Category Archives: Albarracin

Stress, Excitement and Climbing

“Tomorrow” in the last post was now several days ago and i’m back in damp, cold, blustery North Wales. This trip was a whirlwind of stress, excitement and climbing that both seemed to last for a long time and fly past in an instant. In the end, there were a total of two full days and an hour on the third in which to send something. That something didn’t disapoint.

Two in Two

The only problem i had in mind in the build up to this trip was the one that got away last time: El Orgasmo 7a+ at La Fuente. In a nice twist of fate, it turned out Sally’s other project was also in La Fuente and i was definitely psyched to head back up there.

El Plus de Autobus 7b is another roof problem for which Albarracin is famed. Thankfully, with giant holes in the roof, it was exactly the type of problem that wasn’t aggrevating my injured elbow; especially with tape around my arm both above and below the joint. The top, however, was slightly crimpy and more technical but did have the benefit of being a separate stand up problem at 6c+, meaning i’d likely leave with something for my efforts. While i’m not a huge fan of splitting a problem in half to create two climbs, it does have it’s benefits and for someone operating at (in this case) 7a, would give them the chance to complete at least one climb.

What made it all the better was that my ascent of the stand start actually came from the theory i’ve been developing on climbing movement. My left hand was a sidepull pulling towards three o’clock, my left heel holding me up and i realised i needed a right foot on something to comply with my ideas of opposing forces and stable positions (blatant self promotion: book a session to find out what the hell i’m talking about here…). The second i realised this, i found the perfect place for my right foot and a move that would’ve been insanely powerful on an injured arm suddenly became a simple step up. It seems the ideas i’m peddling hold water!

My goal was most definitely the sit start though and i was now fighting with my poor fitness levels after weeks of resting my poorly arm. Getting the resting periods just right proved a struggle, just as on the day before but soon enough, i clutched on to the higher holds and pulled through the same (now easy) move to reach the top and the blank walrus-style top out.

Now time for El Orgasmo and i was optimistic. Surely with my increased levels of climbing and my heightened tactics, it would likely go? One less project left lying around Europe somewhere, that would be nice. Only those poor fitness levels seemed to rear their ugly heads once again and the grapple with the lip on the problem proved to be my undoing. Perhaps i could’ve fought my way through it with sheer belligerence but it would’ve killed me and probably not gone anyway. Besides, the theory wasn’t really working as well this time and i’ve got some more thinking to do once the feet get high up in the air.

I was right to leave it alone as i tried pulling on a couple of other nearby problems only to find myself exhausted the second i stepped off the floor. It seems i was done for the day, not that i was complaining! Two 7bs and a 7a+ in two days was much more than i expected this week and ensured i made the long drive home with a smile on my face.

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The one that got away again; the climb, not the guy. I mean, Pedro is super cool, super chill and great to climb with but it's what he's climbing that I really wanted to do. El Orgasmo was one that we tried back in 2014 and it was the only think I really wanted to get while there. I did give it a damn good go but again, no joy, I was too tired after climbing two 7b roofs! Another amazing photo from @sallylizzle who is on an epic Spanish climbing trip and is well worth following. . . . #Spain #spanishbouldering #albarracin #bouldering #bouldering_pictures_of_instagram #rockclimbing #grimpeur #escalada #escalade #Climbing #climbing_photos_of_instagram #climbing_is_my_passion #climbinglife

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Friday morning, i awoke early, showered and packed quickly (i didn’t exactly have a lot with me for a week in a hostel!) and headed for one quick last blast. But with aching shoulders, i was never going to do much, especially in that last hour before my time was up. Nevertheless, it was nice to stretch the muscles and say goodbye to Sally. I owe her an enormous thanks for getting me out there for what was a stunning week; one i’d dearly love to repeat!

I’ve grown accustomed to the idea of staying local for the foreseeable and this week reminded me of the joys and excitement that can come from visiting foreign fields. Granted, that comes with it’s fair share of stress but in the end, these are the experiences we can’t buy and ones that remind us of the millions of fantastic people all over the world. I am so grateful to Sally for reminding me of this, no matter how brief it may have been.

Making the best of it

My travails in Barcelona – as enjoyable as they were – cost me a day of bouldering. With not being able to collect the car until 1pm and a five hour drive at least, by the time i got here, found the Airbnb, met up with Sally and ate, it was practically the middle of the night again with nought but a glance at the amazing red sandstone blocks i hadn’t seen since the week of my thirtieth birthday.

However, given our collective crippled state, this didn’t turn out to be the crisis we thought. My elbow has deteriorated again and i was nervous i wouldn’t be able to climb, while Sally – on her extended Spanish adventure and the reason i flew out here – had strained some abnominal muscles and wasn’t climbing for a couple of days anyway. Another rest day wouldn’t hurt. Getting stuck in might. Besides, that gave time to build a plan and some psyche…

I’m actually here to coach, not just on a jolly and arriving to find your client is crocked is not ideal. Instead, we decided to chat movement theory, goals and objectives with a view to seeing if any of it worked in practice later. With clients, i’m generally available any time people wish to chat so running over various ideas in person passed the time nicely.

There are several theories and academics related to climbing that i have developed and Sally is just the right type of person to take it on board. She’s also just the right one to tell me if i’m talking total shit and so far, seems very taken with the ideas; able to confirm through her own experiences or question when something doesn’t seem right. Not being able to climb sucks but  i think we are making the best of a bad situation.

The late night led to a late start which was no bad thing! Once up though, i headed into town for supplies, including food and some chalk from the excellent Sofa Boulder. They had not long opened when i was here last in 2014 and are just as friendly now as they were then. If you’re here, check them out.

After several cups of tea, in early afternoon, we finally headed up for a climb. I say we, i was the only one climbing and even then, i was being very cautious not to overdo myself and make the trip effectively pointless. A few 5s in and no pain, the tape holding my arm together and everything seeming pretty good.

A couple of 6bs and a 6c in and i tried the 6b stand start to some more appealing lines. However, when i paused mid route to assess my options (and test my ideas of movement theory on a wall) a nearby Spaniard mistook my musings for confusion and ran over to give me some beta. I wouldn’t ordinarily mind but the beta he was spraying me with was wrong and wasn’t going to work, confusing me further. Eventually i ignored his suggestions, pulled off a slightly harder-looking move and topped out to a round of applause that made me feel slightly embarrassed. 6b isn’t exactly that challenging for me (not that they were to know that).

Given all of this, they must have seemed slightly surprised to see me pull on to the 7a+ sit start version. From the noises they were making as i crept through the crux moves, i don’t think they were expecting me to get that far on El Rompededos. The look on my face at the top probably suggested i wasn’t either.

Sally had missed this taking a phone call and once she returned, found all the stuff had been moved around the corner. We’d looked at Eclipse 7b on our way in; the problem being one of Sally’s projects and she was keen for my beta. I quickly glanced through the moves again, dropped pads down and within about ten minutes had done it in about three sections, working out how to cope with my own issues and apply my own style.

Annoyingly, i mucked up the one attempt that felt like it would be fluid and easy, leaving my foot on a hold too long before it snatched from the hold and smacked the floor. As i rested, Sally grew cold and increasingly frustrated – not at me, at the fact she couldn’t climb – and eventually decided to call it a day, relieved of spotting duties by a group of Germans who had just arrived. If only she’d given it five more minutes, she’d have seen me fight my way through the roof and on to the top. Not a bad return for the day and with next to no pain to speak of!

Certainly psyched for tomorrow.

Suboptimal Preperations

These past fortnight have seen that rarest of rare phenomena: a dry day with me being free and able to climb. Only i couldn’t, i was forced to rest; my elbow tendons screaming at me that they could take no more. Tweaked simply by overuse from competing on too many levels, i was forced to down tools (or rock shoes) and stare at some of the first dry days from the kitchen window. It sucks.

Things are looking up since last Friday on the elbow front but then earlier this week got a bit harder again. With a few days to go before i fly off to Spain, being fighting fit is looking hit or miss. Not exactly ideal preparations.

Elbows

Where my last post held such promise and excitement, shortly afterwards i tried to catch up on the aggregate competitions after a Christmas break. I’m working on a post about competing on two fronts this winter to be published once they’re done but for now, let’s say that an endurance session on the Monday followed by 85 problems at the Beacon two days later was not good for me. That is, in essence, how i hurt my elbow.

Since then, i’ve been trying my best to rest but with being at the wall most of the time, it’s been tough. Throw in some manual labour as well and it’s been perpetually tweaky ever since.

That is until Friday gone when i bumped into one of the parents of the kids i coach. He suggested the latest thinking is to work it slightly and he gave me some exercises and some conditions on climbing; something Tim had also suggested previously which i’d discounted in favour of full rest. It seems to have done the trick and save for some aching from sweeping moss and dirt off a flat roof yesterday (cleaning is bad for you people!) my arm is starting to feel back to normal.

Dealing with injuries is something i’ve not had much experience with, thankfully and so i’m not the best when it happens. Having a good support network – either for myself or for clients when they get tweaks – will prove invaluable in the future. I think i’ve hit on someone well worth working with!

Suboptimal Preparations

The timing of this is not ideal, given that on Monday i fly off to Spain for a week in Albarracin. Ideally, i’d be tailoring my training to be at peak for a trip like this but such is life, and now i’m just hoping i can get some good routes in. Annoyingly, i’ve not been able to do much climbing this week either and my only session really will be tonight in Worcester.

I’m actually coaching here this week and don’t want to walk in to work in the wall blind. It’ll give me an opportunity to climb with my father in law too, which i’m really looking forward to, and to have a mild training session. I’m expecting to get on the lead, which should lower the intensity slightly too and give a different type of climbing to get ready. Not that i’ve ever prepared for a bouldering trip by sport climbing before but we’ll see if it works!

It’ll also be a chance to see how much these cuts on my fingers hurt too. While cutting wood Monday gone, i threw a piece towards a pile and, just as she often does, Tess went to catch it. Unfortunately, she got a bit too close and her teeth badly scratched my middle finger and cut deep into my index. It was a total accident and you’ve never seen a dog look so humble and apologetic but that didn’t make it hurt any less. I managed to squash it back into place and so far, it’s healing very well so hopefully it won’t hold me back and Tess can be forgiven for her over-enthusiasm.

Coaching Building

While out in Spain, i’ll be working with a friend on mine as she quests towards her first climb at a milestone grade. It’ll be great to be working with someone for a few days on real rock and i’m super psyched to get out there and get started. Her attitude is amazing and she’s a credit to herself in her approach to getting her project done.

For me as well, this is why i wanted this job in the first place. For the vast majority of sessions, it doesn’t feel like work. I love watching people climbing, see them improve and develop and it’s an amazing thing to behold when they tell you they’ve achieved a new grade; something that happens a lot to me!

Working in Worcester this weekend will be similarly great experience. This will be my first new wall in quite some time and new clients are great to work with. Stoked to have the business building.

The present might be frustrating and the immediate past hasn’t been great but the future is looking very promising. Now to see what happens when i get there!

Milestones: The Birthday Tradition

This is part five of a series of posts all about the turning points in my climbing career. From single moves to huge time spans, these are the events that shaped me into the climber and person i am today. 

I’ll be posting a new one every few days so keep an eye on the blog for the latest or, if not, they will appear in one beast of an article at the end of the series. Feel free to comment and let me know of some of your own highlights, i’d greatly enjoy hearing some of your own. 

The Birthday Tradition

The campsite of the inaugural birthday trip to Val Daone
The campsite of the inaugural birthday trip to Val Daone

In Spain, in September 2009, with Steffi and good friend Stu Goodfellow, we met two Italians. Now, if you’ve been on a climbing trip abroad, and met people, i would wager you’ve championed your home climbing areas while listen to others try and encourage you to visit theirs. It’s one of the nicest aspects to travelling like this. In this case, Super Paolo and his girlfriend Stef were from the North Eastern corner of Italy, and an area called Val Daone.

They convinced us (it wasn’t hard) to plan a trip to see them. The next question was when. Now, i can’t for the life of me remember how we came to the decision, and i think it took a lot of faffing with dates but somewhere down the line, we arranged to go for my 26th birthday, much to the dismay of my mother. (“But you won’t have anything to open on your birthday!” she remarked. My reply: “I’ll open the door of my tent to see a beautiful Alpine valley…”)

In Austria at Sundergrund on the day i turned 29
In Austria at Sundergrund on the day i turned 29

What began is a tradition that i have managed to keep going for the following six years and counting: to spend my birthday in a different country every year. To date, the list of birthday destinations reads Italy, Canada, France, Austria, Spain and Switzerland, with next year’s trip to Finland already in the pipeline.

It is now the highlight of my year and while everything else is very flexible, this summer fortnight is not. Finding places with suitable conditions in June is proving harder and harder, especially as flying to the Southern hemisphere where it’s mid-winter is currently out thanks to costs. I’m also running out of emergency i’ve-got-no-money-this-summer options, although Ireland still remains, as do a couple of others. Sooner or later, it’ll become “…in a foreign country” instead but for now, the tradition continues good and strong, with at least next year all good to go.

Turning 30 in Spain in the middle of June turned out to be a bit hotter than expected. Evening sessions were the way forward
Turning 30 in Spain in the middle of June turned out to be a bit hotter than expected. Evening sessions were the way forward

Saturday 28th June

Retrospective Post

Saturday 28th June 2014, Albarracin, Spain

DSC03073And so, battered, broken and bruised, the summer trip Albarracin 2014 gradually draws to a close. Personally, it’s involved twelve consecutive days of climbing, including sixteen individual sessions at six crags, dozens of boulders and 63 problems – some of the others have even completed more. We’ve taken around 1500 photos (some still to be deleted), killed countless flies and watched more than our fair share of dubbed Spanish television. Oh and managed to learn no more than a handful of words in Spanish, the most popular of which is undoubtedly tortuga. It’ll certainly be another one to remember.

DSC02621There aren’t many ways in which you couldn’t class this trip as a success. We’ve climbed aplenty, had generous and predictable conditions and had few in the way of major setbacks, if any. For myself and John, the climbing ended this morning by 1pm at the latest, while Jim and Ryan are currently off in search of one more 6b for themselves. Rich is probably sat reading his book.

The only downside (again, personally) is the lack of difficulty in my achievements but considering the circumstances involving a finger injury from April and various personal commitments that made training an impossibility, that is far from a surprise. I’ve managed a 7a+ and a handful of 7a climbs, some of which later downgraded but probably deservedly so, meaning i’m not going home completely empty-handed and down-trodden. On the contrary, I would say the trip has been a resounding success.

DSC02719Would I change anything? Potentially the venue for the time of year: it has been uncomfortably hot at times and while we’ve avoided climbing in poor conditions as best we can by targeting morning and evening sessions, it has been a chore to just be here in the middle of the day. However, the nature of a summer birthday trip limits your options terribly and this is certainly a phenomenal venue to be in and a fantastic way to enter a new decade.

Would I return? Absolutely! In a heartbeat, although as mentioned just, it would be at a more favourable time of year, especially as we have been unable to go to at least six venues because of bird-nesting restrictions. There is still plenty more here to be seen an explored.

I wouldn’t be surprised to find, on my next trip, that the guidebook had doubled in size, although I suspect the best lines and crags have already been discovered. It has been a touch disappointing to get on the occasional squeezed-in line that really shouldn’t be there. Still, that’ll happen everywhere. Evidence of this is the growth of the town since my last visit five years ago – Albarracin can now boast at least two climbing shops, possibly three if you count the one at the campsite (and assuming it’s still there, I didn’t check) as well as a growing local economy proven by building work opposite our apartment. This, in my opinion, will only continue.

But for now it is time to go home and while this is a fantastic climbing destination, I am now looking forward to my flight. Other than climbing and sitting in the apartment, there is little to do around the village. Bars and shops are normally closed in the middle of the day, and while there are some walks and a trebuget park that we didn’t visit (despite my vociferous and regular requests), it does get a little old after two weeks. And besides, it is now time to rest the thin skin on my fingers, the strained ankle and hamstring of my left leg and allow the graze below my right nipple to heal. Albarracin, it’s people, it’s town and it’s surrounding countryside: gracias, adios and see you soon. In Spanish.

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Thursday 26th June

Retrospective Post

 

Thursday 26th June 2014, Albarracin, Spain

DSC02584Today was the first day we’ve been rained off from a session we actually wanted to go out for. Well, I say we, I really mean me, as after nearly two weeks, i’ve honed in on a project that I want to get – a 7b at Entre Aguas called Dos Mandingas y un Destino. A big move from a huge pocket to the lip of the roof, followed by a topout that remains untried. It could be a complete non-starter, like so many of the problems we’ve thrown ourselves at over the last two weeks but i’m hopeful of going home with something vaguely akin to the grades i’ve been accustomed to getting this year.

I am almost ready to go home too; achy, broken and tired and running on enthusiasm alone. Everyone else seems to be in the same boat – Jim said he’d finally take a rest day after eight in a row. John has done an extra two. Even Rich and Ryan, who only arrived late Sunday night, are complaining about feeling the effects of the land of sandstone roofs, and Monday was a relatively easy one climbing in suits at Parking on problems we’d all practised before.

DSC02699Not that it’s been a bad trip in the slightest! I’d been itching to get back here for a long time and this was a great opportunity. It’s been a touch hot, granted but we’ve accommodated as best we can and there is a limit to sensible venues when you’re restricted to a trip in the back end of June. It’ll probably evolve into a one week trip in June with two weeks in either March or September one day.

There are still plenty of areas we haven’t been as well, so plenty of reason to come back. Some of these have been through seasonal restrictions (unavoidable) and some through lethargy due to geography (pretty much unavoidable) but even with this, we have had a good punt at checking out as much as possible given the circumstances. Arastradero has had a few good sessions, La Fuente a couple as well, Parking has almost been saturated in terms of what’s left to do. We’ve also visited Entre Aguas, Techos and Cabrerizo, the latter two on multiple occasions. That means we’ve hit about half of what’s available here.

And while the grade list hasn’t been huge, on Tuesday night I did manage the one problem I wanted while I was here: Techo don Pepo 7a at Cabrerizo which can be seen at the top of this page. I’ve ticked a few 7as (which looks a lot better than saying some V6s, a point we were discussing yesterday) and considering the circumstances, can go home a happy man. And there are still three more climbing days left…

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Monday 23rd June

Retrospective post

Monday 23rd June 2014, Albarracin, Spain

Another birthday, another year, a new decade and it occurred to me earlier that I can remember what I was doing and where I was for every one of the last five birthdays – I wonder how many people can say that! This one has been good value for money, too.

DSC02048Last night, 4:30am and I could be found standing on the corner of the main road through Albarracin and the road down to the campsite and our apartment, waiting for Rich and Ryan to arrive. We’d opted to stay up and wait for them, instead of getting a token gesture of sleep and 2:00 became 3:00 became mild insanity including the repetition of the Spanish word for tortoise (apparently, tortuga is a funny word) leading to me opting to spend my time outside half a mile away. We were then up again at about 10:00.

DSC01980Within three more hours, we were at the crag, at Parking to be precise, practising for the evening when we headed back: all suited up… Once i’d mentioned before the trip that I was going to have to take a suit for the wedding in Sweden on the way, it was somehow decided that everyone should join in and we’d all spend the birthday proper climbing in suits. It sounds stupid in hindsight (it sounded stupid before we left!). It looked equally stupid when we were there. Still, it was a bit of a laugh and should make a good once we get home.

The problems are beginning to relent, too. Last night, before our last two joined us, we were back at La Fuente, where I finally managed my first 7a of the trip: a tricksome roof problem that required plenty of grunt called Por La Boca Muere El Pez. Today, as the sun set and people re-emerged from the forest, I ticked off my second, Zooruya. It looks like I should manage at least a couple more by the end of the week.

That, of course, is weather dependant and this evening we were privy to another stunning thunderstorm which has now soaked all in sight. Only time will tell what the means for climbing in the coming days. At least it’ll free us up to go to La Taba for some tapas though!

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Sunday 22nd June

Retrospective Post

Sunday 22nd June 2014, Albarracin, Spain

DSC01897If I was to describe Albarracin in one word it would be: brutal. Everything seems to be shutting me down at the moment, the crimps very small, the roofs as steep as they can be and the slopers, well, erm, very slopey. It could be for a multitude of reasons, ranging from the fact i’ve been out of action for quite a while following injury, the heat being enough to sap energy from you when simply existing or the fact that Albarracin is actually brutal for the grades. It probably doesn’t help that I stubbed my toe pretty bad yesterday, with a large blood blister making rock boots quite painful. Either way, my current ticklist isn’t exactly impressive. No grade 7s so far.

DSC01246Everything now happens in the afternoons, except the climbing: shopping, cleaning, eating, showering. Our evening sessions have been pushed right back to go from 6pm to sunset, although our morning sessions are still delayed due to mild lethargy, as is to be expected really. Still, since the last post and until today, we’ve managed two sessions a day, checking out the occasional new area while revisiting some again. Techo don Pepo 7a at Cabreriza is high on the agenda for a repeat visit, while Gorillaz 7a was agonisingly close at Techos and most other areas now have a project of some description, not just for me but for all three of us. And that three will become five at some point between now and tomorrow afternoon.

I’ve decided (repeatedly, apparently) that morning sessions are for mileage and evening sessions, when the weather is significantly cooler and kinder, for ticking off projects. That said, i’ve been getting easily distracted in the heat of the day, throwing myself at various 7s. Meanwhile, my compadres, currently sat at the table learning some Spanish from an Android App, seem to have been having a whale of a time. Jim especially has been hitting heady heights that on previous trips have seemed far out of reach. Last time, in sub-zero temperatures granted, in Switzerland, 6a was a distant dream. Yesterday, he ticked off a 6b+. John has probably been closer to my approach but even so is pleased with his progress and has a substantial number of ticks in his guidebook.

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So on the last day of my twenties, the current plan is to sit in the shady flat, watching the washing spin round, scratching heads about how to say “you are girls” in Spanish before another trek into the forest later on. To be honest, i’m quite happy about that – kinda fits with the general pattern of my last ten years!

 

 

Retrospective post

Thursday 19th June 2014, Albarracin, Spain

On our walk back from a large lunch of pizza, we measured the temperature: 37C although that was at the point we walked into the nice cool flat so I suspect in the sunshine, it’s actually a bit hotter than that. While reminiscent of last summer in Germany, it’s the polar (excuse the pun) opposite of my last trip with Jim – to Magic Wood in November 2012, where temperatures plummeted to the negative teens. Being as he arrived yesterday evening, this is something that is coming up in conversation quite a bit today.

DSC01163It is the heat that has led us to large lunches, in all truth. The current plan involves eating our main meal in the day, climbing from either 10am or about 6pm, and then snacking and drinking as much as possible around that. It’s a typically Spanish approach and to be honest, now we’re here in mid-summer, I can see why – you really have no choice.

DSC01458Since last time, and until today, the climbing sessions have been relentless. While the first evening may not have featured any massively impressive ascents, it was followed on Tuesday by a morning in Arrastradero with a trip to La Fuente in the afternoon, with around a dozen problems of various grades ticked off. Yesterday was Techos (morning) and Parking (afternoon), although the heavy assault on the crags was taking it’s toll and I climbed nothing in the latter part of the day. Still, another four problems fell in the morning, mostly easy 6s.

After a day of travelling yesterday, pretty much all day in fact, Jim didn’t really rise early enough for us to get out this morning, so we got some supplies and sacked it off. Instead, we spent a few hours wandering the town, investigating what was about (not a lot, to be honest, although what is there is very pretty), and getting pizza that I unusually couldn’t finish. The bars, restaurants and pretty much anywhere are awash with yesterday’s Spanish football loss to Chile, which knocked the holders out of the World Cup. Not in the forest though, and in a little under two hours, we’ll be heading out again. Once it gets a bit cooler though.

 

 

Retrospective post

Tuesday 17th June 2014, Albarracin, Spain

Five years ago, I spent an unexpected night in a friend’s flat in London. I had planned our trip to Gatwick with very little experience of air travel, had not allowed enough time to get through the airport, been delayed when the bus didn’t turn up where we thought it should and missed our flight to Spain. Two days ago, it was an experience that was running through my mind like a pair of pants in the washing machine on the spin cycle. I had planned to get a train to Arlanda airport from Gavle at 4, found that the train was 400 kroner and the one after was only 120 kroner and opted to save the cash. It left me with a little over an hour to get to the airport, check in and get through security before my plane left the ground. I was rapidly becoming convinced that it was all going to be a repeat performance of last time.

Later that night, I landed in Madrid, as planned, beginning to relax slightly. All other obstacles were easily overcome and yesterday, we arrived in our home for the next two weeks and almost immediately headed out for the crag. At last, we’re here and all is well.

Suddenly I remembered how glorious this small village in rural Spain is: a quick Google search will reveal the picturesque walls of the village, the beautiful cathedral here and the small and winding hillside roads that wind their way thoughout. The surrounding area is equally amazing, with cliffs, crags and plains for as far as the eye can see in any direction. It really is great to be back and will undoubtedly not be the last time.

We didn’t climb long last night before being chased out by a thunderstorm which was so spectacular that it made an appearance on this afternoon’s news broadcast. Still, i’m in a unique position of being in an apartment for a change, so the weather (temperature notwithstanding) isn’t an issue this time. It’s definitely a first for me, although while climbing earlier, I did realise that this is only the second climbing destination outside the UK, after Fontainebleau, that I have visited more than once.

It is a healthy mix of vaguely familiar and completely unknown. We have now visited two different areas, both with ticks from my last trip in 2009, with problems i’ve recognised and plenty I have not. For John, it’s all new of course – his only foreign trip being this March, and his enthusiasm is certainly welcome. Still, to climb every second we could would be suicide and lead to exhaustion very quickly and we’re now taking a break to watch a Spanish soap opera at not quite four in the afternoon with a surprisingly graphic sex scene…

So a quick shower and we’ll be back out for the evening; first to search for food for this evening and then back to the crags for a bit more climbing. While Spanish soaps aren’t exactly what we would ask for, weather forecasts are certainly handy and it’s due to rain again at some point in the next few days. Hopefully we’ll get a few more sessions in before it does.