There is just something special about this random and fairly meaningless (if your not a climber) number! My life time climbing ambitions was to climb a route rated with this absurd configuration of one number (8) and one letter (a). As my climbing improved my goals changed and I aspired to climb 8a whilst I was still 18, a goal I missed by just two days. After climbing 8a my goal changed again, 8a second go, two 8a’s in one day, 8a flash and finally and 8a onsight.
We have been in the absolutely stunning Catalunya Provence of Spain for one week. There are stunning limestone cliffs covered in tufa’s, crimps and jugs everywhere. For the last week I have concentrated on onsight climbing, with an 8a onsight being the final goal. This area is the perfect place for people wanting to concentrate on onsight climbing because if you fall off one 8a you just pull your rope, move two meters right/left and try again.
After onsighting a few slightly easier routes at Tres Ponts I climbed the stunning route Segre 8a onsight. This route is an incredible 55 meter jug ridden journey through some pretty steep ground. If you climb the route to the first lower off at 35 meters the route is graded 7c+ but if you push on through the pump for the following 20 meters you can reward yourself with the 8a tick.Buzzing with post route psych I jumped on Alt Urgell intending to go for the 7c first lower off, arriving there and feeling fresh I continued on to the top for my second 8a onsight in as many tries!
At Terradets I onsighted the classic El Latido Del Miedo 8a. This route is very different to the routes at Tres Ponts. It is a fairly brutal 30 meter affair with a brilliant finale on a beautiful tufa system.
I now feel I have come full circle in my relationship with the meaningless number, 8a!
How do the grades compare to the UK I hear you cry?!
I don’t think the routes out here in Spain are less difficult than other routes in general. I just think they are easier to climb. The sequences are easier to read, the holds are generally bigger but the routes are long, sustained and athletic!
Anyway, enough about grades! Lets go climbing