My name is Robbie Phillips (www.robbiephillips.co.uk) and I am one of the Evolv sponsored climbers in the UK. This spring I have been in Catalonia, Spain on a sport climbing trip with a big gang of Scottish climbers. In trips before, my focus has been mainly on on-sighting, with the ultimate pursuit of my next hardest on-sight grade in mind. This trip however, my focus was slightly different, having only months before returned from a trip to Kalymnos (Greece), my on-sighting lust had been satisfied and I was keener than ever to see if I could perfect my red-pointing skills. I am not a guy that is into projecting for long periods of time, to state it simply, I get bored! I can’t handle being on the same route for ages and ages, making only little progress over weeks and weeks. Instead I wouldmuch prefer to challenge myself with quick red-points and tick lots of routes at a lower grade but every route varying in style so that I benefit maximally from climbing different types of moves and sequences. In Kalymnos I had
climbed a number of 8b’s in very quick succession, so here in Spain, I was psyched to continue moving with this same theme, aiming to build up to the point that I had climbed a lot of 8b’s in different styles. In the end of the day, you can’t really say you climb a grade unless you can climb it on all rock types and in all styles of climbing whether it be bouldery or endurance, pockets or slopers, steep or slabby?
We started off the trip staying with some friends of ours in Santa Linya, Tom Bolger and Lynne Malcolm. Tom is a well-known British climber, being one of only a handful to have climbed 9a! Lynne is also a fantastic climber being the first Scottish woman to climb 8a!
We stayed at theirs for the first half of ourtrip, climbing mostly in Santa Linya cave for the first couple of weeks then moving onto other crags around the area such as Disblia, Santa Ana and Terradets. The first hard route I tried was at a crag called Disblia near the small village of Sant Llorenc de Montgai. The route is called “Preventiva” (8b) and it’s pretty hard for the grade at that! Preventiva takes one of the steepest lines at the cave and includes lots of different styles of climbing in it; from two finger pocket campus moves to undercut lay-backing. “Preventiva” hit me bad, I did every sequence pretty much on my first go, but to link the whole route was tough! There were three distinct crux sections on the route:
1) A bouldery start with a two finger pocket dyno move!
2) Traverse on slopers to reach the final crux
3) Undercut lay-backing with smears for feet, then a lunge to latch the final jug of a slopey undercut!
In between each of these sections were decent enoughresting points, but none provided total recovery. After the first day working the moves, I finally managed to make it into the last crux from the ground, but making the last move was desperate! I fell from the last move at least six or seven times before I finally latched the jug, only to fall of clipping the chains!!! My second go on the same day saw me latch the final jug again, but as I went to cross through to clip the chains, my foot popped! On my very last go of the day, after resting a good four or five hours between my last try I went for it once more and finally I stuck the move without any trouble at all, I crossed through and clipped the chains! Probably one of the best routes I have ever done and one of the best experiences clipping chains in my life : )
After ticking off “Preventiva”, every route after felt miles easier! We went to a crag in a valley called Santa Ana, I came mega close to on-sighting my first 8a+ (if only the holds at the chain had been dry) and then I made an awesome attempt at on-sighting an 8b, falling off staring at the jug before the chains. The route was called “Paris Hilton” (8b) and was an amazing vertical crimp horror show. It follows an inspiring Ceuse-style blue line up a blank face to reach a crux just before the chains, either do some techy filth sequence, or dyno for the jug! I opted on my second try to dyno and missed only by an inch. On my next attempt I went for the techy sequence I had figured out after failing the dyno and nabbed it 3rd go!
After ticking “Paris Hilton” we were booked on for coaching a big group of kids in Siurana, so headed out there to scope the crags out before they arrived. We had pretty much 2 weeks of doing nothing but putting clips in and ropes up for the kids, but at the end of each day, Nat and I managed to steal a couple of hours climbing before it got dark and sometimes, we just got the head torch out : P
I got a few quick ticks in during those two weeks including “Ramadan” (8b) on my 3rd attempt, “Zona 0” (8b) on my 2nd and “Migranya” (8b) on my 6th! “Migranya” was by far my favourite, it took an awesome traversing line on pockets and crimps through a steep bulge. It wasn’t particularly hard for me to do as I came very close to doing it only on my 3rd attempt, but the sequence for me was probably the most awesome I have ever done. One of the moves involved me hanging upside down, throwing my feet horizontally towards my next handhold,then matching my hand with my foot to gain the resting position… I LOVE SPANISH ROCK CLIMBING!!!
After ticking of “Migranya”, I was hungry for something harder! 8b’s were falling like flies, I had already ticked an 8b+ in Santa Linya earlier on in the trip called “Rollito Sharma” and fancied a go at another. So I scoped out an awesome looking line in the main valley of Siurana called “Dogma”. “Dogma” takes one of the most impressive lines of the wall, starting up a huge crack for about 20m until reaching an overhanging face on pockety jugs and flakes. From here you move up through good holds until a bulge. The bulge is a daunting feature on the wall, at first it appears holdless the only noticeable feature being a slopey crack on the right side of it, but when inspected closer, the crack reveals a bad pinch and to the left a half pad crimp! Establishing yourself on these holds is tough, but making the next hold is even harder, a full on dyno for a MASSIVE JUG!!!! Once you gain the jug, you still have to mantel an awkward shelf to reach some small crimps and do an awkward move to the next rest, and only now are you really halfway to finishing the route. You still have the crux of the route left and a horrible technical crack to finish off! On my 6th attempt, I succeeded in climbing “Dogma” (8b+) and this was for sure one of the best moments in my climbing so far, for this route had been such a mental barrier for me, seeming to be an endless route with so many places to fall off, but once I learned the tricks, it was slain!!!
After ticking “Dogma”, yet more routes seemed to fall effortlessly, another 8b called “Flash D’enemigo”. I felt I really needed to push a bit harder and so then I tried my hand at “Kallea Boroka” (8b+) which shares the first 4-5 clips of “Dogma”. I was astounded when I almost did it on my second try, then after havinga rest day did it on my 4th! It really shows that after getting the experience ad the confidence, that what you thought was impossible or at least really hard, suddenly becomes easy and very achievable. After that, I really felt that it couldn’t get any better with only a few days to go, so I opted out of harder routes to go tick some mileage, however, after having a wee play on another 8b “Pati Pa Mi” after ticking Kallea, I then went on to do that one as well on my 3rd go. What a trip!
With that, I really couldn’t ask for more… I had done more hard routes on that trip than all my trips previously combined!
· 3 x 8a Flash/Onsight
· 7 x 8b (Redpoint – most 3rd go)
· 3 x 8b+ (Redpoint)
Now the trip is over, however I have lots to look forward to over the next year including lots of Malham/Kilsney visits, a Ceuse trip in the Summer, Coaching in Yorkshire in August, and Kalymnos coaching/climbing in October! We are also planning Spain in December/January. I have so many ambitions in climbing and the only way I will see them come true is by training hard and getting out on as many trips as possible. Check out my website (www.robbiephillips.co.uk) for more on my coaching and climbing exploits as well as information on my coaching services and coaching holidays.