Heroes - Part Two
by Brittany Griffith
[Catch up with Heroes - Part One] We were in Manzanares el Real for less than an hour when a keen local showed up, in the middle of a Wednesday afternoon, driving 45 minutes to meet us and show us around. Which was great and very helpful since La Pedriza is an extensive labyrinth of granite domes, small outcroppings and boulders. Finding the nuggets would be hard on your own; it’s kinda like a cross between Joshua Tree and Little Cottonwood Canyon.
It never ceases to amaze me how generous climbers are, no matter where you are in the world, to complete strangers. Our new friend, Aitor, took us to crags he’s no doubt been to hundreds of times yet with the greatest enthusiasm. He offered up new projects of his to Arnaud and patiently and encouragingly belayed me as I clawed my way up treacherous 5.10 slabs. When they said it was going to be slab climbing, they meant slab climbing – as in 60-80 degree slab climbing, as in holdless friction slab climbing. My pecs ached every night from the desperate squeezing required to adhere to the immaculate granite and my calves bulged like ripe pomegranates from footwork-intensive sequences.
[Above: Me putting the new Patagonia approach shoes to the ultimate test, walking up a rappel line. All photos: Arnaud Petit]
[Combining my newly acquired slab skills with my Smith Rock arête upbringing, I tried this precarious line the last day in country. Notice that a typical day at the crag in Spain is quite similar to the scene in the U.S. There are plenty of dogs and top ropes, but the beta is more confusing. Stéph calmly advises in French, and the Spaniards excitedly animate in Spanish, but I’m unable to understand any of it.]
I found that being with Stéph and Arnaud is a bit like how I imagine yoga camp being, but in a good way. They don’t drink coffee or eat red meat, they blanch their own almonds and they definitely don’t pack crag beers. Stéph writes poetry and Arnaud reads psychology magazines. So I was on my best behavior, drinking tea, eating fruit and staying hydrated with water instead of pilsner. I read 1.5 books and only checked my email once a day.
[Of course I did yoga everyday. Here’s a photo to prove it.]
There is a word in French, genial, which kinda means “brilliant” in English. This is the best way I can describe Stéph and Arnuad. They cheered for me even though my projects are their warm-ups, Stéph made sure I had more than just Serrano ham for lunch (or she tried, anyway), and Arnaud looked the other way when I’d pour myself a second glass of red wine at dinner.
[Stéph belaying me on a steeper (there were actually holds!) pitch at La Pedriza. The quaint little town of Manzanares el Real is below.]
I missed my best bud JT, but was super thankful for the opportunity to climb, cook, do yoga, practice my French and laugh with my heroes, who proved to not only be super stars in the climbing realm, but life itself.
[We summited every climbing day at Casa Roja with Stéph drinking tea and me drinking beer with the boys. Notice my beer is already empty. In one of my next TCL posts I will share the recipe for that amazing tapa Stéph is cutting.]
[Thanks to Arnaud and Stéph for adopting me into their French family and making a dream come true.]