A Bigger Challenge?

I’ve been told that bolt-to-bolting a route for the first time is the easy part of the process that eventually leads to a successful send. For me this is the hardest part. I hate the way I have to grope and flail around to find the best holds or sequence, constantly falling off on each bolt, fail, fail, fail. Everything about bolt-to-bolting feels so… inelegant. I feel more like I’m fighting the route than taming and befriending it. The climb feels impossibly hard and I start to wish I was putting my draws in something easier. Eventually I (usually) make it to the top, but lowering off, my head is spinning with doubts. Is it worth investing more time into or should I find something that “suits my style” (a.k.a feels easier), instead?

Recently I’ve been trying a route called ‘Maligna’, a 7c+ at Raco de Espedelles in Margalef. On my first attempt I didn’t even manage to get to the top. For starters, I couldn’t do the first move off the ground. I then spent ages trying to work out what I thought must be the crux at half height; only to find out that I couldn’t hold on to to the pockets on the upper headwall. My fingers were bloody and raw, my arms weary, and I was too scared to commit to moves that would (probably) cause me to take a big fall. I showed a lot of weakness to the point where I even had a little cry. I lowered off, leaving my draws in, and hoped that anyone else who tried it would have the sense to bring a couple extra quickdraws for the top – or else experience an extremely tasty runout!

Beautiful, steep conglomerate at Raco de Espedelles

Thus, the first time I tried Maligna was a horrible and stressful experience but after several days the bad memories started to subside and a sadistic part of me was psyched to give it another go. Tom and I have only a few weeks left of what will be a three month trip. During this time I’ve managed to redpoint five grades harder than anything I’d done previously. The hardest routes have taken a fair amount of effort and multiple redpoint attempts, yet on all of them I’ve had a tiny sense they’d be possible from the first attempt. Maybe choosing routes that I knew I could do however, means they’ve all been a bit too easy. Each route I decided I wanted to do, I was successful on. Other routes I’ve dismissed after a first attempt, concluding they are probably too hard. This is how Maligna felt the first time.

Nearing the end of our trip I feel I should be trying to send as many enjoyable and ‘reasonably attainable’ routes as possible. Yet this time I feel compelled to continue to attempt a route I still don’t know is possible for me. I have no ‘good’ reason to put myself through this. It wont be my hardest redpoint, it’s not the most enjoyable route I’ve climbed, and it’s not exactly aesthetically stunning. For these reasons I know I won’t be very upset if I don’t manage to complete it. However, this time, a part of me wants to rise up to a bigger challenge. So…I will continue to attempt Maligna purely for the pleasure of the fight alone. A muerte.


Update: In the end I surprised myself by using beta I didn’t think would work and sent the route on my 5th or 6th try. It took me roughly the same or slightly longer than Coliseum (my first 8a), but this was definitely a tougher challenge for me.


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