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Friday Nov 10, 2017

Part of me can’t believe that I am finally writing this. The other part can’t believe that it has taken this long.

Today I was finally able to put to rest a personal battle of mine by sending Pachamama 9a+/b! This is the hardest line to date that I have ever sent.

Pic: Javi Pec

The whole process surrounding this line has been quite interesting, but today I woke up calm after quite some time of stress. Over the last 4 days I’ve slept better and just really felt tranquil inside; I feel like I finally reached that perfect mindstate that you are always hearing about.

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Un día soñé que quería ser escalador, ese sueño se hizo realidad. De la noche a la mañana todo cambia, me alejo de este mundo que siempre me ha rodeado como si de un virus se tratara….. #backtothetop el video, un proyecto de @javipec que narra desde la mas sincera intimidad el proceso de volver a ser escalador. Saldrá a la luz muy pronto…. #liveclimbrepeat @blackdiamond @lasportivagram @mytendon pic by @francoislebeau One day I dreamed that I wanted to be a climber, that dream came true. In a moment everything changes, I move away from this world that has always surrounded me as if it were a virus ….. #backtothetop the video, a project from @javipec that tells from the most sincere intimacy the process To be a climber again. It will come out very soon ….

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Yesterday I made my personal “highpoint” on the route and I realized that I truly could send the route after slipping off just before getting into an area where I knew if I made it there, that I wouldn’t allow myself to fall. I chose not to dwell on it though, and decided that if I didn’t send today that I would wait and try again on Sunday. I have realized that too much pressure isn’t conducive to sending.

This route is very condition dependent. The wall is south facing so you have to wait until the sun goes behind the wall to climb, but in the colder months that means that there is really only about an hour before complete darkness. In this particular area once the sun starts to go down the wind usually stops and the humidity goes up, so even climbing in the evening by headlamp wouldn’t necessarily mean better conditions.

The whole process is like clockwork. I knew what time I had to arrive in the afternoon to climb, how long I would be able to wait between burns, and that if I wanted to make it to the top when there was still a tinge of wind that I had to start climbing by a certain time. I also knew how many off days I’d need at home to rest my skin between climbing days. All of this was starting to wear me down mentally; I had to play by the rules of the route, not necessarily according to my level of strength or endurance. Honestly, while attempting this route I have continued to train and I haven’t felt like strength and endurance were my limiting factors. I’ve felt stronger than ever, which I suppose resulted in sending this King Line. (Don’t miss the La Sportiva Strange Heroes video where I talk about about training for this line.)

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Cuando busco la manera de afrontar el proceso, me gusta quitarle peso al mismo, tener un doble objetivo hace más sencillo mentalmente y a la vez más interesante. A lo mejor tardas más, o lo mismo en hacer las dos pero mentalmente es menos presión. Por eso, ayer, volví a Joe Mama 9a+ ( tras varias roturas en dos reposos claves) ahora sí que la siento 9a+. Y es una alternativa a los días con menos condición para probar su vecina Pachamama. La foto de @javipec es de finales de invierno. ¡A ver si llegan esos días de quedarte pegado! Y mientras tanto a darle los intentos que sean posibles y entrenar, es la única manera que yo tengo de poder realizar estas vías. #puctraining @blackdiamond @lasportivagram @mytendon @pucseries

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Over the last month the amount of time you could physically try the route went down from about 3 tries in the afternoon at 30ºC to only about 1 try a day, but with cooler temps. However, the whole time, it is probably safe to say that the most important condition was and is the mental one. There were so many attempts where I was so close, but I would approach the line with historical memory…remembering that on this very route I hurt myself and also knowing that if I sent, it would be the most difficultly graded route that I have ever sent, both before and after my “break” from climbing.

The first time I tried the route was when I was at the top of my game in the competition circuit 8 years ago. I tried it in mid-October. When I was trying it a small foot hold broke, I started to slip and my right shoulder dislocated. The next day I remember resting then trying again and reaching my highpoint (just below my newest recent highpoint yesterday) but soon the pain came.

I was visiting the physical therapist because at that time I still had the last two trials for the World Cup – in which I was ranked first or second at that point. In 2009 Adam Ondra was my rival in the World Cups. I was suffering with a shoulder SLAP injury and I didn’t perform as well as I would have liked in those last two stages and Adam ended up winning that year, leaving me second. I did an MRI scan and immediately had a shoulder operation. After recovering from the surgery I had the traffic accident that eventually caused me to retire from climbing, for what I imagined would be for the rest of my life. I was so certain that I had left many battles like Pachamama unfinished and assumed them to forever be lost.

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Buscando una oportunidad. Doce días sin pasar el dinámico. Cada día la siento más fácil pero no encuentro el mindstate para progresar en un movimiento que es solo eso, un dinámico. Volvamos al origen. Ilusión y motivación. Patada en el culo a la presión. Y sino se puede en ella, me alejaré para sentir de nuevo la pasión, oxigenar y sentir la necesidad de volver a ella a abrazarla como si no quisiese hacer otra cosa. Por eso la escalada nos da tanto,nos hace vivir al límite, y somos los únicos que podemos controlarlo. Gracias Pachamama! Ya son 8 años que tuvimos un amor a primera vista. Love you ajajjajajaj . Esta foto es de Abril cuando volví a ella tras encadenar Papichulo. ¡Gracias @javipec por esas fotos que inspiran! @pucseries @blackdiamond @lasportivagram @mytendon

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Last week I started to remind myself of this when I wasn’t feeling well on the route. I would fall off and yell “¡qué bien!” and I would remind myself that for someone who was told that they’d never climb again, at least never at a top level, that I have to be thankful for every single move I’m able to do…not just the ones that add up to a send.


After that initial try with positive results in 2009, climbing something at that grade was pushed out of my mind. It wasn’t until last spring that I even tried Pachamama again, but after sending Papichulo 9a+ on March 31, 2017 this line seemed all the more possible and became my newest obsession. The spring season was short and I didn’t climb in Oliana in the summer. Then autumn arrived and I came back with a clear goal in mind. Pachamama would be mine. It was no longer about ticking off a route; Pachamama had become a sort of metaphor for my climbing trajectory.

Today I warmed-up at home, arrived to the crag a bit earlier than usual, climbed a line called Macedonia to warm-up and get a feel for the rock. It was humid, my finger tips were hurting, but I decided to give Pachamama a go. There is a dyno that has frustrated me for months. It is so aleatory – some days it goes but then there are weeks where I can’t seem to stick it. I tied up, chalked up, and went for it, but suddenly I found myself in the air falling out of the dyno. I worked the rest of the route up until the final “resting” crimps, but didn’t do the final part due to the humidity.

I came back down to rest and started to get a bit anxious. I tied back in, chalked up, did the bottom boulder, looked up at the dyno, and stuck it. ¡Sí! I pushed through the following meters and got to the section where I had fallen the previous day and stuck that too. ¡Vamos! It was starting to get dark, the humidity was high, the conditions clock was ticking, but I knew that this was my chance. I started to get nervous that I was going to fall since I hadn’t worked on that section very much. I started to place my feet incorrectly and thought I was going to slip, but it was that sort of personal pressure – reminiscent of my competition days – that really caused me to fight and just push through. Pachamama finally let me win. Finally!

Pic: Javi Pec

Last year we worked on a video series we called Back to the Top. The first video installment focused on my return to on-sighting 8c and 8c+ and sending 9a again, while the second part focused on sending Papichulo, graded 9a+, the same grade as other emblematic hard lines that I had climbed in the past. But this line, more than any other because of our personal history, is about being not just Back to the Top, but about being in a place where I’d never been before. More than back to anything, I am realizing that there is no Top, no limit that is fixed in time. We unfortunately mark our own limits, and today as I came back down to the ground in a very emotional state, I was happy to know that this could finally be laid to rest and that my sights con be set on other lines elsewhere. I am so excited to see what the future holds.

HAPPY BIRTHDAY, Patxi Usobiaga!
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