I think I’m starting to get the hang of bouldering. For the past week, I’ve been in Albarracìn, Spain, testing my power on slopey sandstone. While I haven’t climbed anything to write home about (although I did write my parents an email…), I’ve completed a few things I’m proud of, and I’ve noticed progress since last New Years, when I ventured out on my first ever bouldering trip. While Jon may scoff at my chalk bag wearing, rest inclusive, and lengthy topout ascents, I think four minutes is quite quick to complete a climb. I’m significantly less scared, more comfortable throwing a heal up, and more likely to whale over the top rather than down climb. These are big steps.
Despite forethoughts that I’d be able to adjust quickly, adapting to a new area always takes a bit of time. A two week trip spread over two climbing areas doesn’t allow much time for adjustment. However, I tried to forget excuses like “you’re just getting used to it” and actually push myself a bit. While problems such as La Fuente (7C/V9) fit my style perfectly, with slightly overhung crimps and not-too-scary-topouts, others such as Ineschakra (7B/V7-8) provided quite the challenge. After much confusion over how to pull off the ground, followed by failure on every single move, I began to unlock the secrets. I’ve always been told that this is what bouldering is about. When sport climbing, doing all the moves, despite hanging at every draw, means you can probably redpoint the route with some effort. Yet in bouldering, not even getting close on any moves still means you might be able to succeed. This is confusing.
Of course, enthusiastic and patient bouldering partners make the transition a bit easier. In both Hueco and Peru, I was fortunate to be able to climb with a talented and motivated group. Here in Spain, inspiration wasn’t tough to find as I watched Jon tick through projects. His quick work of Zarzaparrilla (8B/V13), despite seven bleeding fingers and temps all too cold for my tastes, proved the power of perseverance. While I often suffer from bouldering ADD, where I hop between problems until I find the perfect one fitting to my style, I’m learning through example the importance of giving more than one or two efforts on a given problem. What do you know, it’s just like sport climbing!
Thus, I’m learning the importance of trying hard, giving full on efforts, and not falling prey to discouragement. The slightest alterations in positions can make all the difference on a boulder problem. Sagging low to generate momentum is more helpful than locking off in hopes of reaching the next hold three feet away. And resting before the topout generally isn’t necessary, although I will mostly likely continue that practice – who knows whether that last move will take some endurance!
All in all, my time at Albarracìn has contributed significantly to my ever evolving bouldering skill set. I’m hoping to have gained some power, since I can hardly lift my arms above shoulder height right now. Most importantly, I overcame a few obstacles and proved to myself the power of a little try hard. That said, I’m looking forward to a week of sport climbing in El Chorro!