, Wiz also managed to flash an 8b named Marancitta, thanks to beta from Nathan Lee. As if that wasn't hard enough, he commented: "It felt really good getting to the top with more gas in the tank still."
On his last day of climbing, Wiz then went on to climb Fish Eye 8c on his 4th attempt, once again with some energy left to spare:
"After two weeks of climbing on these 50m mega routes my fitness seemed to be really good and at the top of Fish Eye where I expected to be totally pumped, I felt amazing with a lot of energy left. This was my 4th go in total on the route which probably makes it my quickest ascent of a route at this grade so far. Great end to a great trip!"
Also having a successful trip to Oliana was Brit John Maskell - with an ascent of Fish Eye, Humildes pa Casa (8b+), and Gorilas en la Niebla (8b+) all within the space of a couple of weeks.