Two British 9a ascents have been made in the Lleida province of Catalonia, Spain, recently. Luke Dawson ticked Esclatamasters at Perles, while Alex Barrows redpointed La Fabela Por La Enmienda (9a) in the Santa Linya Cave.
After climbing his first 9a Rainshadow last year (UKC News), Luke set his sights on the aesthetic and contrasting line of Esclatamasters, with its overhanging arête that leads into a technical headwall. He told UKC:
'Sometimes a route catches your eye and you have to climb it. Esclatamasters was like this. The change of style really makes it into a route of two halves, separated by time spent hanging upside down from kneebars.'
An endurance test, the line adds up to around 95 moves - a long route, 'even by Spanish standards,' Luke said. He explained:
'A lot of times I fell at the end because, ultimately, the difficulty of the route revolves around 20 hard moves on small holds in the second half. In this section there isn't really anywhere to stop and chalk, let alone rest, so conditions become very important.'
After a stormy night covered the hills above the crag with snow, the air temperature dropped and brought good conditions, prompting Luke to go for the tick. He said:
'Immediately I felt more pressure and the first session didn't go to plan. The rest was wet and I was too focused on the outcome, falling in the end lower than on previous goes. The next session turned out better, second go of the day ending with fingertips not quite engaging on a flat hold less than a foot from the final rest. On this attempt I had proved to myself that I could do it but I also began to feel quite exhausted.'
Luke rested for two days and returned with more energy to perfect conditions. He said:
'I felt so good on the route that instead of going bolt to bolt on the first go, I opted to just try and redpoint, falling off again at the end because the sun was in my eyes and I couldn't see the next hold. Next go up the sun had sunk lower and I reached the final rest just in time to catch the last rays. Climbing the last 7c+ section to the chain with no dramas, I completed a quite intense two and a half weeks of progress.'
Italian ice climber Angelika Rainer - who was redpointing alongside Luke - also ticked the line to bag her first 9a.
Elsewhere in Lleida, Alex Barrows ticked his seventh 9a with an ascent of La Fabela Por La Enmienda (9a) in the steep Santa Linya Cave. He also climbed two 8c+s, Rollito Sharma Extension por la Enmienda and La Fabela (8c+).
Alex told UKC:
'The routes I did this trip meant quite a lot to me. I first went to Santa Linya in 2010 and remember being wowed by its size and steepness. Climbing the whole way out of the central steep part looked incredible, but way too hard for me - the easiest way being 8c+ and my hardest route then being four grades lower.'
Alex spent a considerable amount of time in the cave in 2011 and 2012, but hadn't returned since in his 9a form. Describing La Fabela por la Enmienda, he said:
'It lived up to what I'd hoped for - very much my style of climbing with tricky sections between OK rests, good holds but thuggy climbing, and nice and long (though the ~15 minutes resting in good kneebars in the middle is maybe a bit boring for the spectators!).'
On his current focus, Alex summed up:
'I think at the moment a lot of the routes that I'm motivated for, at least when it comes to redpointing, involve going back to those ones that made you think "Wow, I'd love to do that one day!" and trying to make that day happen. I guess they have a little something special for you. That said, going to new places and going onsighting is probably still my favourite thing to do!
Tom Bolger has also made the second ascent of Ramón Julián Puigblanqué's Maya 9a+. More information and a video to follow.