Hard Problems in Spain for Hamish Potokar

© Hamish Potokar Collection

After relocating to Spain, Hamish Potokar has been hard at work ticking off hard boulder problems in areas around Madrid. In total, he climbed three Font 8B+s, all in rapid time.

Hamish finished his studies in Glasgow last year and 'graduated into the world of Covid.' He managed to move to Madrid to teach English and learn another language, but was also 'curious to explore a new climbing region.'

La Pedriza is the most well-known of the climbing areas around Madrid and is famous for its sharp and run-out slab climbing. Hamish told us:

'In fact, as far as bouldering is concerned, the best rock I have seen is in areas which are barely developed and not written up. Places like Bustarviejo and Valdemanco have really great potential for new hard lines on really great rock.'

The first of his hard ticks was a Nacho Sanchez problem called Zarzafar (f8B+) at Zarzalejo, north west of Madrid. Hamish arrived at the crag just in time to see local climber Jorge Diaz-Rullo topping out the problem:

'He shared some beta with me, including an easier seeming method for the top. I then managed to then confuse myself thoroughly by climbing it in a few goes. I think this struck up some momentum for me, and I set my eyes next on the other test piece of Zarzalejo, Soyuz (f8B+).'

Hamish describes this problem as 'gritty' – 'rat crimping until your fingers are numb on granite blades.' He completed the problem on a bitterly cold night after two sessions and believed it to be the hardest thing he had climbed since moving to Spain.

Over at La Pedriza (Posterior), Hamish took a look at a problem called Fotofobia sit (f8B+) which follows a 'beautiful line of crimps up a high wall' on water washed granite. Again, the problem was first climbed a couple of years ago by Nacho Sanchez and according to Hamish, had developed a reputation. He met a friend, Carlos, at the crag who had already spent some time on the line:

'As with Zarzafar (f8B+), there seemed to be some magic in the air that day. Carlos managed to climb it, and after feeling pretty close to the flash, I managed it second go.'

On the grades, Hamish admits that whilst the problems suit him, he is uncertain about the numbers. He believes that he wouldn't be able to climb the equivalent grade quite as fast in the UK. The style of problems certainly looks different over there and areas develop their own difficulty in terms of grades. Hamish noted:

'they seem to have made it to this point unquestioned, despite various ascents. Given that, I'll be satisfied to settle on the position that these things didn't really feel 8B+ to me, but respect the consensus thus far, and stop thinking about it at that. More importantly to me, they represent the hard test pieces of the area, and I am happy that I was able to do well on them.'

Hamish puts his good form simply down to more time on rock. Luckily, the Communidad of Madrid has allowed travel within the region for leisure activities and he has fully taken advantage of this:

'I think I could just about count on my hands the number of times I've visited an indoor wall since September. So basically, I have been getting out when I can and supplementing this with the odd bit of finger boarding. I think this has been pretty good for my form on rock, which in some ways is unsurprising: climbing lots on granite has got me good at just that!'

Hamish has ticked hard testpieces up and down the UK having previously climbed hard grit problems like The Ace (f8B) and Voyager (f8B). Last summer, he climbed his first Font 8B+ at Biblins Cave with an ascent of Spaceship (f8B+).

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