Jakob Schubert recorded two new highlights in Catalonia at the end of 2018. He is the first climber to successfully repeat the routes "El Bon Combat" (9a+, 9b/9b+ respectively) and "Neanderthal" (9b), following first ascents by Chris Sharma. Jakob Schubert gives his account of the events.
Text: Jakob Schubert
Pictures: ©javipec and Rainer Eder
During my trip to Spain in January 2018, I decided, together with Jan Hojer, to stop off briefly in the "Cova de l'ocell" area on the way to the airport in Barcelona. I wanted to quickly check out "El Bon Combat" (9b/9b+) and the boulder "Catalan Witness the Fitness" to see whether they were cool enough to warrant a future trip. I managed to complete the boulder in a flash attempt.
However, I was particularly excited about "El Bon Combat". This route is truly unique: a slightly overhanging, 30-meter face featuring a mixed sandstone and conglomerate rock structure that I had never seen before. It starts with wide, very dynamic moves, but also includes a technically demanding section with poorer holds. So I decided to take a short trip back to Catalonia in November 2018 to climb "El Bon Combat". Adverse weather meant the first three days were very frustrating for me. Then, after three days of rain in "Cova de l'ocell", on day four, I was finally able to simply boulder. My fascination for the route was confirmed immediately. Together with my friend Felipe Camargo, I managed to find a very good solution for all areas.
"I took it steady on the next attempt and completed the second ascent of El Bon Combat."
By the next day, I already felt prepared to actually attempt the climb. It was a special day, due to the presence in our group of the first person to climb "El Bon Combat", Chris Sharma. Unfortunately, this wasn't quite enough for a successful ascent. I made two attempts, but each time failed on the last move of the crux. This was very irritating as I had the feeling that I could do it. So I allowed myself a day off to replenish my strength and protect my skin a bit. And on the following day, December 1, the climb was a success! On the first attempt of the day, I fell again on the very last move of the route. I was afraid of losing my nerve here. But I took it steady on the next attempt and completed the second ascent of "El Bon Combat". I immediately had the feeling that the route seemed easier to me. I completed the ascent very quickly and made a suggestion of 9a+. The future will show what other climbers think.
"Neanderthal" (9b) is the king line at the Santa Linya cave, also in Catalonia. With over 100 moves, it is one of the longest and most difficult routes I have climbed so far. The crux is a dynamic hold on a good sloper. As an individual move, it's not actually that difficult. The difficulty lies in summoning up the kind of explosiveness and strength required for this move after the previous 75. At the start, it gave me some difficulties climbing the route and I thought this project would need a bit of time. You need to start by investing a lot of time finding good options for all moves. So I spent many hours in the rope and expended a lot of energy which made all the moves initially feel harder. However, after a day of rest I made great progress and a successful climb suddenly seemed within my grasp.
"The first time I managed the crux dyno, I kept my nerve and climbed to the top."
On the very first ascent, I climbed up to the crux move I mentioned before. I failed a few more times here before finally succeeding on the sixth climbing day: I had completed my second second ascent. The first time I managed the crux dyno, I kept my nerve and climbed to the top. A route of this length involves mental as well as physical challenges. You need to maintain your concentration over a long period of time and you have just one or two good attempts per day. At the end of the trip, I then went on to climb "La Novena Enmienda" (9a) and "La Ultima Ola" (8c) as well. I have therefore climbed almost all routes in the Santa Linya cave now.