Sport Climbing Lessons Learned in Chulilla
Last week, the Lattice Team headed off to sunny Spain for a working holiday week of sport climbing in Chulilla, a beautiful limestone gorge just 45 minutes from Valencia. Being the first sport climbing trip for a while for most of us, we each came away with some significant lessons learned that we hope to remember for future trips. We hope these tips and tricks will help you out too with any sport climbing trips you have coming up!
“Lesson 1. Do your research. The routes were way longer and sustained than I expected because I didn’t even look at a guidebook before arriving. In hindsight, the short aerobic power sessions were a waste of time.
Lesson 2. Drink more water 💦 It’s actually a fair bit hotter than England and 45 minute OS attempts make you quite dehydrated.”
“For me, one of the keys to a successful and enjoyable trip, is the ability to maintain good skin quality all the way to the last day. The thing I’ve found is most effective for me, is a combination of skin-hardening each day (Rhino Skin) and always stopping one route short on the day. I’ve found in the past, if I did the maximum number of routes I possibly could each day, this resulted in totally destroyed skin. My last go each day typically involved a lot of hold slippage, adjustment and general close-to-failure moments, which cut through last delicate layer of my tips.”
“Fall practise indoor is definitely a good idea! I talked myself out of doing it as I thought I was more afraid of falling on rock and therefore taking falls on plastic would be a waste of time. It turns out, I was more afraid of the way in which I would fall when, for example, climbing in a corner or sideways of the bolt. If I’d had more experience of falling at different angles and terrains indoor, it would have made it a little less scary outside!
Also, what people say is true and when you find a flow on a route, fear changes from a screaming in your face to just an occasional whisper in your ear.”
“Get a confidence tick done early in the trip. Making several levels of goals from hard (A) to manageable (B) means you can get a route done early in the trip to take performance pressure away. Getting a B goal done at the start then gives you the freedom to try the harder A goals with reduced pressure which often leads to more success. Failing in a warm up is okay. So many people push through on warm up climbs being worried about dropping ‘easy’ routes. This often results in getting more pumped than you want to be and stops you dealing with falls above a bolt until your in harder climbs. Letting yourself fail and rest means you warm up properly and you can get rid of any fear of falling early on”
“Your first couple of days are not representative of how you’re going to climb on the trip. Allow yourself a couple of days to get into the style of climbing without any expectation or assumption around what you’ll be able to climb. After 2-3 days, you’ll feel like a totally different climber on the rock as you’ve adapted to the style and transitioned from training indoors to climbing outside.”
“You only ever fail in Spain because you get pumped. You literally can’t ever do enough endurance training for crags like Chuilia, Oliana and the longer sectors of Margalef and Siurana. Even though I’ve done many trips to Spain before, I forget this little nugget of wisdom.”
“It is easy to forget how long you can spend on routes outdoors and this can feel like a shock after a winter spent in the climbing wall, where you move quickly between coloured holds! It is good to be aware of this from both a mental and physical perspective. It is important to make the shift to consciously look for good rest positions and take your time to relax and recover. Take plenty of food and water to fuel the time out at the crag as the days feel long after those short bouldering sessions. Pay attention whilst belaying – it is a great opportunity to watch others who climb differently to you. Some people are enduro climbers and shake out at every opportunity, climbing slow and steady, whilst others are strong on the moves but get pumped, meaning they move quickly through sustained sections. Both have their pros and cons, but you can learn a lot from trying out other peoples beta and pacing!”
“I tend to forget how big days at the crag can feel and this trip was no exception! Most days I’d only tie in 3 or 4 times, but when each tie in is 30+m of sustained climbing it really adds up, especially over multiple days on. Taking plenty of food and water to the crag really helped, as did having something sweet to eat before getting on the route for a quick energy hit.”
“It’s important to remember the bigger picture. Even if you’ve not trained for a trip, it’s still easy to get wrapped up in performing. With the boulder comp season just around the corner, I didn’t feel very fit for routes so stayed within my comfort zone in Chulilla and just made sure I enjoyed the process. It’s great to push your limits, but this isn’t always possible all year round. Sometimes it’s best just to enjoy the holiday 😎”
“My take away point from the trip is that it is important to get used to the style of climbing that a new trip brings and not think that any training you did was pointless. If that means falling off and not getting to the top of many routes in the first couple of days, then that is okay. Once I accepted this, I enjoyed my trip a lot more and felt a lot more confident moving on the rock and that my training for the trip had been worthwhile.”
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