A Rookie Rocky’s Tale about Montserrat

by: Anna Szlavi

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Foreword

You remember the story of Little Red Riding Hood? Let me tell you my rock-climbing version of the tale. It’s about adventure, fear, progress and — here’s the rocky twist — it’s set on a soaring mountain, not in a deep forest.

 

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The Tale

Once upon a time Little Red Climbing Helmet – let’s call her Anna – went to see a far far land – let’s call it Catalonia. She was a vagabond who wanted to explore the world and bring some gems back home to her little cat who was bored in their 2-room-apartment. Poor one, never climbed a tree, let alone a mountain, so Anna, an outdoor junkie, wanted to bring home the world to him.

She heard myriads of legends about Montserrat, this awesome rock formation, so she decided to find the treasures of ‘Saw Mountain’. Now let’s hear her story:

 

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The typical beginning of a tale. Everything looks bright.

Where do I begin? Why Montserrat, right? Truth be told, it’s an immensely popular destination, but I never was pulled by the Virgin from the 9th century or the Sanctuary built around it, unlike the flood of tourists.

It was this exciting geological phenomenon, a group of unique rock structures, originally a river delta, which was so irresistibly attracting me. For a climber, Montserrat seemed a paradise with its uncountable vias and epic scenery.

So I thought, I’d find either a via ferrata or a rock-climbing trip to get myself on the top for a view. I contacted local guides to assist me with the routes and the equipment, and so the date was set. I was ecstatic to go.

 

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Little Red encounters some difficulties. The plot becomes more complicated.

Since there were not enough people for a group of via ferrata, I was destined to climbing – to my great pleasure, I must add. I was real excited, until the very last moment. Which is when it turned out that the guides misunderstood me, assigning me to “one of the most emblematic routes”.

They said, the multi-pitched “Gorro Frigi” is ideal for an experienced climber like they thought I was. Umm, well, I am not. It was a 155-meter-high, 5-pitched route and I am just a 155-centimeter-short sport climber rookie.

Did I mention never in my life have I tried multi-pitch climbs?

 

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The plot foreshadows the path of self-development.

Well, but this was just part of the challenge. It turned out, my guide was not the most fluent speaker of English, which didn’t help me feel a lot more comfortable.

Truth is I tend to get pretty stressed up in the face of new challenges.

 

 

Preparation to face the challenges. Sword and shield ready.

Well, anyway, I had to manage somehow. The price was paid, the journey was made; this was not the time to turn back.

As we were getting buckled up, my guide tried to explain how multi-pitch climbs work, well, as much as he could while struggling with his language, and I tried to understand while struggling with my fear. Not that I was ready, but we had to start.

 

First, the character is struggling with Fate.

We picked “Via del Carles”, a 5b / 5.8 route with 5 parts of 20 to 35 meters in length. The climb was not difficult – despite the expectations that I would be challenged by the sticky-slidy conglomerate – but my nerves made my legs shake like hell.

And then the first pitch. OMG, was I scared like a chicken! As my guide was climbing to pitch 2, I was belaying him on what seemed as an extremely thin edge, with my calves and soles going into a cramp. It felt like an eternity.

 

Little Red starts to overcome the difficulties Fate has put in her way.

But after the second pitch, my panic loosened into excitement and I started to look around. Under me I saw fascinated trekkers looking up on the huge rock and its tiny explorers. Gazing into the valley, I caught sight of the thousand-year-old Monastery where there was a big show with local Sardana melodies echoed by the surrounding mountains.

Next to me, in some distance, there was another group of people climbing. Once, when we both were resting on pitches close by, I saw one of them doing Nadi Shodhana yoga breathing and going into meditation.

I was struck by the scene, and for a moment I felt it was peace.

 

5a

Little Red makes new friends on her journey.

Just before summiting, one fellow climber shouted out to me, in English (which was extremely thoughtful of him given that everybody was Spanish around me), and warned me about a certain loose rock on the top. I still don’t know what rock he meant but probably it was for my benefit.

When I arrived, another couple was sitting behind the cross, already enjoying their siesta. After my guide greeted me with a hug, they immediately came to me and gave me high-five.

Apparently, the news reached them (just like the couple previously advising me) that I was a young vagabond coming from a far land. I must say, this warm welcome crowned my climax.

 

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And the catharsis of the story hits us.

Before we started our rappelling – another thing I had to prepare myself to learn 🙂 – I got a moment of pause. I was in-between being happy that I made it to the top, with and despite all the fear, and anxious that I still had to land, with a similar amount of insecurity.

But then, I suddenly let go. Because suddenly I noticed something wonderful above me. I heard the wind blowing. No, it was not the wind actually, but a falcon gliding in the wind right next to my head. It was so close to me that I couldn’t stop staring. I’ve never seen anything like this before.

The falcon, a fearful and grievous predator, was trying to impress us like a playful child, going in such manoeuvres like ascending and descending abruptly, changing directions in a split second, even flying upside down around our summit. And I swear to you, if it was possible to smile with that beak, it really would have been its laughing that I had heard.

The falcon was enjoying itself so much! And this genuine happiness I found in the bird – or in myself – was transformational.

 

6a

 

But if you go up, you need to come down too. I had to leave Falcon Fairyland and return to the Real World. Although I couldn’t grow wings, I made it down the mountain, with a handful of pebbles and tons of stories to share.

So, as a proper ending, I paid myself a beer and the Virgin a visit.”

and Little Red lived happily ever after.

 

THE END

That’s all, folks. It was a nice story, wasn’t it? Alright-alright, I admit, it had little to do with the original Grimm-tale. But Anna’s story was more … elevated. 🙂

 

Afterword

So, what’s the moral of the story?

1) Be open for adventures. You never know when Fate brings a beaming beast in your way.
2) Be open for heights. It’s the antidote of feeling low.
3) Be …

… I’m sorry, I forgot. But why are you still sitting at the computer, instead of living your own adventure story?