Siurana and the Problems with Expectations

The last few days of our trip were spent fluttering from crag to crag, visiting some of the (far too abundant) amazing areas in Northern Spain we hadn’t yet been to. We spent three days in Terradets (similar to Rodellar), two days in Montsant (similar to Margalef), and finally, our last two days in Siurana (one of a kind). I thought we just about got a taste of Terradets and Montsant with our brief visits, but with Siurana it wasn’t even that. Siurana is a huge valley lined with smooth orange and grey walls. Doing just a handful of routes, of this unfamiliar style of climbing, felt like an odd way to end our trip. Our first day in Siurana was a easy day, climbing two fun 7as on El Pati with the intention of tearing up the place on our final day.

Wednesday the 11th of December dawned grey and cloudy, slightly disappointing, but we were still psyched to climb. We warmed up on a fun 6a+ at Esperó Primavera, then feeling too lazy to find a harder warmup nearby, I decided to get on the cool looking ‘Mandragora’ (7b+) straight away.

We had initially planned to just go onsighting on our last day yet I was keen to try something a bit harder so I could feel like I’d done something requiring a bit more effort at Siurana. However, when I first tried Mandragora, my first thoughts were that this was probably a mistake. Despite my attempts to deny the fact that I may have improved quite a lot over the last few months, I’ve recently been almost starting to take 7b+ in a day for granted. So here I was expecting to do this one quickly despite it being a completely new style of climbing and unlike anything we’d done on this trip so far. Add to that the pressure of not having the luxury of another day if I did need it, and the fear of having a last day marked by failure. Needless to say, I was finding it utterly desperate.

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Stormy Skies over Siurana

The pressure made me angry at myself for finding it so difficult and I became annoyed with Meshi and Tom for the suggestions they were giving me. Could they not see that the hold they thought I should use was more of a scratch than an edge?? Ok they were just trying to be helpful but I felt shit for not being able to do the moves or use the holds they suggested.

Time was ticking by and the sun was starting to peak out of the clouds by this point. I should have been laughing, smiling and cruising up 7as, yet instead my eyes were leaking with tears of frustration. This was not the last day I’d been hoping for. Tired and upset I eventually worked out a sequence for the crux that felt just about doable and lead the route clean 45 minutes later.

The stupid, illogical, dare I say egoistical(?) part of me, however, almost didn’t want to lead the route clean. I almost wanted to abandon it and say to Meshi and Tom, “I told you, you guys were wrong for thinking and telling me I could do those moves. Now I haven’t done them so I’ve proved my point”. After that I would have purposefully sulked for the rest of the day and hoped they felt bad because I had let them down by not climbing the route when they clearly thought I should have.

Tom keeps telling me to “get some self confidence”, something I’ve found almost offensive. I like to rationalise with myself that I don’t lack self confidence; I’m just a ‘realist’. Perhaps believing that I am a good climber would mean setting myself up for disappointment if I didn’t meet the higher expectations I would be forced to set for myself. If I hadn’t believed or expected that I was capable of climbing Mandragora it wouldn’t have been a problem if I hadn’t done it. Maybe that’s why I try to convince myself that I’m not as good as I am and lower my expectations. Lower expectations mean I’m more likely to meet or surpass them thus rarely be disappointed. Writing down my reasoning makes me feel a bit crazy that my brain actually works like that. At least I’ve been able to identify this problem – first step to being able to do something about it.

If I had announced that I thought Mandragora was too hard for me and I wasn’t going to try it again, I would have almost felt like I was proving my point to Tom about why I feel I don’t need to “get some self confidence”. All that does is give you false expectations and disappointment. I was very tempted to go down that road but as I knew I could actually climb Mandragora, it would have been immensely stupid and childish and a lie. So I didn’t.

Ok. So maybe I do need to get some self confidence…

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