Blog By Chris Shepard
“Chris, this is what ERASMUS is for.”
Once again, Lucas is repeating this familiar mantra as we head back to Madrid after another fanatical weekend of sport climbing. I’m covered in battle scars, everything aches and I’ve been sleeping in the dirt for the last two days. In short, I’m on my last legs. It’s midnight, and early classes tomorrow are going to be tough.
Sunset through the car window: a familiar sight.
Somewhere between fun experience and military boot camp, this weekend is one of a long series of trials in my transition from British guiri to Spanish Sport Climber (SSC). The latter type is a well-
1. Never stop talking.
Anyone who knows me will be familiar with my big mouth. However, the Spanish have gone one step further and transformed crag-
Who needs UKB when we see each other at the crag every weekend?
Although it can leave you exhausted, this tendency has its upside. If your friends are blurting out any thoughts they have as they come into their head, you never feel like you’re being withheld their opinion. Honestly is assumed, and there’s no talking behind your back while you’re away – an SSC has to rest their jaw some time.
2. Eat everything (or nothing)
There’s been a lot of talk recently about the effect of nutrition on climbing, with many British climbers adopting extreme approaches to eating. However, the aspiring SSC will have to eschew the false idols of the Ketogenic Gluten-
Octavio, enjoying the Mediterranean diet as he moves on to his second tostada.
My local market is quite nice.
SSCs have taken this approach to another level. As anyone who’s fought a few rounds with a forty-
The next step in the self-
Housemate excursion to the Templo de Debod. Also pictured: Laso shows off his wonderful elbow.
Meanwhile, the typical SSC has a tolerance to hedonism that borders on being a superpower. Countless times, I’ve seen friends party until 6am, wake up hung over and drag themselves to the crag. At this point, they swing their arms about a bit, rinse their projects, lower down and skulk off for a siesta. Are you listening, Barrows? Get pissed more often and you’ll climb 9a+.
5. Dodge injuries.
In spite of Points 3 and 4, SSCs are extremely prudent when it comes to injuries. The climbing is so good, they argue, why risk a missed season for the sake of a moment of silliness. As a result, the rate of injury among seventh and eighth-
What’s more, Spain offers dry rock and quality climbing all year round, so there isn’t a single “season” per se. The continuous nature of the SSC experience leaves climbers less inclined to dig themselves into a training-
Sharing the wall with Guille in Somaén.
In order to qualify as a true SSC, you have to be as psyched for your friends’ successes as you are for your own. Invite strangers to dinner; buy the next round; teach your belayer some swear words in your language.
To my Spanish friends: you guys have unreservedly welcomed me into your SSC world, and in doing so you’ve made this the best year of my life so far. Thank you so much, and here’s to the rest of the summer!
And thanks to you for reading. Soon, I’ll be back in the UK and it would be great to catch up with friends. I have plenty more nonsense to spout yet…
See you at the crag,
(L) Teamwork: Felix and Gerard work together in the arduous task of washing Felix’s feet. (R) My current whereabouts. Let’s get to work..
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Oh dear, Guille. Yes, those six burgers are for him.
The author “warming up” on a classic 8a in the Cabeçó d’Or.
3. Skip the warmup.
A familiar experience for Brits who visit Spanish sport crags is the sheer number of wads who jump straight onto the hardcore routes. While visitors slowly get going on the crag warm-
Consequently, a characteristic feature of the Spanish climbing day is the “warm-
If Point 3 gave you the impression that Spaniards are invincible, it’s because they basically are. We’ve all heard the stories about the Foundry raves back in the day, and some UK climbers are famous for not being slowed down by a party lifestyle. However, these individuals tend to be the exception to the rule.
(Top Left) Toasting to the author´s first 8a+. As further proof that Spanish beer is magic, I did my first 8a+/b in two goes the next day. (Top Right) This, however, happens quite a lot. Fourth day on in Terradets: a hefty dose of Monkey Fist was needed that night. (Bottom Left)Training for Rodellar. Ironically, I now have a leg injury.
If you’ve followed all the above advice, you’re well on your way to become a punk-