I was desperately trying to hold on to the tufa dominating the line of Los Humildes pa Casa in Oliana, Spain. It had rained all morning and now the slopey holds were even harder to stick to than when I’d actually climbed the route some two weeks earlier. All the nice food I was treating myself to at the end of the season were weighing me down and I couldn’t help it but slowly peel off. It wasn’t even a spectacular fall, just lack of will to stay on the tufa for any longer.
‘Great stuff! Can you do it again?’ shouted Michal from a few metres above me. He was sat on his little bench suspended on two ropes and pointing a camera lens at me. I looked at my hands covered in a muddy mixture of chalk, water and something dark that comes off the tufa when it’s soaked by rain for long enough. ‘Come on, before the clouds come in!’ he rushed me, and I hauled myself back up to the bolt above and pulled on again.
A day after we came back from Spain I sat down to write about the shooting and realised that, despite not having made many videos, I now know more about the making process than the product. Why don’t I watch climbing on screen more often? After all, it is my life and my biggest passion. And that’s probably the very reason for my lack of interest. Coming back home after hours at the gym or projecting a route outdoors, I’d rather watch something else, just for the variety of it. That is not to say there is no value in climbing videos, and in the past I managed to shorten the process of working a few routes by copying other people’s beta seen on screen.
Filming while actually climbing is very different to filming after a route was already sent and this time in Spain it was the latter. The weather didn’t allow for really hard red-pointing, so we shot a few lines I trained on this season. None of them was a long term project but completing a difficult route always triggers a sense of closing a chapter, even if it’s only a few days. Getting back on and pulling the hardest moves for the camera is physically and mentally challenging.
Oliana has a reputation for being one of the hardest crags in the world and I like to think that seeing me climb there can inspire people not to be intimidated by such things. As a woman, and especially at the end of the season when I’m not as fit as during peak climbing time, I like to be able to prove that moving smoothly on difficult routes is more accessible than most people might think and always a matter of motivation and appropriate training.
Getting to know what looks good on screen – but at the same time making sure that what we shoot is honest – is an interesting process. A lot of thinking that goes into it, and also a lot of hanging in a sport climbing harness with legs and bum going cold and numb. It’s funny to realise how much work is involved in making only a few minutes of footage, but it is also oddly similar to projecting a climb. A brief moment of success on the rock is also a sum of every moment of hard work that comes beforehand.
Climbing is always aspirational and professional athletes set goals, attempt to reach them, fail or succeed in the same way everybody else does. It’s a very personal thing, yet sharing my dreams with others is a good way of finding even more motivation to achieve them.