It was impressive. Emma walking up Mind Control with plenty in the bank, Josh and Jack Ibbertson showing that the future of UK sports climbing looked bright, Hock still able to do a 1 armer on an edge with his dadbod.
Yeah the Ibbertsons were the coolest family I've met I reckon. The only downside to the trip had been Angus’ morning routine of doing topless yoga in the living room in his skimpy leggings.
I looked back on 2 weeks in Oliana:
After picking the hire car up from Barcelona airport I went and grabbed my old friend Adam Hocking who’d arrived an hour behind. In 1994 Hock had won the Juniour BICCs and could do 2 little finger 1 armers without warming up, still strong he now had 2 kids and a dadbod.
We put the trance on and took off to an apartment in Organya where Emma Twyford, Angus Kille and Rhos (with an unspellable surname) were already ensconced. Rhos was the only person I didn’t know and it became apparent she had a humour dryer than the Sahara.
The first climbing day we immediately set about looking at projects and I settled on Fish Eye, with form in the past to have had a good go at doing it in a session this was my goal for the whole trip and I have to say I’ve not been on a sport route as good for many years. The routes that go to the top of the main face of Oliana are around 50 metres long and on the main face the easiest of them are 8a+.
A couple of days later both Emma and Angus were lobbing off near the top of Mind Control. It was obviously going to be doable after a rest day. On the rest day we all took a spin up to Coll de Nargo and Hock impressed everyone by still being able to do a 1 armer on an edge and holding a front leaver off an edge for 10 seconds even with his dadbod!
I was nominated to share a room with Hock. He had his laptop on until 3 am watching movies before turning it off and immediately starting a low rhythm of snoring. This helped give me stimulus for keeping the world up to date with the ‘cragdads’ progress and coaching tips during the week.
After a quick warm up Emma gave me the first punt. Spooning through the mid crux I arrived pumped as sin halfway up the cliff and by a miracle made it to 47 metres before gravity caught up and ejected me off the rock with my fingers unable to hang the finishing holds.
Emma was next up and climbing slowly and steadily absolutely waltzed up Mind Control. I was made up to see her hit such good form and I hoped the dick weasels at Rab who were extremely rude to Emma before she left regretted their decision.
Angus was up next and this was his last day of the trip. The days prior to this it had been pretty obvious the route had taken over his brain. Visualisation, rehearsals, watching loads of videos of the route, talking and demonstrating to the household. This was it, the 8 mile, the 1 moment, his moment.
He gave it a go in the sun, when hot. Obviously energy sapping he still almost managed it getting a move or 2 away. On his 2nd go he got closer still and on his 3rd he got high again before admitting being tired. After 2 rest days I knew he’d walk up it but sadly it was the end of Angus’ trip. On this same day Rhos walked up Mon Dieu (it was obvious she could knock out a lot harder) and Hock who had had a few beers the night before and a dodgy shoulder tried to warm up on Fish Eye getting quite high, perhaps trying to impress Edu marin or Patxi, also at the cliff.
We went out and celebrated that night for what had been possibly the most entertaining days sport climbing I’d seen. The following day we lost Hock and Angus but gained the Canadian contingent of Bron and Jacob who I’d last seen bundled under a pile of bags in the back of our hirecar on the way from Yosemite to San Fran 4 years prior. Without Hock the dormitory room seemed dark, quiet and good for sleeping.
Later that day I was glad to witness a great feat of climbing. From what I remember I was stood near Hazel who was belaying her partner Jonny Baker. As soon as he was out of earshot Hazel had brazenly started to chat me up. I presume she’d finally clocked that he was ginger. Hazel climbed her project Gorilas en la niebla around this time as well, after a few years of effort and a lattice regime.
Staring up at the lead crux on Fish Eye I watched Josh Ibbertson fight his way through it using some appalling holds. Hitting the shit shakeout above (8b+ to there and 7c to the top) he didn’t look tired and a small crowd watched in awe as he climbed up and fluffed the last hard move, more of a slip than from fatigue. He didn’t seem too arsed about lobbing so near the end.
When on the ground I asked the 13 year old if it would be his first 8c. He replied that he’d done 3 that trip and was aiming to do 100 grade 8s sport before hitting the age of 14 in May. Watching his younger brother Jack onsighting a 7c+ and having a good go at the 8a+ extension was also bloody impressive as he’s tiny. Later that evening we took the Ibbertsons back to the apartment and dosed them with 90s trance and other shit music.
Having a good scene out there has made me committed to head out to that area for 2/3 months next winter. Having been inspired by my young friends I also swear that I’ll try to be on form where Hazel says “oh, you’ve done that already” rather than “have you not done it yet”!