Wednesday, 27 October 2010

Cavall Bernat - or, an unexpected 75th birthday party

L'Elephantet was all very well, but we wanted to climb something tall and pointy - something you couldn't hike to the top of - and it seemed obvious that Montserrat had more than enough options!

Cavall Bernat
Arriving at the base of our chosen pinnacle, we found we were not alone - there were a few other parties there, gearing up to climb the Normal route. In a combination of French, Spanish and English, they told us that they were celebrating 75 years of climbing on Cavall Bernat - it was on this day, 27 October in 1935, that the summit was first reached up the very same Normal route as this party were about to attempt.

Not wanting to get in the way, we selected a longer and more demanding route that went up and around the side called "Perez-Verges". Billed as "7b+, V obligado", we rightly assumed that pulling on draws was not cheating, but part of the deal. Well, at least for us on that one short crux section!

As usual in Montserrat, the conglomerate nature of the rock made for a few nervous moments, but the first few pitches went by without a hitch. It was a lovely day to be out in the sun.

And then ... (because, of course there is always a "and then ...")Well, as we got higher the wind got stronger. We changed plans, deciding not to go up the overhanging 7b+ section (hauling on draws or not) but rather to curve right and into the protection of a crack (onto a route called GAM, also 7b, V obligado).

This was met with loud shouts from our audience below. "You're going the wrong way! That's not Perez-Verges! That's GAM!!" We waved back and assured them that yes, this was a conscious decision based on the strong winds. We think, as they had the camera set up on a tripod, they were just disappointed not to get some shots of us on the overhanging 7b+!

It doesn't look like much, but the traverse under that bulge is damn hard - haul away!

We still needed to cross the 7b section of GAM, however. Mark monkeyed from draw to draw in the wind, and then Jen followed, cursing and swearing and regretting not having an extra few centimetres of reach. It wasn't elegant climbing, but once around the corner at least we were out of the wind!

Up the corner, and then a final pitch joining the Normal route ... and we were at the top! Mary sat there, graciously holding baby Jesus on her lap, admiring the view (and conveniently performing double duty as a rappel anchor ...)
Well that's one I've never rapped off before ...
Apparently some photos were taken of us on the route, and our names were marked down as having helped celebrate this special day. Great timing - we certainly could not have planned the day of ascent better.

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