A Crabita - The One That Got Away

I failed. Goosfrahbahhhh!*


I got so close. I’ve never come that close to a project before, yet still come away empty-handed. The line between success and failure is so thin and fragile. One mistake and you’re done, hanging on the end of the rope like a rag doll.


Still, you can’t win all the time and it’s good to be humbled. Isn’t that what I’m supposed to think?


A Crabita is a short, powerful 8a that follows a hanging ‘ship’s prow’ on the left side of Las Ventanas cave, Rodellar. Rachel suggested getting on this route during our last ‘planned’ week in the area and I happily agreed. However, the forecast for next week looked cold and we were keen to leave.


Thursday. I made short work of figuring out the moves and began redpointing, since we were planning to leave the next day. Normally, I like to be calculated - figure the moves, give it some ‘good efforts’ to work out my weaknesses, then rest. Time sped on and I was forced to forgo the rest.


The fast-approaching bad weather put the pressure on. There was no room for error, no time for rest. I struggled to remain calm and relaxed. A couple of attempts ended too short: I would stare upwards each time, panting heavily and angry. Rematch.


Friday. The plan was set: climb the route by lunch, leave for Margalef. Cold, northerly winds whipped around the crag as we huddled at the base of the route. I pulled on my boots and began to lace them up with stubborn fingers and sore forearms. I hadn’t slept well.


Up to the rest. Shake, shake, shake, feel my heart race. Slow the surge of blood as it rushes around my body. Today, blood had been replaced with custard. Get it together!


I’m through the crux but fighting for every move. Three times I fell on those top moves, one move higher each go. I shouted, I screamed, I begged. I would have been embarrassed at the people staring if I’d cared.


It was a red rag to a bull; I was fuming. There would be no mistakes tomorrow. Rachel had kindly said we could stay an extra day so I could finish this fight. I owe her so many belays!


Saturday. A thorough warm up: there will be no messing about! Swinging my arms round and round, I sit at the bottom and feel almost angry; more of a ‘Rocky’ character, ready for the fight. Quietly simmering.


I push through the crux and onto the steep overhanging wall. No power screaming today, only the quiet focus of an assassin. I shake out before the final hard moves, feeling confident and stern. Perhaps too confident, a voice in my head says.


The next moves are robotic and I set myself up to reach the jug. My arm extends and... something deep inside me falters. For a nanosecond a part of me thinks, ‘this isn’t supposed to happen, you’ve never got this far before!’


Before I know it, I’ve fluffed the move and I’m airborne. I hang, limp. Speechless. My eyes are wide and confused: what the hell just happened?! I’m not too pumped and I just fell off. This isn’t fair.


We have just enough time for one more go, but I’m wasted, cold and something has flipped. I’m no longer hungry for the fight, just empty.


The next few days are a tedium of rain in Margalef and I can’t forget my experiences with A Crabita, whatever the hell that name means. There will be a next time, of that I’m sure. But it’s an open wound which pisses me off until I clip those chains.


Lo hare mañana’. I will do it tomorrow.




I first saw this on Mikey Goldthorpe’s blog. I believe it means ‘shitpissbollocks!’ or similar.



A Crabita is a sport route, given the grade 8a. It’s approximately 25 metres long and is located in the ‘Las Ventanas’ cave in Rodellar, Catalonia, northern Spain.


I have recently learnt that the name means ‘The Acrobat’ in Spanish.


For more info look at my post about Rodellar here.

Tom LivingstoneComment