Or so it seemed, why else would the thermometer say 25 degrees! But it was still only February 8th. A dream for most, blazing sunshine, five days in a row without a cloud or a breath of wind. But you can’t please everyone, and I couldn’t help but let out a little whinge as I slipped off the last moves of Blomu, a 35m 8c+ at Santa Linya. The route bakes in the sun from the moment it rises to the moment it sets, and I was not keen enough to be at the crag and warmed up before the glassy slopers turned to soap. Being British though, whinging is to be expected!
Summer has arrived for Steve McClure
But it was only a small whinge. At this time even Spain is a gamble. Last year we betted on Misja Pec, and lost. This year Catalunya was a top bet. Conditions were compromised in the sun, but primo in the shade, it’s all a matter of choosing the right routes. My window was a small one with just 4 and a half days away; it seemed short in advance, but now, a day after returning, my battery feels fully charged. At least my Vitamin D is up there!
We stayed at the house of Tom Bolger and partner Lynn, and spent a few days at Santa Linya, or ‘The Cave’ as it’s known. They live within a stones throw in perhaps the most idyllic pad I’ve seen. Breakfast on the balcony in the sun before strolling down to do battle. Tom is in the zone and knocking out the 9’s. So far he’s up to 9a/+, but I watched him pushing hard on a 9a+. The start holds look like buckets as he floats up, but I look closer and realise I can’t pull on them. Then after a lot of moves he’s at the crux, a contorted position in a horizontal roof on awful holds leads to a massive stab to a poor mono. Then with feet smearing it’s another reach off that to a bad crimp. Apparently its font 8a+ for just that bit, but the style makes me cringe. I won’t be on that!
So I take a more relaxed tact with Rab Carrington and aim for the hills away from power and steepness. The area of Villanova De Mela is beautiful. It has a mountain feel, fresh and remote, but is actually just an hour from the towns. We opted for a 4 pitch route, high above the valley floor that was still frosted and dark in the shadows. The route was immaculate, not a speck of loose rock, every move perfect, never hard, never easy. Belaying at the top in a T-shirt it’s easy to see why anyone would fall in love with climbing. Surely this is what it’s all about, the true essence of our sport.
But somehow I’m back in the cave. My second morning on this route made it clear that I could have done it, would have done it, if it had been cold. I was happy with that. Two quick sessions to nail an 8c+ is good going. It was pleasing after such a long lay off. But I hadn’t actually done it, so I was back next day 40 minutes earlier and battling up the warm up with frozen fingers, but knowing in less than 90 minutes I’d be sunbathing in my shorts. This time, with a tick in the bag, summer felt far more agreeable!