Climbing at Salesopolis…

Posted: April 26, 2012 by Ben Weber in Climbing, English, Training
Tags: , , , ,

… In the wet…

It wasn’t raining very hard: it was what Brazilians call “garoa” – a soft drizzle which got a little harder every now and then, but also occasionally had a few breaks in for a bit of soft sunlight to come through the clouds. Difficult conditions, especially for newbie climbers like Natalia and myself: we have been going to the climbing wall on plenty of occasions but on the rock itself is something else.

Ben, on the way up...!
Photo - Tatiana Pedra - Thanks!!!!

Up nice and early at 6am, we got to the cliff face at about 9am where we met with the Fabio, our trainer, and the guys from the gym who were organizing it. They had arranged six climbs along the cliff of varying difficulties along the face: with a few “grade 3” climbs and then a 4, 5 and a 6. Climbing grades differ depending on where you are – Wikipedia (as always!) has a good guide to the grades, but to be quick, in Brazil, grades 1 to 3 are very easy, 4-6 are “easy”, and then the hardest is 12 (for US-Brazil conversation ignore “5.” and subtract 4. (5.10=6)) At the gym, after four months or so, Natalia and I are at grade six and slowly but surely moving our way up! But yes, on the rock, things are different. On the rock, your fingers hurt more when you are holding on; you don’t get the big protruding rocks to grab hold on; and you will get cut and grazed a bit more than in the artificial environment! Even the grade 3 on this particular rock was technically quite challenging – they were grade three because they were positive angle making life easier, though if it wasn’t for this, they would have 5s or 6s – basically because of the lack of good holds for your feet and hands.

But in the wet, things were even harder. Rock climbing is normally done when there is good weather for a good reason – you don’t slip so much. In the wet, and on the positive aspects of the cliff, the water clings on and cleans your hands of any magnesium chalk pretty quickly. On granite surface your hands can slip much more easily, making the climb much more challenging. Even Fabio, when he was dismounting the grade 5 climb, had difficulties going up in the conditions.

In spite, and even because, of the conditions, however, I felt it was a pretty good day. For me at least, I found myself depending even more than ever on my feet in order to get myself into good positions – my hands were only useful to provide a bit of support – and I was pleased with this. Learning to trust in your feet is part and parcel of climbing. The grade 3 climbs all went well in spite of the conditions, and after a few minutes or so working out how to get past the grade 4 route, I managed it all right – slowly but steadily. Also I could feel my body being able to reach further than the last time we went outdoor climbing: my feet reaching up to just about where my hands were in order to get into a nice balance; looking for closer points to put the feet with more calm rather than panicking to get up and away… And we have to remember that the weather isn’t always going to be our favour when we finally leave São Paulo on this expedition.

I wasn’t able to do the grade 5 climb: it had stopped drizzling when I attempted it, although it was still a bit slippery; I must have tried about half an hour or so at one of the sections, though eventually after a fair few falls, scratches, cuts, and burning finger tips, I admitted defeat. It would have been nice to have been able to rest for half an hour or so and tried again, as I felt that I had just about worked out how to do it and I was almost reaching the key points, but the weather closed in and we were forced to pack up. But ah well! Am pretty confident that I will be able to manage it next time, and having that climb there waiting for me is a great reason to go back!

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