Return to Pedra Bela

Posted: May 22, 2012 by Ben Weber in Climbing, English, Training
Tags: , , , , , , , , ,

Sunday was our final opportunity to go rock climbing out in the open before our coming trip to Bolivia, and we used it by going with the guys from Casa de Pedra to Pedra Bela, a couple of hours away from the city, near a place called Bragança. We had been there once before on our first time rock climbing and it had been an interesting experience, with us struggling on climbs which are described as “easy” with class 5 routes proving a problem (to convert to the US scale, ignore the 5 and subcontract 4).

We have been regularly completing grade 6 six climbs at the Casa de Pedra gym, – including climbs with only very tiny holds for your fingers, so we were quite eager to see how we had improved. We also wanted to work in training ourselves with a belay device we would be using on the mountain – at the gym we have to use the Grigri because of Brazilian laws: they are more secure for catching falls due to a self-lock mechanism. The traditional tube style belay device is much lighter and is generally seen as more effective for lead climbers due to there being no auto-lacking mechanism. We got ourselves a Petzl Reverso, which has the same basics as a standard belay device though is also good for climbing with two ropes (over difficult terrain where you aren’t necessarily going in straight lines), and also for belaying two climbers at once. Since we will be using this type of belay device in climbing the mountains in Bolivia, and since mis-use of the device can easily lead to falls… we thought it would be good to train with people who knew how to use it properly…

And so we went, and improved we have!

Arriving at the rock at about 9am, we were presented with easy grade three climbs to start off with. These grades we did find very easy and were effectively strolling up them. Getting used to the belay device wasn’t too hard either. You just always need to remember to keep the rope tightly secured beneath the device, quickly giving slack to allow a climber to keep going up, and bringing your hands back down again, below the device. With Fabio, Mineiro and Adebas from the gym keeping a close eye on us, we soon built our confident. After lunch, some harder climbs were mounted including the grade five I had struggled with for a long time before finishing the other time, and another which was new… different. It looked pretty vertical to me, that’s for sure. Adebas didn’t tell us what grade it was at first… just for us to give it a try. I went first.

After struggling a little at the beginning and falling a couple of times, I managed to find some rock crystals to put my toes on and grab hold of with my finger tips. Slowly but surely, I was able to make my way up. It was not until I passed the hardest part of the climb that Adebas called up to say that it was a grade 7A – something I just learned now is the first of climbs which are considered “Sporting” grades. And I managed it! The view from the top felt pretty special – better than the views from just a few metres away along the rock where we climbed the grade 3s…! At the same time though, something left me slightly unsatisfied. Not sure exactly what it was… maybe because I know we still have loads of work to do and this is still just the beginning. Natalia managed to do it as well, which was great (though she was mad with herself for using one of the metal bolts in the cliff to help support her weight as she climbed… but she used them much less than others there, so it was still great!).

And then, just before sunset, back to the grade five… both Natalia and I managed to climb it first time in just about five minutes or so… at least it seemed really quick, anyway! I think I almost felt better in managing this than I did with the 7A! But all the same, with the way we managed with the belay device and the different climbs, we were both extremely happy with the day. It was a fitting end to see one of the more impressive sunsets we have seen for a very long time just as we packed up all the gear.

So next week, we will be on the plane to Bolivia, and greater… and much higher challenges.

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