Choose your project wisely

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Photo: Sava Chapanov

The so-called “Small hole” in Vratza is one of my favorite crags in Bulgaria. Beware, though, before you rush off for the weekend. You don’t go there during the summer, your affairs should be finished by the end of spring, otherwise, there’s a pretty good chance for them to remain incomplete.

The following text describes the misery I’ve been living in lately, being stuck in bad conditions at the wrong crag. After an optimistic start of the season, what I needed was some adaptation to the longer lines, some extra endurance and then – to attack my goal – clearing all the routes up to 8a+ quickly.

After I finished the first route on my plan I jumped on the second one “VTI” 8a/8a+ – thirty technical moves through a heavy overhang without any good rest. A boulder crux in the middle and another one at the very end. With a naïve approach and the egoistic intention to crush the cave in the early summer, I did all the moves by my first and second try. Now I needed to clear the sequences and bang “VTI” on my second session. But nature had different plans and poured huge amounts of rain in the next weeks. The cave was soaking wet. It wasn’t unexpected but still…

That was the beginning of the season – many possibilities in front of us. We were climbing on other crags with much better conditions but my thoughts were always with the cave. The upcoming summer heat was whispering: “no more Vratza for you.”

“To accomplish my plans,” I was thinking, “I need to do “VTI” as soon as possible and move forward or just break free from my ambitions and focus somewhere else.” The victory was few tries ahead, the rains stopped, and we came back to the small hole. That was when the terror began…

I hoped for easy sends because this was short bouldery route and I spent the last months crushing blocs at the gym, competing and attending various boulder meetings in BG and abroad. Everything had to go as planned but despite my bumping power endurance, I was still falling on the last moves due to some technical mistakes. Gradually, I turned into an angry and impatient little devil. One needs to learn how to use his/her fitness without being arrogant to the routes because rock climbing knows how to deal with rude baboons. Imagine how you run throw the moves of a sport route, you climb the whole thing with ease but never clip the chain. This is a maddening process and you must be a zen master or a very wise red point veteran to go through it without showing your dark side to the others.

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Photo: Sava Chapanov

My third session on the same route: conditions are good in the morning, there is a big dark cloud covering the sun, a cool wind is blowing, holds are dry. I feel strong by the end of the climb but the adrenaline or some other mysterious reason makes me perform a strange and different stunt on the very last move, thinking it is okay to change the beta when it still works. Without noticing, the rope tangles around my leg and all my efforts to pull and clip it to the chain are unsuccessful. I struggle, trying to recover but no success; the pump kicks me out of the roof…

Apparently, the clouds were waiting for this moment because they just ripped open and a massive shower washed everything around. In a curious demonstration of the laws of nature, the tufa before the second crux started leaking in a matter of minutes. It was over for this day. We padded the holds with a piece of cloth, brushed, and added chalk, then brushed again with no success – humidity and slime. My best chance was misspent. I tried to control myself but couldn’t and exploded into a furious tantrum – climbing shoes and chalk bag where flying all over through the poisonous atmosphere of rampant screaming and swearing. A comic imp was jumping barefoot around the cave, shouting nonsense about quitting climbing and stuff. We headed to the car in silence.

When I say we, I mean the limited number of climbers who would compromise their comfortable day out to fry in the summer hell of Vratza. Every time someone would reach his “that’s it, I’m done with Vratza” – moment.

In the next days, the heat wave came. The temperatures were close to forty degrees Celsius, blue skies, not a trace of clouds or wind. I was watching the weather forecast hourly. Then came a promise for a cooler day and we headed to the cave for an evening session. On spot the heat was rampant, haze enveloping everything. Went to check my route hidden deep inside the shades of the hole and found the strangest sight I’ve ever seen there. Evenly wet rock face! Water and humidity all over the surface like somebody tried to clean the route with a pressure washer. I went for a try anyway – the holds weren’t just humid or greasy, they were covered with water drops. Seemed like the condensation in the cave had screwed us once more. We decided to cool down and abort the “VTI” mission forever.

Tuesday, June 28, 2016

Today I changed my working schedule again and ignored all my other duties. The day is hot but the wind is blowing and there are clouds. Conditions seem fair. I’m going to Vratza in the afternoon to finally send “VTI”. I did a lot of climbing and hung on the campus, then rested for two days straight so everything promised to be perfect. Around 12 o’clock my phone rang – It was the last person who was crazy enough to burn in Vratza, and owns a car. He had an unexpected work obligation so he couldn’t go anymore. He was very sorry, knowing this last moment retreat wasn’t cool at all, but what can you do, one should work to pay the bills.

“Come on,” emotions were trying to start a riot in my head. “Who the f*ck is working on Tuesday?”

No more options; It’s been more than a month. My adaptation route stopped me from the plan to crush the whole cave. What a stupid plan for the summer! What a drag! What should I do now? Maybe I should do an article about this whole ordeal..? Yes, that’s right and I will go to the gym at 5 pm when my canceled work shift should have started… I could do that! I was about to stay indoors again because I was a free man in the middle of the week who didn’t choose his project wisely.

Saturday, July 2, 2016 

Four days after the peak of my frustration the elements came together and "VTI" was smashed in a solid first try for the day. It was so easy. Never let go and always keep forward by any means, that's all I want to say now!

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