I just returned from 30 days in Andalucia, Spain with my friend Primo (Jose Luis Palao). Primo and I had talked about making this trip happen for probably years and I had some time so why the hell not make the move??!!! The idea was to dive in head first and hang out with the Spaniards, climb like we do, bolt, stoke eachother up, and just be fanatics about what we love. The destination wasn’t the usual Cataluña… it was to check out Andalucia. The less hyped South of Spain that I had heard SO much about. The whole idea sounded intimidating, because I can speak a little Spanish, but honestly not that well. I knew that if I went I would learn lots. Basically, eliminating your native language entirely leaves you with the choices of sink or swim. I figured why not… I’m a survivor. Stressful? Yes. Productive? Very.
Climbing is the language we can all speak and feel comfortable so I pretty much trusted in that. The day would be filled with action at the cliff, but what about all of the other down time? Primo has never left the country of Spain and speaks absolutely no english. How would we meet in the middle? Primo has always been someone I felt comfortable speaking with. He is patient, calm, and never awkward. He’s very Spanish in that he never shows a puffed-chest-ego, he is very supportive of his friends and he is always stoked to climb. He is my friend, my partner, and someone I share a lot in common with. I also learn a LOT from him.
I love to climb my best and it’s a lot easier to reach goals with someone to motivate you, expose you to another style, level, or approach to climbing. I’ve never trained in the gym nor do I even know how to (I would honestly love to learn some training programs). The school of Spanish climbing is the best training I’ve ever known and has been the one I depend on. I’ve always put my energy into what matters to me, which is a special route or a goal. I climb because it feels good and it makes me happy. But, if you want to get better you need to “train” and progress. You can’t always expect gains from climbing without intensity and support. I make my life around the rock. I prioritize the cliff and the means of making that my life and I am very fortunate to be able to do this.
If you want to get better as a sport climber I suggest going to Spain, observe Spaniards, and keep your mind open to the hard-core–barely-rest-die-hard-climbing that I experience every time I go. This is how you will progress. You will be exposed to another world of climbing and you will learn from it regardless. If you think you try hard? Take a look at the Spanish climbers. If you think your levels are up for sport climbing? Take a look at the standard levels in Spain, it’s mind-boggling. The best training is sometimes a lot easier and intuitive than you might think. Exposure, observing, and immersing yourself into the Spanish way might be what you are looking for?
I’m a lucky person to be able to visit Spain as often as I can and in a lot of ways this has shaped who I am as a person and a climber. I hope anyone that’s eager to go… GO. Put it on the credit card. Make the move. The season is now and time is here and then gone. I encourage you to enjoy that place, go climbing there, eat there, share energy with people, and observe it all.
GO!… you will leave with something and I can guarantee you that.