All climbers have their own unique relationship with crimps. The tiny, fickle handles tend to provoke strong emotions. Sometimes it is a fiery, troubled business; sometimes it’s a gentle dance. They can either make you feel invincible or do you permanent harm. You either love them or you hate them. Sometimes you feel in both directions at the same time.
Check out Siebe Vahnee’s relationship with very small, very sharp pieces of rock in The North Face’s Orbayu Free Again. In it, he tries to repeat the infamous Orbayu (8c), a demanding six-pitch crimp festival in the Spanish Picos de Europa.
The line caught attention when it was written by the tireless Iker and Eneko Pou in 2009. Orbayu is an alternative start to the lighter classic Mediterraneo (6b). The Pou brothers, known for their reputation for developing hard rock routes, originally explored the possible line during a romp at the Mediterraneo.
Two months later they had a bold new route with sparse protection and hideous handles. (Jump to 5:35 a.m. to see the pous pounding massive lashers over and over again during the first ascent!)
Fast forward, a decade and a few changes, and Vahnee and his climbing partner Ignacio Ulero begin their campaign for the seventh ascent of the route.
Limestone rockjocks will love the action – streaks of navy blue water graze the splashing orange wall and Vahnee climbs with comparable difficulty. He trots, in his pants, on the pedals (can I see Elvis’ leg at 11:35?), Yells at the sparse handles and gets hold of the big runouts of the route. 8c, he says at the beginning of the film, is near his physical limit and it’s clear that he’s not sandbagging.
If you’re interested in a COVID-19 backstory, you’re in luck: Orbayu Free Again has one, just like every video made in the past two years. The editors keep it light enough to be inconspicuous. Still, it’s not incredibly exciting.
Strengthen? Mountain goats. A cool looking cliff. History and context of the Pou brothers who are treasures of sport.
But above all, this is best kept simple: The best is by far the good old-fashioned Peter Pan tightrope walk by male climbers at the highest level.
About the author
Sam Anderson takes whatever writing he can get into while he intermittently travels the American West and Mexico in search of margaritas – uh, adventure. He turned a decade of roving trade work into a life of climbing in fine weather and living in trucks before (to the apparent relief of his parents) found a way to apply his BA in English. Sam loves animals, sleeping outdoors, refreshments around the campfire, and a good story.