Written just before my return to Canada in 2012, this story is longer as it was originally two posts. It illustrates my deeper commitment toward personal freedom and pursuit of the liberty I experienced from such adventures. My friend Jen stirred in me a curiosity as to how beings gravitate towards each other, for this was my first taste of resonance (Law of Attraction).
Having booked my flight three days early, I inadvertently found myself in Madrid with some time to kill before meeting Jen, a friend I’d met in the USA two years ago. I guess this was my solo part of the trip before heading to Siurana.
Luckily, I realised my error a day before my flight, so I looked at some maps and discovered a granite dome called El Yelmo surrounded by a shattered rock on it’s hillside, a hour north of Madrid.
As the bus headed north on the following day, snow capped mountains of the Sierra de Guadarrama rise into view and dwarf El Yelmo in the foreground. I sit inside the bus, scanning the landscape. Snow? It’s late April. Thoughts of sleeping out feels a little moronic as I didn’t bring any bivi gear! The bus takes the exit for Manzanares el Real and I stand to shoulder my bag and wait for the doors to ping open, like a horse ready to bolt at the starting gate. Let’s have some fun anyway.
After leaving the supermarket with some food I walk two kilometers out of town towards my goal. Boulders begin to litter the roadside and the wind begins to blast it’s icy air from the frozen heights above. There’s snow crystals in the air, glittering in the sun and swirling in the ocean of blue above.
Another kilometre goes by and I reach a small hut by the river where I encounter an old man. He walks over and introduces himself right away in a rapid throaty Spanish that renders me only with the response “err Lo siento, Yo no intendo“. It appears he has lived in this hut for a long time. To some people it would be hard to believe but behind his worn features he had deep, blue eyes that sparkled with a rich life spent in the mountains. He went inside and fished out a crumpled small map. It showed a trail that would head east towards El Yelmo after a kilometre along the river.
“There, many rocks. Maybe bivouac”.
I take some water by the river and head up into the rocks, alone again. The valley is bathed in sunlight. The wind is the only thing keeping my layers on as it’s turbulence gathers in intensity. The only thing that worries me slightly is that the wind has turned south, drawing a possibility that the snow could come my way. But just in time, my anguish is abolished. I’m standing next to a boulder with a huge roof, propped up against another one. Literally, a perfect shelter stone!
There’s rubble laying scattered around it’s entrance, suggesting people have slept here before so I rebuild it just in time to watch the sunset. When it’s finished I check myself into ‘The Hotel Bivi Boulder’ for a couple of nights.
Later that night inside the cocoon of my sleeping bag I stare at the ceiling and think ‘why?’ I just smile to myself. ‘Because I can, because I want to’. The insatiable wind rages on outside and lulls me into a deep sleep.
The next morning dawns grey but warm. It didn’t snow. Today is for El Yelmo! On the map it looks simple. After two and a half hours I finally come to the conclusion that I’ve spent the latter hour following a trail for ibex. Committed at this point I doggedly scramble and scrape my way through the thorny maze of boulders startling herds ibex as I surge forth, sweat stinging my squinting eyes. Eventually I’m scrambling up the eastern flank of El Yelmo itself.
When at last I reach the extremely windy summit, the wide expanse, snowy mountains to the north and the shimmering lake of Manzanares in the sunlight below can only do one thing. Fill you with love for all places like this. For this is reason why we come back time and again. The sense of achievement washed through me and I felt the struggle melt away, content again.
The question is, “why on earth wouldn’t you want to do this?”
The following day I am standing in Madrid airport waiting for a soul mate to enter my life again. Her name is Jen and like me, she walks her own way on the quest for self discovery and connecting with the world.
At last she arrives and we enjoy human contact outside the realm of cyberspace. We play catch up real time and swap stories. The bus honks and bursts our bubble, so we hop on the bus with seconds to spare. We reach the local town and discover that some of Jen’s friends are in Siurana too. What a coincidence! Jumping into a taxi, since we missed the last bus, we twist and turn into the Monsant range of the Prades Mountains and are serenaded by fabulous mariachi music all the way until we reach the last village.
Welcome to Catalonia!
Greeted by our friends we switch vehicles and cram all the bags into their hire car and zoom up even steeper roads with incessant hairpins all the way to the camp site situated in Siurana itself and on top of some of the best quality sport cliffs in Europe. We pitch the tent and go straight to bed wishing I could blink and it was morning already.
The following five days were some of the best days clipping bolts i have ever had! Immaculate limestone, beautiful scenery and warm fresh air. Climbing such a volume of routes day after day was excellent for fitness and endurance. If you wish to be a good all round climber you will begin to see that training in all the different disciplines complement each other. In this case, i felt stronger than ever from bouldering, mentally stronger from last years trad climbs and the ice climbing adventures in Canada. I could go for it and take whippers on shiny bolts, no problem!
I love the climbing community because it’s a global family. We all have our own reason to pursue this life style or sport but each and every person understands what it is like to conquer their own demons and go for it. Whether it’s a nod in the kitchen, someones calming notes on a ukulele, sitting around a camp fire or a shout of encouragement from no one in particular at the crag, you understand that each and every person is on a journey psychically, mentally and spiritually on the rock and on the road. We understand each other just a little bit better.
When I walk into a camp ground and sit round a fire swapping stories I know I am home, wherever that may be.
The last day dawns and i know that the joy of re connecting with Jen and climbing in a stunning part of the world will be over soon..for now. We sit at top of the village of Siurana, drinking in the stunning view until we fade into twilight, stopping periodically to take in the moment again and again.
The next twilight we find ourselves drinking some wine on the beach staring out onto the vast moonlit waters. With the sand between our toes, the sound of the waves and the taste of wine on our tongues we stare at the illuminated horizon. It gets me thinking. The last 6 days had been great, for so many reasons. The place and the climbing yes, but it was special to be with Jen again. When two people, born and raised on opposite sides of the globe, grow to have similar values, integrity for passions and love, it is something extraordinary. It is deeper than merely ‘getting on’. It’s soulful. But even after 6 days it was obvious that the two of us have got our own lives to live. Our own paths to tread. Even though I know in my heart that if we could find a way to stay together just a little longer, it wouldn’t be right unless our paths synchronised naturally.
Who knows when I will see her again. We just enjoy the moment for what it is and stare on a little longer.
We will live on.